Doctor Who: An Appreciation

I stood my ground, there on the lecture platform at the World Science Fiction Convention, and I repeated the heretical words that had sent them into animal hysterics: "Star Wars is adolescent nonsense; Close Encounters is obscurist drivel; Star Trek can turn your brains into puree of bat guano; and the greatest science fiction series of all time is Doctor Who! And I'll take you all on, one-by-one or all in a bunch to back it up!"

Harlan Ellison

Fifty years ago a member of a minor race of gods, like Prometheus, fled from his technological Olympus to bring a gift to man: the gift of intelligent science fiction television programming. It's a gift that has lasted and grown, in one form or another, to the present. Before Doctor Who, televised science fiction consisted of Rod Serling anthologies and the like, some of which were pretty good but all of which were hampered by the enforced convention of the plot twist ("Sorry Burgess, it's not enough to make an entertaining story of a bookworm freed from all his cares when he oversleeps through an atomic war – his glasses have to break at the end of the show), and …

Space westerns.

In the vibrant post-Doctor Who world of television, we have variety: the Serling anthologies have largely vanished, but at least in America we've had plenty of space westerns! Lost in Space, Star Trek, Space: 1999, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica in both its incarnations. And the X-Files, which is not a space western.

Moreover the Doctor has what some people may refer to as "BALL".

Doctor Who is most assuredly not a space western. Doctor Who, through the years, can be and has been anything you want it to be. It's alternate history. It's a detective show. It's horror. It's political drama. And sometimes, it's a space western. The show's premise is straightforward. An alien scientist, from an astonishingly advanced and decadent civilization known as the Time Lords, steals a time machine and flees to the backwater planet of Earth, which he fancies for about the same reasons Gandalf admired the Shire. From the Earth, with one or more (usually) human (often) lady (always) platonic companions, he flies around space and time, having adventures!

But oh what adventures. Through its fifty years (minus an almost 20 year hiatus enforced by BBC bigwigs who thought the show childish), the show has ranged from historical melodrama to gothic horror to Douglas Adams comedy to straight space opera. With a variety of actors playing the central character, from William Hartnell's cranky old victorian gentleman to Tom Baker's loveable scarfed oddball to Christopher Eccleston's tough guy in black to Matt Smith's wise young action hero. You see, through the amazing alien technology known as plot contrivance, whenever the Doctor suffers mortal injury (or whenever an actor tires of the role), he can regenerate into a new form and body, with the same memories but a different personality.

In fifty years the show has built up a supporting cast of recurring friends and villains that would fill an encyclopedia volume, some of whom are as interesting as the central character, including what must be television's second greatest recurring villain (after J. R. Ewing):

In honor of the show's fiftieth anniversary a special broadcast episode, the Day of the Doctor, will run on television and in theaters all over the world today and Monday, with a special guest appearance by Queen Elizabeth I. If you've never watched Doctor Who, what better time to start?

Here's to another fifty years.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. beingmarkh says

    You're certainly entitled to your opinion of Star Trek, but how can you conceivably characterize it as a space western?

    Love Doctor Who and the rest of the post, mind.

  2. Tony J says

    All of my children are sci-fi & fantasy fans of one sort or another, to the face-palming regret of their mothers (I win! :D), but I only managed one Doctor Who fan in the lot. She is just as excited as I am for the 50th anniversary episode. I regret being too ill to watch it with her.

    You never forget your first Doctor. Here's to another 50!

  3. says

    The Enterprise is a cavalry troop, riding from fort to village to fort, saving pioneers from Indians, who will be forced, at the point of a phaser and through the economic manipulations of the traders who follow in the cavalry troop's wake, to put down their bows and learn to plow on the reservation.

    That is exactly what the Enterprise is.

  4. Trebuchet says

    Daleks? Meh. Talking, exterminating trash cans.

    Weeping Angels, now those scare the daylights out of me!

