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6 Ways to Start Watching DOCTOR WHO [How To]

Have you wanted to start watching Doctor Who,but didn't know where to start? Here are six ways to startwatching the most successful science fiction series ever today!

AboveImage: Doctor Who (1963), The Doctor (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith)

The Daily Telegraph named "The Doctor" "Britain's favourite alien." It's not only Britain that loves the "timey-wimey" time traveler. What was once a cult phenomenon has become a global sensation for the Gallifreyan. The recent episode "Cold War" was watched by 5.7 million viewers on BBC. That's a lot, but back in the 1960s, the show reached 14 million viewers!

The show is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world and as the "most successful" science fiction series of all time thanks to over-all broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, and iTunes traffic. Our reader poll voted him Greatest Alien of All Time.

The Doctor is in.

But after being on the air for so long, many wonder how to get into the show. It sounds like a lot of work to catch up on a show that's been running for 50 years, so they avoid it.

One of our readers, Nutschell, said it best in a comment, "[I've] been wanting to start watching it, but I [don't] know which Dr. Who version to watch."

Fear not Nutschell! This article will point you in the right direction.

What is Doctor Who?
Since 1967, Doctor Who is a British science fiction show produced by the BBC. The show follows theadventures of a "Time Lord" - a human-looking, time traveling alien - knownsimply as "The Doctor". He explores the universe in his sentienttime-traveling space ship called 'TARDIS', which looks like an old-style blueBritish police box. The dude has had a long succession of "Companions"(usually female) and travels the universe trying to save civilizations, help people, and bring justice to the universe.

The show ran continually from 1963 to 1989 before being canceled. An American TV movie was produced in 1996 before it was brought back in 2005 by Russell T Davies.

Eleven actors have headlined the series as the Doctor with a clever plot device known as a "Regeneration." When he is mortally wounded he takes on a new body and slightly new personality with a new actor in the lead role. The latest actor to take on the role is Matt Smith.

So, now that you know a little about him, where to begin?

1. Jump Right In

If you're adventurous, just watch the next episode of Doctor Who. It comeson every week on BBC,so check your local listings. The next episode is called "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS."

The official plot summary is "Clara is lost in the depths of the TARDIS which is invaded by an intergalactic salvage crew who want to sell it for scrap, but the Doctor threatens to destroy the TARDIS by putting it in lock down and activating the self destruct if the salvage crew doesn't help him find Clara."

If you feel like you need a little help, you can read my quick primer "YourEssential Guide To 'Doctor Who' Season 7." It's written for someone looking to quickly catch-up and enjoy the show.

Since you don't have to buy anything, except maybe cable access, it's cheap! It might be confusing at first, but that's what makes Doctor Who fun! Discovering new things.

  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Cheap
  • It's exciting!
  • Confusion over things like Psychic Paper. Come on! Get with the program!
2. Have a Friend Watch with You

[Terrence] iC.O.G on Twitter suggested having a friend watch it with you. Find a die-hard Doctor Who fan, have them strap you down and guide you through the series.

Watch the new episodes or just their favorite ones. Ask lots of questions. They may have their own personal favorites and can share why we love this crazy series in the first place.

Just watch out. Their rampant enthusiasm can be good or bad depending. It might be exciting, but it can also be over-whelming.

Plus, you'll only have the perspective of the fan. If they like David Tennant and hate Tom Baker, so will you. On the other hand, there's nothing like having a fan guide you through the twisted tales of Doctor Who.

  • Insider knowledge
  • Shared enthusiasm
  • May be hard to find a fan
  • Overwhelming
  • Limited perspective (ex. "Patrick Troughton? Who's that?")

3. Watch Every Episode in Chronological Order

Start with the first episode in 1963 and watch every available episode (called serials in the UK) to the present season.

To be complete, you may want to watch the spin-offs: K-9 and Company (1981), Torchwood (2006–11), The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007–11), K-9 (2009–present), Doctor Who Confidential (2005–11), Totally Doctor Who(2006–7) and Sarah Jane's Alien Files (2010).

There are 793 episodes of the series to get through, although 106 were lost when the BBC erased the videotapes (Thanks guys). That leaves 687 episodes to watch.

