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Doctor Who: Best Twelfth Doctor Episodes, Ranked

Highlights

  • The 12th Doctor’s era saw a decrease in popularity and increase in episode criticisms, with lower viewing figures.
  • Peter Capaldi’s portrayal as the 12th Doctor introduced a more complex and alien-like character than his predecessors.
  • Notable episodes like “Heaven Sent” and “Listen” highlight the depth and emotional range of the 12th Doctor’s era.



There are plenty of eras of Doctor Who, owing to its 60-year lifespan. While the eras of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were marked by a more extensive global reach and overall heightened popularity, the Twelfth Doctor’s era was a little more muted. Criticisms of episodes started to increase during this time, and viewing figures, unfortunately, began to drop.

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The 12th incarnation of The Doctor first appeared in a cameo on Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary in 2013, before appearing in their first full series in 2014. Played brilliantly by long-time fan Peter Capaldi, this version of the character was a stark contrast to the incarnation that came before him. Initially starting out as a gruff and rude man who acted more alien than previous regenerations, the 12th Doctor eventually grew into a more complex version of the character, one who didn’t want to leave when his time came. Staying on for three seasons of the show, the 12th Doctor has many stories that test his intellect and personal relationships. Plus, he also has some of the best episodes from the Doctor Who franchise’s revival.



7 Season 9, Episode Eight: “The Zygon Inversion”

IMDB Score: 8.4

  • Released: November 7, 2015
  • Director: Daniel Nettheim
  • Writers: Peter Harness, Steven Moffat, Sydney Newman

Season Nine of the Doctor Who revival was the second in the 12th Doctor’s era and tried something new by making nearly every episode two parts. “The Zygon Inversion” is the second part of a two-parter that sees The Doctor, Clara, and UNIT trying to halt the current invasion of Earth from the shape-shifting race known as the Zygons. The end of the first part of this story finishes with the reveal that the version of Clara that The Doctor had been working with is a Zygon, and so, the pressure is on as their leader tries to finish the invasion.


Much of the second part of this story is a race against time, one that has many twists and turns. However, one of the reasons that fans rate this episode so highly is because of its finale. The Doctor manages to rig up a scale model of war in an effort to try and coax both UNIT and the Zygons into a peace treaty before a war can begin. What follows is an impassioned speech from The Doctor about war, in what many call Capaldi’s finest moment. It is emotional, political, and undoubtedly Doctor Who.

6 Season 8, Episode 12: “Dark Water”

IMDB Score: 8.5

  • Released: November 1, 2014
  • Director: Rachel Talalay
  • Writers: Steven Moffat, Kit Pedler


Season Eight spends much of its runtime setting up Clara’s relationship with the new incarnation of The Doctor while also introducing her new love interest, Danny Pink. Both Danny and The Doctor are at odds a lot of the time, which adds an interesting dynamic if the two characters are going to be part of Clara’s life going forward. This interesting development also made it more shocking when Danny Pink is killed off in the opening of Season Eight’s two-part finale.

What follows is a distraught Clara trying to convince The Doctor to help her find her boyfriend in the afterlife. The result is an interesting, dark, and comical episode that introduces fans to a great twist. The mysterious female the pair finds in the afterlife and the person who has been teased throughout the rest of the series is, in fact, a new version of The Master, Missy.


5 Season 9, Episode 11: “Face The Raven”

IMDB Score: 8.5

  • Released: November 21, 2015
  • Director: Justin Molotnikov
  • Writers: Sarah Dollard, Kit Pedler

In one of the rare single part episodes of Season Nine, The Doctor and Clara receive a distress call from an old friend, Rigsy, who wakes up to find he has a strange tattoo that is counting down to something. The team’s investigation leads them to an alien refugee site on Earth, one that is being run by Me, a Viking girl whom The Doctor saved by giving them an immortal life. Unfortunately, Rigsy has been accused of murder, and the tattoo’s countdown will end with his death at the hands of a spectral raven. In a bid to outsmart this system, Clara takes on the tattoo and dies as a result.


