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 You might love a particular companion in one episode, and, in the next, they've been replaced by people you have no context for.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 ended with the promise of A Darker Direction. And it's hard to take that too seriously when the new Doctor's costume is so clowny. But this era is a shade darker than Baker's jellybabies and Davison's celery. This season is filled with Mean Old Asshole Time Lords. And Time Ladies. People, damn it, Time People. I wish some sort of war would wipe them out of space once and for all.
Season Five: Time Runs Out
(Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, and Paul McGann)
Serial 1: The Two Doctors
(6, 2, Peri, Jamie, Sontarans)
Usually, a multiple Doctor episode features the most recent faces of The Doctor teaming up to battle something Time Lord related. But this time we go way back to the second face of The Doctor as he and Jamie (remember him?) end up being trapped by Sontarans who are trying to master time travel. It's up to the current face of The Doctor and his shittily-accented companion to rescue them and restore the timeline. Or whatever. It's a grim way to start A Grim Season.
Serial 2: Revelation Of The Daleks
(6, Peri, Davros, Daleks)
It's been a while since the genocidal grey trash cans have bugged The Doctor. So The Supreme Dalek and his army set out to kill The Doctor....yawn. But, oh shit, it's Davros, and his New Even More Perfect (TM) Daleks. They're so dreamy and creamy. Surely a war between two Dalek armies will result in fewer Daleks by the end of it. How could this be a bad thing?
Serial 3: Terror Of The Vervoids (Trial Of A Time Lord)
(6, Mel, Time Lords, Vervoids, Valeyard)
This is part of a season long arc where The Doctor is put on trial by those asshole Time Lords for being un-Time Lord like or some shit. So the framing device is The Doctor in court recounting his un-Time Lord like adventures. It's not a great season. It's not even a good season. But Terror Of The Vervoids introduces a new companion, and focuses more on the adventure with the aliens than on the trial aspect.
Serial 4: The Ultimate Foe (Trial Of A Time Lord)
(6, Mel, Glitz, Time Lords, The Master, Valeyard)
It's the end of the arc that we mostly skipped! Who is The Valeyard? Do we care? Is The Doctor guilty of anything besides not being as much of an asshole as those other asshole Time Lords? Oh, also The Master is in this for some reason? And the trial is in a future that won't ha--look, it's an okay episode, and I didn't want to cut out all of Colin Baker's run, since it's totally not his fault that his era was so blah.
Serial 5: Time And The Rani
(7, Mel, Rani, Tetraps)
New Doctor! Return of one of them there evil Time Lo-- Time La-- Time People! This is the second episode in a row where I'll admit, it's Not A Great episode. But there wasn't much to choose from. Low budgets, mediocre writers, no real direction to the seasons, except the heavy handed Trial Of A Timelord. We don't even get to see why the previous face of The Doctor had to regenerate. But it's not a terrible story, and it's fun to watch the new guy run around trying to figure things out.
Serial 6: Dragonfire
(7, Mel, Ace, Glitz)
It's time for a changing of The Companions. Mel, we hardly knew ye, so Get Out. It's really strange to try and describe the episodes of this era. Shit goes down between characters and aliens you've never seen before, and never will again. Some of it is interesting.
Serial 7: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy
(7, Ace, Psychic Circus)
Ok, this is fairly easy to explain, The Doctor and the companion we met in the last episode go to a Psychic Circus. Evil clowns. No escape. Robots. This is the kind of weird sci-fi adventure you can explain to your friends and not have them immediately ask "Why do you watch that shit?"
Serial 8: Curse Of The Fenric
(7th, Ace, Haemovores)
This is another weird timey-wimey episode. We find out just how Ace, The Doctor's companion for the last two serials, came to meet up with The Doctor in the first place, and we get some super dark family shit to go with it. It also has one of those timey-wimey things where a creature time travels to help create itself, and by not creating itself it's existence is...just watch the episode.
Serial 9: Survival
(7, Ace, The Master, Cheetah People)
Wouldn't it be really weird for a children's science fiction show to end with the spunky point-of-view companion character essentially turning into a cheetah person and then she and her time travelling friend step into their time machine and are never seen again? Because that's sort of what happened if you were watching the series as it came out. We're not going to leave you in such despair, but this episode is at least interesting, as it also features that rubbish bearded Time Shithead, The Master. He's definitely a villain here, but more Of Circumstance than he usually is. It's kind of fine that this killed the "classic" era of Who, as it was getting fairly disappointing.
Serial 10: The Enemy Within
(8, 7, Grace, The Master)
Usually, a regeneration episode involves The Doctor doing something heroic, and at the very end of the episode turning into a new person, saying one cool line, and then ending. In this episode we get to spend a decent amount of time with Sylvester McCoy. It's unclear how long it's been since Survival, but he is on his own, bringing the ashes of The Master to dump out in space or something. But ohhhhhh, even as ashes, The Master fucks shit up, and his chaos leads to The Doctor having to regenerate in America. This wraps up what is easily The Weakest Season of Doctor Who.