  5. Ryan says

    Love Doctor Who.

    Very sad that I don't get the channel it's broadcasting on in my country :( Have to find it later I guess.

  6. says

    So. I know this person who is a friend of yours but terrified to tell you he has never watched Dr. Who because he's afraid your reaction might be . . . extreme. If I were telling this guy where to start watching, what might I tell him?

  7. Quiet Lurcker says

    @Ken White –

    Take it from someone who's been watching the Doctor at least periodically for about 35 years.

    The answer to your question is "Pick and episode. Keep an open mind. Enjoy. Lather, rinse repeat."

  8. MrEye says

    Is Doctor who great? Of course, but he is only a fictional character. In the real universe there are men that are real character's, one of them is Vermin Supreme-2012 presidential candidate who ran on the platform of :
    Vermin Supreme: When I'm President Everyone Gets A Free Pony

    As for a great place to start on Dr Who it would be The City of Death written by the great Douglas Adams (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)

  9. GeoffreyK says

    A list of television space westerns, and you leave out Firefly? Maybe a bit too on-the-nose?

    I second Quiet Lurcker's approach. My first episode of Who happened to be the 10th episode of the 3rd season of the reboot (randomly caught on BBCA, thus making David Tennant my official favorite Doctor; hard not to fall in love with your first).

  10. Chris says

    So. I know this person who is a friend of yours but terrified to tell you he has never watched Dr. Who because he's afraid your reaction might be . . . extreme. If I were telling this guy where to start watching, what might I tell him?

    Someone once asked author Neil Gaiman (who has written for Doctor Who) a similar question:

    The bit I think I was happiest with is about 16 minutes in, when I was asked what I would say to someone worried about having to know 47 years of backstory before watching Doctor Who, and I said:

    “No, look, there’s a blue box. It’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can go anywhere in time and space and sometimes even where it’s meant to go. And when it turns up, there’s a bloke in it called The Doctor and there will be stuff wrong and he will do his best to sort it out and he will probably succeed cos he’s awesome. Now sit down, shut up, and watch ‘Blink’.”

  11. ketchup says

    I and my daughters are big fans of the old show.
    But I have never seen the new version. My daughter's tweenie friends like the new Dr. Who. One of them said they especially like seeing the doctor's naked butt. That makes me think maybe I would not like the new version so much.

  12. says

    It's hard to pick a good place to start. Too early and they won't be able to get past the obvious problems with watching 60's television. Too late and you miss the whole point. I have to agree with the Tom Baker idea, it's a good middle point. Maybe Robot, or even The Three Doctors.

  13. says

    I will be at the theatrical event in Bellevue, WA today dressed as Four, because he's awesome and the scarf is warm. I may possibly have Jelly Babies (if the theater doesn't confiscate them).

  14. ketchup says

    Too early and they won't be able to get past the obvious problems with watching 60's television

    Good point, but it depends on the person. If you are the type that is bothered when an "alien spaceship" is obviously a plastic model hanging from a string, stay away from the '60's episodes. But if you can suspend disbelief during low-tech special effects, the first episodes are kind of fun. The very first episode even answers the question "why does the Tardis look like a police box?"

  15. beingmarkh says

    I have very fond memories of Saturday nights with my Dad watching Monty Python and Tom Baker's Doctor on PBS. Good times.


    That is one of the very few things Star Trek is. It is also contemporary geopolitical commentary. It is also the show that featured the first interracial kiss on American television. It drew criticism from Nikita Kruschev because of the absence of Russians, whence the creation of the character Chekhov. And in a conversation wherein he pushed Nichelle Nichols to stay with the show, none other than Martin Luther King lauded it for featuring an African American officer as one of its main characters, a role model for young girls.

    They're in a ship, and it's fraught with maritime terminology. "Imperial schooner defending the island colonies" is about as reductive, and about as much of a stretch as calling it a "space western".

    Like it or don't, but it's *important*, is what I'm saying.

