Here’s the semi-traditional end-of-season ranking, leaving out the finale. It feels weird to include season 7a, since it feels SO different to me now. I can hardly believe how much more I’ve enjoyed the 7b stories than almost anything that’s gone before.
It’s picked up some stiff competition, mostly from episodes I’d be more inclined to just throw on casually for fun, but I still found myself moved and thrilled more by this episode than I ever thought possible. It’s not just the plot, it’s everything from acting to cinematography to art direction to sound to conception. It’s in a class of its own.
- Nightmare in Silver
Like “Hide,” this brings a surprisingly fresh flavor to the table that isn’t to everyone’s taste, but suits mine very well. Every eccentric little element felt so well imagined, the larger world so nicely suggested, and most importantly, it was just so much fun. A lot of it shouldn’t have worked, but for me, it did. Not perfect; better.
- The Crimson Horror
I’m as surprised as you are to find this so high up the list. It feels a lot like “Nightmare” in that a lot of the elements just shouldn’t have made me happy, but in concert they added up to a lot of fun. Very little about this story is “classic” when you get down to it, and yet a lot of the pleasure of classic Who is here with none of the draggy stretches.
- The Bells of St. John
On par with “Nightmare” and “Horror,” really, just with a little stronger sense of “been there, done that” in the plot. The character moments really shine, though, and like “Hide,” it just looks gorgeous.
- The Power of Three
This is surprisingly terrific up until they reach the alien ship, and then it’s pretty awful from there on. The first part largely compensates for the second.
- The Snowmen
I didn’t love much of the actual story, but it’s Clara at her very best so far, some good Strax jokes, and, oh, fine, it’s Christmas.
- The Rings of Akhaten
I want to like this so much more than I do. The visuals are so great that I want to see it again right now. The story is such a mess that I don’t really want to hear it again anytime soon. It’s a poser.
- Asylum of the Daleks
I love the Dalek design and I hate most of the Dalek stories, even the good ones. There’s just something about them that turns me off. This is one of the good ones, I think, but when I think about watching it again I just get tired.
- The Angels Take Manhattan
It’s not bad, it’s got its moments, but there’s so much about it that bugs me that I don’t look back on it with a lot of pleasure. The Eleventh Doctor behaves for once in ways that nearly justify the Dream Lord’s loathing of him. And he’s only inhuman, but I hate watching him cry about losing Amy the way I hate watching the Tenth Doctor whine about dying.
- Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
Fun, fun, fun. Not nearly as much fun as the fun in season 7b, though. Feels like it could have been made years ago.
- Cold War
I thought this would rank higher, but honestly, this is one of those diminishing returns stories. There are only two characters I actually like in it, and neither is Russian or Martian. After the twist there really isn’t that much here.
- Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
A big cruel tease from start to finish. Too much of some things, not nearly enough of others, and ultimately pointless. Not actively unpleasant to watch so much as thoroughly unrewarding.
- A Town Called Mercy
Actively unpleasant to watch. Easily bottom of the list for the season, and probably in my bottom 10 new series episodes overall. I’m not sure I can think of a single thing I liked about it.