In the 50+ years Doctor Who has been on the air, the show has had many great writers. While some have only made a minimal impact on the show’s history, others like Terry Nation and Russell T. Davies have made lasting contributions to the mythos. For this editorial, I’ll be counting down the best writers.
Note: Writers must have written at least two episodes for the show. Also, I am not including writers such as Neil Gaiman who have a large body of work besides Doctor Who. In the case of Gaiman, his work is too vast to focus solely on his two stories for Doctor Who, no matter how much I like them.
10. Sarah Dollard (Best stories: “Face the Raven”, “Thin Ice”)
When Peter Capaldi became the 12th Doctor, Moffatt wanted to take the show in a darker direction and hired several new writers. While Sarah hasn’t been on the show as long as the others on this list, I really hope she sticks around.
9. Toby Whithouse (Best stories: “School Reunion”, “The God Complex”, “Under the Lake/Before the Flood”)
Toby Whithouse seems able to take familiar formulas used in Doctor Who and use them in new unique ways, as seen in “The God Complex” and “Under the Lake/Before the Flood”.
8. Mark Gatiss (Best stories: “Invaders From Mars”, “The Unquiet Dead”, “Robot of Sherwood”)
Mark Gatiss is one of the many writers that Russell T. Davies brought on from Big Finish, and while he’s not always written a good story (“The Idiot’s Lantern” is one of his less-inspired stories), he’s always managed to entertain and show Doctor Who‘s lighter side.
7. Douglas Adams (Best stories: “The Pirate Planet”, “City of Death”)
Douglas Adams is actually more well-known for his writings outside of Doctor Who, such as his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. His unique brand of humor is still felt on the show thanks to the writings of Mark Gatiss and Russell T. Davies.
6. Paul Cornell (Best stories “Loup-Geroux”, “Human Nature/Family of Blood”, “Father’s Day”)
Another Big Finish contributor and he also worked for the show during Davies’s tenure as show-runner. I think what makes Cornell such a great writer is that he can combine both the human and alien aspects of the Doctor.
5. Russell T. Davies (Best stories: “Rose” “The Christmas Invasion”, “The Runaway Bride”, “Turn Left”)
Davies did what many considered a fool’s dream, bringing Doctor Who back from an undeserved hiatus. While not every story was excellent (looking at you, “Love and Monsters” and “Voyage of the Damned”), he knew how to write excellent characters. He seems to combine both the styles of Robert Holmes and Douglas Adams to make stories that are fun as well as frightening.
4. Terry Nation (Best stories: “The Daleks”, “The Keys to Marinus”, “Genesis of the Daleks”)
I think few writers have contributed more to the Doctor Who mythos than Nation. He did create the Daleks after all. Even his only bad story, “The Android Invasion”, is actually still entertaining.
3. Steven Moffatt (Best stories: “Blink”, “Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead”, “The Beast Below”, “Heaven Sent”)
Love him or hate him, Moffatt has played as big a part in the revival of Doctor Who as Russell T. Davies.
2. Terrance Dicks (Best stories: “The War Games”, “The Brain of Doctor Morbius”, “The Five Doctors”)
Dicks was a regular contributor to the Second, Third, and Fourth Doctors, and was a script editor for both the Second and Third. He wrote many of the novelizations of the classic episodes. Remember when the Doctor said “Never cruel or cowardly” in “The Day of the Doctor”? That was from Dicks. He came up with many concepts and made probably the most lasting contributions to the mythos, such as the Time Lords, Gallifrey, the Fourth Doctor, and the Eye of Orion.
And number 1: Robert Holmes (Best stories: “Spearhead From Space”, “The Ark in Space”, “The Caves of Androzani”)
Robert Holmes is, in the mind of many Whovians, the quintessential Doctor Who writer. He wrote frightening tales that pushed the envelope during both the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. He created the Autons and the Sontarans and wrote the first story to feature the Master, “Terror of the Autons”. One of his most well-known methods was to take something that annoyed him and use it as the basis for a story. (For instance, “The Sun Makers” criticizes taxes) I’d have to turn in my cred as a Whovian if I didn’t include him anywhere on this list.