Russel T. Davies’ impact on Doctor Who can’t be understated. From 2005 to 2010, Davies stood as showrunner for the revived series, bringing the show back from cancellation. Since then, the series has seen two other showrunners, and multiple other Doctors take the role.
While showrunners and actors change, one thing remains certain: this era of Doctor Who remains the most beloved among fans. Looking back on his tenure as showrunner for Doctor Who, here are Russel T. Davies’ best episodes, ranked.
This episode is the one that officially brought the series back from the dead. Starting in modern-day (2005) London, The Ninth Doctor finds himself confronting his old foes, the Autons, who have lost their homeworld during the Time War. In the process, The Doctor finds hope in his new companion, Rose Tyler.
The episode itself feels a bit dated today, what with its frantic editing, hokey effects, and style. Yet, the writing is still solid and remains possibly the best jumping on point for new viewers. The dialogue is perfect, combining the quick-witted yet relatable style of Davies with a subtle ominous presence by The Doctor’s deep backstory.
9 Partners In Crime
After the events of Series three, the Doctor found himself traveling alone. In this series four openers, he finally finds a new companion in Donna Noble to pull him out of his funk. The two, independently, investigate a series of disappearance in relation to a mysterious weight loss drug.
The double act of David Tennant and Catherine Tate is excellent in this episode. While some might find the Adipose aliens far too weird or silly, we find them a fun addition to Doctor Who canon. Full of laughs and enough thrills to satisfy, it is a perfect start to a perfect season of Doctor Who.
8 Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Timelords
The biggest leg up that Davies has on his contemporary peers was his ability to craft series-long arcs. His finales were always far more integrated with the rest of the series and had more satisfying conclusions than Moffat and Chibnall—so far.
Though lower than the others, the series three finale remains a fantastic example of this. While the episodes fall into some weird ideas, the relationship between The Doctor and The master is beautifully constructed, and the surprises were expertly executed. Plus, it is a great departure arc for Martha’s character.
7 The Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday
This finale preceded the Utopia arc, serving as the end of Series two and Rose’s tenure in the TARDIS. Doomsday was the cumulation of this beloved character and a transition point for the series as a whole. After two series, it was time for a change in a companion.
The episode served as a great face-off between Daleks and Cybermen, a rivalry not often explored in the series. Without a doubt though, the emotional gut punch has to be Rose’s departure. The conclusion of her arc, her family’s, and that of Bad Wolf remain some of the most heartwrenching of the show.
6 Turn Left
Doctor-lite episodes are great opportunities for writers to shake things up for the show. Out of all of them, Turn Left is certainly one of the best. This episode saw Donna Noble relive her life before and after The Doctor in a broken timeline, where she never became his companion.
The effects of this and The Doctor’s death result in a nightmarish vision of the Future. Not only does it shake things up in terms of genre and character, but it shows how great Davies was at writing stories for companions. While Donna is a “nobody” from Chiswick, she still turns out to hold immense importance.
5 The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
Some might consider this finale as nothing more than Fan service, and, in a way, they’re right—but it’s fan service in a way that feels completely earned. This series four finale saw all of The Doctor’s friends and companions from the Russell T. Davies era come together one last time.
Not only that, but this arc brought back Davros for the first time in the new series, introducing him to a whole new generation of viewers. The episode was full of insane plans and big returns. While it doesn’t necessarily present the best objective writing skills of Davies, it was a fantastic celebration of his work on the show.
4 Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways was the first of many fantastic finales for NuWho. Perhaps the simplest of the show, it also might double as the most satisfying. Its hints remained scattered and hinted throughout the first series in a way that perfectly supported the finale, but never in a way that alienated the standalone episodes.
The finale sadly saw the end of Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, but it left fans with a hopeful goodbye. Full of thrills and enough strings to continue on through the show today, this finale is a perfect example of emotional endings the show continues to offer.
3 The End Of Time
David Tennant’s performance as the Tenth Doctor is the defining performance of the entire series. Apart from Tom Baker, no actor received such universal acclaim as Tennant. His goodbye episodes served as a heartbreaking but beautiful sendoff for the actor and the lead writer.
Some fans felt disheartened by Ten’s hesitancy to regenerate after Eccleston’s departure, but it offered all the real heartbreak of having to say goodbye to this character. Full of epic scope, satisfying conclusions, and an amazing score, these two episodes were the perfect end to Tennant and Davies’s respective runs.
2 The Waters Of Mars
For much of his run, Russel T. Davies focused on assembling great teams of writers and constructing powerful series-long arcs. His rare attempts and writing standalone episodes often were regulated to less than stellar outputs. But, when he put his mind to it, some of Davies’s individual episodes served as some of the best of the show’s history.
“The Waters of Mars” is a great example of this. The main story serves as a great ticking clock episode, with horrifying new monsters attempting to destroy this Mars base. The real heart of the episode is the Doctor’s struggle and failure to handle this fixed point in time. It was the darkest Tennant ever got as the character, fiercely challenging our perspective.
Sometimes, a clean and simple story can be the best. This is the case with Russel T. Davies’ series four episode “Midnight.” This story saw The Doctor stranded on a tour vehicle on a lifeless world, trapped with tourists ready to jump to horrifying conclusions.
Everything works perfectly in this episode. The performances, the dialogue, the editing. All of it serves a realized story of a morally disintegrated group of individuals. In retrospect, it is a shame we Davies never got to write more stories like it. Like “Blink,” “Midnight” impact can be felt beyond the legacy of Doctor Who.
NEXT: The Sarah Jane Adventures: 10 Best Episodes of the Doctor Who Spin-Off