  16. mcalex says

    < 2 hours to go!

    Patrick's got it right. As a fan who started with D2, but remembers D3 and D4 best, I took a while to even watch the new series. Now that I've come around, I'd definitely recommend starting with the beginning of the new series (Chris Ecclestone) up to Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi, then checking out the old series starting with Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee, and working your, err their way through.

    @ketchup, no, you will like it. Ignore gen-Y's attitude. The story telling is true.

  17. TobinL says

    Sadly I found out late about the theater showings and have to wait till Monday at 10pm as I am without cable and now I don't have to torrent it.
    But hey I get to see the show on my birthday so that is cool.
    For where to start, the very first show of the new series was great and seconded for Tom Baker for the older shows.

  18. says

    @Patrick did you by chance catch the movie An Adventure in Space and Time on BBCA last night? Highly recommend to all who can watch it (to those who prefer to not find a download online it is playing again Sunday at 11pm EST)

    I agree with Patrick. Starting with Rose is a good choice. However to introduce my husband to the series back when we first met I showed him Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead & Blink. (We were stranded in the library on a stormy night with the power going out around campus internmently. He wasn't getting my references & was up for a good scare) That hooked him, so we went back to Rose & went until we were caught up. We have only seen a handful of Classic episodes, but I've seen enough to be familiar with all the Doctors.

  19. Duvane says

    Yay! Today even gets a google doodle.

    My 2 cents on where to start: the very first episode, assuming an adult viewer or a child who won't automatically switch of because its B&W. Its not what you would call cinematic, but it's well-directed and there aren't that many special effects. It actually establishes a surprising amount of the groundwork, and is a nice reference point for everything else. (The rest of that story is just fine, and continues to develop the initial characters, but if you're going to skip around that's not as important.)

    The Tom Baker years are a good place to start for sequential viewing, and the Pertwee era isn't bad either (the beginning of the Pertwee era was a big break both in terms of production and storyline, so a good place to start cold). Really, one can plunk down almost anywhere and get by. Biggest exception may be Attack of the Cybermen, which is probably about as naval gazing as the original series ever got, and Remembrance of the Daleks, which is probably enjoyable cold, but much more so if you understand the references. Avoid the Trial of a Time Lord season, mainly because it doesn't break down into individual stories all that well, and the whole thing is seven hours or so (also because its pretty tedious in a few places). But for the love of all that is decent, don't watch Time and the Rani until your love of the show can't be shaken whatever depths it may have plumbed. Actually, just don't watch Time and the Rani. Or any of the rest of McCoy's first season.

    As far as new Who, you can start with Rose, although its not essential viewing. Dalek, I think, sets up the character of the then current Doctor nicely, as does The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances (basically a two parter). Blink is excellent, as is Midnight, and both stand alone very well. The Doctor's Wife is one of the best episodes the series ever produced; I'm undecided on how well it stands alone. Avoid watching anything with River Song in it out of order, mostly because there is a running (mildly confusing) continuity (I happen to also loathe the character, but that opinion is not universal). Also avoid last episodes of seasons in new Who, because they're a lot more continuity dependent (lots of story arcs).

    If I were to just recommend a few high points to give the range of the show: An Unearthly Child, Tomb of the Cybermen, Spearhead from Space, Inferno, The Time Warrior, The Ark in Space, Pyramids of Mars, Brain of Morbius, City of Death, Full Circle, Planet of Fire, Vengeance on Varos, Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Curse of Fenric, and the above mentioned new Who episodes.

    I should stop.

  20. SJ Elliott says

    I started watching Doctor Who with Tom Baker in May of 1972 in the UK, and I've been a fan ever since. There is a .torrent of all Doctor Who available, but it's about 250 gig.

  21. mcalex says

    @SJ Elliott >I started watching Doctor Who with Tom Baker in May of 1972

    and 2 years later he got off your couch and joined the show

  22. Matt says

    But if you can suspend disbelief during low-tech special effects, the first episodes are kind of fun.

