Here's my ranking of the first five Doctor Who finales. Hopefully there will be many more.
The Parting of the Ways
The Doctor faces down an army of Daleks, rescuing Rose in the process. Then he dumps her on Earth. This is possibly my favourite part of the episode, mainly because it shows the viewer that traveling with the Doctor has changed Rose, changed her outlook on life. And then she ends up going all deus ex machina and shiny and it all falls apart.
An army of Daleks and an army of Cybermen pretty much appear on Earth, don't fight each other much, and get sucked off in to a void between worlds thanks to reversing the polarity of the Deus Ex Machina. Fortunately, this gives us the separation of the Doctor and Rose, which leads to some fine face acting from both of them.
Unfortunately, the bond between the Doctor and Rose, and the pain of their separation, which is so effective in this story, then casts a shadow over the next two series. So it kind of backfires.
Last of the Time Lords
Begins with a complete change of pace and a fast forward to an Earth under the thumb of the Toclafane, meaning that there will have to be a big reset button at the end. Martha shines in this episode, wearily walking the Earth, spreading a message - picking up on the themes of the Shakespeare Code without mentioning the fact once.
Unfortunately, the impact of this is to turn the Doctor in to a shiny Deus Ex Machina that can defeat the Master just by - well, it's never quite explained how he does it. Never mind.
There's some great performances in this one, though.
They love these apocalyptic titles, don't they?
After clearing up the regeneration due to a wee bit of Deus Ex Machina, this episode basically comes down to Catherine Tate getting shot and pressing a button. Fortunately, she is more than capable of doing this in an interesting way.
And then she leaves. Not through choice, but in a tear-jerking "you must never remember me or your brain will explode" kind of way. Except that when she does remember him, her brain doesn't explode, but that's another story. Gut-wrenching snatching of pain from the jaws of victory. And as a result, one of my favourite scenes of all of the episodes I'm considering.
The Big Bang
Another one that begins with a complete change of pace, and a return to the world of Amelia Pond and the 11th Doctor's first scenes.
After the monster-fest that was the previous episode, this one is really a fight against circumstance. if the universe has been destroyed, how do you get it back? And yes, it's a reset button, but it's one that they spend an entire episode acknowledging that they are pressing. Time can be rewritten. And shhh... there may be spoilers.
Yes, there's a Dalek, but it's a stone dalek. And it's just one, and it doesn't have a plan or a scheme. It's just there for a bit of jeapordy, which it delivers. As season finales go, it's a small scale story in a small scale universe, but it's wibbly wobbly timey-wimey, the stakes are high and it's funny.
It's also the first season finale that doesn't end with a companion leaving or the Doctor regenerating. Interesting.
Ranking for Episode 13
Rankings Series 4 > Series 3 > Series 5 > Series 2 > Series 1
Next: What can I say about this? I don't doubt I can say something.