Jul 30 2012 1:00pm

How to Who: On Starting to Watch Classic Doctor Who

While you can start with the first episode and go from there, you can’t watch Doctor Who, from the very beginning, in its entirety. Literally, it is impossible. The BBC recorded over old film to save money, and so a lot of the second Doctor’s stories and some of the first Doctor’s stories have been lost.

You might also find starting from extant first Doctor episodes maddening for several reasons. The pace is slow, it’s black and white, the film quality is poor, and they haven’t decided what they want to do with the Doctor as a character yet. He’s a creepy trickster who seems to lack the moral core that centered later Doctors. Even his alienness is in doubt. In his virgin outing, he tries to bludgeon a caveman to death with a big rock. A human companion (action science teacher Ian Chesterton) has to call him out on that.

The first Doctor, or One (Doctors are traditionally referred to by their numbers in fandom), does become more cuddly. But while he’s certainly interesting, he’s never Tinkerbell Jesus Ten, shedding a single emo tear for your sins. If you’re into that, he might not do it for you.

In lieu of the Completist Dream of Who, here are some good options:

1) Start from the first One episode, “An Unearthy Child.”

If you do this, do it in the knowledge that there WILL be gaps, and that the aforementioned things are true. If you’re a hardcore nerd about other things, and think you could see yourself becoming one about Classic Who, it might be worth investing in Running Through Corridors, Volume I, a guide to One and Two era by comedian Toby Hadoke and New Who/Big Finish writer Rob Shearman. The blog TARDIS Eruditorum also serves as an excellent companion (hah) to the early serials. These erudite and loving discussions of the episodes’ plots and conditions of production may enhance your viewing experience.

2) Start from Two’s last episode, “The War Games.”

It may seem odd to start with the end of an era, but War Games sets up the plot predicaments of the very watchable next few series, it’s a complete Two serial that gives you a good taste of early Who, and it might introduce the Master (though this is a big point of contention). I adore it, but it’s LONG, and black and white, and that’s a drawback for some. It also has a rather silly amount of capture/escape cycles and the always-insipid “Humans are uniquely violent and evil!!” premise, but it’s an excellent episode. The ending is wrenching. And it leads easily into Three era.

3) Start from the DELIGHTFUL and relatively brief “Spearhead from Space,” the first story of Three’s era.

It’s IN COLOR!!, as almost all episodes will be from this point on. However my beloved Three has some real clunkers under his belt, and you will probably try to suffocate yourself with a household pet during “The Ambassadors of Death.” (Yes, Death’s a country now, check the UN site.) Three era has a strong ensemble cast and solid organizing conceit (the Doctor is stuck on Earth for most of it), which I think works well for the uninitiated. The Master is a frequently-reoccurring major villain here, as he is in Five’s era, and he’s always a fun time.

4) Start with the Doctor Who twentieth anniversary special “The Five Doctors.”

As the name might suggest, this features all five of the early Doctors. (Sort of. Someone is decently impersonating the departed William Hartnell). Having seen all five, you can pick a Doctor who appeals to you and watch his entire run through.

After some spotty watching-around, I did this, starting with Five (Peter Davison). I then went back and watched other eras more completely. I find Five’s era, with its relative brevity and approachability, particularly newcomer-friendly. Chunks of Four’s era are also very welcoming, as this era is blessed with excellent Douglas Adams (of Hitchiker’s Guide) scripts and good pacing.

5) Start with Four’s “Key to Time” arc.

It’s self-contained in some ways and has a strong, over-arching plot that’s easy to follow. It benefits from a happy pairing of Doctor and companion, and, as I mentioned, some excellent writing and script editing from Douglas Adams.

6) Watch particularly good eps out of order and get around to more painful ones once you’re more used to the gestalt Classic Who experience.

...I have done this one too, sloppy as it sounds.

There are many good lists ranking the episodes out there, but there are also many, many... questionable lists available elsewhere online and in print. It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no such thing as a critical consensus on what’s actually good Doctor Who. I could find or make you what I feel is a good list, but what approach is For You is really up to, well, you.

