Mon
Dec 27 2010 9:54am

How To Get Into Doctor Who In One or Two Easy Steps

Doctor WhoSo there’s this fantastic science fiction show that encompasses over 700 episodes and nearly 50 years of history. It’s about a Time Lord (what?) who travels in his TARDIS (what?) and regenerates into a new body whenever he dies (WHAT).

That sounds like a hell of a lot of work to learn about, but unlike other long-running science fiction shows, Doctor Who makes itself spectacularly easy to jump into. Want a good idea if you’d like this show? Below the cut, I’ll suggest some good jump-on points.

I considered a lot of episodes for this article: “Rose,” (the very first episode of the new series) “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Smith and Jones,” “Blink,” and more, but I eventually settled on one overwhelmingly excellent two-parter that told a great story while dealing out the facts of the Doctor and his lives.

In the end, if you’re going to like the show, you need to be intrigued by the main character himself. That’s why I feel the best jumping-on point is the third season two-part story “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” by Paul Cornell.

Doctor Who episode Human Nature

After a tense and action-filled opening, “Human Nature” languishes quietly with the the Doctor as he explores a human persona. Within seconds, the plot has required that the Doctor reset himself as the unknowing human John Smith, a professor in a quiet English university village on the cusp of being plunged into The Great War.

Doctor Who episode Human NatureAs a new viewer, you are learning about the Doctor and his iconography at the same rate as the Doctor himself is learning about them. These touches are subtle and pleasant, as well. The concepts of regeneration, the Doctor’s greatest enemies, how he travels, why he travels, and how he treats those he travels with are all touched upon without coming off forced.

And it only gets better. In the second part, “The Family of Blood,” John Smith himself begins to realize what kind of man he is as the Doctor, and here is where a viewer gets the chance to experience this character when he’s at his most vulnerable and caring, as well as when he’s at his most powerful and dark. (There’s an amazing line of dialogue here that sums this up in the episode that you will probably find yourself repeating to your friends.) The actor playing the Doctor himself here, David Tennant, gets a range to play that he doesn’t often get in the series.

Doctor Who episode Human Nature

These Paul Cornell-penned episodes are also excellent examples of the following qualities at which the show consistently excels:

1.) Distilling enormous science fiction concepts into potent personal drama.
2.) Turning mundane objects into deliverers of sheer terror.
3.) Producing truly chilling and memorable performances from the guest actors cast as villains. (I hope Harry Lloyd is a nice guy in real life because otherwise…eeeeeeeeeeee.)

It also does something that the show doesn’t consistently do well, which is that it treats the setting and time in the episodes as seriously as we treat the modern day. When the Doctor shows up in your time, it’s usually to upset an apple cart or three hundred, but here it’s well-integrated into the adventure and plays an important part in the story’s development.

These episodes are self-contained, as well. You don’t need to have watched anything else to be able to enjoy them, and you don’t need to continue onward in hopes that the show finds its groove. These are considered some of the best episodes of the entire series and feature a terrific performance from one of the most beloved incarnations of the main character. If you don’t like this, you probably won’t like the show.

Unless you’re just looking to have a little fun with your science fiction. “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” are great, but they are serious and eschew the wit and optimism that the show handles better than any other science fiction show out there.

In which case, I would suggest an excellent runner-up in “The Eleventh Hour.”

Doctor Who episode The Eleventh Hour

This episode is the first appearance of the current incarnation of the Doctor and introduces him, his life, and the current companions with large doses of humor. “The Eleventh Hour” also does a powerful job of conveying the exalted fairytale essence of the Doctor himself while keeping him firmly rooted in the eternally-online working-class life of suburban England (and suburban North America, for that matter).

It’s also important in that here the Doctor just gets to be the Doctor. He’s in full-on seat-of-the-pants crisis mode here, saving the day through sheer momentum, cleverness, a comandeered bow tie, and mountains of hope. Sometimes things get quite dramatic, but for the most part, this is what the Doctor essentially is, a madcap intellectual trickster with a heart big enough to hold the universe.

