It’s that time again: we have Doctor Who on the brain. The new season starts in a couple of weeks, and that got me thinking back to a recent article on the Mary Sue about one of our favorite episodes, Blink. And about how Steven Moffat doesn’t know why it’s such a fan favorite episode.
So I want to approach this from a couple angles. This week is about Blink and why it stands out as a favorite. And I have graphs! It goes to the heart of selecting a favorite episode of a TV show in general.
The second angle is about the Mary Sue’s question about Moffat being able to repeat said success now that he’s showrunner. As Holly wrote a while back, once we started paying attention to the showrunner and writing credits – and saw which episodes Moffat had written – we knew exactly why he was the new showrunner. And I do see him repeating himself, trying to perfect some of his concepts – so that’ll be some deeper Doctor Who exploration next time!
A while back, Holly and I found a site that graphs the popularity of episodes of TV shows. The results are fascinating.
So let’s look at a show that we know pretty well, and which had a nice long run – and also had its monsters-of-the-week like Doctor Who. That would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer (spoilers to follow for Buffy). Here’s the graph:
So there are three episodes which stand out over the rest, and a lot of a spread of the rest of the episodes. Some ups and downs. But what are those three top episodes? Well, the first in season 4 is Hush, an award-winning episode in which the characters cannot speak and the majority of the episode is not a speaking episode. On a show known for its witty writing… The second is the season 5 episode The Body, in which they deal with the sudden unexpected death of Buffy’s mother – a very serious, muted episode. The third is the season 6 musical episode, Once More with Feeling, topping it all.
Okay, so why these three episodes? Obviously by numbers they’re only a little higher in a relatively popular show. However, these three still noticeably stand out. And you know what? Thinking back on the show, yes, yes they do. They noticeably stand out. There are tons of episodes that I would not know the name of. But those three? Three of the best. Why?
Because they’re different. They’re not the standard sort of episode. There’s plenty of standard episodes, and they can end up kind of blending together. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means which episode with Angel being broody is the best? Which one with Spike causing trouble? Which apocalypse scenario? (The answer to that last one is obviously The Zeppo). It’s hard to choose a favorite among them. But these stand-out, different episodes? They stand on their own, in our memory, in our ability to rate them and think about them.
Zip back to Doctor Who. Blink is one of the most stand-out episodes of the new series, and possibly the whole 50-year run. Because it barely stars the Doctor at all. Not to say you make a quality episode by excluding the Doctor. But what we got was a strong (female) character as the lead, a time-traveling mystery that unfolds throughout the episode, one of the best monsters ever, and when the Doctor is there, it’s giving one of his best speeches ever.
More on the plot details of Blink to come in part two of this topic. The Geek Baby has a cold and so I’m having to cut this short. Until next time! Oh, and click here for the Doctor Who episode graph – with Blink at the top!