    Very much this. Suspend your disbelief, watch it for the stories, and you'll be good – I've found that I don't even notice the special effects, mainly.

  23. Iain says

    @Ken – quoting @Chris quoting Neil Gaiman, 'Now shut up and watch Blink'. And be sure to let us know what you thought. (under a pseudonym if necessary…)

    I am proud as a Brit today, that this show from our childhoods is getting the worldwide audience it always deserved.

  24. Xenocles says

    Ellison's just bitter because he wrote an unusable episode of Star Trek and they rewrote it into one of the most popular ones of all time.

  25. Peter Walkley says

    Just seen the 50th episode on BBC tonight. Biggest shock of the night for me was they got Tom Baker to play the Doctor again !

  26. Matthew Cline says

    I don't see Babylon 5 as a space western, especially the parts dealing with the Shadows and Vorlons, but maybe I'm looking at it wrong.

  27. Andy says

    As someone who had the privilege of growing up watching this and catching re-runs, I'd probably suggest starting at Jon Pertwee and moving forward, and if you're liking it, hit the earlier ones before watching Colin Baker. Wasn't a fan of his run, so that would be a nice spot to get the earlier ones in.

    That would give you a nice run up to Tom Baker, probably the best Doctor, rather than dropping in cold to him.

  28. NodAndSmile says

    Star Trek combined the woman and black person… and made her a telephone operator. So brave

    To start Dr Who: read any book or watch any movie or show. That IS Doctor Who… just the amount of Doctor varies. It's the beauty of the concept.

    Seriously though, do not start with Blink though. It's not particularly DW and will set a very high expectation for quality (which Moffat later squanders really). Start at Eccleston (tough; best actor), Pertwee (glam doctor; good actor outside comfort zone) or Baker (Tom, good performer and many people's archetypal Doctor).

  29. barry says

    Spike Milligan got his hands on a mob of BBC daleks for a skit on his Q series. It was simple humor, but rofl-funny. They were in their dalek family kitchen exterminating the dishes and finished up exterminating the whole kitchen.

    Spike would have made a great doctor, but it never happened.

    On "where to start watching it?". Due to its timey-wimey nature you can start anywhere. It's like the Bible; very few people start from the beginning and read through to the end, and it wouldn't help anyway. The earlier stories are not as relevant (it was a children's series) and there are long stretches of boring bits. Cardboard scenery can be distracting too.

    People advising watching from the start were children when they started. It won't be the same.

    The "The Day of the Doctor" special looks like a good place to start, it gets you up to speed quickly and explains a lot of the past and what kind of weirdness to expect. It looks like it was written with new viewers in mind without that slowing down the story for those that already knew what a sonic screwdriver was.

  30. Bethany West says

    "Are you my mummy?" will become one of the most chilling lines you've seen on screen. Eccleston hit it out of the park in that episode.
    Maybe this is because of my own mental health history, but I had to give up watching in the middle of Matt Smith's tenure because the Doctor's life is just so sad. He has great love, great adventures, and is wonderful and enchanting, but, since he lives forever, he sees a lot of loss. I don't dislike River, but I couldn't bare to watch him lose her, too, after Rose, Donna, and all the Pond drama.

  31. Quiet Lurcker says

    @ Patterico

    Moreover the Doctor has what some people may refer to as "BALL".

    I work here is done.

    Partly true. The Doctor usually thinks his way out of problems instead of getting overly violent (with the exception of the kidnapping of River Song as a baby, but there were reasons), a mind-set which is easily shown by his tool of choice – a sonic screwdriver, not a gun or knife or bomb. He will kill, make no mistake of that, but that's generally his last choice, not his first choice, and usually reserved for those few monsters who absolutely cannot be put anywhere where they won't cause further problems.