7) Track reoccuring characters and/or monster you’re particularly interested in.

You can follow, say, the Master, the Brig, or the Cybermen, and watch all their episodes. Wikipedia (or even better, TARDIS Wiki) can give you good breakdowns for this.

There are a lot of entry points into Old Who, and what works for you will depend ENORMOUSLY on what you want your Doctor Who to do and to be. Comedy, hard sci-fi, space-opera, a highly political text, grim dystopianism – there actually IS something in Classic Who for everyone, because the show persisted so long and used its format to approach and appropriate so many storytelling genres. I mean look at “The Daemons,” Who’s fun-but-also-rubbish attempt at capitalizing on the popularity of Video Nasty/Satanic Panic horror films. Or better yet, don’t look at “The Daemons” just yet. I’m not sure you’re ready for Olive Hawthorne’s jelly (she’s the lusty, wiccan Miss Marple-ish Rural English Character of the Week).

Don’t be afraid to stop watching things you don’t like, and maybe don’t start with reconstructions, the TV movie, or “Scream of the Shalka” (though when your Classic palate is more trained up, you may well want to try them). At the end of the day, it’s also worth mentioning that even in Classic Who serials I don’t like, there are almost always elements I love—particularly good lines or character moments, etc. At its worst, Classic Who is still a bit lovable and worth a watch, and at its best it can be a transcendently great text, capable of making you think and feel, of sticking in your heart like a burr.

Happy Whoing! 

Erin Horáková is a southern American writer. She lives in London with her partner, and is working towards her PhD in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary. Erin blogs, cooks, and is active in fandom.

alastair chadwin
1. a-j
For Second Doctor, I would strongly suggest starting with Tomb of the Cybermen.
Agreed that if you are unused to the conventions (especially to do with pacing) of the time when early Who was made, you may well find it unwatchable. Just be aware that they're not slow to irritate you, most TV was like that.
Be aware that classic Who was a children's programme with the appropriate very low budget. The effects are bad.
Otherwise, relax and enjoy and if you don't like some, don't worry.
alastair chadwin
2. a-j
Oh, and especially with the longer stories, don't try and watch all the episodes in one go, they weren't written to be watched that way.
Sky Thibedeau
3. SkylarkThibedeau
I actually cultivated a love for the Doctor and Tardis as a Child from the Peter Cushing Dalek Movies on late night TV. When PBS starting showing the 4th doctor when I was in college it was heaven.
Alain Ducharme
4. Alain Ducharme
A single episode a day can be a very good way to enjoy classic Doctor Who. Having the opportunity to imagine how they'll resolve the cliffhanger is part of the fun.

While the last two seasons of the Seventh Doctor's tenure had some week serials, they also had some forgotten gems. The character arc given to companion Ace is the closest thing there is to new Who.

That being said, I concurr with "Tomb of the Cybermen" being a perfect entry point.
Alain Ducharme
5. Robert Maloney
I am relatively new to DW, so I have been making it up as I go. The first episodes I ever watched were the very first Ten/Donna Noble and the very first Martha Jones episodes. The next was the 1996 Paul McGann reboot on YouTube. Then I just careened through Nine & Ten online, then iTunes. Now I am so into it, I am watching Eleven and looking at Classics...and ironically, I just watched 'The Five Doctors' on DVD two days ago. Between Netflix, the public library, and YouTube (and other online sources), it really is very easy to get lost down the DW rabbit hole and have way too much fun doing it. I have to agree with Erin that there are certain stories with each Doctor that make you want to take your own life with example for me, the very first Tom Baker story...started funny, ended up just boring.
Alain Ducharme
6. Rancho Unicorno
After watching Rose on a sleepless night, I dragged the missus into Who (I've since done the same to various co-workers). At some point, I decided that I would embark on a sequential DVD-based rewatch.

It hasn't been the smoothest road - I give myself credit by watching whatever is still available of the deleted episodes, skipping over those that haven't been released and coming back to them later.

