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'Doctor Who' 50th: Digital Spy's greatest ever story revealed

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Digital Spy readers named David Tennant as Doctor Who's greatest ever Doctor - now, with just five days to go until the 50th anniversary, DS is embarking on a new quest... to list the top 10 Who stories of all time.

Over the past 10 weeks, we've celebrated the best of Hartnell, Pertwee, Smith, Troughton and (Tom) Baker... now finally we've reached the end-point. It's the DS pick for Doctor Who's best story from 50 years' worth of adventures...

Feel free to name your own favourite in the comments section below, but for us, Steven Moffat's best, David Tennant's finest and Doctor Who's all-time greatest begins in 18th century Versailles...

1. THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE (2006) - written by Steven Moffat

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'

© BBC

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'



"Oh, Doctor, so lonely, so very, very alone!"

The Doctor probably doesn't remember much Doctor Who.

Traversing time and space for - at least - the better part of a thousand years, our Time Lord hero has saved so many worlds, vanquished so many villains and made and lost so many friends that he probably recalls relatively little of what's happened to him in any great detail.

That's Steven Moffat's intriguing theory at least - very few of the Doctor's adventures take any real personal toll on him as a man. This week's 50th anniversary special 'The Day of the Doctor' is one such tale, we're promised, and another is Moffat's 2006 effort, 'The Girl in the Fireplace'.

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'

© BBC

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'



"I frequently think the way to fix every other TV show is just to put the Doctor in it for a couple of scenes," Doctor Who's showrunner recently told Digital Spy. "Maybe to give you a romantic moment, to give you a bit of comic relief, to give you a hero moment… what can't he do? What doesn't this show do?"

If this is what the appeal of the world's longest running science fiction series can be boiled down to - romance, humour and heroism - then 'The Girl in the Fireplace' is the perfect episode. It's an episode that'll make you at various points laugh, cheer and cry.

You giggle at the Doctor's stunned reaction to meeting Arthur - a horse on a spaceship. You whoop and punch the air when our lead rides said equine into the Palace of Versailles, gloriously smashing his way through a 'magic mirror' and you feel something somewhere between the two - a sort of appreciation and respect - when the clockwork droids' misguided motivation is revealed in the episode's fantastic final moments...



Plenty of Doctor Who episodes have brilliant "comic relief" and memorable "hero moments" though and it would be easy to mistake 'The Girl in the Fireplace' for something more ordinary if not for that final element - romance.

For much of its 45-minute runtime, 'Girl' is simply a terrific tale, told with wit and verve and boasting some memorable monsters, plus many of Moffat's favourite tropes - wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff and the Doctor inserting himself into the life of Reinette (Sophia Myles) at various disparate points, as he did with Amy, River and even Sally Sparrow...

But it's Reinette, Madame de Pompadour, the eponymous Girl in the Fireplace, that makes this such a special episode. This is one of those stories that Moffat was talking about - one that takes an emotional toll on our Time Lord.

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'

© BBC

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'



Here, the Doctor falls in love and - sorry prudish fans - almost certainly makes love too. Then, having opened his heart(s) in a way that we've never seen him do before, he has his happiness - and the woman he loves - torn from him...

If you're looking for the most poignant moment in Doctor Who's history - the moment that absolutely epitomises the Doctor as a character - then look no further than the scene in which the Doctor returns to the TARDIS, having just learnt that Reinette has not only died but had passed away still desperately praying for his return, and doesn't share any of it with Mickey (Noel Clarke) or even Rose (Billie Piper).

"Are you alright?" she asks.

"I'm always alright," he replies, with a sad smile.

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'

© BBC

'Doctor Who' - 'The Girl in the Fireplace'



It's the romance and the tragedy - and very specifically that moment - that make 'The Girl in the Fireplace' so special. Stripped of his mystique and his magic for just a moment, we see the Doctor as just a man - sad and desperately alone, but still holding onto some empty bravado for the benefit of his friends.

Just once, we saw the Doctor at his most vulnerable - and then we see him put it all behind him and push on. On to save so many more worlds and vanquish so many more villains.

Because the Doctor is a hero.


The countdown from 10 to 2...
10. 'The Aztecs'
9. 'The Daemons'
8. 'The Tomb of the Cybermen'
7. 'The Eleventh Hour'
6. 'Inferno'
5. 'Midnight'
4. 'The Talons of Weng Chiang'
3. 'Genesis of the Daleks'
2. 'Blink'

Are you a fan of 'The Girl in the Fireplace'? Does it deserve the top spot in our Doctor Who top 10? Share your thoughts below!

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