  32. Allen says

    My first Dr. Who was Patrick Troughton. We had moved from the US to England in 1967, and it was the only show on that kids might want to watch on BBC.

    My parents at first thought the show was too violent and frightening for kids, and the Doctor seemed to be more of a hobo to me at the time. I understand many of Troughton's episodes are lost.

  33. James Pollock says

    "You're certainly entitled to your opinion of Star Trek, but how can you conceivably characterize it as a space western?"

    Mostly because that's how Roddenberry pitched it to the network.

    And in other news, if this special actually has a special appearance by Queen Elizabeth I, then this time machine thingy deserves a second look, forsooth.

  34. Cliff says

    @ken – your 'friend' should feel reassured that a series that's run (off and on) for 50 years must be easy to pick up at any place. The people working on Who now all loved it as kids, so it has a familiarity yet a modernity, it changes and stays the same. That's what makes it so wonderful, it's so adaptable and fresh.

    So, pick an episode that's on and watch. And enjoy it for being half sci-if for adults and half horror for kids. It's traditional to watch from behind the sofa sometimes ;-)

  35. Conster says

    While I'll be sad to see Matt Smith leave one month from now, I'll be happy to see Eleven go. Matt Smith and the script writers have done excellent jobs portraying a total idiot of a Doctor, one that frequently made me yell and curse at the TV.

    I recommend starting with Eccleston's first episode: since it's a revival, it does a good job of explaining the show's concept, and you won't get overwhelmed by "holy crap there's over 700 episodes". Also it has Captain Jack.

  36. says

    Well I just watched it, and I'm glad I did.

    But it isn't where I'd start. Nor is "Blink." Nor is the other commonly considered best "Genesis of the Daleks." Blink and Genesis are both wonderful, but they're not introductions.

    If I were to pick ONE episode to watch first, to get a feel for the series, remembering that all of the classic Who is serial in nature and therefore not necessarily good as a quick introduction, I'd pick "Girl in the Fireplace."

    Which is better than "Blink."

  37. Anon-UV-Squirrel says

    "Girl in the Fireplace." is a very good episode. "Blink" is excellent, but barely Dr Who. Starting with the beginning of the revival is likely best.

  38. htom says

    Started with William Hartnell, D1, in An Unearthly Child, watching CBC rebroadcasts from Toronto in East Lansing, Michigan. That's a good starting place, too. I haven't watched much of the restart, although I'm going to. Favorite Doctor is Tom Baker. I suspect it really doesn't matter where you start; if you're a Whovian, you'll want to watch them all, if you're not, any episode will do … and probably drive you away forever.

  39. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says

    Not to cause trouble, but I can think of a few *bad* places to start on Dr. Who – the recommendations here for where to start here are already pretty good.

    Where *not* to start in arbitrary and unfair order.

    1) Colin Baker – I like him but – to be blunt – the producers/writers were at best phoning it in here. Sometimes I think John Nathan-Turner was actively trying to destroy the show. If you must, go with the Trial of a Timelord storyline.
    2) William Hartnell – so.. very…. slooooowww…
    3) Early Sylvester McCoy stuff – Mel. Just frickin' Mel.
    4) Daleks – Invasion Earth
    Not bad, but confusing. A human doctor is just… odd. Not exactly canon so it doesn't really mesh with, well, any other Who.

  40. Lesley Stevens says

    I want to join Tali in recommending an Adventure in Time & Space. I really enjoyed it. And it actually seems to me that having the new-to-Who viewer start with *that* and THEN watch An Unearthly Child might make a very good introduction—I'm thinking the movie could give someone enough of an emotional investment in William Hartnell and an interest in how the show begins to override any reluctance to watch B&W.

  41. Lesley Stevens says

    And I think the way to watch the oldest episodes is to remember that everyone else was watching each half hour piece a full week apart, with no ability to re-watch in between. I think if the Hartnell era seems slow, you restrict how many episodes at once you watch, and how often you watch them. Say, no more than 2 at a time, and don't watch every day for example.

