We never know what we’re going to get when we tune in for a new episode of Doctor Who. Sometimes, it can be your simple monster-of-the-week story. Other times, we get a history lesson, or a high-concept thrillride. Sometimes, it's everything at once!
Every now and then though, an episode comes along that is so good, so surprising, or so... well, nutty, that it catches you completely off guard.
We aren’t focusing on plot twists or cliffhangers in this list (though some will be mentioned), but rather those overall episodes that were unique, subversive, shocking, or took fans by surprise in one way or another.
For a show that’s been going for nearly 60 years, it’s wonderful that it’s still able to grip the attention of fans and come up with new and refreshing ideas. Doctor Who has always played by its own rules, which is one of the reasons why it's able to pull such unique episodes out of the bag in the first place.
You almost certainly weren't prepared for these episodes for one reason or another, and if you say you were, then you're misremembering. Or lying.
10. The Night Of The Doctor
To commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary, Doctor Who put out a minisode called The Night of the Doctor, which brought back Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor - his first live-action appearance in the role since the 1996 TV movie.
When the show returned with Christopher Eccleston in 2005, we never knew why the Doctor had regenerated from the Eighth to the Ninth. However, it was implied in Eccleston's first appearance that the regeneration was recent, as the Ninth Doctor didn’t know what he looked like until he saw himself in a mirror.
But instead of regenerating into Eccleston’s Doctor, this minisode showed us that Eight had instead regenerated into the War Doctor first, answering a few questions that fans had after The Name of the Doctor’s shocking cliffhanger.
The Night of the Doctor was a well-kept secret, and as a result, nobody was expecting McGann to return as the Doctor in this way. We're glad he did though, because he was wonderful in the few brief minutes he had here.
Let's hope he gets more to do in the future, eh?