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.
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, 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 You might love a particular companion in one episode, and, in the next, they've been replaced by people you have no context for.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.
Last season we saw the end of Torchwood's story arc, the satisfying and optimistic end of Amy & Rory's time with The Doctor. This season should be a clean slate of adventuring with no continuity or storyarcs hanging over The Doctor's head except for his own. Ahhhh, glorious new beginnings.
Season 10: The War Doctor
(Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, John Hurt, more)
Episode 1: The Death Of The Doctor
(11, Sara Jane, Jo Grant, Luke , Clyde, Shansheeth)
Wait. Did the Doctor regenerate off-screen? This hasn't happened since Colin Baker was fired. Or...is he...did he DIE between seasons? Of course not. Sarah Jane Smith, and Jo Grant (who hasn't been seen since our Season Two) are invited to The Doctor's funeral. As they suspect, The Doctor isn't actually dead, and he shows up to get his TARDIS back from the skeksies, or whoever these villains are. It's the new light and breezy fun approach as this season isn't nearly as heavy as the previous few.
Episode 2: Asylum Of The Daleks
(11, Amy, Rory, Clara, Daleks)
Just kidding. Everything's bleak. It turns out that we're not done with Rory & Amy yet, and their lives have turned Bleak. And full of Daleks. The Doctor is reunited with his former companions by a Congress of Daleks who need The Doctor to go to the surface of Skaro, their home planet, and save them from their own maddest Daleks. It turns out, due to the whole cracks in time thing from Season Eight, they don't appear to have any idea who he is. And that's not the biggest surprise in this episode.
Episode 3: Angels Take Manhattan
(11, Amy, Rory, River, Weeping Angels)
Rory, Amy, and their precocious time-traveling daughter River Song get sucked into mid-twentieth century Earth where The Weeping Angels are seriously fucking up the timeline. I'm sure their involvement will mean everything ends up a-ok, and no one will be sad.
Episode 4: The Snowmen
(11, Clara, Vastra, Flint, Strax, The Great Intelligence)
The Doctor has gone all broody sadsack again, and he's living in colonial times with The Paternoster gang, occasionally helping them solve mysteries. But a giant mystery in the form of Clara Oswald from Asylum of The Daleks lands in his path, and he must discover how this Impossible Girl has come back into his life.
Episode 5: Name Of The Doctor
(11, War Doctor, Clara, River, Vastra, Flint, Strax, Great Intelligence, Whisper Men)
The Doctor, Clara, The Paternoster Gang, and River Song all end up on Trenzalore, which is where The Doctor is said to be buried. The Great Intelligence, from the last episode, need the Doctor's name so they can go into the timestream and wreak havoc on The Doctor's timeline. We also find out why Clara is The Impossible Girl, which was a huge, exhausting, and complex season long storyarc if you were watching all the episodes she appeared in, but distilled down to the three episodes in this continuity is a satisfying, fun mystery.
Episode 6: The Day Of The Doctor
(10, 11, War Doctor, 4, Clara, Rose, Osgood, Kate Stewart, Elizabeth, Zygons, Daleks, Time Lords)
Waaaaaay back in Season Six, there started to be allusions to The Time War, a big terrible battle between Time Lords and Daleks that fucked up the entire universe. Since then, we've seen The Daleks a bunch of times, but only had to deal with Those Asshole Time Lords (apart from The Master) once. Welllll, welcome to The Time War. It's going to take three of The Doctors to figure out how to save Gallifrey and undo the damage they did in The Time War originally. Or...hold up...is THIS the damage they did in the Time War that they've been grumbling about? Unlike classic multi-Doctor episodes, we don't get every Doctor showing up with one of their companions to fill us with nostalgia, but there are some surprise cameos, including The Zygons, who we've not seen since Season Two.
Episode 7: Time Heist
(12, Clara, Danny)
WOAH THERE! This time The Doctor really did regenerate offscreen? For our purposes, yes. There was actually an episode after Day Of The Doctor where we see The Doctor regenerate into this new face, but it is FUCKEN AWFUL, and we don't have time for that crap. We're also mainly skipping over the whole The Doctor has a new face and doesn't know how to be who he used to be, how will we ever get used to him. We're launching right into an adventure where The Doctor and Clara have to rob a bank or else be slaughtered by the bankers. Weird twists abound!
Episode 8: Dark Water/Death In Heaven
(12, Clara, Kate Stewart, Osgood, Danny, Missy, Cybermen)
Clara's got a boyfriend! Clara's got a boyfriend! Annnnnnd, he's dead. Sad Clara and Cantankerous The Doctor go to the afterlife to find out what happened to him, and end up running into Cybermen and an old foe with a new face. You're not the only one who can regenerate, Doctor face.
Episode 9: The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar
(12, Clara, Kate Stewart, Missy, Davros, Daleks)
Clara ends up teaming up with The Doctor's foe from the last episode in order to survive Davros and The Daleks. This episode actually reaches all the way back to an off-hand remark from Genesis Of The Daleks to explain why The Doctor didn't just kill All The Daleks and put an end to this millennia ago (although I guess he did, temporarily, in The Time War, but we've dealt with that already, get over it).
Episode 10: Under The Lake/Before The Flood
(12, Clara, Tivolans)
The Doctor, Clara, and...ghosts...under water? It's another adventure where The Doctor tries to save a bunch of people from something he doesn't understand. And Clara is trying to get this The Doctor to be less cantankerous. He is, seriously, Colin Baker/William Hartnell rude, not at all the modern Doctor we had gotten used to. Maybe solving this mystery will make him more agreeable. Probably not.