You can do it, sometimes through enjoyment, sometimes through merriment, and sometimes through sheer willpower to get through some of the worst material you will ever witness (which will inevitably end up stuck in your head..."Red Kangs, Red Kangs, are the best!")
Alain Ducharme
7. DN10
I actually would recommend starting with City of Death. I watched it on Netflix after trying to watch several others, and it was the first I thoroughly enjoyed. It was funny, and the plot was timey-wimey enough for me to really find it fascinating. And Romana II is a great companion! I'm now working my way through the Fourth Doctor's era. Caves of Androzani is also a great episode, even if the bits the Doctor is not in can get a bit dull, but that's true of most Classic Who episodes.
Alain Ducharme
8. Yet Another Geek
First Doctor: The Aztecs, The Ark
Second: Tomb of the Cybermen, The Mind Robber
Third: Claws of Axos, Carnival of Monsters
Fourth: Ark in Space, Talons of Weng Chiang.

This list avoids the mythology of the series but shows off the range and feel of it.
Paul Weimer
9. PrinceJvstin
I would like to chime in with the Tomb of the Cybermen love.

It also has the advantage of being the first full serial for one of the two companions (Victoria) which makes it an excellent way to see her react to a situation new to her. And the byplay between her and Jamie is wonderful.
Alain Ducharme
10. John R. Ellis
Big Finish has some excellent new audio plays starring Doctors 5-8. They manage to retain a classic Who feel while having a modern approach to pacing and characterization.

In many cases, stories far better than they got on TV. The Sixth Doctor is now #2 in my top three fav Doctors largely because of these plays.

(I know they have a new range of plays for Four, but I haven't been able to try those yet.)
Alain Ducharme
11. SF
Some other good resources for going through Classic Who:

1. A Brief History of Time (Travel) has production information on most of the classic episodes. Very informative:

2. The AV Club has been running through the serials bi-weekly:,186/

The writer has been skipping around, but has generally been covering all Doctors evenly, moving over to a different Doctor for each installment. He started with the intro story for each Doctor. By this point, he's covered quite a lot of the serials, as well as the TV Movie. And he's been working his way through all of the Dalek stories.

3. For the missing episodes, there are official audio versions available that are worth a listen. They've preserved the audio for every missing episode and serial, and they always get one of the surviving actors from the serial to do the linking narration.

4. The group of people who've done the restorations for the DVDs have a website talking about some of the technical issues they had to overcome. Can be an interesting read:
Walker White
12. Walker
I know this is MUCH later, but if you are going to watch Seventh (McCoy), you must start with Curse of Fenric. This introduced the Doctor as "manipulative genius who uses companions as pawns" theme that defines that character (both in the TV series and other media).

More than Eighth, you can truly believe this Doctor would have been a player in the Time Wars.
Alain Ducharme
13. Triona Guidry
Definitely Curse of Fenric. Also:

Third Doctor: The Time Monster, a classic.
Fourth Doctor: Ark in Space, Hand of Fear, Robots of Death.
Fifth Doctor: Black Orchid for a sweet short historical. Don't miss Mawdryn Undead if you're filling in your Brigadier card.

And for Eight, Big Finish's Storm Warning.
Erin Horakova
14. ErinHoráková

I think with the pacing issue, it's less jarring if you come from like, Original Series Star Trek--a lot of the narrative conventions felt familiar from that. It's an era thing, as you suggest. I actually find watching the whole serials together less vexing than trying to strain to remember what was going on last time and why it was important. Even/especially with the whomping 'ten episodes in a go' serials like War Games. Otherwise I just have no idea what was going on in episode one by the end, and it's often relevant.

I actually don't think the budget is a Children's Show issue--it started being more than that pretty quickly. And look at things like Blakes 7 later on--still produced on aprox. £5 and scripts made of SOLID GOLD.
Erin Horakova
15. ErinHoráková
@ SkylarkThibedeau

I enjoy those a lot (BERNARD CRIBBINS!!), but I miss real!Ian and Babs.
Erin Horakova
16. ErinHoráková
@ 4. Alain Ducharme

I don't really feel cliffhangers deserve the emphasis fans put on them, in the enjoyment stakes? They feel like a sort of... artifical component of the narrative that puts an undo emphasis on peak/trough action structures instead of, idk, dynamic character development and the like. People say 'space out the epsiodes!' to me, re: savoring the cliffhangers, and perhaps it's a Me As A Viewer thing, but I just... don't get it.*

Except of course Dragonfire. Solid gold.