If either of these episodes are enough to intrigue you, then I suggest going back to the beginning with “Rose” and taking it chronologically from there. Like many initial seasons, the first one of the new Doctor Who series takes some time to get going, but once it does, it pays off tremendously, and it’s smooth sailing from there on out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the most random urge to go rewatch some Doctor Who...


Chris Greenland would like to warn you that giving all of your friends Weeping Angels for Christmas, while being really funny, ultimately results in no friends.

This article is part of The Twelve Doctors of Christmas: ‹ previous | index | next ›
44 comments
LaughingAstarael
1. LaughingAstarael
As much as I agree that Human Nature/The Family of Blood are excellent showcases for David Tennant and the show itself, I have not yet been able to get over my Martha prejudice. She is easily my least favorite New Who companion (including Mickey and Jackie, even) and this being a technically Doctor-lite two-parter, a lot of the things that annoy me about her were front and center.

That being said: My personal prejudices aside, I like the case you made. I'm a huge advocate of starting from the beginning and going forward, but I can admit that the production value of the first season is 'eh' at best and follows a fairly gentle upward curve until Dalek (after which it positively rockets), and those things might well leave prospective fans shrugging and moving on.

For my money, I do prefer The Eleventh Hour as an intro episode - it's funny and fast and is very carefully crafted to be accessible to both devoted fans and new watchers. Next time I want to convince someone to try the show, I might send them that way... though my method to date of sitting them down with my four-season DVD set and not hitting 'stop' until they say so has been pretty effective in its own right, haha.
Joe Romano
2. Drunes
An interesting post. My brother-in-law told me -- just yesterday -- that he's become a fan of Dr. Who recently based on my recommendation to just dive in and watch it. There's a lot he doesn't know about the Doctor yet, but he said it's been a wild ride so far.
LaughingAstarael
3. ShellyS
I started near the end of Tennant's run, after hearing about the series for years, and enjoyed it. I just watched the entire series plus movies, plus all of Torchwood, including watching the Matt Smith series for the second time, ending this weekend with the Christmas special, and I have to say starting with "Rose" makes the most sense. That's when the series was brought back, intended for both longtime fans and younger folks who'd never seen the show before. It's an excellent episode. And yes, perhaps a bit confusing, but for me, that's always what makes science fiction work: the slow discovery of what something is really about.

Now I'm going to get the dvds of the earlier Doctors, and work my way back up to the 9th Doctor.
LaughingAstarael
4. critter42
Are “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” good for just getting caught up on David Tennet episodes?

I've seen nearly every episode of the old series extant - or at least those that wound up on my PBS station in the 70s and 80s, plus the first season of the new series. I stopped watching it for a bit after that - I was kind of turned off I guess by all the Bad Wolf stuff and the abrupt departure of Eccleston, then by the time I heard good things about the Tennent episodes, I didn't really feel like watching several seasons worth, so I kept skipping them. I am going to be watching all the Matt Smith episodes over the next couple of weeks, but I still don't have time to be watching all the DT episodes, and am just hoping I can watch 5 or 6 to get an idea of the story lines before I jump into the Matt Smith eps.
Daniel Goss
5. Beren
While I agree that Human Nature and The Family of Blood are great because they have a little bit of everything from the series, I have to disagree with the idea that they're a good jumping-on point. If you're looking for an intro to the tone of the series, I don't see how you can do any better than The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances.
These episodes do an excellent job of setting up the show's ability to make you laugh, make you jump, give you chills, and even get a little misty-eyed ("Just this once, nobody dies!") I had started with the episode Rose, and it wasn't until I saw these that I knew that this was a series that I would watch every minute that I could get my hands on.
-Beren
LaughingAstarael
6. Yonmei
“Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”

are the two episodes I hated at first viewing and still routinely tend to skip, unless I'm really marathoning. The Doctor isn't the Doctor through most of them, he's a fairly boring school teacher, and to add further unpleasant icing to an already dull cake, Paul Cornell demonstrates that as a white man the best he can think of to do with a black woman is get her down on her knees scrubbing floors watching the white lovers kiss.
Richard Fife
7. R.Fife
You know Chris, I've been meaning to try and figure out a way to get into Who-dom, and I am thankful for there finally being a suggested start. Now to just get Netflix and dive in...
Boquaz
8. boquaz
I sat down with my parents and watched this year's Christmas special. My parents are fairly typical Americans: familiar with science fiction (esp. Star Trek), have a feeling that british humor is a bit strange, and know the "Christmas Carol" backwards and forwards.

