A few years ago, I was asked to come up with a Doctor Who In 50 Episodes List on Facebook. For people who wanted to get really into the series without getting Super Really Into The Series. With over fifty years worth of episodes, the prospect of becoming a fan of Doctor Who can be completely daunting.
Garden variety Who Guides advise you to start at the beginning of the 2005 reboot, or at the beginning of Stephen Moffat's tenure as The Doctor, and progress forward until you catch up. One slightly more creative method suggests you start with The Eleventh Hour (the first Eleventh Doctor episode, also the beginning of Moffat's run on the show) watch up to the final episode before the 50th Anniversary special, and then Go Back to the beginning of the reboot until you get back to Eleventh Hour, and then skip back to the 50th Anniversary special. I like the creativity, but there are a Ton of Bad to Awful episodes of Doctor Who in every season, and if you're not a super fan, why subject yourself to them.
There is also The Complete Masochists Order of Doctor Who, which says start with the first episode from 1963, and keep going until you eventually catch up.
I suggest starting in 1963, and skipping entire swaths of the show. Even doing this, I recognize, is hugely daunting. But if you choose to watch it like it was a current Netflix show, ten episodes a season, which you can watch back to back, one a night, every time your ex calls, however you choose, and then take a break before diving into the next season.
I've compiled this list of episodes that I like, so it's very subjective. I have tried to make it so that there is a rough arc to the seasons. I don't give a fuck about episodes that are historically important. The first episode featuring The Daleks is thirty-seven excruciating years long, and wouldn't inspire a modern audience to want more of them. This is a guide intended to make you Like The Series, not be an Expert On The Series.
Here are the basics you should know: 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 guide, 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 You might love a particular companion in one episode, and, in the next, they've been replaced by people you have no context for.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 Thirteen Times over the course of these eleven seasons. Strap in.
Season 1: Mission To The Unknown
(William Hartnell & Patrick Troughton)
Episode 1: An Unearthly Child
Teenagers are weird, huh? With their rock and roll, and their doing homework. Two nosey teachers decide to follow one of their students, only to discover her crotchety grandfather is some sort of time traveling alien, and he Doesn't Like Them. It's a damn good thing they didn't follow her into his unreliable time machine. Oops.
Serial 2: The Keys Of Marinus
The old man has chilled out a bit, and has brought the companions to a beach party planet! Oh. It turns out the water is poison, the beach is made of glass, and several people appear to be trying to kill them. Bummer. They also keep getting separated. Luckily, Susan fucken screams every two minutes like a parrot getting its tail stepped on, so they never lose her for long. Each episode of this serial involves finding a piece to a puzzle that will help save the planet. OR WILL IT?
Serial 3: The Aztecs
We're back on Earth! Finally, Barbara and Ian are back home. Wait a minute. This is waaaaay early on the timeline. And Barbara is a fuken goddess. Take that, crotchety Doctor. Watch as she changes an entire culture to keep a couple of her dumbass companions from accidentally getting married. What's that? She can't change the culture? Time can't be altered? Oh. Well, that doesn't bode well.
Serial 4: The Dalek Invasion Of Earth
Now we've gone too far forward in time. Stupid Doctor and his Stupid Wonky-Ass Phone Booth Looking Time Machine. Still, at least we're still on Earth, and it's filled with humans and...are those garbage cans with lasers attached? What the fuck is a Dalek? Why are they killing Everything? Is it even possible to save Earth? And, if so, will it come at A Great Cost? And will Ian and Barbara ever get home?
Serial 5: The Space Museum
The Getting Less Crotchety All The Time Doctor takes his companions on a fun excursion through a museum filled with alien artifacts. Even though all Ian and Barbara want to do is go home, and Vicki...who the fuck is Vicki? Are you telling me we finally got rid of the whiney teenager, and we've replaced her with another whiney teenager? Cripes and for fuck's sake. Well, at least the population of the planet isn't trying to rebel against the museum staff and destroy it, right? Shit. And wait just a damned minute, are they being tracked by Daleks?
Serial 6: The Chase
Poor Ian and Barbara have been trying to get home this entire time, but Stupid Doctor and his Stupid Time Machine can't get it right. And now there are more fucken Daleks following them through time. This adventure gets completely wacky as The Doctor, his companions, and The Daleks gor from planet to planet enacting a wide array of hijinks, but maybe, just maybe, by the end of it, Ian and Barbara will finally get back home. Wait, who the fuck is Steven?
Serial 7: The Gunfighters
It's a wild west American holiday, complete with a terrible approximation of an American ballad, American guns, Americanish accents, and...Dodo? Really? There's a new companion and her name is Dodo? What the fuck? Well, tarnation, iffen they didn't plum find themselves in the middle of a darned feuuuuuuuuuud. Luckily, everything will end up settled at the OK Corrall. Ohhhhhhhhh. THAT feud. Well, horsefeathers, this is fittin to be complicated.
Serial 8: The Tenth Planet
I know I said I was going to avoid mediocre episodes that are historically important, but this one is kind of necessary. Meet The Cybermen. They're like a more humanoid looking version of The Daleks. I mean, they're like The Borg in Star Trek. I mean, look, they're tropey now, but The Cybermen predate The Borg by many years. And, also like The Daleks, they pop up frequently in The Doctor's travels. And by the end of this serial, Polly and Ben (wait, who the fuck are Polly and Ben? Where did Dodo and Steve go---you know what good riddance to those two anyway) have to contend with a very ill Doctor as he regenerates into an entirely new face.
Serial 9: Tomb Of The Cybermen
See? More fucken Cybermen already. But this slightly more youthful looking Doctor guides Jamie and Victoria (wait just a damned minute, what happened to Polly and B---nevermind) through a Cyber graveyard, only to discover, surprise surprise assholes, The Cybermen aren't dead! This new doctor is certainly more inspirational than the last one, I hope he sticks around for a while.
Serial 10: The Enemy Of The World
Well, if you happen to like the new actor playing The Doctor, it's your Luckiest of days. The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria (whew, I know all of those people!) are hanging out in the far flung future of 2018 (woah, we are about to be living in their Far Flung Future!) where a megalomaniac has seized power (as if such a thing could possibly happen in 2018....*narrator sobs uncontrollably*). But the megalomaniac happens to look Exactly Like The Doctor. So he's the perfect alien to rescue society from him. Although....what if he were to get his hands on the TARDIS? The companions might not even notice? Why that would change every-fucken-thing. And this is how The First Season ends? That's troubling.
Ruminations on television, movies, and serialized novel series with an emphasis on creating a continuity or discussing the relationship between franchises.