By Graeme Edwards
In today’s world, it’s never been easier to start watching a show you’ve long heard of. You just look online, find the first episode and start watching, either in a binge or at a reasonable pace. Or you would, if you were trying to watch a chronological show. But what do you do when you’re trying to watch a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey ball of episodes that were made over a period of 52 years and the stories of which span all of time itself? Let me explain why, with Doctor Who, it’s never too late to start an adventure through time and space, even if you don’t start at the first episode.
To start this incredible journey, one needs only decide to start watching Doctor Who. This British sci-fi staple was first introduced 52 years ago on November 23, 1963, with William Hartnell piloting the now iconic TARDIS, the combined Time Machine and Space Ship of the Doctor, across the universe. Since then, the titular Gallifreyan (or Time Lord) has been portrayed by 13 different actors, spanning 26 seasons of “Classic Who,” 1 TV movie and 9 series of “New Who.” With so many episodes to choose from, you’re bound to find something suited to your preferences, be it drama or comedy, mystery or thriller, future or past. But, with so many episodes, the challenge becomes deciding which one to start from.
In my years as a Whovian, I’ve seen many different episodes, most very good and some fairly bad, some that I liked but others didn’t, and vice versa. This is because the quality of a Doctor Who episode is dependent on a person’s preferences. This makes deciding on a starting episode an even more difficult task. But, as you’ll soon learn from the Doctor himself, “we don’t walk away” from difficult tasks or any other supposedly impossible challenges.
While the 26 seasons of Doctor Who before the 21st Century are all worth the time it takes to watch them, a person looking to start catching up on current Who needs only go back 10 years to Series 1, Episode 1, “Rose.” Airing 9 years after the TV movie and 16 years after the cancellation of the original TV series, “Rose” has adventure and mystery, and explores humanity’s place in the universe, much like many episodes of the classic series. What makes this episode special is that it keeps the feel of “Classic Who” without being dependent on the stories or ideas it introduced. “Rose,” is the start of a unique story, making it perfect for people unfamiliar with the show. We follow a young girl named Rose as she tries to find out who this mysterious Doctor is. By joining Rose on this adventure, newbies and long-time Whovians alike are treated to a perfect introduction of the revival of Doctor Who. If you don’t want to miss anything in Doctor Who but don’t want to watch 50 years’ worth of it, this episode is definitely where you should start. By the time the credits role, you’ll be looking for the next episode while you ask yourself “Who is this Doctor” or, if you prefer, “Doctor Who?”
While “Rose” is a great starting episode, if you want someone other than Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory to explain the concept of the show to you, “Blink” is definitely the episode for you. Blink is a unique episode, as it hardly features the titular Time Lord at all. Instead, you follow Sally Sparrow as she faces the terrifying Weeping Angels, instant classic monsters. Through Easter Egg video files in DVDs, the Doctor explains what’s happened and why he needs her help. As a result, we get the closest thing we’ll ever get to the Doctor personally explaining to us the concept of time travel in the “Whoverse.” Well, that is if we make the extremely disappointing assumption that the Doctor isn’t real. As this was my first episode of Doctor Who, I can guarantee that you’ll be hooked after watching this episode. As long as you don’t spend all night thinking about how the Doctor is able to explain everything that’s happening, you’ll have sweet dreams of running away in that blue box. Or you’ll stay awake all night whispering to yourself, “Don’t blink, don’t even blink, blink and you’re dead.”
While some people will fall in love with Doctor Who just because “Blink” is so terrifying, others may avoid watching another episode for the same reason. Luckily, there are plenty of comedic episodes that will get you laughing rather than screaming. “The Eleventh Hour” is one of these episodes. Like “Rose,” “The Eleventh Hour” introduces Whovians and newbies alike to a new Doctor (Matt Smith), a new companion (Karen Gillan), and the style of a new show-runner (Steven Moffat). Because of these changes, Doctor Who took on a quirkier feel, making it far more welcoming to younger audiences and people who don’t relish horror. No scene exemplifies this change more than the Doctor’s first meeting with a young Amelia Pond, which any Whovian will refer to as the “fish fingers and custard” scene. In addition to being more comedic, the changes meant that “The Eleventh Hour” had to start from a clean slate, just as it did with “Rose.” If you’re looking to catch up quickly on Doctor Who, this episode is definitely where you should start from, as it is the most recent episode to introduce brand new stories and a brand new cast. Just make sure to watch David Tennant’s seasons as the Doctor before you get to the 50th Anniversary episode, “The Day of the Doctor.”
Now you’re ready to start your adventure through time and space. So what are you waiting for? Christopher Eccelston to grab your hand and tell you to run? David Tennant to come up to you and say “Alons-y?” Or Matt Smith to tell you to pack a bag? There’s only one way any of that’s going to happen. You need to start watching Doctor Who.
Some favourite episodes of other Whovians:
“‘The Empty Child,’ one of the many thrilling episodes written by Steven Moffat, remains my all-time favourite. It was one of the first I had seen, and it combined humour, love, true terror and real historical events – a feat I have yet to see accomplished by any other TV show. This is what led me to my love of everything Doctor Who.” – Christian Figueiredo
“‘Heaven Sent’ with Peter Capaldi is one of my favourites because his attitude during the whole episode encompassed how the Doctor acts, a little bit of stubbornness mixed with eccentricity. He never gives up on his goal of [partial spoiler].” – Philip Wright
“‘The Five Doctors’ is my favourite episode because it features the first five (and arguably the best five) Doctors on the show. I’ll never forget the genius of the plot, the simplicity of Classic Doctor Who, and the amazing twists and turns the Doctor(s) encounters throughout the episode. It’s absolutely necessary for all Whovians to watch this episode.” – Liam O’Sullivan
“My favourite episode is ‘Silence in the Library’ because it was so spooky. ‘Daleks, aim for the eyestalk. Sontarans, back of the neck. Vashta Nerada, run. Just run.’ – The Doctor in ‘Silence in the Library’” – Owen McCabe