Some are 25 minutes long (1963–84, 1986–89) while most are 45 minutes (1985, 2005–present). That's a lot to watch. But if you have the money to buy all the DVDs, and the time to watch over 14 days of television, then you'll have the most complete understanding and knowledge of Doctor Who ever.

Just make sure you take an occasional bathroom break and stock up on custard and fish fingers. That'll make sense after you watch "The Eleventh Hour".

  • Full history and context
  • Best understanding of Doctor Who ever.
  • Missing episodes
  • Time consuming
  • Expensive
  • You'll have no personal life for a month.
4. Watch the Popular Doctors

Watch all the episodes with the most popular Doctors. The Doctor, in his eleventh incarnation, is currently played by Matt Smith. The guy took over the role in 2010 and became the first to be nominated for a BAFTA Award for "Best Actor in a Leading Role" in 2011.

There have been eleven actors that played the "Doctor of Everything", but there are five that are fan favorites. So, to get the best perspective on him, watch all the available episodes with those actors. Here they are:
  • Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor) 1987 – 1989 (28 episodes)
  • Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor) 2005 (13 episodes)
  • David Tennant (Tenth Doctor)    2005 – 2010 (47episodes)
  • Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) 1974 – 1981 (172 episodes)
  • Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor) 2010 - Present (44 episodes)
Since these are popular, they'll be easier to find than some of the more obscure episodes. You'll get a full grasp of the series without having to watch every single episode. Plus, when fans talk about theSontarans and Davros, you'll have a clue what they're talking about.

Of course, you won't know much about Colin Baker, so any reference to his cat-shaped pins would be confusing to you.

  • Easier to find episodes.
  • Easier to talk with fans about their favorite episodes.
  • Cheaper than watching the whole series.
  • Easier than watching the whole series
  • Limited knowledge.
  • Time consuming

5. Start with the Modern Series

Twitter follower Chris Ivey suggested startingwith the first episode of the revived series of Doctor Who. Watch all the episodessince 2005, startingwith the excellent episode "Rose"with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. Thisepisode introduced us to the new Doctor and one of his most popularcompanions. Start there and work your way forward.

These are quickly becoming the series that modern fans are aware of, so you'll fit in with most fans. A lot of the back story in the series is explained in exposition anyway. You may lose some context, but you'll be "in-the-know."

The downside is that die hard fans will accuse you of just "jumping on the bandwagon." They'd be right, but who cares?

  • Easy
  • Cheap
  • Bragging rights
  • You'll know the difference between Eccleston and Smith
  • Diehard fans may throw fish fingers and custard at you.

6. Watch the Top 10 Episodes

Instead of watching over 600 episodes, just watch the ones that arethe most popular. You'll be able to share fan enthusiasm and look overany weaker episodes. Here are the most popular episodes from the entire run ofDoctor Who.
  1. Rose"
    Writer: Russell T Davies
    Director: Keith Boak
    Starring: Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor),  Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)
    Original Airdate: March 26, 2005
    Why? It started the new series.

  2. "The Caves of Androzani: Part 1"
    Writer: Robert Holmes
    Director: Graham Harper
    Starring: Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor), Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
    Original Airdate: March 8, 1984
    Why? It's the most action packed episode and the greatest challenge to the Doctor's pacifism.

  3. "Blink"
    Writer: Steven Moffat
    Director: Hettie MacDonald
    Starring: David Tennant (Tenth Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)
    Original Airdate: June 9, 2007
    Why? It introduced it's most popular new villain.

  4. "Pyramids of Mars"
    Writer: Stephen Harris, Robert Holmes and Lewis Greifer
    Director: Paddy Russell
    Starring: Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)
    Original Airdate: October 25, 1975
    Why? This four-part episode is the essence of Gothic horror.

  5. "Silence in the Library"
    Writer: Steven Moffat
    Director: Euros Lyn
    Starring:  David Tennant (Tenth Doctor), Catherine Tate (DonnaNoble)
    Original Airdate: May 31, 2008
    Why? It is one of Moffat's best and introduced Dr. River Song.

  6. "The Sea Devils"
    Writer: Malcolm Hulke
    Director: Michael E. Briant
    Starring: Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant)
    Original Airdate: February 26, 1972
    Why? It's the height of the Third Doctor's era in quality.

