Whovians everywhere are rejoicing as Season 9 of Doctor Who is starting this Saturday, Sept. 19th on BBC. I for one, have it written into my calendar, even though the date is pretty much seared into my brain at this point. I am so ready for another season of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, time and space travel, aliens, the TARDIS, and Missy that I can barely contain myself.
[Really quick synopsis of the show for those who don’t know: Doctor Who is a British sci-fi show that has been on for about 50 years. It tells the story of the Doctor, an alien (Time Lord) from the planet Gallifrey, who travels around in his spaceship/time machine and saves all of space and time. He travels with a (usually human, female) companion and instead of dying can regenerate his cells, which changes his outer appearance and basic personality but not who he is deep down—allowing for multiple actors to play him over the 50 years the show has been on.]
I know there are some of you out there who have not watched Doctor Who. Some of you may not be interested (which begs the questions, how?), but others may just be too intimidated to start watching at this point. I was one of those people. I started watching Doctor Who about a year and a half ago. Before, I was too intimidated by the number of episodes, thinking that I had to go back and start from the episodes that came out 50 years ago! Robyn assured me that I did not and that I only had to start from what has been dubbed New Who, or the Ninth Doctor on.
Even still, though all of the New Who episodes are on Netflix right now, at this point it really is a lot of episodes. This new incarnation started in 2005 after being off air for 16 years (excluding a straight-to-TV movie) with a relatively low budget and has now been on for almost 10 years and is in it’s ninth season with a lot of hype around it (and better special effects). So while it isn’t the same as watching 50 years worth of episodes, it’s still a lot to dive into. And so, for you newbies I’ve compiled a short list of episodes you can watch just to get into Who, after which you can start from Season 1 and the Ninth Doctor.
1. “Blink” (Season 3, Episode 8)
This episode is actually one Robyn chooses for Who newcomers, and I completely get why. Seasons in the show tend to have an overall story, but this one pretty much stands alone. It doesn’t follow the conventional Doctor Who formula, barely has the Doctor in it, and has a new alien. The question could be asked, if there’s barely any Doctor, then why start with this episode? This has an easy answer: The Weeping Angels. Easily the most terrifying monsters so far, the Angels will definitely get you hooked into the show enough to go back to Season 1 and start from the beginning.
2. “The Day of the Doctor” (50th Anniversary Special/ Season 7, Episode 15)
The 50th anniversary special is actually where I started watching Doctor Who. Robyn came over the house and took over the television, and I was forced to watch it with her, though like five minutes in I was totally into it. I spent a lot of the time asking her questions about the Doctor, what was happening, etc. but it definitely spiked my interest. In this episode, as is tradition in other anniversary episodes, the Doctor crosses his own timeline and meets other incarnations of himself. Therefore in this episode you get not only the Eleventh Doctor (the current Doctor at that point in the show), but also the Tenth Doctor, and the introduction of the War Doctor. This one is great because you learn a lot about things that are hinted at or explained earlier in the show, and it makes you want to go back and watch with the new knowledge you have.
3. “Let’s Kill Hitler” (Season 6, Episode 8)
This episode is just fun. While it is technically in the middle of the main story of season 6, the episode plays off of that long-used trope of using time travel to go back and kill Hitler. “Let’s Kill Hitler” is the epitome of the silliness in Doctor Who while still being a well-done episode. While you might be slightly lost on the significance of the events that led up to this point, it is still an good episode to get you hooked and want to learn more.
4. “The Shakespeare Code” (Season 3, Episode 3)
This is a good episode to watch, especially if you’re an English nerd like me. In this episode, the Doctor and Martha go to watch a Shakespeare play but (as always) get caught up in having to save the world from aliens who want to use it/destroy it. This one is full of Harry Potter references, which are especially hilarious if you’re a Potterhead. It’s one of my favorite episodes.
5. “The Eleventh Hour” (Season 5, Episode 1)
This is a good episode because it is one that starts after the Doctor, characters, and showrunner of Doctor Who has changed. “The Eleventh Hour” kicks off Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, and is almost a reboot of the show. While other regenerations of the Doctor in the New Who tend to have some continuity between the previous and current Doctor, the transition between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor was a bit different because it also marked the transition between showrunners Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. Season 5 starts off with all new characters and reintroduces us to the world of Who along with the Doctor. Therefore, you could easily start off at Season 5 without feeling confused about the things that happened before, because there are very few references. However, if you do start off here, I strongly recommend going back because otherwise you’ll miss out on Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and my personal favorite David Tennant as the Tenth. This is definitely just a good episode to start off on, but definitely go back once you are done!