There are now eleven new seasons and five new doctors since the reboot of Doctor Who in 2005. Each doctor has had their fair share of ups and downs both on the show and in the ratings. While most of the seasons tend to average about 8 out of 10 stars as rated by IMDb users, every season had at least one episode that dipped down below 7 stars. Great television is in the eye of the viewers, and, for every episode, several thousand viewers have turned out to tell us their opinions. These are the ten those voters liked least.
10 The Curse of the Black Spot — 6.8/10
This piratical episode from season 6 finds the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) onboard a 17th-century ship. He, Amy, and Rory meet a crew who are being picked off by a ghostly Siren apparition. The men have no way to fight. Worse, they are taunted by a black spot that appears on their hand before she kills them.
Viewers went into the episode expecting a claustrophobic psychological thriller, but that’s not that this episode tried to be. It, like many pirate stories, was just a bit campy. If that’s not your thing, the fact that the black spot is a common myth that’s been told a thousand times will make the episode feel even worse.
9 Love & Monsters — 6.2/10
“Love & Monsters” is one of David Tennant’s early episodes as the Tenth Doctor. In it, an early encounter with the Doctor leads regular guy Elton Pope to create a group known as L.I.N.D.A. to study him. It's all innocent fun until the mysterious Victor Kennedy joins their group. Suddenly, his friends begin to disappear, and they need the Doctor to save them again.
Reviewers mostly fall into two camps; “Love & Monsters” is either an absolute gem or the worst episode in Doctor Who history. Some people love the humor, while others love the melancholy. Some people love that it tries something new for the Doctor, and some people think the Doctor isn’t present.
8 In the Forest of the Night — 6.1/10
On a seemingly normal day, while the twelfth doctor (Peter Capaldi) was in London, every town in every country in the entire world woke up to find that a forest had taken back over the planet overnight. The Doctor, Clara, and Danny have to keep a group of schoolchildren safe while also solving the problem of all the trees.
People generally agree that the setting is beautiful and just a bit haunting—the Nelson Column rises out of the forest like a human relic in a post-apocalyptic world. However, people who disliked it say the episode didn’t have a solid story, the characters didn’t do anything useful or found ending a bit trite.
7 Fear Her — 6.1/10
It’s the 2012 Olympics in London. The Doctor and Rose are there to see it, but get distracted by a scary phenomenon—children are disappearing right before their very eyes. In their quest to find out what’s happening they find a little girl who is able to trap people in her drawings, with a bit of alien help, of course.
People who hate “Fear Her” see it as mainly a filler episode. The alien story wasn’t that compelling, the acting wasn’t that amazing, and the whole thing was either predictable or obvious from the trailer. Even Doctor Who can’t please everyone.
6 Sleep No More — 6.0/10
For the first—and probably only—time Doctor Who tried its hand at the ‘found footage’ storytelling method. We stumble across Clara and the Doctor wandering the halls of a ship under attack and quickly learn that the Sandmen are responsible. The crew has designed sleep pods where they can get a month’s worth of sleep out of the way quickly, and these seem to be the source of the Sandmen’s ire.
Like “Love & Monsters,” viewers were not appreciative of the show trying something new. The episode begins with the warning, “Do not watch this,” and the reviewers that hated it would encourage you to take that warning seriously.
5 Resolution — 6.0/10
Each holiday special is highly anticipated, and the Thirteenth Doctor’s first holiday special was no different. After watching fireworks across several time periods, the fam is called back to Earth in 2019 to figure out what mysterious and ancient threat has been unearthed and revived. When they realize that it’s a resurrected scout Dalek, they hurry to defeat it before it can call a fleet shouting “Terminate!” to Earth.
The Daleks were a nice callback to decades of Whovian history that delighted most fans. Raters generally agreed that this episode wasn’t the best of the holiday specials, but it was satisfying enough. From here on in our list, the worst-rated episodes all star the Thirteenth Doctor. The Doctor regenerating as a woman was widely derided by fans, so it’s worth considering that those opinions may color the low ratings for the next four episodes.
4 The Witchfinders — 5.9/10
The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions head to 17th century Lancashire, where they become embroiled in a witch trial at Bilehurst Cragg. They quickly realize something more sinister is at work though and seek to solve it in order to save the women who are being condemned as witches by the dozen. Of course, aliens are a big part of the problem.
This is one of several episodes in season 11 that IMDb raters cite as the reason why they’re giving up on Doctor Who. Most of the low star reviews cite lesser writing and that the show has become too overtly about social justice. This episode, in particular, is criticized for ignoring the chief Gallifreyan law of time travel—non-interference in a cultural issue.
3 The Battle of Ranksor Av Kolos — 5.5/10
After the TARDIS picks up distress calls, the Doctor and fam go to the planet Ranskor Av Kolos. There they find a powerful psychic race, the Ux, who have been tricked by Tzim-Sha into building him a weapon powerful enough to shrink Earth so he can get revenge for his previous defeat there. He has already shrunk several other planets, so, even after defeating him, the Doctor must return them back to their rightful size and place with the TARDIS.
While people applauded the show’s return to “pure” science-fiction with this episode, many complained that it was a bit anti-climactic for a season finale.
2 Arachnids in the UK — 5.2/10
One of the early episodes for the Eleventh Doctor tells an earth-bound tale of spiders made giant by pollution. The Doctor, Yaz, Graham, and Ryan find themselves in Sheffield trying to find the source of the giant spiders who are killing people, and it leads them to a greedy hotel developer who just wants a quick buck.
After the triumph of “Rosa” the week before, some reviewers thought “Arachnids in the UK” was a big letdown. It involved neither space travel, nor time travel, nor aliens. For people who come for the science fiction, animals-made-bad-by-radioactivity is a little too old hat for an episode that aired in 2018.
1 The Tsuranga Conundrum — 5.1/10
The Doctor and company are trapped onboard a medical ship in a far-flung galaxy, injured and without the TARDIS. An alien entity attacks, and they must quickly defend the ship before it’s completely eaten and they all die.
Nearly 5,000 viewers have rated “The Tsuranga Conundrum” as the worst Doctor Who episode to date. While there are some viewers who, by episode five of the new season, remain upset about a female doctor, the majority of complaints about this episode are about the writing. There’s too much exposition, character development feels shoehorned, etc. We’ll see how season 12 fares.