  42. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says

    I think if the Hartnell era seems slow, you restrict how many episodes at once you watch, and how often you watch them.

    Just to be clear, I very much enjoy the first Doctor. Indeed, part of my enjoyment is from the methodical pacing of the earliest incarnations. – I just would not recommend those episodes for a newcomer to Dr. Who as a jumping off point.

  43. quaxbi says

    @Conster – If you want to be technical, Chris Eccleston forward had their number increased by one starting with "The Night of the Doctor" when Peter McGann regenerated into John Hurt.

    Although the writers really shot themselves in the foot (will almost certainly be ignored in the end) with a certain line near the end of the special. Would go into a bit more detail, but as they like to say on the show… spoilers

  44. Jerslan says


    Star Trek was originally conceived as "Wagon Train to the stars"… That is a pretty strong argument in favor of it being a Space Western (at least TOS). They even had a fight at the OK Corral… I mean really… WTF was that all about?!?

    Though, the BEST Space Western was Firefly… It epitomized the theme because instead of being like an old western show with an all Spacey theme… It was a Space show with a very Western theme to it.

  45. Jerslan says


    Blink is "barely Doctor Who"? Are you on crack?!?

    Doctor Who has NEVER been solely about The Doctor. It has ALWAYS been about his companions and his effect on them and the world around him. I would argue that from that perspective, Blink is the PUREST form of Doctor Who. Sally has a 30 second conversation with The Doctor, but it's a 30 second conversation that completely changed her life.

    The early 1st Companions were Ian & Barbara, they were "our surrogates" and that is why most of his companions have been contemporary humans. Sure there were periods where they were humans from different periods, but more often than not, at least one of them was from the present or from a relatably recent past.

    TLDR version… Stop being an elitist jack-wad and enjoy it as a damn good episode.

  46. Tuxedoian says

    Speaking for myself? I'd suggest a good starting point to the series to be "The War Games." It gives a good introduction to the kind of character the Doctor is, and the lengths to which he'll go to fix things. That it also happens to be Troughton's last episode, and leads into Pertwee is a good bonus as well. The Pertwee era really helped to define the character and explore more about who he was, I felt. And then of course, comes Tom Baker, about which enough has already been said.

    I myself got into Who by catching the episode "Kinda" on PBS when I was a child, and was instantly hooked.

  47. Dan Irving says

    I'm to clamber onto the "Start with 'Rose'" bandwagon.


    1) Chris does a good job at translating a, by then a, 40+ year old franchise for a younger audience.

    2) Number 9, even for as short a tenure as he had, did a great job at catching everyone up with Dr. Who canon. Not all of it mind you, but enough.

    3) It worked with my wife and oldest child. Two people more inclined to read supernatural romance than Sci-Fi.

  48. the other rob says

    Pertwee man here. Start with Ecclestone, work forward to the present day, then go back to the early stuff.

    Also watch the dramatisation of the origin of the show – as others have said, it's well worth a look.

  49. Dan Weber says

    We've cut the cable and can't hit the theatre for Monday night's showing, but at our household we will be rooting for all you enjoying the 50th anniversary showing.

  50. Dictatortot says

    My main takeaway from this: a crowd of people got a gold-plated invitation to beat the crap out of Harlan Ellison, and DIDN'T TAKE HIM UP ON IT. There is no God.

  51. ULTRAGOTHA says

    Ken, I agree with Patrick. Tell Your Mutual Friend to start with Christopher Eccleston (Are you my mummy?) and once you're hooked by him and Tennant, go on to Smith and back to pick up the earlier Doctors.

    Netflix is your friend.

  52. Czernobog says

    Dr. Who is no more of a Science Fiction show than Star Wars is a Science Fiction franchise. they're dressed up tales of adventure. Dr. Who is much, much better, but I characterize it as fantasy, rather than Sci-Fi.

