"The Star Beast" "The Christmas Invasion" and "Rose"

The 10 Best ‘Doctor Who’ Episodes Russell T Davies Has Given Us

Russell T Davies is the man who brought back Doctor Who in 2005, and is 2023 he returned to the position of showrunner once more. He’s written some of the best, most thought-provoking episodes of not just post-2005 Doctor Who, but Doctor Who in general.

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It’s genuinely hard narrowing down his contributions to just 10 great episodes, so consider these ones the very best of the best.

10. Rose

Mickey (Noel Clarke) and Rose (Billie Piper) in Doctor Who "Rose"

SO MUCH was riding on “Rose,” the season one opener for the rebooted Doctor Who. It was all set to introduce a brand new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, alongside viewpoint character Rose Tyler, played by up-and-coming young actress Billie Piper. Hype was at an all-time high and Whovians everywhere were praying, “Be good, just be good!” Well, their prayers were answered, because “Rose” was indeed good. It has it flaws (the way this episode uses Mickey has me shaking my head) but it did exactly what it was supposed to: introduce a whole new generation to Who.

9. The Parting of the Ways

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in Doctor Who "Rose"

Because Davies is a gay man, some internet trolls and bigots claimed throughout 2005 that he was inserting a “gay agenda” into Doctor Who. Well, spoiler alert, he was, and it was a huge leap forward for Doctor Who and for the whole of British family television. This episode had the first same-sex kiss in Doctor Who history … as well as an army of Daleks, the resolution to the “Bad Wolf” plot, and a thrilling regeneration. Everyone was sad to see Christopher Eccleston go, but they knew more great things lay ahead.

8. The Star Beast

Rose Noble (Yasmin Finney) in Doctor Who "The Star Beast"

There was a time when Davies seemingly didn’t treat one of his most beloved female characters with the respect she deserved. In “Journey’s End,” Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) has her memory wiped and goes back to being the shallow person she was before meeting the Doctor. I remember being furious at the time… but then Davies made up for his mistake by bringing Donna back for “The Star Beast” and giving her not only her memories back but a daughter as well. Said daughter is Rose Noble, played by trans actress Yasmin Finney, and her inclusion marked another milestone for representation in Doctor Who.

7. Turn Left

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in Doctor Who "Turn Left"

Donna Noble is the heroine of this dark episode from season 4. In a world without the Doctor, the woman Rose Tyler describes as “the most important woman in the whole of creation” must discover her destiny and make a sacrifice. A lot of heavy stuff happens in this story, there are some particularly bleak scenes that veer into dystopia, and that all helps make it a masterpiece. The performances are excellent, too. The late Bernard Cribbins’ portrayal of Donna’s grandfather Wilf will make you outright sob, and that’s not even getting into how good Catherine Tate is as a solo protagonist.

6. Doomsday

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) in Doctor Who "Doomsday"

The season 2 finale was the last ever episode for Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler… or so we all thought at the time. Rose was actually back just two seasons later, but that doesn’t stop Doomsday from being incredibly emotionally affecting. It’s a high-stakes nail-biter of an episode starring two famous Doctor Who enemies, the Daleks and the Cybermen, and Piper puts in an incredible performance. The scene between Rose and the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) on Bad Wolf Bay is one of the most tearjerking moments in Doctor Who history.

5. 73 Yards

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who "73 Yards"

I will grant that “73 Yards” is a bit confusing, but it’s so atmospheric and creepy and well-done that I can happily overlook that. Like “Turn Left,” it’s an episode that takes the Doctor out of the equation entirely and leaves the companion, in this case Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), to fend for themselves. Ruby has an absolutely terrible time of it as an unknown entity in the form of a woman turns everyone, even her own mother, against her. But she’s able to overcome the worst that life throws at her and save the world.

4. Wild Blue Yonder

Catherine Tate and David Tennant as the Donna and Doctor Not Things in Doctor Who: Wild Blue Yonder

Doctor Who has always been famous for its episodes of chilling horror thrown in among the family-friendly fun, and “Wild Blue Yonder” provides a fantastic example of this. In this episode, the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant again!) and Donna Noble find themselves in an abandoned space station, and something is in there with them. Something that can almost perfectly mimic human forms, too. Who would have thought the phrase “My arms are too long” could be so utterly terrifying?

3. The Christmas Invasion

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) in Doctor Who "The Christmas Invasion"

When Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant in “The Parting of the Ways,” people had doubts. Could this newcomer really be as good as Eccleston? Well, we know the answer to that now—Tennant is one of the most beloved Doctors ever—and “The Christmas Invasion” was what put everyone’s mind at rest. It’s a fantastic episode where the fate of the entire world is at stake and everyone, including supporting characters like Camille Coduri’s Jackie Tyler, gets a chance to shine. Merry Christmas!

2. Midnight

Skye (Lesley Sharp) possessed by the Midnight monster in Doctor Who: Midnight

One of the scariest Doctor Who episodes of all time. The Tenth Doctor decides to take a shuttle tour across the planet Midnight, but the shuttle breaks down, and then very bad things start to happen. Suddenly, an unknown force possesses a passenger, and she begins speaking simultaneously with everyone else, as if she knows what a person is going to say before they say it. The passengers on the shuttle become more and more afraid and paranoid, and as you can imagine, the episode ends in tragedy. This is the rare episode where the Doctor doesn’t really win.

1. The End of the World

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) in Doctor Who "The End of the World"

While I liked “Rose” it wasn’t until the second episode of the reboot, “The End of the World,” that I truly fell in love with Doctor Who. It’s my personal favorite episode of season 1 and my favorite Russell T. Davies work. It’s an action-adventure in its own way, but it’s first and foremost a story about loss and friendship. Oh, and Britney Spears’ “Toxic” gets a starring role that went down in Who history. The number one episode I would recommend if you’re wanting to get into Davies’ Doctor Who.

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Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.