The Most Steampunk Doctor Who Episodes of All Time

Steampunk is most often or most easily defined as historical or alternate history science fiction. It therefore follows that time travel is the easiest or commonest genre in which historical science fiction is likely to occur. As the time travel show to end all time travel stories, one might think that Doctor Who is just full of steampunk! One would not be wrong. While it can be hard to spot amongst the aliens, space ships, and shiny technology, steampunk is alive and well in the Doctor Who universe, and here are a few of the most steampunk episodes ever made.

Please do note that by “most steampunk episodes of all time” I mean “since 2005.” While I am a huge fan of the classic Who I have not seen enough to be pick out the steampunk episodes. It also appears that the reboot series seems to feature more steampunk elements–not surprising when one considers that, while it’s anachronistic appearance gives it a timeless feel, steampunk is actually a fairly new movement.

So without further ado . . . Doctor Who: Steampunk Edition

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“The Snowmen”

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“Carnivorous snow meets Victorian values. And something terrible is born.”

The Doctor is attempting to hide from the ills of the world in 19th century London, but he is drawn out of his cloud of solitude by the appearance of carnverous snowmen who apparently intend to freeze the entire world so they will never melt.

What Makes It Steampunk?

Aliens in bustles, mad scientists, and Tesla-like lightning strikes. The references to Sherlock Holmes are only the icing on the cake in this Victorian-era adventure.

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“Deep Breath”

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“A giant dinosaur from the distant past has just vomited a blue box from outer space. This is not a day for jumping to conclusions.”

A dinosaur has appeared in the Thames. Meanwhile, a restaurant is serving its guests–literally.

What Makes it Steampunk?

If a dinosaur trying to eat 19th century Big Ben isn’t steampunk enough for you then perhaps a robot operated restaurant is. Bonus points for being a sequel to “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

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“Girl in the Fireplace”

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“Space-age clockwork, I love it, I’ve got chills!”

While steampunk is most commonly associated with the Victorian era, gears and clockwork can show up anywhere, whether it’s on a 51st century spaceship, or back in 18th century France! In this episode the Doctor encounters Madame de Pompadour at various points in her life as she is being stalked by clockwork repair droids on an overzealous scavenger hunt.

What Makes It Steampunk?

Clockwork droids. And, as a bonus, fireplace time portals. Need I say more?

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“A Town Called Mercy”

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“Anachronistic electricity. Keep Out signs. Aggressive stares. Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?”

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are aiming for Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, but instead end up in a stereotypical old west town that’s…well, not so stereotypical after all.

What Makes It Steampunk?

Western steampunks are far more rare than they ought to be, and one of my personal favourites. This episode fits the criteria by including pre-electricity electric lights, and a cyborg in old western gear. Seriously–put a cyborg in a Stetson and you’ve got instant steampunk.

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“The Next Doctor”

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“It makes noise. That makes it sonic.”

It’s the year 1851, a boring year by all appearances. But a string of mysterious murders all point towards in invasion of the cybermen, and it’s up to the Doctor to save the day!”

What Makes it Steampunk?

Hot air balloons, child-powered steam engines, and the brass-face-plates of the cyber-cats add an anachronistic touch to an otherwise perfectly Victorian setting.

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“A Christmas Carol”

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“Fish! Fish that can swim in fog. I love new planets!”

An old man has a machine that can control the skies. But when a space cruise gets caught in an ice storm he refuses to let them land. So it’s up to the Doctor to change his mind…by changing his past.

What Makes it Steampunk?

Sometimes steampunk is placing science in a historical setting, and sometimes it’s transplanting the history somewhere else. A Christmas Carol is set off-world in the distant future and features a Victorian-era setting, a plot based on classic literature, flying fish, and a crotchety old man who controls the skies using a machine created of wood and brass. Definitely the most steampunk episode of all time, with bonus points for being the most amazing Doctor Who episode ever made.

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Honorable Mention – “The Enemy Within” (aka the TV Movie) (1996)

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While the plot of this made-for-tv movie reboot doesn’t exactly qualify as steampunk, it requires mentioning because it provides the definitive example of why Doctor Who is a steampunk show in spite of having such classic sci-fi plots most of the time. No one who has seen the interior of Paul McGann’s TARDIS can deny it its rightful place besides historical devices like those invented by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

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