As the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who quickly approaches, a lot of people are probably wondering what the show is really about. But if they’re anything like me, jumping into a show that’s been on for 50 years can be scary. I’ll say this: I’ve only seen episodes of the reboot of Doctor Who, so I can’t say much other than starting Original Who seems terrifying. But where I can help is where to start within the New Who. My method has been successful so far (with the exception of my lovely brother who tried to jump in halfway through season 5 because he liked the monster), and I think I can get you hooked too!
Now, the best and easiest place to start: The Beginning of the reboot (on Netflix, it’s just listed as Doctor Who, if you want to go back to the actual beginning of the show in the 1960s: a lot of that isn’t available online so you’ll have to get the DVDs) . But if that seems … daunting to start a show you’re not even sure you’ll like, then the second best place to start are the Companion-less Episodes! These episodes are generally pretty light, and don’t move the overall season plot forward much, so you won’t get lost. All of the companion-less episodes are good, but the best ones to start with are Blink, Midnight, and The Lodger.
When: Season 3 Episode 11
What Doctor: 10 (David Tennant), though he isn’t in it much
What Monster: Statues. Weeping Angels to be specific.
Why Else: it’s a great stand alone episode: it’s scary and goofy – which is basically what the show is, an excellent mix of scares and laughs. Also, it has a very young Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, Never Let Me Go, Pride and Prejudice) is in it.
When: Season 4 Episode 11
What Doctor: 10
What Monster: Us. We are the monster.
Why Else: This episode is great because of who the monster is. It’s no one and everyone and it’s pretty spooky. This one is also pretty awesome because they’re on a planet that is made of diamonds. Also also, Colin Morgan (Merlin) is in it.
When: Season 5 Episode 11
What Doctor: 11 (Matt Smith)
What Monster: an alien disguised as a human.
Why Else: This is probably the silliest of the 3, but it’s a good gauge of what the 11th doctor is like, much like how Blink and Midnight are good examples of what the 10th doctor is like. This episode is sweet and funny and just all around good. Also, James Corden (History Boys, and soon Into The Woods) is in it and is adorable.
There are 2 ways to continue after those episodes. The first option (for those of you pretty sure you’ll like the show) is to go back to the beginning of New Who and watch it all the way through. You’ll have to excuse the laughable CGI for the first few … seasons but it’s a great show with only a few dud episodes that will not be mentioned here. We don’t talk about those episodes. The second option (for those of you still unsure if you want to watch the show) is a few more of the best of the stand alone episodes:
End of the World:
When: Season 1 Episode 2
What Doctor: 9 (Christopher Eccleston)
What Monster: Robot Spiders, I think? The sun is exploding, and they’re watching it happen on a spaceship 5 Billion years into the future.
Why Else: Because I know a lot of people that get stuck on how camp-y the first episode of the reboot of Doctor Who is, and End of the World is a fantastic episode. And, because it’s so early on in the series, you won’t get lost in what’s going on and who’s who.
Silence in the Library (and Forest of the Dead):
When: Season 4 Episodes 9 and 10
What Doctor: 10
What Monster: Shadows! In a giant abandoned library!
Why Else: These 2 episodes are great to dip your toe into for some more complicated plot lines throughout the series. You also get to see Donna (my favorite companion) in action and she is nothing if she isn’t badass. Also, the monster in this one is suuuuper creepy.
Unicorn and the Wasp:
When: Season 4 Episode 8
What Doctor: 10
What Monster: a wasp. a giant wasp.
Why Else: This episode is a great who-done-it, featuring the master of who-done-its herself: Agatha Christie. The CGI in this one is not great, but it’s a lot of fun and one I’ve watched several times. Also, Felicity Jones (Like Crazy, and soon The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is in it.
Vincent and the Doctor:
When: Season 5 Episode 10
What Doctor: 11
What Monster: a monster that only Vincent Van Gogh can see. Yes, that Vincent Van Gogh.
Why Else: This is probably the saddest episode on my list, but it’s a great showing of how kind the Doctor is and how the show isn’t always spooks and laughs. This episode is probably my favorite in the series. Bill Nighy (About Time, Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) makes a lovely cameo.
The Doctor’s Wife:
When: Season 6 Episode 4
What Doctor: 11
What Monster: people, mean conniving people.
Why Else: If Vincent and the Doctor isn’t my favorite episode, then this one is. It’s written by Neil Gaiman, and it feels a lot like one of his books: spooky, funny and bittersweet. It’s incredibly well acted and well written, but make sure that this one is the last you watch amongst the stand alones because it’s the most character driven episode on this list and also the most plot-y.
If you like those then: YAY! GOOD JOB! HURRAY! WELCOME TO DOCTOR WHO! Now you can go back to the beginning – be it the beginning of Doctor Who itself (known as Classic Who) or just back to the 2005 reboot. Soon, you too will have a favorite Doctor and favorite Companion and favorite episodes. You might even get even more people hooked on the show! Plus, if the show still isn’t for you, you can now tell people you’ve at least given it a try and didn’t like it so they’ll leave you alone. For a while. Whovians are a persistent bunch.