I added the following comments during/just before the show:
"This is like a british comedy, sceince fiction. The main character is 'the Doctor', he's a time traveler."
"Her name is Amy Pond. She's like the side kick."
"That's the Doctor"
"Yeah, his space ship - time machine is shaped like a phone booth."

That was all the explanation necessary, and they loved it. Anything they didn't really understand (screwdriver), they chalked up to sci-fi mumbo jumbo and just kept going (thank you, Star Trek).

It really helped that the plot of the Christmas special roughly follows a well-known story. It really allowed them to focus on why a time traveller is an interesting character, the quirky humor, and the overall lovableness of the Doctor.
LaughingAstarael
9. Marilynn Byerly
As an American who started the WHO series with Tom Baker, I'd suggest his episodes for those who want to get a start on the pre-Davies WHOs.

Once you get past the cheesy cheap special effects, the writing and Tom Baker really pull you into the earlier incarnations of the character.
LaughingAstarael
10. Rand Al'Todd
Re : Bo@8 - it's not a phone booth -Brit phone booths were/are Red. Its a Police Box - my understanding is that a Bobby would confine a prisioner/suspect in one until the 'Paddy Wagon' could come collect them for transport to the 'Station.' They were scattered throughout the cities thickly enough to be 'convenient' when needed.

As an older American Si Fi fan who has seen bits and pieces of Dr. Who over the years while watching our society and technology change, I loved it when someone told me that the young Dr. Who fans in Britian have to ask what the blue box is because they have never seen a Police Box on the streets.

Sort of like the scene in the Superman I movie when Clark Kent needs to change into Superman and the only "phone booth" is one of the pay-phone-in-a-shell-attached-to-a-light-pole models. (And now you can hardly find a pay-phone anywhere because everyone carries their own cell.)
Alex Brown
11. AlexBrown
I am so pleased you picked the "Blood" 2 parter. That is my all time fave episode (though it had serious competition this past season with "The Lodger"). I have seen "Blood" (at least the second part) more times than any other Who ep. There's just something about it that gets me every time. It's scary and sad and tragic and sweet all at the same time. And the end is just perfect.

But that is not how I came into Who. A few years back a friend of mine sent me a YouTube of some hot dude in a sci fi show she was watching called Torchsomethingorother making out with Spike. SPIKE. I had to watch. And then I had to know why Spike was making out with a hot dude in a sci fi show and it routed back to Doctor Who and then I decided to watch both shows in airing order and I was a goner. I emerged some weeks later an unabashed SFF geek.
LaughingAstarael
12. ianmcdonald
re: Rand Al'Todd@10
er, confining crims: no. (though it's a great idea --like nano-jails all over town) What a police box was (and still is, there's one in Buchanan Street in Glasgow): a telephone box purely for th euse of the police. They might want to call the station, but a regular phone box could have a member of the public making a legit civilian call. So: their own boxes, for which each peeler had a key. Also, the police here never use 'Paddy wagons'; in Britland, they're Black Mariahs.
James Goetsch
13. Jedikalos
My youngest daughter and I were really into the Eccleston Dr. Who (we just became fanatics about it), then when he took off and Tennant came in we just couldn't watch it for the longest time. When people ask me why I like Who I show them Eccleston's season! My daughter and I went back and watched old Dr. Who's for the longest time after that, and have only recently taken up with the Tennant incarnation (we're slow like that, but its cool to have the DVDs and not wait). I still like Eccleston the best--after my "first" doctor, of course (pre-children years!), the one with the cricket ball in his pocket and the celery stalk on his lapel: Peter Davison. When someone says "Dr. Who" I always think of him first.
LaughingAstarael
14. bigalosu
I also started at the end of Tennant's run as the Doctor. It was when Sci-Fi was showing it as repeats and I remembered watching the older seasons with my dad as a child. I was instantly hooked and have watched all of the last three doctors, a lot of Torchwood, and most of the Adventures of Sarah Jane. The older doctors are hard to get into because of the cheesiness of the sets, costumes, effects, etc, but they are still great and I hope to own everything DW some day.
Allana Schneidmuller
15. blutnocheinmal
I agree with some of the previous posters: while the Family of Blood 2-parter is very good, I'm not sure it's the best starting point.

