I have gotten this question before myself. Where do you start with a show that has 52 years and 35 seasons?
It’s hard enough to catch up if I’m a season behind.
I personally like the choices by the author below but I would also add :
ARK IN SPACE (1975)
The episode I started with, thjough starting with Episode Two after the main titles like I did is not recommended.
It is an excellent story (bubble wrap aside). It gives you all the basics about the Doctor, Time Travel and the characters, it just will explain some of the other nuisances later.
It’s a classic “base under siege” story also. But it has a lot going for it the plottinga nd the writing and the writing is what can hook people on Classic WHO.
The next story after it is “Genesis of The Daleks”. How’s that for a second bite of WHO?
Then you get the Cybermen in the Next story. Not at their best but still solid. Then The Zygons…And the “Golden Age” of Hinchcliffe/Holmes “Gothic WHO” and the Fourth Doctor and Sarah.
It’s a good start.
So, you want to get in to Doctor Who? Well, you’ve made a fantastic, life-changing choice.
But with 52 years’ worth of material to go through, where is the right place to start?
With almost a year until the BBC’s long-running sci-fi drama returns, it’s not too late to catch up – well, depending on how much else you want to get done this year!
Let’s look at some of the best points in space and time to jump into the vortex as we explore the pros and cons of each story…
1. ‘An Unearthly Child’ (1963)
Of course, the very beginning would seem like a good place to start. This story kicks things off with the First Doctor (William Hartnell) back when we didn’t know that regeneration would be a thing. It starts us in a classroom with a young woman, Susan (Carol Ann Ford), who has knowledge of the extraordinary, but not the commonplace.
Her teachers, Ian Chesterson (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jaqueline Hill) follow her home. And where is home? A junkyard. But it’s what is inside that really counts, isn’t it? And inside is the TARDIS.
But here’s the thing: the First Doctor is not a merry man, to put it diplomatically, and he doesn’t take too well to two humans barging in on his TARDIS, or, for that matter, his life.
Pros: You start from the very start. You won’t miss a single reference, in theory.
Cons: You have a lot of catch up to do. It would take around 2 weeks of non-stop watching to catch up, and we’re not sure that even The Last Centurion could go that long without sleep.
2. ‘Spearhead from Space’ (1970)
This is the Third Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) first story. Aside from that, it is also the first story in colour, which can make watching the classics a bit more palatable for younger audiences.
‘Spearhead from Space’ features the return of UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, later just the Unified Intelligence Taskforce), Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicolas Courtney), and introduces companion Liz Shaw (Caroline John).
In the previous story, ‘The War Games’, the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) was forced to regenerate and also exiled to earth by his people, the Time Lords. This total change-of-pace makes it a great place to jump on.
Pros: Stories with new Doctors often do a lot of explanation. Also, it’s still early days – it hadn’t even been around for a decade yet!
Cons: Starting with Pertwee’s Earth-bound era, it’ll take some time for newcomers to really experience the full scope of the show.
3. ‘Rose’ (2005)
The first episode of the show’s 21st century revamp drops you with a bubbly shop girl named Rose (Billie Piper) and a brooding Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). They don’t sound like the best match, but let me assure you, they are.
Pros: This is where a lot of new fans jumped on, with writer Russell T Davies cleverly opting to name the Ninth Doctor’s run ‘Series 1’ rather than ‘Season 27’ so as not to scare off newcomers. Acting more as a pilot than the 1996 TV Movie (which actually was a pilot for a potential US series), ‘Rose’ seems specifically designed so that one does not need to have watched the classic series to understand things, jettisoning much of the baggier mythology. Because of this, it explains all the basics at breakneck speed. It even tells you what TARDIS stands for.
Cons: The story itself is generally not regarded as a classic by fans, who clearly can’t appreciate a burping wheelie bin when they see one.
4. ‘The Eleventh Hour’ (2010)
A blue box is hurtling over London as a floppy-haired young man dangles from its door before disappearing into the distance. If you’re going for bombastic spectacle, it’s a perfect opening.
Cue a young Scottish girl named Amelia Pond who just asked Santa for a policeman to investigate the crack in her wall and perhaps the most charming introduction to a companion in the show’s history.
Even if its actual threat is forgettable, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a thoroughly engaging story, establishing a new Doctor (Matt Smith), a new sidekick (Karen Gillan), a new showrunner (Steven Moffat replaces Russell T Davies) and a new “dark fairytale” tone.
Pros: You start with a whole lot of “new” and an accessible Doctor and companion to ease you in.
Cons: Having missed the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ eras, you’ll be a bit lost when you get to the 50th anniversary year’s episodes.
5. ‘The Snowmen’ (2012)
Following the departure of the Ponds, Doctor Who returned on Christmas Day 2012 with a new title sequence, a new TARDIS set, a new look for the Doctor and a new companion.
While not as immediately accessible as ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘The Snowmen’ is certainly the best jumping-on point for fans who want to get up to date with the story of current companion Clara Oswald as quickly as possible.
Pros: It’s a really fun festive story and the ending will leave you desperate to know more about the mysterious Impossible Girl.
Cons: This is not technically Jenna Coleman’s debut, following her surprise appearance in Season 7’s opener, ‘Asylum of the Daleks’. However, a couple of lines of dialogue and a flashback will recap all you need to know.
This one was my least favorite choice, personally.
So there you have it. Now go binge watch it. 🙂