Top 10 ‘Doctor Who’ Episodes – Third Doctor Edition
The third incarnation of The Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee, was a departure from the previous two versions. Something of a dandy he was always elaborately dressed with cravats, velvet smoking jackets and capes but this doesn’t prevent him from getting his hands dirty. He’s often seen working on the mechanics of the TARDIS or constructing new gadgets for himself and UNIT. He kitted out his own vehicles (first Betsy and then the Whomobile) and is just as skilled an engineer as a scientist. Unlike other versions of The Doctor he was more willing to engage in combat, being a master of Venusian Aikido.
10. Death to the Daleks
Sarah Jane and The Doctor are on their way to a relaxing vacation when the TARDIS gets struck by an energy drain that forces them onto a cold, dark planet. A group of Marines are also stranded and they find that any electricity near the planet is being drained by an AI controlled ancient city that the once powerful local inhabitants had built at the height of their civilization. When the Daleks arrive and have their weapons disabled The Doctor is forced into an uneasy alliance with his old enemies to get them all off the planet.
9. The Spearhead From Space
Introducing a new incarnation of The Doctor is always going to be a tricky episode. Writers and performers walk a tightrope in maintaining the tone and continuity of the show while setting a new direction for the series. With the Brig needing to be convinced by The Doctor that he is in fact the same person he’s met before before escaping from UNIT to tackle the invasion of the living plastic Autons. Introducing the new UNIT, the Doctor’s imprisonment on Earth, the new companion Liz and colour is a lot to throw into a story but it sits well.
8. The Claws of Axos
Here’s an episode whose strong ideas almost become marred by the limitations on special effects available. It’s pretty clear that they’re still getting the hang of using the blue screen, but looking fast that is a fantastic concept. The Axonites land on Earth with an offer to trade technology for minerals. The offer is, of course, to good to be true. The Axon ship is a giant living organism that needs to absorb the life force of other beings and even the Axonites themselves are just an extension of the living ship. Throw in The Master and you’ve got a solid episode.
7. The Green Death
It may lose points for featuring the departure of Jo Grant, one of the longest running and most entertaining companions featured on the show, but it gives her such a good finale that it’s OK in the end. A Welsh mining company reports some strange goings-on when some of the workers begin turning bright green and dying. Things are further complicated when the bosses of the company start acting strangely. The glowing greenness (and giant maggots that turn up) plays second fiddle to the evil computer with AI that runs the show, putting it pretty ahead of it’s time science-fiction wise, and the relationship between Jo and the environmental scientist is well handled.
6. Carnival of Monsters
Everyone enjoys a good sense of mystery with their science fiction. The Doctor and Jo Grant take advantage of their new-found freedom to take the TARDIS for a spin, only to miss their mark and wind up on an old cruise ship. Unusual behaviour by the passengers and the appearance of a dinosaur in the nearby waters indicates that something is amiss. The boat, and everyone on it, is trapped into a miniscope, a device that shrinks down various creatures for display purposes. In this case a pair of carnies have put together a display featuring some of the most dangerous creatures in the universe, and The Doctor is trapped in the middle of it.
5. The Dæmons
This story begins on a slightly more unusual tone, with an archeological dig in a small English town unleashing supernatural entities. When The Doctor investigates he finds that The Master is involved, posing as the new minister for the village. What is revealed is that The Master is attempting to invoke an ancient alien who has taken a hand in moving the evolution of mankind along at key times in history, its ‘demon’ appearance featuring in ancient texts in many different cultures. Full of big ideas and thought provoking concepts it’s among the best the Doctor has to offer.
4. Terror of the Autons
The Doctor had already faced the Autons – living plastic – upon his arrival on Earth in his new form. This second battle that occurs not long after is all the more exciting for one simple reason: The Master. This Time Lord had been driven insane by looking into the time vortex and, like The Doctor, hijacked a TARDIS to see through his plan of taking over the universe. Simple yes, but so stylishly handled. The ultra-cool Master provided some of the best episodes on this era by providing The Doctor with a worthy challenge and plenty of sharp dialogue. The episode also features the debut of Jo Grant, one of the best companions the Doctor will have.
3. The Time Warrior
It was certainly a sad moment when Jo Grant took her leave of the Doctor to start a new life of less timey-wimey adventuring. Fortunately the Doctor found himself a new companion in the guise of Sarah Jane Smith, a young feminist reporter who sneaks her way into a UNIT facility to get her story. Here she meets the Doctor and, while snooping around, finds herself in the TARDIS when it goes back through time. What The Doctor and Sarah Jane find in medieval England is a Sontaran warrior, part of a race of aliens who are dedicated to being the best soldiers possible. One has found themself stranded in Earth’s past where they are abducting scientists through time to repair their ship. A solid time travel mystery and imaginative new enemy are made all the more interesting by the new companion initially believing The Doctor to be the villain.
2. The Three Doctors
Expectations for the collaboration between the three original Doctors (Pertwee, Troughton and Hartnell) were certainly running high although the episode could’ve just been a gimmick. Fortunately it delivers the goods by creating a great dynamic between the different incarnations of the character and giving the audience a memorable villain. Omega, a lost Time Lord who tapped into the vortex to create the time travel technology, has been trapped on the other side of a black hole where he has been losing his mind. It’s a great conflict but it isn’t nearly as much fun as seeing Troughton and Pertwee bicker with each other. Whoever decided that these two would spend half their screen time arguing about who gets to steer the TARDIS is a genius, as it is priceless.
1. Day of the Daleks
For much of the Third Doctor’s era time travel didn’t play a major role in the stories. After the Time Lords punished his theft of the TARDIS by confining him to Earth he spent most of his time assisting UNIT in their investigations. This episode proves that they could still produce some of the best time travel writing around by creating a paradox that is as thought provoking as it is exciting.A British politician sees what he assumes is a ghost. Upon investigation The Doctor and Jo Grant discover that the ‘ghost’ is from a future where a meeting the politician is attending that day will lead to World War 3, from which Earth is opened up to an invasion by the Daleks. Members of the human resistance travel back in time to prevent this meeting from taking place.
The kicker comes from the Doctor’s discovery that the events that lead to WWIII are actually the actions of the time travelers while they are trying to prevent it. Mixing in the threat of Dalek conquest makes the consequences of the situation very clear, especially as they didn’t initiate the attack themselves but it was the result of human action. The result of solid and imaginative writing makes this the best of the Third Doctor’s serials.
Can’t say I agree with your ranking (Dante’s Inferno doesn’t have a level low enough for Death to the Daleks). Speaking of which, how’d you miss Inferno, Mind of Evil?