Starting with Rose seems the easiest thing.

@critter42 For a 'best of' run through Tennant's tenure:
The Girl in the Fireplace
Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
Human Nature/Family of Blood
Blink!
Utopia-Sound of Drums-Last of the Time Lords
Turn Left-The Stolen Earth-Journey's End
The End of Time
Chris Greenland
16. greenland
@4. If your intent is to pick get the highlights of Tennant's mytharcs, then Human Nature/Family of Blood actually wouldn't be the most ideal.

One of the great things about the Matt Smith episodes is that you don't need any of the ongoing storylines from the Tennant years to enjoy them. Those pretty much get wrapped up and Moffat appears to be constructing his own ongoing mythos.

I would duck in and watch "Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead" from Tennant's season four, though.

And if there's time, I'd try out "Utopia / The Sound of Drums / The Last of the Time Lords" from season 3, as well. (Although if you don't want to continue on after watching "Utopia," stop there anyhow.)

@5. I very nearly went with Empty Child/Doctor Dances! They are pretty note-perfect, but Human Nature/Family of Blood I think gives viewers a little more to follow up on afterwards.

@6. I think that's an unfair statement to make of Paul Cornell, although I can understand where it's coming from, since the episodes don't shy away from the rigid class and racial constructs of the time. Martha in the show in general is treated problematically, but I think that's a larger discussion than can be had here.

@7. I was thinking of your Firefly recaps when writing about The Eleventh Hour, actually! The only SF show that I would put on par with Who in terms of general hilarity is Firefly, so I'm curious to see how you'll like it.

@9. Marilynn, are there any specific Baker episodes you would suggest? I've tried a couple times, (Robot and Ark In Space, I think) but have been thwarted.

@10. There's a great bit in one of the recent Sarah Jane Adventures episodes where she's thrown back into the 60s and finds a blue police box...only to be disappointed when she discovers it's an actual police box.

@11. Funnily enough, if I was to suggest a jump-on episode for Torchwood, that would be it! It is sexy sexy fun fun all over the place. I'd follow that with "Fragments" and then the entirety of "Children of Earth."
Rob Hansen
17. RobHansen
@6: I suspect the maid thing was actually Russell T. Davies' suggestion since he seemed to have a thing about the companions in maid outfits. There was Rose as a maid in the Cybermen
story on the parallel Earth, Martha as mentioned, Kylie Minogue as Astrid Peth in maid gear in "Voyage of the Damned" etc.
LaughingAstarael
18. Emiliana S.
In general, I recommend people start with whenever the Doctor gets a new companion - in his explaining himsel and the TARDIS and everything to the companion, he also ends up telling the viewer everything he or she needs to know about the show.

Personally, for people who aren't nerds I'd suggest starting with the 11th hour and going through series 5. However, for nerds, I'd suggest starting with Smith and Jones and then going to the Shakespeare Code, because it's going to be very hard for a nerd to resist Shakespeare references and then Tennant making all those Harry Potter references :-D
LaughingAstarael
19. Wendymoon
While I love the Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter, I don't think it works as a jumping-in point precisely because the Doctor is not himself. The change in him is so much more poignant when you know him as his normal Doctor self and can compare that to the human version.

