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 You might love a particular companion in one episode, and, in the next, they've been replaced by people you have no context for.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 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 brings us completely up-to-date with the modern series.
Season 11: The Doctor Falls
Episode 1: The Girl Who Died
(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
(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
(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
(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
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
(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
(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
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!
Serial 10: World Enough & Time/The Doctor Falls
(Bill, Nardole, Missy, The Master, Cybermen)
Sniffle. It's the end of our Netflixization journey. Bill & The Doctor in space are joined by The Master (last seen on our list in The Witch's Familiar) and Nardole (who is sort of a companion, but I've edited most of his appearances out) in this final episode, so far, of the series. Some classic villains show up in this multiple Asshole Time Lord episode where we bid adieu to The Doctor and his companions, and hello to symmetry.