Ranking Doctor Who Season 9
The ninth season of Doctor Who was a wild ride from start to finish. It featured glaring changes in tone, pacing, structure, and characterization from seasons past, making for some of the most unpredictable television in recent memory. As a cohesive unit, Season 9 meshed together very well - none of the episodes felt out of place, and The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) both felt at home in their respective roles.
However, some stories were definitely better than others, so here is my own personal ranking of every story in Doctor Who Season 9, as well as the 2015 Christmas Special, the Husbands of River Song.
9. Sleep No More by Mark Gatiss
Sleep No More was without a doubt one of the most experimental episodes in Doctor Who's long history. Filmed with the Found-Footage format (if you don't know what that is, think Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project) this episode was seen through the eyes of the characters. I wish the plot had been smoother, because I really liked the experimental filming style and there's a cool twist ending. Overall, it's not a bad episode, but Sleep No More is definitely the worst of Season 9. 7/10
8. The Girl Who Died by Jamie Mathison and Steven Moffat
Don't misunderstand me - this is in no way a bad episode. On the contrary, The Girl Who Died is extremely fun, with a colorful cast of characters and some very heartfelt moments between the Doctor and Clara. It also introduces Ashildr, a character who proves to be vitally important over the course of the season. So don't think of this episode as the 2nd Worst; think of it as the 8th Best. 8/10
7. Face the Raven by Sarah Dollard
This episode made me sweat from my eyes. It's a murder mystery in sci-fi clothes, a prime example of the genre-mixing that Doctor Who is so famous for. And while everyone talks about the emotional ending, the rest of the episode is very inventive, building to a climax as each new layer of the plot is uncovered. 8.5/10
6. The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar by Steven Moffat
Season 9's premier put a brick on the gas pedal and never slowed down. The huge scale and galaxy-roaming plot of The Magician's Apprentice felt like a finale, and the episode's cliffhanger is one of the best on Doctor Who in a very long time. The Witch's Familiar dials back the action but never the intensity, giving new lore to the Doctor's oldest enemy. Peter Capaldi's performance is excellent (a theme we'll be revisiting over and over again throughout the rest of this review), and the rest of the show is clicking on all cylinders around him. 9/10
5. The Husbands of River Song by Steven Moffat
From hilarious space adventure/comedy to heartfelt romance, The Husbands of River song is a great tribute to The Doctor and River's relationship. Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston deliver performances that are among each of their best, pairing comedy and drama with seamless ease. This is as fun as any Christmas special yet, definitely among the best of them. 9/10
4. The Woman Who Lived by Catherine Tregenna
Many people consider this episode to be a two-parter with The Girl Who Died, but the differing writers, plots, monsters, tones, and settings all lead me to think of it as a standalone. Regardless, it's a beautiful story about monsters that humans face every day - hopelessness, loneliness, and selfishness - much like Vincent and the Doctor from Season 5. The acting is flawless from Maisie Williams and Peter Capaldi, and the writing is very poetic. 9/10
3. Heaven Sent/Hell Bent by Steven Moffat
If you want to see what the Doctor is like without hope, this should be the first story you watch. Heaven Sent sees him alone, trapped, and hunted by a monster without mercy, while Hell Bent finds him at the end of his rope. While Season 8's finale was relatively small-scale, Season 9's is one of the most epic and intense finales in a few years. 9.5/10
2. The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion by Peter Harness
These two episodes are absolutely fantastic, high in intensity, plot twists, humor, and epic Peter Capaldi moments. The climax shows off Capaldi's acting ability with one of the most awesome speeches by any Doctor. The Zygons are put to perhaps their finest use yet, finally becoming intimidating villains instead of "Big Red Rubbery Things, Covered in Suckers." Safely to say, Peter Harness has fully redeemed himself for last year's fiasco, Kill the Moon. 10/10
1. Under the Lake/Before the Flood by Toby Whithouse
This is one of the most original Doctor Who stories in a long time. A great base-under-siege story in Under the Lake and some amazing time travel in Before the Flood. Doctor Who rarely attempts horror, and rarely accomplishes it so brilliantly as it does here. The monsters are all very scary. But the frightening plot is just a backdrop to explain one of Doctor Who's most frequently-used time travel devices. It's an extremely engaging, exciting, and educational story, like nothing we'd seen before in New Who. 10/10
So there you have it: my complete rankings of Doctor Who Season 9. It was another fantastic season for the British Sci-Fi show - in my humble opinion, one of the best ever.