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The death of this long-time companion is unexpected and gut-wrenching and leads to the reveal of a very angry Doctor. Once again, fans get another fantastic performance from Peter Capaldi. Plus, the run-up to this moment is a fun story that showcases a lot of great elements of the Doctor Who universe.

4 Season 9, Episode 13: “Hell Bent”

IMDB Score: 8.6

  • Released: December 5, 2015
  • Director: Rachel Talalay
  • Writers: Steven Moffat, Terry Nation

The Season Nine finale, “Hell Bent,” brings the Doctor Who revival back to Gallifrey at last. Only this time, The Doctor is more angry than he has ever been. After discovering that the Time Lords were behind Clara’s death, The Doctor returns and overthrows the planet’s current leader, Rassilon. He then puts a plan into Action to rescue Clara at the moment of her death.


The episode stands as an exploration of the relationship between the 12th Doctor and Clara while also showing how far this reincarnation is willing to go to save those he loves. This episode’s ending is bitter-sweet, with Clara going off on her own adventures in a TARDIS, leaving The Doctor has no memory of their time together. It is a great character study and a somewhat happy ending to a darker era of the show.

3 Season 8, Episode 5: “Listen”

IMDB Score: 8.8

  • Released: September 13, 2014
  • Director: Dougless Mackinson
  • Writers: Steven Moffat, Steven Newman

An episode that asks questions, “Listen” is a great character piece for the Doctor that pitches itself as a mystery. There are lots of great moments for both the Doctor and Clara and, there’s even a return to the old pre-Time War Gallifrey.


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“Listen” is the first example of where fans really get a sense of what this new Doctor is about. Starting with a compelling monologue from Capaldi, the story then takes The Doctor on a journey through time in search of a monster that has perfectly evolved to hide. In a way, “Listen” has everything that Doctor Who does best in one self-contained episode. It is thrilling, spooky, and has some great time travel elements and reveals.

2 Season 10, Episodes 12 & 13: “World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls”

IMDb Score: 9.1

  • Released: June 24 & July 1, 2017
  • Director: Rachel Talalay
  • Writers: Steven Moffat, Kit Pedler


In one of the show’s darkest moments, Season Ten’s two-part finale begins with the death of The Doctor’s companion, Bill Potts. Fortunately, Bill does not die completely, but the first part in this story follows the injured companion as she is slowly converted into a Cyberman while The Doctor and Missy hatch an escape plan. Sadly, they are too late, and Bill has already been converted by a former version of The Master by the time they arrive. Naturally, the story ends horrifically with both evil Time Lords plotting to take over the rest of the ship with their Cyberman army.

With two versions of The Master, an army of Cybermen, and the death of a companion to deal with, many fans would assume that The Doctor would be overshadowed in the second part. However, Peter Capaldi manages to shine in one of the characters’ best moments as he valiantly falls trying to defend the rest of the ship’s inhabitants from his enemies. Also, all this happens after another fantastic speech that sums up this version of The Doctor perfectly.


1 Season 9, Episode 12: “Heaven Sent”

IMDB Score: 9.6

  • Released: November 28, 1015
  • Director: Rachel Talalay
  • Writers: Steven Moffat, Sydney Newman

A justified winner of many awards, “Heaven Sent” is a fantastic episode that gives Capaldi a lot of material to work with, as the Twelfth Doctor deals with the loss of Clara while being trapped in a Gallifreyan prison. Fans are eager to see more like this in future seasons.

What is first framed as a solo episode that could be a simple mystery soon blossoms into a highly complex exploration of grief. The Doctor and the audience are forced to confront some heavy subjects, as The Doctor talks to himself and tells one final story that takes over one billion years to complete. It isn’t an easy watch, but Peter Capaldi’s acting and Murray Gold’s rousing musical score easily makes “Heaven Sent” the best episode of Doctor Who to feature the 12th Doctor.


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