WHAT HAPPENS | The Doctor saves Rose from a group of killer mannequins and convinces her to become his new companion.
WHY IT ROCKS | The one that started (er, rebooted) it all… Not only does it display the hallmarks of a “regular” Doctor Who episode, it serves as Rose’s origin story, establishing a “human” element to the series.
12. Journey's End
WHAT HAPPENS | After Davros threatens to destroy the universe, the Tenth Doctor joins forces with all of his companions to defeat the Dalek empire.
WHY IT ROCKS | As every companion featured during the 10th Doctor’s run returns to help him, viewers get one last chance to see their favorites save the world from the our protagonist’s most infamous enemies, the Daleks. To paraphrase Sarah Jane, the Doctor may act like a lonely man, but he really does have the biggest family on Earth.
11. School Reunion
WHAT HAPPENS | Rose and the Doctor run into Sarah Jane Smith (and K-9) as they investigate a school being run by Krillitanes.
WHY IT ROCKS | What happens to a companion when her time in the TARDIS is up? And who better to ask that tough question than Sarah Jane Smith herself? As the former companion teams up with the Doctor, Mickey and Rose, she forces them to take a closer look at their relationships to one another.
10. The God Complex
WHAT HAPPENS | The TARDIS lands in a hotel where there are rooms that contain each visitor’s deepest, darkest fears.
WHY IT ROCKS | Doctor Who has always had horror in its DNA — all the way back to Daleks causing kids to cower behind their sofas. But while the Doctor typically holds everyone’s fears at bay, this episode forces him to confront his image as a hero. In his effort to break Amy’s trust in him, the Doctor puts aside his usually playful persona to reveal a darker side of himself, telling her he’s “just a mad man with a box.”
9. Father's Day
WHAT HAPPENS | Rose travels back in time to save her father’s life, but creates a time paradox that attracts dangerous flying creatures called Reapers.
WHY IT ROCKS | Heartbreaking for all the right reasons, this emotional episode (that also deals with the ramifications of changing the past) sets the tone for the close bond the Doctor goes on to develop with Rose and subsequent pals.
8. Turn Left
WHAT HAPPENS | As Donna gets her fortune told, a beetle attaches itself to her back, creating a whole alternate universe where she doesn’t meet the Doctor.
WHY IT ROCKS | Companions often say meeting the Doctor changed their lives, but this episode paints a vivid picture of what Donna’s life would have been otherwise. (Spoiler alert: It’s not wonderful.)
7. Human Nature / The Family of Blood
WHAT HAPPENS | Martha must convince the now human Doctor he’s a Time Lord so they can save the boarding school in which they’re hiding.
WHY IT ROCKS | The Doctor’s transformation into “John Smith” offers a glimpse of the life (and love) he’ll never have. But as he reverts back into the “Last Time Lord” and exacts revenge on the Family of Blood, we are reminded that the Doctor is a man to be feared just as much as he’s admired. This episode also asks the question: Does the Doctor’s arrival save people, or does his being there almost ensure death and destruction?
6. The Doctor Dances
WHAT HAPPENS | The Doctor and Rose travel to 1941 wartime London, where an unearthly child is spreading a plague that turns people into gas-masked zombies.
WHY IT ROCKS | The Doctor usually attempts to save everyone — even his enemies. And this episode perfectly encapsulates that mantra, as the 9th Doctor exclaims, “Just this once, everybody lives!” (Also, it’s the second part of Captain Jack Harkness’ debut.)
5. Vincent and the Doctor
WHAT HAPPENS | When the Doctor sees a Krafyis in one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, he and Amy travel back in time to defeat it — also meeting the famed painter in the process.
WHY IT ROCKS | Not only are viewers introduced to the most fully realized historical figure in show history, but the Doctor’s simple act of showing Van Gogh his future legacy is a thing of sweet beauty, as the Dutch painter breaks down tearfully in the face of his success.
WHAT HAPPENS | As people go missing in 2007, a charming young woman named Sally Sparrow (future Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan) must decipher a series of cryptic video messages the Doctor left her in 1969 — warning her about the Weeping Angels.
WHY IT ROCKS | Ironically, the episode that introduces the series’ most terrifying villains also features little of its titular hero. Nonetheless, it’s the brief glimpses of the Doctor that power the episode, making us fear for our stalwart heroine, should she not be able to follow his advice in time. After all, how do people cope when the Doctor’s not available?
WHAT HAPPENS | The Doctor’s bus tour to the Sapphire Waterfall is taken over by an unknown lifeform that can steal voices and take control of other beings. As it fuels paranoia and fear inside the cruise vessel, it almost convinces the other passengers to eliminate the Doctor.
WHY IT ROCKS | The Doctor is the first person to champion the wonder and ingenuity of humankind. But as this episode shows, some of the less attractive qualities of human nature — xenophobia, paranoia and group mobs — can be just as terrifying as any alien monster…
2. The Girl In the Fireplace
WHAT HAPPENS | The Doctor, Rose and Mickey find an abandoned spaceship with several “time windows” into the life of Madame de Pompadour. When clockwork droids begin to attack her, the Doctor must cross over into 1700s France to save her life.
WHY IT ROCKS | A fairytale in time and space, this episode casts the Doctor as Prince Charming as he prevents Pompadour from an untimely demise during various moments in her life — even riding in on a white horse at one point. But even at his most heroic, Reinette is able to strip away the Doctor’s charm and bravado, revealing his loneliness and teaching him “how to dance.”
1. The Doctor's Wife
WHAT HAPPENS | The Doctor follows a Time Lord distress signal to a mysterious asteroid in a Bubble Universe — only to meet the “soul” of his TARDIS in the body of a human woman.
WHY IT ROCKS | The tale of a “boy and his box” is as old as the Time Lord himself… By giving “Idris” a voice, writer Neil Gaiman allows the centuries-old Gallifreyan to actually converse with the one companion who’s accompanied him across galaxies, always taking him where he needs to go. Needless to say, we’re thankful as well.