Saturday, October 3, 2015

How to Begin Watching Doctor Who

Doctor Who is a wonderfully fun, spooky, ridiculous show. But it is legendarily hard to get into.

Except… it really shouldn't be. It’s actually really easy if you know how to begin. And I do. And I'm here to teach you.

You're welcome.
Though the show has been back since 2005, it only really picked up steam around 2010. Yeah. Five seasons later. Not to mention the baggage of the Classic Series that ran from the 60’s to the 80’s.

But never fear.

Beginning your journey as a Whovian is simple. You just need to know where to start. As Sandman-creator and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman himself said at Comic Con....

“No. Look, there is a blue box. It is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can go anywhere in time and space and sometimes even where it’s meant to go. And when it turns up there’s a bloke in it called the Doctor, and there will be stuff wrong and he will do his best to sort it out and he will probably succeed, because he’s awesome. Now sit down, shut up, and watch 'Blink.'”

But if you’d still like some clear-cut advice, I suppose I can outline it in four easy steps.

Honestly, just follow these steps, and you’ll be a Whovian by the end of the day.

Step 1: Find a watching buddy if you can.
Preferably one who is already a fan of the show, but that isn’t written in stone. Doctor Who is a show with twists, turns, and interesting plot developments. Half the fun is just talking to people about what you just watched!

Step 2: Know three simple things going in.
And I’ll even let you know what those are right now!
  1. The main character, known only as “The Doctor,” is an eccentric alien from planet Gallifrey known as a “Time Lord.” Instead of dying, he “regenerates” into a new actor. That’s why there have been so many different actors in the role.
  2. He likes to travel throughout time and space with human traveling buddies he runs into known as “companions.” This is the character who asks questions so the Doctor can explain things to both them and the audience. You don’t really need to know anything about them to watch various episodes, though they do have their own subplots now and again.
  3. His time machine is called “the TARDIS,” and its exterior got stuck disguised as a blue Police Box (like a phone booth that could only call the cops) when he went to the 1960’s. 
You didn't think Bill and Ted were the first, did you?
From there it all depends on where you start watching the show, which is probably the step that most people get stuck on.

Step 3: Where to begin?

Trust me, there are enough plot threads and callbacks that you’ll need to know to watch the latest series.


It’s a whole different style of television. Not only that, several episodes are missing from the earlier seasons and there's just a lot to slog through, even for die-hard fans. Not to mention the question of exactly which Doctor to start with, but never mind.


I see this advice all the time, and I whole-heartedly disagree. There are several storylines in those four earlier seasons that you’ll need to see first, despite the fact that Series 5 was designed for new viewers. It’s a lot like the TV movie in that respect. And the fact that the Series 5 opening insinuates the the Doctor is actually his companion's imaginary friend. Don't ask.

(Note from 2017: The tenth season of the Revived Series, while designed as a jumping on point, might not be the best place to start, since long-standing plot points come into play during the finale.)

So... where to start? Well, I have a recommendation of four episodes to begin with. At the very least, if you’re reading this, I ask you to give these four episodes a chance. I guarantee that at least one of them should strike your fancy.

1: "Blink"
Not only is it an amazing episode, it’s a stand-alone episode that follows the journey of Sally Sparrow, an average young woman who finds herself drawn into a strange series of events involving scary statues and an odd man appearing on random DVDs. It’s a few seasons in, but watching Sally learn about the Doctor is a great way to learn about the series in and of itself. This is the episode that many Whovians use to get their friends hooked.

It works about 99% of the time.
2: "Vincent and the Doctor"
CAVEAT: There’s going to be some stuff you won’t understand regarding a strange wedding ring. Don’t worry about that, it’s an ongoing subplot. Focus instead on the actual meat of the story.

After seeing a monster in a Vincent van Gogh painting, the Doctor and his companion travel back to ask the artist himself about it… in the middle of the depression that would lead him to take his own life. It’s a sad, but sweet and wonderful tale about the monsters some people face every day. The ones only they can see. It may very well be my favorite episode of the series.

I mean, holy crap, this episode.
3: "The Girl in the Fireplace"
A love letter to The Time Traveler’s Wife, but one with some clever writing and some creepy-as-smeg villains.

And a girl. In a fireplace.
And after those episodes let you know of the heights this show can reach, go back to the first episode of the 2005 Revived Series, “Rose,” and watch ‘em all in order until you catch up with the rest of the world.

Step 4: Stick with it.
Some people say that you should skip the bad episodes, but a few of them set up plot points and things for later. So I’d recommend sitting through all of it.

I’ll be honest, the show starts off a little shaky. There are one or two bad episodes to endure through in the first season. "Aliens of London." "World War Three." Yeesh.

Farting aliens. Just... no.
But down the road, there are some absolute gems that may very well leave you speechless.

"The Shakespeare Code." "Silence in the Library." "Forest of the Dead." "Midnight."

Even the shaky first season has the amazing two-parter of “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances.”

Honestly, even when a Doctor Who episode isn’t very good, it’s still some of the best stuff on TV.

Bonus Step: Where you can find it.

There have been numerous DVD releases, it’s available from Netflix, iTunes, and other sources, and BBC America runs reruns from the past few years all the time. Heck, even Disney XD has been showing episodes, though they skipped an entire Doctor by starting with the second season. So that might not be the best option. But there are plenty of ways to find the show.

The most important advice I can give you is just to jump on in. The sooner you start watching Doctor Who, the sooner you can wonder why you weren’t always watching it.

The second most important advice I can give you?

Don’t blink.

Blink and you’re dead.

Good luck.


  1. Thanks for making this! My mom is interested in the Peter Capaldi series (which I've only seen the first two episodes of), and while I'm looking forward to watching it with her, I can't do that in good conscience when so far she's only seen the beginning of Series Two, and not masterpieces like Blink.

    - That One Anon

    1. Any time. Doctor Who's continuity has intimidated a LOT of people who would otherwise watch and love it. I was the one who introduced my own family to it after watching it on a whim.

      Honestly, it's a miracle I ever watched more than one episode. The first one I ever saw?

      "Fear Her."

      The only one I might actually recommend skipping.

    2. Oof! That's rough. Personally I started from the beginning (well, relatively speaking) with Eccleston. Unfortunately, since I was young and foolish and couldn't wait to get to the Daleks and Cybermen and Weeping Angels and such, I wound up skipping most of the following episodes, except for "Dalek" and the two-part finale. Needless to say, I was regretting that decision once I started wondering who this Captain Jack guy was.

      - That One Anin

    3. Oooooohh.... Yeah, that's why I took a pretty long time working this post. I wanted to pick three episodes that wouldn't have people scratching their heads, wondering what episode they should have watched already.

  2. What's about Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures? Because I finished first 3 seasons and I'm wondering I wonder if I need-need to watch anything before one of upcoming episodes.

    - F.E.

    1. You don't NEED to watch the spinoffs to understand what's going on in the main series, since references to spinoff adventures are pretty much limited to "these characters have been having unspecified adventures."

      Though I'll be making an upcoming post to help people who want to know what the order is.