  53. says

    If Dalek Caan looked into the Time Vortex and said "No More" before descending into madness, and the War Doctor wrote the same words before committing Time War genocide; therefore, the War Doctor is the Thirteenth Doctor, not the Eighth Doctor; and the Twelfth Doctor, in the guise of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and George Zimmerman, is The Valeyard.

  54. says

    What Ultragotha said, and Patrick, and the other people who aren't being terrible.

    FWIW, I would start with Eccleston as well. Though uneven here and there the entirety of the new era is worth watching. I rank them Eccleston, Smith, Tennant in that order but I love all three. And Baker is my favorite.

    In the older series, the props can get very cheesy but you'll frequently find yourself looking past that. The storytelling can be that griping.

    And the Doctor. . . well without him there'd be no Sherlock Holmes, no Gandalf, no Elijah Snow.

  55. corporal lint says

    Doctor Who is also an occasional radio drama series, and BBC Radio 4 Extra has been playing a ton of it from the archives over the last week. The broadcast stuff stays available for 7 days. (You can also grab it for later using the get_iplayer script, though that takes a bit of technical monkeying about and is best reserved for someone not put off by a blinking command prompt.)

  56. Grifter says

    I went to the local comic-con recently. There was a full-size animatronic Dalek (Name of Rel–though as we all know, that's more a unit of measure than a name, but I digress).

    I got its handler to say:

    "The cake. Is. A lieeeeeeeee!"

    The handler was confused, and had no idea what the line was from (British Dr. Who fan…pretty focused in his fandom)…but it was pretty much the awesomest thing I saw all day.

  57. kmc says

    I know there are a ton of suggestions on here already, but as far as where to start, it's hard not to just say, start at the beginning of the new series and let yourself get a feel for the show and hear some of the backstory. However, for simplicity, I'd say you can't go wrong getting a taste of the whole thing by watching any combo of "Dalek", "The Long Game", and "Father's Day" from the first season of the new series. There are others that are better, but that won't set you up for too-high expectations or spoil any developments, and those three, to me, have a very DW-true "feel" to them.
    Then, if you want to see a bit of the old series, some episodes that always stand out to me (as a long-time, since-I-was-3 fan) are "The Face of Evil", "The Pirate Planet", "City of Death", and "Paradise Towers" (this might be a controversial choice–you'll have to overlook the companion a fair bit in that one). Plus one from a truly classic era: "The Tomb of the Cybermen".

  58. Tarrou says

    Today we learn there is no domain of Nerddom so rarefied that someone will not try to hipsterize it by claiming allegiance to an even more obscure bit of minutiae. I need to write a paper on it.

    "Pff, trekkies are mainstream, Bro. Dr. Who is hardcore." It's like every argument over the relative merits of Fugazi and Jets To Brazil*.

    *I realize this all sounds harsh and cranky, it's not meant that way, I truly find this amusing. Muscle relaxants are interfering with my….thing I do with my head that makes words demonstrate stuff.

  59. babaganusz says

    Ken, if
    a) it is not too late
    b) you are particularly critical of scriptwriting (in the sense that it can strongly influence your enjoyment of television and/or suspension of disbelief – especially given that you should be expecting not-very-immersive special effects)
    …or at least if you are more sensitive to the writing while you are still getting a feel for a show…

    i implore you to not start with the Eccleston series, as it is almost entirely written by Russell Davies. though much credit is due for his valiant efforts to keep the show alive, that boy cannot compose dialogue or plot for shit. (he knew what to play up for already-fans, being a fan himself, so naturally already-fans have tended to be somewhat forgiving of his shortcomings – especially if the plan-9-from-outer-space caliber of the earliest seasons still stood out in their memories.)
    anyway, if you've already gotten stuck in, i hope you're enjoying yourself!

    i can't remember whether My First Doctor was Pertwee or Baker; they were rather loosely shuffled in the Aussie screening that provided my initiation. i was still young enough when Davison came along that he confused the hell out of me, simply because i recognized him from 'All Creatures Great And Small'.

    also, Czernobog is correct but i doubt anyone particularly cares. Doc Railgun also has a worthy point and i'm surprised he hasn't met with vitriol from a stalwart. (again, probably just being ignored.) how Cliff can call it 'half [or any fraction] scifi for adults' is beyond me, though.