  7. "The Dalek Invasion of Earth"
    Writer: Terry Nation
    Director: Richard Martin
    Starring: William Hartnell (First Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (SusanForeman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), William Russell (IanChesterton)
    Original Airdate: November 21, 1964
    Why? It has the Doctor's greatest villains, the Daleks, and the image of them rolling over Westminster Bridge is iconic.

  8. "The Tomb of the Cybermen"
    Writer: Kit Pedler, Gerry Davis
    Director: Morris Barry 
    Starring: Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
    Original Airdate: February 26, 1972
    Why? It has the Doctor's second greatest villains, the Cybermen, andhas one of the best cliffhangers in the history of Doctor Who.

  9. "An Unearthly Child"
    Writer: Anthony Coburn
    Director: Waris Hussein
    Starring: William Hartnell (First Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (SusanForeman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), William Russell (IanChesterton)
    Original Airdate: November 23, 1963
    Why? It started it all.

  10. "The Mind Robber"
    Writer: Derrick Sherwin, Peter Ling
    Director: David Maloney
    Starring: Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor), Frazer Hines & Hamish Wilson (Jamie McCrimmon), Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot)
    Original Airdate: September 14, 1968
    Why? It's the most psychedelic of the series.

After watching these episodes you should be ready to watch any episode that comes along. You'll understand why the Daleks are terrifying, Rose is the best companion and the importance of Dr. River Song.

  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Expansive knowledge of the series
  • Easy to list your top ten favorite episodes
  • Lacks context
  • Failing trivia contests

So, now you have six ways to watch Doctor Who. You have no excuse now! Unless you hate British people. Then, I guess you can skip it.

Here are some ideas from readers:
  • Pretend to watch them and "Fake it till you make it." (Pat)
  • Jump from new episodes to old episodes (Jeremy)

Would this be a good way to start watching Doctor Who? If you're new, which would you use? If you're a fan, what would yousuggest?
[Image Source: Sunday Mercury]

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  1. Alex J. CavanaughApril 24, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    I've never watched it, but I'd probably just start with the latest show.

  2. The easiest way is just not to watch and if anyone asks just say vague things like, "Yeah that was really something." Incidentally that last episode was really something...

  3. well crafted and true post... i would start new and jump back and forth,,,

  4. You guys are determined to help us noobs figure out how to break into Who, aren't you? I appreciated the Top Ten and the list of most popular Doctors, plus the humorous references to things only the fans will understand...

  5. You never forget my first Doctor. And mine was Tom Baker. They used to air the shows on Public Broadcasting here in town, so I got to see Jon Pertwee, Peter Davidson, and Colin Baker. They did show a couple Sylvester McCoy ones, but it went off the air soon thereafter.

  6. Excellent post! I'm a huge Whovian. I watched some Doctor back in the days of Baker when I was a kid, but I seriously starting watching it with the modern series. The show is genius.

  7. I've just started watching Doctor Who and kind of committed myself to #3--I mean, come on, who needs a personal life? :P

  8. I went with method 5 and that seemed to work great for me! Though I'm not a huge fan of Rose.

    Geoff at ROFL Initiative

  9. My wife always wanted to know what it was all about. I would watch it alone, like I always did from the time I was a kid on PBS. She wanted to jump in & watch it also. I started her off with Matt Smith. BBC America had a intro told from the point of Amy his first companion. Although I found it annoying from the stand point of someone who grew up watching it, it seemed to help her understand it more.

  10. Yeah, I got my start on PBS too! I still can't believe they can't play them anymore. BBC America is doing a good job keeping people in the loop.

  11. Great idea Medeia. I may put links to the Amazon episodes.

  12. LOL You're an adventurous person Eagle!

  13. The show is brilliant even when the special effects were cheesy and goofy. Now that it has money, it's unstoppable!

  14. Give in Tony! You will join us! Thanks :)

  15. You always come up with an idea I hadn't thought of Jeremy. Alternating new and old.

  16. Another new idea Pat. Just "fake it till you make it!" It was the ending of "Hide" that made it for me.

  17. Jump right in Alex! That's how Ninjas do it.

  18. Or, to test the waters, you can watch one of the episodes that are stand alone and don't really follow the story arc. That way, you are introduced to the characters and you get a feel for the show without getting totally lost. I would suggest "A Christmas Carol," or "The Curse of the Black Spot."


Thanks for commenting!.