Honorable mentions: School Reunion. I REALLY enjoy this episode and I cannot understand people who use this episode to hate on Rose. She was not the only one acting petty and immature in this episode, and I think her attitude in this episode makes a lot of sense given that the Doctor didn't talk about his past companions at all. But the reason I love this episode is because it's so much fun to see Sarah Jane again, Mickey is used to good effect, and I DON'T EVEN CARE I LOVE K-9. I thought his relationship with Four back in Classic Who was a lot of fun, so I like that he got to make an appearance on New Who. Plus, the villain is Giles! In this episode the plot is only so-so, but the character stuff is so strong, I don't really mind.
New Earth. Mostly I love this episode because it gave David and Billie a chance to show off their comedic acting chops which isn't something either of them really got to do much of during their tenure on Doctor Who. Also? CAT NUNS!
The Shakespeare Code. Yesss this episode is so much fun. Martha is a Harry Potter fan! She uses "EXPELLIARMUS" TO SAVE THE DAY. How awesome is that? I'm also a big Shakespeare fan, so seeing this fictional version of him is a lot of fun as are all the references to his works. And the cherry on top of all this is Ten's Rose!angst. Love it.
#10 Army of Ghosts/Doomsday by Russel T Davis
Some people who know me might be surprised that this isn't higher on the list, but let me explain. The perfect episode of Doctor Who hits all the right emotional and character notes as well as having an engaging plot. This two parter succeeds on the emotional and character front, but the plot itself isn't mind blowing in its own right. I mean the Cybermen and Daleks fighting is funny and all, but really the plot is just there to serve the character points that RTD wanted to hit. But because David and Billie are just SO brilliant in the last 15 minutes of Doomsday, I couldn't help but include this episode on my Top Ten Episodes.
These episodes just go for the jugular when it comes to emotions and from a character POV it is the perfect end to the series 2 Doctor/Rose story. Rose wasn't planning on leaving the Doctor. She'd found what she wanted to do with her life, and she wasn't going to give that up, so RTD had to forcibly separate them. The Doctor thinks he's doing what is best for Rose when he tries to send her to Pete's World with Jackie, but Rose knows what she wants and what she wants is to be with the Doctor and to see all of space and time. The Doctor FINALLY gets to a place where he really believes that Rose isn't going to leave him and then he loses her.
The final scene on Bad Wolf Bay is heart wrenching, and there is just so much good writing and acting going on there. The heartbreaking thing about that scene is imagining that when Rose gets there, she probably thinks she's going back with the Doctor. She's pack up all her stuff to hop back in the Tardis. But she can't. So instead this is her last chance to talk to him. You can see both Rose and the Doctor trying to keep it together. Rose jokes with the Doctor about still working in a shop and the Doctor tries to pretend that he's going to be alright all on his own. But Rose cracks first. She can't let the Doctor go without telling him she loves him, so she manages to choke out an "I love you", but before the Doctor can pluck up the courage to do the same, the gap in the universes closes and the two are separated forever (as far as they know).
#9 Partners in Crime by Russel T Davies
This episode is just a delight to watch. The idea behind the adipose is pretty great. Like, that is a diet plan that ACTUALLY works... as long as the people running it don't panic and trigger the complete parthenogenesis. But if you just want to lose some weight, giving your extra fat for the creation of adorable little alien babies isn't really a bad plan.
Anyway, I love this episode because it's just so much fun. All the near misses between Donna and the Doctor that take place during the first half of the episode are totally cliche comedy bits, but it's cliche in that really comfortable way. It's like watching old reruns of I Love Lucy. Then of course you have the miming scene and it's just pure brilliance. Catherine Tate is really just fabulous in this episode.
But I think this episode does manage to do some small bits of good character stuff too. We see that Donna wasn't able to translate her experiences in "The Runaway Bride" into the kind of adventuresome life she'd hoped for because it's not as easy at it seems. But I actually think the most important character bit we get in this episode comes from Ten. He admits that he screwed things up with Martha, and at the end when Donna comes along with him he admits that he needs a mate. That's what I love about Ten. He needs friends. He needs other people. He doesn't do well alone.