Why not just start with Rose?
LaughingAstarael
20. Ali Muñiz
My problem with HN/TFoB is that Chekhov's gun here is WWI, and its potential is wasted. When we land in a boys bording school in Britain in 1913, we know that what the combined governments of Europe are about to do to the youngsters we meet is far more horrific than anything a few monsters might hope to accomplish. That suggested to me that the plot would be structured to make the monsters the Little Bad and the War the Big Bad, which would have been a more daring direction than I ever would have hoped for in Doctor Who. Instead, the War is shown as an afterthought, and worse, innocuous.

John Smith's story in these episodes really is one of the best things Doctor Who has done, but it could have taken place ten years earlier or later. In the 1913 setting, something more was promised, and not delivered.
LaughingAstarael
21. JCHicks
I started this year with "The Eleventh Hour." It seemed a good jumping-off point with a new show-runner and new cast - a clean slate. After season 5 ended, I went back to "Rose" and watched straight through.

Although Human Nature/Family of Blood are two of my favorite episodes, I wouldn't start there. The joy of those episodes, for me, was seeing the Doctor act so very un-Doctor-like, which is not an experience you get if you're not at all familiar with the Doctor. I think "Rose" is the best place to start because you, the new viewer, learn about the Doctor and his strange life along with his new companion.
LaughingAstarael
22. Joe626
I've tried engaging people to the series through the "Human Nature" but it doesn't work, out of context, it's boring. You have to already be invested in the Doctor to be really able to follow it.

aside from the Eleventh Hour, the best Doctor Who "primer" is Blink because it works as a great stand-alone story that teases you enough about who the Doctor is and what he is about without the feeling of getting bogged down by this huge mythology that accompanies the show.

Eleventh Hour is technically the perfect starter but if you watch it first without ever watching the previous incarnations, it will be very hard to go back to Rose and start over as the show is just so different (aesthetically and performance-wise) from that point onwards. Otherwise, if you want to just jump in and move forward, Eleventh Hour is the way to go (save yourself the headache of the less than stellar moments of the RTD era)
Amir Yoeli
23. Betterthenyouknew
@R.Fife

Netflix has the first 4 seasons since the re-boot of the show playable online.
I know. I made the mistake of starting with "Rose" about 10 days ago, and am now working my way through Torchwood's first season.
All I can say is this though... Thank God school is out till January 24th for me, cause otherwise... I'd have been in trouble...

This show is greatly addictive, and fun. I was sad to see Christopher eccklston (did I spell that right?) disappear, but David Tennat did a great job as the Doctor, and the show really grows on you.

I want to start with the older Doctors now too, but I'm not sure if I can afford the time to do so... still debating.

As for these 2 jumping on episodes, I agree with what's been said about them. They were really good episodes. The only thing about starting with them is, you than have to go backwards and start at the beginning before moving any further forwards.

A.
Joe Romano
24. Drunes
Greenland: Like Marilynn, I started watchng Dr. Who when the Tom Baker episodes appeared on PBS. I wish I could recommend specific episodes but I can't, it's been too long since I saw them and I've never looked for them on DVD. All of the Doctors are unique, and I love Matt Smith as the Doctor, but Tom Baker holds a special place in my memories because I'd watch him each day after work with my young daughter.

I'd give the same advice to you that I give everyone new who shows an interest in Dr. Who -- just dive in anywhere.
Kelly McCullough
25. KellyMcCullough
I'm with those who don't think HN/TFoB is a great entry. I loved both episodes but I feel they're too far from the core Dr Who story to make a good starting place. I'd be tempted to select Dalek, which is the episode that convinced me to come back to Dr Who after giving up on the series when Tom Baker left (I couldn't shake Tristan Farnon free of Peter Davison enough to keep going, though I'm thinking it's time to go back and revisit some of his episodes).
LaughingAstarael
26. Marilynn Byerly
I saw the Tom Baker WHOs thirty years ago so I can't recommend any specific stories. I started watching the first episode, having never heard of DOCTOR WHO, I was looking for a cartoon to amuse myself with while I shelled a huge amount of beans, and something about the opening grabbed me, and I became a major fan.

