Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
I created the Doctor Who In Significantly Fewer Episodes list several years ago, in response to a Facebook request about how to watch the series without Watching The Entire Series. I even watched much of the abbrevriated seasons that I created myself, and thought they were great.
In late 2019, I started dating someone who wanted to see Doctor Who without having to watch The Entire Series, and took it as an additional experiment to see if my order worked. We didn't make it far into the classic series before he tuned out. The episodes are Super Long (they're all serials that end up being movie length or LoTR movie length) and they're, you know, mid-twentieth century sci-fi, so you have to be either really nostalgic or in the proper mood.
When we moved into the modern era, he got really into it. Although, like me, he's a completist, and wanted to watch All Of The Episodes. Until we watched two that weren't on my list. Now he's okay with just watching the good stuff. And, for the most part, my list has held up. But I have added and dropped a few episodes for clearer story structure, and I've also removed some episodes because, apart from sentimental moments, they didn't really hold up as well I remembered.
It's still a very subjective list, but one that, I believe, makes a great condensed series of Doctor Who episodes.
Here are the basics everyone should know before getting involved: The show is about an alien time traveler. He takes companions, almost always humans, with him as he explores time and space. The companions change frequently, and in this series format, you sometimes get no closure. You might love a particular companion in one episode, and, in the next, they've been replaced by people you have no context for. Also, when The Doctor gets very ill, his appearance changes. By which, I mean, he is portrayed by an entirely different actor. This is a cool concept, but it can be jarring at first. It will happen Fourteen Times over the course of these twelve seasons.
Last season was all about grief and getting over the terrible things you've done in life. We met Clara, several times, we wondered who she was, we found out, we moved on, The Doctor regenerated, he was cranky, Clara has started to decranky him, we moved on. This season follows their adventures together, and features one of the most fun multiple Time Lord stories in the show's history.
Season 11: The Doctor Falls
Episode 1: The Girl Who Died
(12, Clara, Ashilde, The Maya)
The Doctor. Clara. Aliens. Time travel. Death. The usual. Surely there will be no consequences spinning out of this perfectly fine, but not remarkably interesting episode.
Episode 2: The Zygon Invasion
(12, Clara, Osgood, Kate Stewart, Zygons)
It's a reunion for pretty much all the non-Timelord characters (except The Doctor) from Day Of The Doctor. Have The Zygons broken their treaty with humanity? Will companions and beloved recurring characters die? (Wait, didn't one or two of them die in Death In Heaven? I guess not Very Much.) It's all sorts of mistaken identity hijinks with the greatest doppelganger aliens in the franchise.
Episode 3: Face The Raven
(12, Clara, Ashilde, Rigsy, Judoon, Ood, Ice Warriors, Silurians, Cybermen, Sontarans)
Oh, hey, it's that immortal young woman from the series premiere! She has her own place now, and seems to be running it very well. She's clearly up to something that doesn't involve The Doctor and...OH SHIT. EVERYTHING GOES WRONG. SO VERY VERY WRONG.
Episode 4: Heaven Sent
For the first time since the inception of the series, this episode features almost no one except The Doctor. He is being menaced by...something, but this is ALL Peter Capaldi as The Doctor on his own trying to figure out where he is, and if he can undo the events of the previous episodes. In my opinion, it's one of the best episodes in the history of the series.
Episode 5: Hell Bent
(12, Clara, Timelords, Sisterhood of Karn, Rassilon, Daleks, Weeping Angels, Cybermen)
The Doctor is Very Cross about the last two episodes, and goes to Gallifrey to make The Time Lord Assholes suffer. Previous villains abound, as The Doctor Shall Have His Revenge.
Episode 6: Husbands Of River Song
(12, River, Nardole)
A couple of seasons ago, The Doctor married River Song. It's all very wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey. And the episode was really stupid, so we skipped it. But it happened. Well, this version of The Doctor runs into River on her own adventure, and she is married to...perhaps several other people. Don't worry, there's no slut shaming, or pro or anti polygamy stances taken. It's just that The Doctor is desperate for River Song to recognize him, and she has no idea who he is.
Episode 7: Pilot
(12, Bill, Nardole, Heather, Daleks)
The Doctor seems to have retired to Earth to become a college professor. Another staff member realizes there's something very unusual about him, and decides to get involved in his life. Thus, he gets involved in hers, and, voila, meet the new companion, Bill.
Episode 8: Smile
(12, Bill, Nardole, Vardy)
The Doctor and Bill go to a human colony on another planet where something has gone wrong. This is actually what seems to happen on every companion's second adventure with The Doctor, but I've skipped all the rest of them because they weren't very good. This one, involving some creepy emoji robots, is a fun little adventure.
Episode 9: Oxygen
(12, Bill, Nardole)
The Doctor and Bill go to space! Capitalism is bad! Space future is tough! The Doctor is good! Bill is human! Capitalism is bad! Space adventures are fun!
Episode 10: Extemis
(12, Bill, Nardole, Missy,The Monks)
The last episode ended with what seems like a radical change for The Doctor going forward. But he needs to fix that change, while not letting Bill know it has taken place. Meanwhile The Vatican has asked The Doctor to read a text that causes all humans that read it to end their own lives. This is part of a trilogy that we won't come back to. And the A story is just kind of okay. But the B story brings Missy back into the fold, and that's definitely worth the watch.
Holiday Special: World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls
(12, Bill, Nardole, Missy, The Master, Cybermen)
It's the final part of Steven Moffat's era of Doctor Who. Will Missy continue her journey to be a good person when she's literally confronted by her past in the form of her previous incarnation, The Master? Is Bill Pots the first Cyberman? Are we stuck with Nardole for much longer? (He really is The Worst.) Is The Twelfth Doctor seriously going to regenerate into The First Doctor again? I guess it would be kind of cool if the whole series ended up being cyclical. Right?