And of course, the ending with Rose! RTD and co did an impressive job of keeping Billie's appearance in this episode a secret so when I saw her at the end of the episode, I was appropriately shocked.
#8 Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways by Russel T Davies
These episodes were a brilliant way to end the first series. Firstly, I really enjoy the reality TV spoofs in "Bad Wolf". Sure, it's a heavy handed "look at how obsessed with TV our culture is!" but it's still pretty funny. Also, the Doctor's reaction when he thinks Rose is dead pulls at the heart strings. He just goes to stone on the inside. Rose has really come to mean SO much to the Doctor. In the end, he willingly gives up a regeneration in order to save her life.
"The Parting of the Ways" contains my favorite Rose moment. That speech she gives in the cafe about fighting for what is right and not giving up and letting life happen is brilliant and the perfect cap to her series 1 arc. Then of course you have Bad Wolf!Rose which brings me to the other thing I love about this episode. THIS is a time loop done right. "Bad Wolf" was in the back ground the entire time, so Rose was always meant to look into the heart of the Tardis. But she doesn't know it. She's not just acting out bits from a script. Her actions aren't limited because she is aware of pre-established timelines that she can't mess with. She doesn't get easy or automatic answers because she's already done something. She's still completely acing of her own free will, making decisions, and being proactive. It just so happens that she DOES create herself, leading to the time loop.
#7 Father’s Day by Paul Cornell
Ok, so the actual sci-fi plot with the scavengers eating people isn't all that compelling, but this episode is PERFECT from an emotional and character standpoint. The fight that the Doctor and Rose have feels so completely real. You can tell how hurt the Doctor is by the idea that maybe Rose just wanted to travel with him to save her dad and that maybe she was just using him. That's got to hurt because Rose is the first person he's let into his life since the Time War. Then from Rose's point of view she had the opportunity to SAVE HER DAD. How could she pass that up?
So that fight just hurts because it's so accurate and the Doctor and Rose know how to say the things that will really hurt the other person. It's a painful fight. But in spite of that, the Doctor does everything he can to save the day without Pete dying again. In the end though, there is no way around it and Pete has to die so that everyone else can live. The final conversation between Rose and Pete is utterly heartbreaking and has been known to make me cry. Pete has to die, but this time Rose can be there for him, holding his hand so he doesn't have to be alone.
#6 The Girl Who Waited by Tom MacRae
This is the only episode from series 6 that I well and truly love. I really like both "The Doctor's Wife" and "The God Complex", but "The Girl Who Waited" is the only episode that made me want to watch it again immediately after I finished the episode. Everything just falls together pretty magnificently.
As a framing device, the idea of the two time streams moving at different speeds so that people dying of a disease that kills them in a day could live a full life is REALLY clever. It does a great job of setting up the old!Amy bit, but it also makes the danger of the robots with the anesthesia hands who will inject her with medicine that will kill her a believable and real threat to Amy's safety.
Rory is pretty great in this episode, proving that he is the Ultimate Hufflepuff. He's super loyal to both Amys and gets rightfully mad at the Doctor for his unjust fuckery and lies. The moment where Rory chews Eleven out so satisfying. Plus, Arthur Davill looks good in glasses.
But the thing that is wonderful about this episode is Amy. Amy is a character that I've had a lot of trouble getting a hold of. I've felt like there were all these somewhat related threads that made up her character, but they were like wet noodles and I could never get a firm grasp on her. But this episode really took her to character places that I'd been wanting the show to take her her since the beginning of series 5. I loved seeing an angry version of Amy. I LOVED seeing all the times she's been abandoned by the Doctor pay off in this way. I mean, I don't want Amy to be angry and bitter her whole life, but seeing even this alternate version of Amy express some negative emotions for the Doctor after everything that being friends with him has put her through (abandoned at 8, and then again at ~20. Also being used by an evil religious-military organization as an incubator and then having her baby stolen from her.) was incredibly gratifying to me.
And then there's that scene with Rory and Amy on opposite sides of the Tardis door (you know, after the Doctor is a dick and decides that older!Amy isn't real!Amy but makes Rory pull the trigger). So heartbreaking. Older!Amy wants to give her younger self to be happy, a opportunity that she didn't have. But it's still hard to do, so Rory has to be the strong one and let this version of his wife die.