So I guess I'd recommend the first story line or any storyline set on Earth which many were.
Madeline Ferwerda
27. MadelineF
I started with "42", since my friends had been watching while I was on vacation or something. That was great, because I'd bounced off previous Old Who stuff because it was so ridiculous. And here's 42, where you come to understand that the thing is, it's joyfully ridiculous, and the Doctor is going to blither and gesticulate and then BE RIGHT, and you're watching a show about a guy who is always right. And he bounces around amusingly.

Followed all that season, went back and saw to the end of Rose, watched going forward...

However, I quit watching after the end of Donna.

So, Human Nature/Family of Blood probably would have been a better intro, since it doesn't set you up to believe in a Doctor who is basically good. In HN/FoB, he screws his companion for months, and then makes that time worth nothing, and tortures some aliens besides.

It's a better setup for the Doctor as a guy who the show seems to view as right even when he "makes the hard decisions" that make other people suffer for bizarre ridiculous plot reasons.
LaughingAstarael
28. James E. LaBarre
Even stranger than those of you that started watching Tom Baker episodes on PBS: before the PBS phase of original series episodes, the early Baker episodes (up through "Invasion of Time", as I remember) were re-edited for commercial television, and had opening and closing narration added to the individual episodes (narration by the late Howard DaSilva).
Warren Ockrassa
29. warreno
Tennant's run was not bad, though I really did get a little tired of the Rose mushiness. Catherine Tate was a welcome breath of freshness, as was Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones). For the tenth Doctor, Tate is easily the best companion, I believe.

I'm not sure I would be able to recommend any story that had the tenth Doctor and Rose in the same episode. There's too much backstory, and really, the gooey gush did git a bit thick.
Samantha Brandt
30. Talia
I'm a Dr. Who newbie who's known I NEED to watch the show for years. Need to get off my butt and get at it already. Thanks for the advice. :p
LaughingAstarael
31. Stuart Ian Burns
The Big Finish audio, Paul McGann's first, Storm Warning, did it for me. A decade later I'm still here.
LaughingAstarael
32. makeda
For a Tom Baker story, I would recommend Logopolis (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logopolis) even though it's his last. I can't resist the mathematics underpinning of the show. Second choice "Warrior's Gate" in which the Doctor is told that, for once, the best choice is to do nothing.
LaughingAstarael
33. TimW
I have a slightly different twist on bringing someone into the Dr. Who universe. I'm a long time fan, Tom Baker is my doctor, and I've seen almost all of the episodes. (Here's hoping more Patrick Troughton episodes are found!) However my wife did not share my enthusiasm. I would watch it at 11:00 pm on Saturday night on the local PBS channel and as soon as the theme music started, my wife would fall asleep. When the new series started I tried to get her to watch it with me. She wasn't interested. Then with the episode the "Girl in the Fireplace", I realized Dr. Who had gone to a new summit. I luckily caught a replay several weeks later and rushed to plead with my wife to see this episode. She obliged. She didn't fall asleep and sat at the end of her seat the whole time. She now is as addicted as I am to the series. Based on my experience I would point a new person to "The Girl in the Fireplace".
Having said all that, even though Tom Baker will always be my doctor, I think Matt Smith has the best take on the character of all of them. I'm hoping he beats Tom Baker's record in the number of years he plays the Doctor.
Chris Greenland
34. greenland
@33. I hope so, too. I really want a long-term Doctor and I wonder if they had that in mind when they cast the super-young Matt Smith. Tennant gave us a good four years, but I still feel like the Doctor just dies too much, even though there are adventures we never see!