* Or it's a difference between girlfandom and boyfandom? I'm not even bothered by the soft plops that mark the end of Sapphire and Steel eps.
Erin Horakova
17. ErinHoráková
@ 5. Robert Maloney

Oh, Robot. Well. At least Sarah Jane and Harry are there. It's a mark of how right you are that I don't even remember how it ended.
Erin Horakova
18. ErinHoráková
@ 6. Rancho Unicorno

Nothing can match the pure scripting poetry of Paradise Towers. Thank Christ.
Erin Horakova
19. ErinHoráková
@ 7. DN10

I ADORE Androzani, but I don't really feel like City of Death is necessarily a great place to BEGIN. I don't know that it's as fun if you don't know Four and Romana, there's a ton of running around Paris for no obvious plot reasons, and it's not really indicative of what Who, or even Four era, will be like. I tried to start my dad on it, knowing it was a fan favorite and he was a giant original Star Trek fan and thinking it'd be fine, but he HATED it. It was one of those hideous times when you try to show someone a thing you love and they look at it like you've done a poo on the carpet.
Erin Horakova
20. ErinHoráková
@ 8. Yet Another Geek

I really like this list for range/feel, but why Carnival of Monsters? I think it's nice, but it's an unusual call for Key Three-Era.
Erin Horakova
21. ErinHoráková
@9. PrinceJvstin

Oh my GOD and Two's dead/sleeping speech to her about her dad. Haunting, excellent, moving. Love Two.
Erin Horakova
22. ErinHoráková
@10. John R. Ellis

I def. ditto you on the Big Finish love and approachability, but in some ways I feel the radio play format, somewhat unfamiliar to and American audience, could form an additional barrier to newcomers? I also don't know anyone who STARTED with Big Finish, and I wonder how well they work in isolation? Maybe fine, but so many of the great ones, like Jubilee, rely on not only a knowledge of the show for their thematic success, but a familiarity with the show's iconic position in modern British life.
Erin Horakova
23. ErinHoráková
@ 11. SF

Nothing like 'Enemy of the World' on audio to give you youd daily dose of... evil, South American Two...
Erin Horakova
24. ErinHoráková
@ 12. Walker

"I know this is MUCH later, but if you are going to watch Seventh (McCoy), you must start with Curse of Fenric. This introduced the Doctor as "manipulative genius who uses companions as pawns" theme that defines that character (both in the TV series and other media)."

Ah see, here we are deeply divided, because if there's something I could wish Who did a billion times better or, preferably, stopped being so obsessed with rehashing and ditched entirely, it's Dark Doctor. I think Curse of Fenric's harsh on new Classic watchers on a purely 'wtf is going on and why does it matter, who is Ace?' level, too.
Erin Horakova
25. ErinHoráková
@ 13. Triona Guidry

Re: Mawdryn Undead, will the Brig mean that much to people who haven't gone through Three-era and then had some subsequent time to miss him, though?

Man Time Monster is DEF my favorite giant white flappy doom bird. Second to none. And bless Benton and his incredible casual competence. And Three's long, LONG history of trolling.
Alain Ducharme
26. Blue Wind
@Erin: I don't really feel cliffhangers deserve the emphasis fans put on them, in the enjoyment stakes?

simple answer.

those of us who grew up in the '60's, '70's or '80's had it hardwired into it to spend at least a day or even a week to wonder how the Doctor would get out of it this time, most weeks.
Alain Ducharme
27. Megpie71
Of course, there's also the version experienced by countless Australian kids during the late 1970s and early 1980s, which runs as follows:

