Look, we get it, scrolling through an infinite number of shows seems overwhelming; even when someone tells us, “Oh, you should check out such and such” there’s a feeling of dread because who knows if it’s worth the time or hassle. Some TV shows have countless episodes or have been running for decades and not all of those episodes are going to be good; there are going to be some clunkers.
This series is here to help you decide if a show is the right show for you by featuring a few highlights for you to check out and see if you want to watch more. These aren’t the best episodes, they’re accessible and ones you can just jump into.
It’s a daunting prospect to enter the world of Doctor Who, the adventures of an alien who travels through time and space inside a flying police box. The show premiered in 1963, 12 different actors have played the main character and countless more have joined them on their escapades. Fear not, I can help you through as a diehard Whovian (that’s what us fans are called). First off, we’re going to skip right to the modern version of the show which premiered in 2005; this makes things much easier to dive into. So with that in mind, here are 5 episodes (and some honorable mentions) to start with.
This is the most common episode fans will recommend to people who have never seen the show. It’s interesting since The Doctor is barely in it. This helps in some ways because it plays as a great stand alone sci-fi/horror story. One of the things Doctor Who excels at is telling really scary stories. This episode introduces one of The Doctor’s most terrifying enemies, the Weeping Angels, they appear as stone statues and can only move when you don’t look at them. This leads to the refrain that gives the episode it’s title “whatever you do, don’t blink.” A brilliantly conceived monster in its simplicity and sense of creeping dread, the Angels return several times throughout the series but the terror starts here.
Built into the DNA of the show is the ability to change the lead actor when they need to move on from the series. The Doctor will simply regenerate into a new identity. Season 5 is an interesting point in the series since not only did the actor change but so did the series head writer. This allows for a clean break, not only in character but in tone and supporting cast. This episode really feels like the pilot of a new show. Matt Smith makes an incredible debut with his energetic and madcap take on the character as he crashes to Earth and must realize the hero he truly is to stop an all powerful alien from destroying humanity.
Two-parters are often where the stakes get really high in Doctor Who. These episodes introduce The Doctor to his major love interest River Song, a fellow time traveler. The unique part of their relationship is that they keep meeting each other in the wrong order. Here she has already had a very long relationship with The Doctor but he has just met her for the first time. This heady and twisty relationship will be an ongoing arc across multiple seasons (and Doctors) as we slowly peel back the layers of mystery surrounding River Song.
The Doctor meets a lot of famous figures from history on their time travels. In this episode he and his companions come across legendary painter Vincent Van Gogh. One of the most bittersweet and emotional episodes of the series we see the depth of Van Gogh’s depression at not being recognized in his time for the brilliant artist he was. It also teaches a painful lesson that while our hero can defeat aliens and time travelers of shapes and sizes the stresses and sadness of human life are not as easily conquered.
The Doctor is above all a thinker; they rely on their intellect over brute force. This episode is one giant puzzle box for The Doctor to solve. Trapped within a seemingly empty seaside castle as he explores the castle he discovers numerous clues and comes to discover this is all a massive trap that he has been stuck inside for millennia. A brilliantly mind bending episode in the best tradition of the series, it is also an acting tour-de-force from star Peter Capaldi who is essentially the only actor on screen for the entirety of the episode.
Check out Captain Chris's "Starter Guide: Star Trek: The Next Generation".