    @Dan Irving:

    3) It worked with my wife and oldest child. Two people more inclined to read supernatural romance than Sci-Fi.

    sorry, is that supposed to give any indication of its effectiveness? ;)

    @Grifter: ha! well played!


    *I realize this all sounds harsh and cranky,

    no, it sounds just as pompous/pretentious as you usually sound. kisses!

  60. Andrew Timson says

    Doctor Who is also an occasional radio drama series, and BBC Radio 4 Extra has been playing a ton of it from the archives over the last week. The broadcast stuff stays available for 7 days.

    Far more than "occasional". Big Finish Productions has been putting out one or more Doctor Who audio dramas per month since 1999 (on CD); BBC Radio has occasionally rebroadcast some of those, but hasn't produced its own original Doctor Who content. (Torchwood, yes.)

  61. says


    Doc Railgun also has a worthy point and i'm surprised he hasn't met with vitriol from a stalwart. (again, probably just being ignored.)

    He does not, in fact, have a worthy point. What Dr Who started as is different than what it became. It stopped being a "kid's show" a long time ago, and this is in-arguably true. All-ages? Absolutely.

  62. markm says

    Gene Roddenberry called Star Trek "Wagon Train in Space" when he was pitching the show to network executives. Do you always believe the marketing hype?

    The only truth in that characterization was that Star Trek had a frontier. In some sense that made it (and most SF) closer to a western than to the other genres network execs were familiar with: war movies and series (e.g., "The Longest Day" and "The Rat Patrol"), romances ("Gone with the Wind"), detective shows, and sitcoms.

  63. says

    @Ken: The best place to start watching Dr. Who is always "the first episode of the current Doctor." It doesn't matter who is asking or when, that is always where to start. And then after one has caught up with the current Doctor and enjoyed it, go back to the start of the Doctor before that. Repeat as needed until all available episodes have been watched.

    Oh, there are some who will talk about Blink or Genesis of the Daleks or The Empty Child or any other number of great episodes, but all of that can wait. At the beginning of every Doctor the show itself also arises anew and all the years of back story won't matter as much in order to understand the basics of what is going on. It's not just a change in actor, it's practically – in modern terms – a "reboot", albeit one that usually doesn't toss out all the canon just adjusts it as needed. Start with a fresh Doctor and you'll be able to follow along.

  64. says

    They've burned through Doctors so hastily of late that I think the advice fails in this instance. Instead, it makes sense to start with the beginning of the reboot, episode 1 of Chris Eccleston's tenure in 2005. His season is widely available for streaming, and it provides a lot of exposition for folks who are just starting out.

  65. Andrew Timson says

    They've burned through Doctors so hastily of late that I think the advice fails in this instance. Instead, it makes sense to start with the beginning of the reboot, episode 1 of Chris Eccleston's tenure in 2005. His season is widely available for streaming, and it provides a lot of exposition for folks who are just starting out.

    That made sense under the rest of RTD's tenure, but the Steven Moffat has been so different I hesitate to suggest the same. (Not that RTD's run is bad – heck, I like it better – but in terms of "catching up" starting with "The Eleventh Hour" may be more useful.)

    Maybe the new rule is "the first episode of the current showrunner".

  66. says

    Maybe the new rule is "the first episode of the current showrunner".
    I agree with this on principal, but it's usually less obvious to new viewers where that division line is than changes in the Doctor himself. But I suspect they purposefully make sure to explain more after a Doctor change knowing that there will be new viewers starting there, so I think my version works okay.