One of the keys to Doctor Who’s longevity is surely its versatile format, which allows it take risks and be something different with each adventure.
As well as altering its supporting cast and location on any given week, it also enjoys the luxury of swapping genre. From pure historical to space opera, Victorian melodrama to gothic horror show, there can be literally anything beyond those TARDIS doors.
Here CultBox celebrates some of the occasions where the modern era of Doctor Who has presented itself in someone else’s shoes – either as parody or with deadly conviction…
1. The bottle episode: ‘Midnight’
At some point in every TV show, the production seeks to save the budget by using a single set and a minimal cast. Sometimes they can seem cheap and contrived, but in the case of ‘Midnight’ the restricted space was chillingly effective.
The Donna-less ‘Midnight’ trapped the Tenth Doctor in a shuttle bus on an alien planet, with minimal special effects and a monster heard but only seen through the terrifying way it affected the passengers.
2. The murder mystery: ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’
Revelling in its parody of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, Gareth Robert’s brilliant tale presented a celebrity historical with a twist as we met the author herself.
Set at a society party in a country house, the Doctor teamed up with the famous author to solve a murder complete with a murdered professor, an undercover jewel thief and some hushed up family secrets.
3. The real-time thriller: ‘42’
Aping the popular real-time format of Kiefer Sutherland’s 24, ‘42’ saw the Doctor and Martha fighting to stop a spaceship crashing into a sun. Dammit!
In only the runtime of a single episode, the Doctor had to cope with his own infection from a mysterious sun energy creature as well as rescuing Martha and saving the remaining crew.
4. The bank job: ‘Time Heist’
Along with a couple of likely suspects, a shape-shifter and an augmented human, the Doctor and Clara joined a team recruited to steal from an impregnable space bank.
Up against a creature capable of sensing guilt, the story was infused with style and surprises, adding some heart to the proceedings and a temporal twist as only Doctor Who can.
5. Metafiction: ‘Love & Monsters’
Focussing on the story of an ordinary man whose life had been touched by the Doctor, ‘Love & Monsters’ took a look at Doctor Who fandom and the show’s capacity to bring people together.
With a Blue Peter-designed monster and its tongue firmly in cheek, the show presented the Time Lord in a very different light from usual with cartoonish elements such as a Scooby-Doo inspired chase sequence and Peter Kay’s over the top villain.
6. The Western: ‘A Town Called Mercy’
Arriving in a Nevada town in 1870, the Eleventh Doctor became Marshall when he defended the town of Mercy from a cyborg gunslinger.
Confronted with a question of morality, he had to decide whether or not to turn a war criminal over to face certain death, but there was still plenty of time for talking to horses and wearing Stetsons too.
Which genre episode is your favourite? Let us know below…