Start from approximately the beginning of the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker). Watch the first year of those. Go back to the beginning of the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee). Watch all of these episodes, at least nominally in sequence. Stop. Run a couple of series of "The Goodies" instead (approximately 2 - 3 months worth). Pick up the beginning of the 4th Doctor again, and start in on the second year. Repeat from beginning of 3rd Doctor again. Stop. Run 2 - 3 months of "Monkey" while you wait for the next year's worth of episodes to be available. Run the new episodes, then start again from the beginning. Pause approximately every 6 - 8 months for a month or two of something else. By about the tenth year of this, discover the old 1st and 2nd Doctor episodes sitting in the back rooms of the archives. Start showing those instead, but realise people aren't interested any more because it's not in colour. Start again with Jon Pertwee and keep going until the BBC decides to take the series off the air.

Run this at one 30 minute episode per night, Monday through Friday (or if you're really keen on emulating the system as per Aunty ABC back in the mid-1980s, make it Monday through Thursday with a half-hour of local news on Fridays). Follow with 30 minutes of national news.

If you're really keen, on Tuesday nights, you can follow up with other BBC science fiction - Blake's 7, Day of the Triffids, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf etc...
Alain Ducharme
28. ronsmith
One, episode 3. "The Daleks".
This was the first episode I ever saw. In 1964 in Canada. I was 6. Frightened the begeebers out of me of course.
My father wouldn't let me watch it again.
But it made such an impression on me that I never forgot the old man, the police box, and of course the evil salt shakers.
It was only shown for that one year in Canada.
We moved to the U.S. shortly after. I would ask people if they had seen the show, describe the old man, the police box, the salt shakers, but no one ever knew what I was talking about. I did not remember the name of the show. I could never find any references or information on it.
For almost twenty years I waited.
Then one day I was changing channels, and there on PBS was a PoliceBox on a street in London. I gasped. Was this really that old show? Would the old man come out of the box? I waited anxiously. The door opened. Out came this odd man with curly hair, a floppy hat, and an absurd scarf.
No, it was not the show, I thought. Must just be a case of fate teasing me with a coincidence. I reached to change the channel and a young women came out of the box saying "Doctor?".
"Wait", I thought, "Isn't that what they called the old man? Perhaps he is still inside the box."
Then the odd man with the ridiculous scarf responded "Yes, Sarah?"
I was profoundly confused. This clearly wasn't the same show, yet it seemed it was trying to be in some way, or was I completely mistaken?
I had to watch on and try to understand this phenomena.
By the end of the show it was clear that the police box was THE POLICE BOX I rememered. But nothing else quite fit.
None the less I carefully made note of the time and day and made sure to watch PBS during the following weeks until I understood what was happening.
Eventually the process of regeneration was mentioned in some episode and things finally began to make sense to me. I still missed the scary old man (who you still knew was a good guy), but I learned to love the goof ball in the scarf as well.
OK, got off topic I guess, but that is how I was introduced to Doctor Who.
Kristen Templet
29. SF_Fangirl
You know, I now say Seven is my favorite Doctor and I love Ace, but I have an insane level of fondness for the Three trapped on Earth working with UNIT and the Fourth Doctor's first season Ark in Space episodes. Perhaps because it's so very reminescent of the "Golden Age" sci fi that got me hooked on sci fi in the first place. Those monsters were just great ... in a golden age of sci fi kind of way.
(Wow. Thanks to Wikipedia I now know The Fourth Doctor's first season gives us a giant Robot, the Sontarians, Daleks, and Cybermen. That's a good bunch of baddies.) Also the Doctor especially Three with Liz Shaw came across more like (mad) scientist and solved things with scientific technobabble. I particularly like "Inferno" but it's a mirror universe episode and not really a good starting point for a newbie.

And "War Games" has fond memories for me too. I watched on PBS in the 80s and my station aired a whole serial a Friday or Saturday night (no cliffhangers for me), but "War Games" was so long it had to air over two nights.

I think "Carnival in Space" may have been one of my first intro to the Doctor becuase I remember watching it and being totally baffled and then seeing it years later and it making much more sense. It's not a favorite so I wouldn;t recommend it for a newbie wither.

