Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey: A Beginner’s Guide to Doctor Who

Doctor Who seems to have been around since the beginning of time. It all started with what fans now term ‘Classic Who.' Simply put, Classic Who refers to the 26-season-long serialized portion of the show that began in 1963 and stayed on air till late 1989.

In 2005, legendary showrunner Russell T. Davies gave it a reboot relaunch, with Christopher Eccleston playing the Doctor's new (aka the Ninth) incarnation. Before Davies left the show in 2010, he was behind some of the best episodes of the current era, including Rose, Waters of Mars, Doomsday, Turn Left, and Bad Wolf.

Now the legendary showrunner is back. And we have Ncuti Gatwa of Sex Education – a queer and black Doctor for the first time. This has gotten a lot of people rather excited about the show again.

So, if you have finally decided to bite the metaphorical bullet (the Sontarans salute you!) and dive headfirst into this maddening, awful, and awe-inspiring show, you have arrived at the right place.

The first thing you need to know is that you must always start with the 2005 series. Don't get me wrong — Classic Who is brilliant in its own campy, OG sci-fi show way. But, unless you're a seasoned veteran, the classic episodes, with their odd props, unconventional storylines, and bizarre graphics, may be hard to get into at first.

But jumping into the Doctor Who bandwagon, even if you are starting with the 2005 episodes, may be easier said than done — especially considering the overwhelming number of episodes, seasons (or series as the BBC calls them), and Christmas specials.

Before I tell you exactly how to forge your way through the epic that has withstood the test of time to become one of the longest-running shows on TV (soap opera Guiding Light still holds the crown at 72 years on the air), you must first understand what the show is all about.

Doctor Who?

Doctor Who is a show about the Doctor — a humanoid alien with two hearts and a sonic screwdriver — who travels through space and time to fix things and save people. The Doctor hails from the planet Gallifrey and belongs to the species Time Lord. He is the last of his kind. So, if two qualities define the Doctor, they are his kindness and loneliness.

He is a savior who does not get to enjoy the joy, the glory of victory. He arrives when the world needs him most and quietly fades into the horizon when all is well. Through decades and centuries, only a chosen few have gotten the honor to know, love, and remember him. The chosen ones are usually his human companions. They travel through space and time with him in his iconic blue phonebooth-shaped spaceship — the Tardis.

Every few seasons, the Doctor regenerates, with a new actor picking up the mantle, giving fans the chance to fall in love with him all over again.

The show records the adventures of this odd, wonderful person as he fixes timelines, saves planets, and battles vengeful alien forces. But perhaps the show is much more than that.

It is a story of love lost, wonders seen, and battles won.

Great. Where Do I Start?

Start with the Ninth Doctor. Never skip Nine. The first few episodes can be a chore to get through. But soon, you will start finding the show endearing even when it's at its cringest. The show is sneaky like that.

So, you start watching the 2005 episodes from the very beginning, from the moment when Christopher Eccleston grabs your hand and whispers, “Run.” The newer series, thankfully, is pretty distinct from its classic counterpart, so you don't need to worry about missing out on anything. You will be given enough context through the show to figure your way around things.

But the relaunch can still feel like pure chaos to the uninitiated, though. So, without further ado, here is the complete viewing order:

  • Series 1
  • Minisode – “Born Again”
  • Christmas Special – The Christmas Invasion
  • Series 2
  • Christmas Special – The Runaway Bride
  • Series 3
  • Minisode – Time Crash
  • Christmas Special – Voyage of the Damned
  • Series 4
  • Special – The Next Doctor
  • Special – Planet of the Dead
  • Special – The Waters of Mars
  • Special – The End of Time Part 1
  • Special – The End of Time Part 2
  • Series 5 (Episode 1 – The Eleventh Hour)
  • Minisode – “Meanwhile in the TARDIS #1”
  • Series 5 (Episode 2 to 5)
  • Minisode – “Meanwhile in the TARDIS #2”
  • Series 5 (Episode 6 to 13)
  • Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol
  • Minisode – “Bad Night”
  • Minisode – “Space/Time”
  • Minisode – “Good Night”
  • Minisode – “The Impossible Astronaut” Prequel
  • Series 6 (Episode 1 to 6)
  • Minisode – “A Good Man Goes To War” Prequel
  • Series 6 – (Episode 7 – A Good Man Goes To War)
  • Minisode – “The Battle of Demon's Run, Two Days Later”
  • Minisode – “Let's Kill Hitler” Prequel
  • Series 6 (Episode 8) Let's Kill Hitler
  • Minisode – “First Night”
  • Minisode – “Last Night”
  • Series 6 (Episode 9 to 11)
  • Minisode – “Up All Night”
  • Series 6 (Episode 12 – Closing Time)
  • Minisode – “The Wedding of River Song” Prequel
  • Series 6 (Episode 13 – The Wedding of River Song)
  • Christmas Special – The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe
  • Minisode – “A Pond Life”
  • Minisode – “Asylum of the Daleks” Prequel
  • Series 7 – (Episode 1 – Asylum of the Daleks)
  • Minisode – “The Inforarium”
  • Series 7 (Episode 2 to 5)
  • Minisode – “PS”
  • Minisode – “The Great Detective”
  • Minisode – “Vastra Investigates”
  • Christmas – The Snowmen
  • Minisode – “The Bells of St. John” Prequel
  • Series 7 – (Episode 7 to 11)
  • Minisode – “Clara and the TARDIS”
  • Minisode – “Rain Gods”
  • Series 7 – (Episode 12 to 13)
  • Minisode – “He Said, She Said”
  • Minisode – “Clarence and the Whispermen”
  • Series 7 – (Episode 14 – The Name of the Doctor)
  • Minisode – “The Night of the Doctor”
  • 50th Anniversary Special – The Day of the Doctor
  • Christmas Special – The Time of the Doctor
  • Series 8
  • Christmas Special – Last Christmas
  • Minisode – Season 9 Prologue
  • Minisode – “The Doctor's Meditation”
  • Series 9
  • Christmas Special – The Husbands of River Song
  • Christmas Special – The Return of Doctor Mysterio
  • Series 10
  • Christmas Special – Twice Upon a Time
  • Series 11
  • New Year's Day Special 2019 – Resolution
  • Series 12
  • New Year's Day Special 2021 – Revolution of the Daleks
  • Series 13 – Flux
  • New Year's Day Special 2022 – Eve of the Daleks
  • Special – Legend of the Sea Devils
  • BBC Centenary Special – Untitled (upcoming)

Conclusion

At its best and worst, the show has a weird penchant for making people feel for the Doctor. You will laugh, mourn, and love and happily have your heart shattered over and over again.

But, in case you are not sure if it's worth the commitment, begin by watching “Blink” (S03E10), “Vincent and the Doctor” (S05E10), “Daleks” (S01E06), and “Listen” (S08E04). Arguably a few of the best episodes in the series, they work well as standalone pieces and can give you a fair idea of whether the show is your cup of tea (or not).

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