At first glance, that Series Seven proved to be one of the more divisive runs of Doctor Who may seem strange, given its lead-in to the 50th Anniversary. For worried fans, though, it's vital to recall that rarely in the past has any Anniversary lead-in run been universally applauded- Carnival of Monsters is arguably the only 10th Anniversary season story that remains truly beloved, and Arc of Infinity, Snakedance, Mawdryn Undead, Enlightenment and The King's Demons are all often best left as forgotten wounds that formed the bulk of the disappointing 20th Anniversary run.
With that in mind, then, it's easier to look at Doctor Who's pre-50th Anniversary season with a little more sympathy if that wasn't the case for you before. To this reviewer's mind, there were plenty of fantastic episodes during the course of Series Seven, many of which can be found in this latest list on our Best Of Who Awards. Here's our selection of the Top 7 Greatest Series Seven Episodes...
7. HIDE- It would be something of an understatement to call Neil Cross' first Series Seven tale, The Rings of Ahkaten, a disliked adventure. For this reviewer, Rings was actually a great viewing experience, but its shortcomings are still notable. However, Cross' second outing in Series Seven Part Two, Hide, was a tour de force in thrilling, creepy Doctor Who, its masterful direction by Saul Metzein and the brilliantly inventive script making it a joyful watch. That Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott bring us unforgettable character portrayals for one week only too doesn't do this underrated gem any harm whatsoever.
6. A TOWN CALLED MERCY- Perhaps the only one of the five adventures forming Series Seven Part One not to focus on the Ponds' impending departure, Toby Whithouse's A Town Called Mercy again showcased why the ex-Being Human showrunner should be a prime candidate for Steven Moffat's eventual replacement. Its Wild West setting was masterfully handled, Whithouse's script allowed a great deal of moral ambiguity for both Matt Smith's Doctor and Adrian Scarbrough's Kahler-Jex, and there was a sense of well-rounded closure often lacking from those episodes this season which housed rushed endings.
5. COLD WAR- Bringing back the Ice Warriors into the world of Doctor Who after almost thirty years was always going to be a tough prospect, yet Mark Gatiss made this monolithic challenge look like child's play with his 1980s nuclear submarine excursion. Cold War excels itself as a historical Who thriller with a terrifying adversary, a show-stealing performance from Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham and stunning direction which fully brings across the blockbuster intentions of this ambitious season.
4. ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS- For Steven Moffat, the dilemma of how to top the Doctor's death in his latest season premiere must have been agonizing. Credit to Doctor Who's executive producer, though, that after three full seasons at the helm, he can still shock and awe the viewer by introducing a new companion months ahead of her expected debut. Clara Oswald's shock appearance in Asylum helped define the innovative nature of the entire episode, a breathtaking first instalment in Series Seven that finally restored fear and excitement back into the Doctor's encounters with Skaro's most wanted. A Dalek tale for the ages!
3. THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR- 'Introducing John Hurt...as the Doctor. Doctor Who will return on November 23rd.' With those words alone, Steven Moffat managed to once again revolutionize his science-fiction drama after half a century, raising the idea that perhaps the Time Lord has been rather coy about the ramifications of regeneration. Other than that, The Name of the Doctor was a stunning overall finale to Series Seven, wrapping up the Clara arc in a successful (if fairly foreseeable) manner, broadening the character of River Song and giving the Pasternoster Gang a great deal of deep mileage on top of it all.
2. THE SNOWMEN- An unexpected hit, this one was. All of the odds seemed against yet another Victorian England-set Christmas Special from Steven Moffat, yet The Snowmen defied our expectations to become one of Series Seven's standout greatest hits. The Victorian incarnation of Clara showcased Jenna-Louise's acting talents fabulously, Matt worked wonders as an omniscient, relenting Doctor, Saul Metzein's direction of proceedings was beautifully handled and the narrative was one of Moffat's finest creations yet.
1. THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN- Believe me when I say that the top spot on this prestigious list was fought out for in a tough competition. In the end, though, it was the Series Seven Part One finale which won out- The Angels Take Manhattan is perhaps the only, perfect way in which Steven Moffat could have concluded the triumphant era of the Ponds. Karen Gillan gives us her best performance yet, as do Matt and Alex Kingston, and Nick Hurran's direction cements his place as a landmark Who director who has every right to be working on the 50th Anniversary Special as he is now. The Angels Take Manhattan works on so many levels- as a noir detective thriller, as a final send-off for two captivating lead stars, but most of all as a simply fantastic rendition of the heights of quality Doctor Who can still achieve fifty years on from its debut!
NEXT WEEK: TOP 5 GREATEST ELEVENTH DOCTOR MOMENTS