Once a person gets introduced to the Daleks in later episodes, I think the Dalek episodes are a good way to ease into the First and Second Doctors.
Stephanie Padilla
30. DN10
Well, I'm sorry your dad reacted that way. But it was the first episode I saw with Tom Baker, and I had no clue whatsoever who Romana was (didn't even know she was a Time Lady until they mentioned it!), but I still enjoyed the heck out of it! And I showed it to my sister later--it was the first episode of Classic Who she'd seen, and she's a diehard Trekkie like your dad, and she loved it! Thought Four was great, and liked Romana. I guess it depends on who you are showing it to and what their tastes are. You really have to prepare them by explaining that the special effects are going to be ridiculously bad by today's standards before you show it to them, though.

As for it being atypical of the Fourth Doctor's era, well, it did last for seven years. I'm not sure any one episode could really encapsulate it in its entirety. It's just a fun, interesting episode, in my opinion.
Alain Ducharme
31. fusion
City of Death was my first serial, and I loved it. However, I'd go with starting from the First Doctor and continuing all the way through. It's not that hard to do. Also, I like to think that anyone who watches TV shows made thirty or more years ago has the common sense to realize without being told that the special effects are inferior and the pacing is different to today's programming. If they don't and act snobbishly because of that, they're just not mature enough to handle watching older television. Their loss!
Ross Smith
32. CaptainCrowbar
There was an interview with one of the Classic Who special effects technicians in the DVD extras on one of the recent releases. He explained that "we were on a shoestring budget - that means they gave us six pieces of shoestring and told us to make twelve aliens out of them."
Alain Ducharme
33. Nick Smale
I'm a little shocked that Erin's article doesn't touch on the seventh Doctor era, which in many ways was the greatest period of classic 'who. The stories of Sylvester McCoy's last two seasons are (with maybe one exception) pretty much a pure run of gold, magical in the same way that the best children's literature is, politically radical, and with a thematic unity unlike anything else in the original series.
Erin Horakova
34. ErinHoráková
@ 33. Nick Smale

I don't know that I'd start non-Classic people on Seven, because it's a bit marmite--love it or hate it--and as such might not give people a good idea of the totality of the series. I mean, I wouldn't start them on Six, either, and Big Finish has ensured he's one of my favorites. It's also quite late in the series, for introducting them to older material. I mean maybe in a 'working backwards' sort of way it's a good idea?
Erin Horakova
35. ErinHoráková
@ 26. Blue Wind

That's interesting, maybe it IS a 'how you came to the show' question. As a watcher who's always had access to DVDs/streaming content, they seem like chapter endings in a book to me--they should probably have some sense of an ending/reason to be where they are, but I don't value them highly in and of themselves, and stopping there, unless I happen to feel like putting the book down now, seems unnecessary.
Erin Horakova
36. ErinHoráková
@ 27. Megpie71

Oh my GOOD, and I thought the BBC's scheduling veered towards wackyness!
Erin Horakova
37. ErinHoráková
@ 29. SF_Fangirl

That's probably true, re: Dalek episodes.
Erin Horakova
38. ErinHoráková
@ 32. CaptainCrowbar

Sounds about right--which I kind of wish people would remember when going LULZ TINFOIL without affection (with affection, it's totally fine).
Erin Horakova
39. ErinHoráková
@ 31. fusion

I know people who won't watch content from before about /the nineties/ because the video quality is 'too poooor, omggg'. What even. Their loss indeed.
Dave Bell
40. DaveBell
The switch from black-and-white to colour on British TV alao involved a boost in screen resolution. The B&W used 405 lines, while colour uses 625 lines. Some British TV was made on film for sale to the USA.

The Avengers was, I think, the last British B&W series to sell in the USA. Diana Rigg was in one B&W series, one in colour. At one point when Dallas was running, the American production company thought they could do good quality video conversion. It wasn't a success. One of the problems of defining HDTV standards was trying to make the conversion to 525 and 625 easy.
Alain Ducharme
41. John R. Ellis
I don't worry about themes, I worry about whether the play tells a good story.

And the best Big Finish ones definitely do, even without the cultural background.