@32. Logopolis is the only one I've actually been able to get all the way through! I felt kind of cheated by the Doctor's death, though. I mean, it's Tom Fucking Baker! He deserves a grander exit than "didn't get off the rotaty thingy in time."
Karen Jacobs
35. KJacobs
I'm a relative Who Newbie. Going back 30 years or so I've had friends that were completely addicted, but I never really took the time to give it a shot. Now, between your Twelve Doctors of Christmas and my 16 year old niece becoming a die-hard fan, I decided to see what all the fuss is about. This past weekend with the New Year's marathon was perfect for me, and I can now say I am completely hooked! I only saw a couple of the Tennant episodes, but I have to say there is just something very charming and totaling engaging about Smith. Maybe it is just the whole 'My First Doctor is the Best Doctor" phenomenon. I'm definitely looking forward to catching up with the rest and specifically looking for the episodes you mentioned above.
LaughingAstarael
36. Elliot Kane
If I wanted to introduce someone to Doctor Who right now who had never seen the show before, I'd start with either 'Rose', as it's the story which is most actively designed to introduce new viewers, or 'The Eleventh Hour', which is arguably the best intro story for any of the Doctors.  Both really show who the character is and what the show is all about.

If I just want to impress them with how absolutely superb the show can be, I'd start them with 'Blink', especially if they were a film buff.  Carey Mulligan may be getting all those award nominations for her Hollywood films, but she was Sally Sparrow first.  And still the best Companion the Doctor never had...

***

For anyone wanting to really get into Tom Baker, I'd probably start with Genesis Of The Daleks, assuming they had seen some Who before.  It's not only the best Tom Baker story, but also one of the best Who stories, regardless of Doctor.  It's the creation story of the Daleks and introduces Davros, but it's the power of the story itself that will impress the viewer most.
LaughingAstarael
37. Jawshco
I actually started watching Doctor Who because of the Rowan Atkinson version of the Doctor in the hilarious "The Curse of Fatal Death." I'm a big Blackadder fan, and caught sight of this Doctor Who comedy bit while looking for more bits of Atkinson work. (As an aside, after watching Doctor Who I understand Mr. Bean's Christmas sketch where you see a "dalek vs baby Jesus" bit. Hilarious.) I know it's only a comic relief thing, but it really did give me all the information I needed to enjoy subsquent Doctor Who episodes, and now I'm also able to rewatch it after seeing much of the Doctor, and appreciate the parody even more. It's doubly good!

As far as Tom Baker's Doctor, I think the storyline, "City of Death," would a great place to start. It has hilarious moments of time travel, plenty of action, great sets for the time, a 'brilliant' comedy appearance by John Cleese, and I believe it was also one of the Douglas Adams-influenced stories. Plus, it's features the pretty important explanation of how human kind advanced from the 'Primordial Soup' (I know, it's a debunked theory, but funny none the less.)

I began watching Baker with "The Arc in Space," and loved it. So you can't go wrong with that one or most any of the common Doctor IV DVD's. Well, "The Pirate Planet," might be a bit much for first time viewers, but that's a fun one for sure.
Ian Gazzotti
38. Atrus
What I usually suggest my friends to watch if they want to get into Doctor Who are either The empty child or The runaway bride: they're both great fun with lots of action and you don't really need to know anything about the Doctor in order to enjoy them.
Lindsey Turnbow
39. Obi
I guess I'm proof you're right since "Family of Blood" was my first episode ever, and it hooked me good (ignore anything wrong with that sentence; it's not important). And I even did it wrong by coming in halfway through. I went straight back to "Rose" then, but watched "Blink" when it aired the next week anyway because the preview for it was just so cool.
LaughingAstarael
40. cmm
@Jawshco. "City of Death" is not only influenced by Douglas Adams, it is one of the 2 completed Doctor Who stories that he scripted (a third, "Shada", was written and filming began on it, but was derailed by a BBC strike and never completed). The other Douglas Adams story is the one you mentioned, "The Pirate Planet," which also happens to be the one that started me on my Who obsession 30years ago,and I got hooked the way most did back then--stumbled across it on a Saturday afternoon on PBS, watched, went "Wow is this cool!" and watched every week after that. There were no Internet sites to catch up on the backstory, and while comprehensive guides were in print, they were mainly published in Britain and hard to come by in the States. I watched Who through high school, mostly TOm Baker with a smattering of Pertwee and Davidson. I figured out most of the backstory from context, a random Starlog magazine issue or two, and the hype around the Five Doctors 20th anniversary episode, which spawned more material about the history of the show than was previously available in the US because it was one of the only episodes that aired in the US close to or maybe even simultaneously with it's airing in Britain.