I managed to get my sister and best friend interested in them, back when all they had seen of the TV series was new Who. It helps that both were already fans of serial fiction in the form of comics. *g*
David McIntee
42. Lonemagpie
The Daemons was a good decade before the video nasty era - it's more a Hammer thing, like so many of the 4th Doctor's stories.

Other good jumping on points- Robot (Four's first story), or Rose, the first episode of NuWho.

Or you could try going by what other stuff you already like - if you like stuff set in a particular historical time, see if there's a DW story set there. If you like a particular genre, DW has probably done it. You get the idea...
Erin Horakova
43. ErinHoráková
@ 42. Lonemagpie

While the panic properly kicked off in the UK in 1979 with The Driller Killer affair and the subsequent Mary Whitehouse complaints in 1980, many of the films in question had been made in the US and Italy in the 1970s, and the unrestricted proliferation of home-viewing equipment in the 1970s brought the material in question into UK homes. For Daemons, I'm mostly thinking about occult!films like Rosemarry's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976), which use tropes of organized religion and the demonic to inject some gravitas into the proceedings.
alastair chadwin
44. a-j
I think it was The Daemons (Jon Pertwee) that first raised Mary Whitehouse's ire (note to non-Brits, she was a campaigner to clean up TV from sex and violence throughout the '70s and '80s) with questions asked in Paliament about whether destroying churches to entertain children was suitable. But it was with the late-70s Tom Baker era that she really focused on the series. I have read in innumerable accounts that the production team were always pleased when she intervened as they knew that would up viewing figures.
Alain Ducharme
45. Corby
I started from the beginning and watched every episode in order - including the reconstructions. I haven't regretted it yet.
Alain Ducharme
46. Pendard
I've introduced people to Classic Who (in-doctor-nated them?) by showing them one episode with each Doctor (though I couldn't choose for the Fourth Doctor so I did two).

My line-up was "An Unearthly Child, episode 1," "The Romans," "Tomb of the Cybermen," "The Time Warrior," "Genesis of the Daleks," "City of Death," "Enlightenment," "Vengeance on Varos," "Remembrance of the Daleks" and the Eight Doctor TV movies. I felt like this gave a good sampling of the different eras of the series, showcased the different Doctors nicely, showed MOST of the major companions and villains nicely (no Jo Grant or Roger Delgado Master, alas!) and avoided major spoilers if the person wanted to watch the show in earnest later.
Erin Horakova
47. ErinHoráková
@ Pendard

That does sound like a good approach!
Alain Ducharme
48. Eagerly Awaiting New Eps
Thanks so much for this!!!! Exactly what I have been looking for as I wait for the 50th anniversery episodes. I start to get anxious to watch Doctor Who episodes after waiting so long between these seasons, so this plan will be implemented immediately! Thanks again!
Alain Ducharme
49. Wilson Zorn
This article ignores the critical point that the audio soundtracks do exist for ALL Dr. Who episodes. This leaves visual gaps, but one can actually in some reasonable fashion follow the entire series, with some real effort. The audio soundtracks have been commercially available on CD and (even) cassette. I'm not sure if all the videos that exist have been commercially issued, but most if not all have been, and with persistence one can find them online, it seems.
Erin Horakova
50. ErinHoráková
@Wilson Zorn I'm not sure about that.

"audio soundtracks do exist for ALL Dr. Who episodes"--This is unfortunately not really... as helpful as it seems. The BBC holds audio for the missing episodes, but it's not /their/ audio, much of it is fan-caputred. If you've listened to Zagreus, which makes use of some fan-captured audio, you'll know from unintelligible!Three how dubiously useful this is. And to say you'll be able to follow the entire series is, I think, really overly generous. TARDISEruditorium's reading of the Celestial Toymaker content points to the difference between audio!reception and reception of restored content: the serial's reception changed greatly, to its detriment, with the return of the visuals, indicating that following along via audio, in a format never intended for this, is an imperfect process. Finding these reccordings (and not paying like £50 for the privelege on some) might prove difficult. Not all video content that exists has been commercially issued/is still commercially available in the UK, and don't get me started on BBC America's god-awful choices--poor availability, unreasonable prices, crap distribution. Any time logistics is involved, count on Auntie to do the worst thing possible.