"Pirate Planet" should have been a terrible jumping on point--it was the second part of a season long story arc featuring a quest for six pieces of the Key to Time, all of which was explained in the episode I hadn't seen a week earlier and didn't see for a year or two after first watching the show. But I was a fan of the Hitchhiker books and the similar tone of zaniness crossed with actual science fiction and a degree of serious suspense in a fairly silly story caught me.

For anyone who likes the new show and has been curious about the old ones, or has tried to watch the older ones and couldn't get past the cheesiness, or just wants to sample one, I heartily recommend "City of Death" -- it has Tom Baker at his best in an episode with a favorite companion (and the chemistry between the two actors was great too, since it was right around when they were in love/in a relationship/married in real life), it stands alone very well, it's funny and at the same time has one of those science fiction twists at the end that rocked my world at age 14 and which i still think was very nifty.

I find it hard myself to watch the older episodes and it's more from nostalgia that I occasionally do, and I was a complete fangirl back then, so I totally understand if new Who fans can't see the attraction. You really don't have to watch them to enjoy the new show, or you can just sample them. Or wait 2years for the 50th anniversary year in 2013 (really!) when I am sure there will be gobs of easy to digest Compleat Histories".
LaughingAstarael
41. Cmm
As the Doctor would say, that last post started well but kind of got away from me there at the end...

My point was that someone who likes science fiction generally can probably jump in anywhere in the new series and be intrigued enough to want to know more, and "more" is so much easier to come by these days.

But I also recommend "Rose" as a starting point for anyone who wants to watch and is fairly sure it's the kind of thing that will grab them, with e suggestion that if they are feeling a bit "meh" about it after the first episode or two, jump ahead to Dalek or Father's Day to see the quality that the show achieves once it really gets going. If you aren't hooked at that point, you probably never will be.

"the Eleventh Hour" is a great place to start for someone who wants to jump in and go forward....as others mentioned, it is designed for exactly that purpose and is a really entertaining episode as a stand alone.

The other one I show newbies that works fabulously as a stand alone is "Blink"' which is also one i can watch over and over. I would actually recommend against starting with Empty Child/The Doctor Dances or Human Nature/Family of Blood because I think those episodes are so much more powerful if you already have a good idea of the Doctor and what he is generally like, and can appreciate the heightening of and/or departure from the typical tone. They are great stories because they go above and beyond and add new insights to the character, which are lost or diluted if that is your first exposure to the Doctor at all.

Finally, for someone who is reluctant to try the show at all, but you get them to give you 5 minutes to convince them, show them the before-the-credits scenes in the Matt Smith "Time of the Angels" episode. It's hard to imagine anyone not wanting to know more after that sequence that ends with River Song falling in the door of the Tardis onto the Doctor!
mathias-emanuel hartmann
42. semphora
Well sir, you've done it. I watched "Rose" a while back but never made it to the second episode. On your recommendation I watched "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood", and was hooked immediately. I then went back and watched all five seasons of the new run, my favorite episode beeing blinck. It might not work for everybody but you've converted me. Thanks!
LaughingAstarael
43. Matt Sandwich
I, too, ran across this article just as I was considering my first foray into the world of Dr. Who. I liked your reasoning, and just watched Human Nature and Family of Blood. And I thought it was a great introduction. I'll definitely follow up with the Eccleston episodes (which was the recommended starting point by the only person I know familiar with the show), and I'm certainly looking forward to them. Thanks for the great article-- it worked for me!
LaughingAstarael
44. alosha7777
Just saw this article linked on tumblr and - whaddya know? - when i started watching just a few months ago, the first episodes I saw were Blink and this two-parter. I. Was. Hooked.

Great article!

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