The core thing is, though, I think people who are REALLY interested in a chronological exploration for its own sake are going to hunt this stuff down? Resotrations and fan-audio are kind of a big ask for people looking to get into the text. Why should they bother before they know they're sufficiently interested to WANT to sit through still shots of "The Highlanders"? I'm not even sure that this chronological approach would be particularly rewarding for even many quite hard-core fans. At any rate, I would recomend it as a fast way to alienate people 'starting to watch Classic Doctor Who.'
Alain Ducharme
51. Natalie Keech
I want to start with dr who 1 unearthly child but cant find it to stream. Netflix only has a handful of episode s for each classic season, suggestions?
Alain Ducharme
52. Daisy99
Natalie Kreech - Unearthly Child is available online at
Alain Ducharme
53. Klara
I tried to start from "The Unearthly Child" and I did like it a lot, although the Doctor does seem a bit odd and, at times, slightly evil with that creepy laugh he did as he trapped Barbra and Ian in the TARDIS. But I can't find episode 2, "The Cave of Skulls" and I've been looking for days! I think that starting from Two's last episode sounds like a good idea so I'm going to try that. Maybe someday I'll buy the first 6 seasons and watch them. I hate to miss out on One and Two.
Alain Ducharme
54. Stephenie
I found a lot of the early episodes on Once you hit Marco Polo though there are a number of reconstructions and those are pretty slow to watch.They are made up of movie stills and subtitles for action that isn't talked about.

My only problem with starting with the end of 2 is I need to know what happens to Susan, the Dr.'s granddaughter. There probably isn't a satisfactory answer as to how they get rid of her, but I'm always fascinated by how the companions come and go, so this is a sticking point for me that will keep me working through 1's reptroire.
Alain Ducharme
55. RichardD
@Stephanie: "My only problem with starting with the end of 2 is I need to know what happens to Susan, the Dr.'s granddaughter."

Watch "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", Susan leaves in the final episode and it's quite moving.
Alain Ducharme
56. JamieBaker
Lifelong Who fan, and I recently wrote a post about my memories of the Doctor, strtching back to Patrick Troughton:
Alain Ducharme
57. Kirk12
The Apartment, 2001: A Space Odyssey.... Yes, I agree, black-and-white and slow-paced does sound maddening, especially when you look at the inane madcap color action that constitute the whole of 42 and the Sontaran 2-parter.

Don't quite understand how poor visual quality is supposed to be a plus, though.
Alain Ducharme
58. FreedomWhoFan
Saying you can't watch from the beginning is impossible, is not entirely true. Short of the deleted episodes with only BBC audio, it took me nearly a year of viewing them after normal TV time to watch the entire classic series.
Alain Ducharme
59. Pam Smith
For my 60th birthday I am having a Doctor Who theme party where decorations are Who based (eg lots of clocks, old frames featuring the Doctors), food a Tardis cake and Dalek chocolates - and yes, fishfingers and custard. Everyone in costume with a photobooth and props AND a TV showing episodes of Doctor Who from my personal collection. These suggestions ae most helpful. Thanks
Alain Ducharme
60. Lila Arkytior
How does one watch a episode a day of Who if you can only watch Who one day a week?
Alain Ducharme
61. Lila Arkytior
Ahem...but I happen to like the eras of slow paced black & white episodes.
They're exciting w/out being too much, and relaxing without putting me to sleep. A wonderful happy medium.
My only dislike about Exteremly Old Who (ha ha) is that sometimes I have to strain to hear some people talk. And that when Susan screamed for her grandfather (the Doctor) in one episode, she almost scared me to death. But then again, she's one of my favorite characters. Her and her teachers Ian and Barbara, along with the Doctor, are, in my opinon, my first Fantastic Foursome.
But I am currently watching Adric, Nyssa, 5, and Tegan Jovanka, but that's another story...

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment