What Doctor Who should I start with?

I love the new Doctor Who. I am a bit hesitant to try some of the older Doctor Who’s because I am afraid that the older special effects will bother me. At the same time, I distinctly remember some Doctor Who episodes from the early 80’s that looked interesting. Which Doctor am I most likely to be familiar with? I think the one I remember reminded me a bit of Gene Wilder. What would be a good story arc to start with?

Well, if the special effects are going to bother you, then stick with the 9th and 10th (i.e., the new series). It’s generally better than the early series – high praise, since there were some very good episodes.

For the earlier doctor, the best is the time between the episodes The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors. You’re probably most familiar with Tom Baker, so if you were to pick a few episodes with him, I’d go with “The Talons of Weng Chiang,” or “City of Death.”

There weren’t generally story arcs – just 4-6+ episode stories, and nowadays their generally packaged together. The only season-long arc was the Key to Time Series: “The Ribos Operation,” “The Pirate Planet,” “The Stones of Blood,” “The Androids of Tara,” “The Power of Kroll” (with spectacularly bad special effect, but a very good story that should make you forget them), and “The Armageddon Factor.”

I would recommend the only Doctor I could stand before the two newest Doctors.

Tom Baker was very good. There was a good sense of understated humor. A few episodes apparently had Douglas Adams on the writing team.

Doctor Who: Robot is the first series with Tom Baker. I guess this would be the place to start.

Here is a blurb on it:


The one you’re probably thinking of is Tom Baker, and he’s definitely one of the best Doctors ever. A great story, that is available on DVD (at least, it is in Australia) is ‘City Of Death’, which was actually written by Douglas Adams (under the ‘house’ pseudonym). There’s a fine documentary on ‘the making of’ as well.

The folk I’ve been watching the recent series with put the two new Doctors, and Tom as the best three. Jon Pertwee had his moments, and I’m nostalgic for him because he was the Doctor who was on the air (in reruns) when I first watched it, but looking back at some of those episodes, they have not dated well.

ETA - Damn simulposts - but at least we all seem to agree :slight_smile:

Well in America, I don’t think anyone but Tom Baker ever really caught on. The older Doctor was boring with worse special effects than even Lost in Space and I don’t remember the showing having much of a following after Tom Baker over here in the US.

I love the new series. I really enjoy both new Doctors.


Having watched since the series started, I have to tell you that almost all the early monsters are obviously men in rubber suits. :smack:
The usual style was to have about 4 episodes, with cliffhangers at the end of the first 3. These often consisted of scary music, with the camera showing an open door. Just before the credits rolled, an alien appendage would appear. (At this point vast numbers of English children would hide behind the sofa. :eek: )

So you need to be prepared for a complete contrast with the latest computerised effects. This series is old.
Having said that, I too vote for Tom Baker. He acted like an alien!

When I was younger my favorite was Tom Baker. As I got older, I found I appreciate Peter Davison more.

However, if you’re new to the fold, there’s no question. Start with the 9th Doctor.

I just had my wife watch “City of Death” - and she liked it well enough, but she was also being polite. I was surprised at how much scenery shots there were - it was the first episode to not be filmed in England, so they decided to show endless shots of the Doctor and Romona walking around through the streets of France…just because they damn well could. It was not as good as I remember it being (although even she laughed when John Cleese shows up).

If you’re determined to start with earlier Doctors, I’d actually start with “Planet of the Spiders” - the final 3rd Doctor episode. You get some Gallifrey and Time Lord background. That leads into “Robot” and a Dalek and Cyberman story. And “Ark in Space” which I always found creepy.

I agree with the comments about special effects, but I stand by my long standing belief, that the Daleks are among the greatest movie/tv villains, in that they are SCARY, even while you’re laughing at them. Nothing in the better effects of the new series make them any scarier, and I like the nostalgic/retro look of the Daleks w/the 9th and 10th Doctors.

My little boy spent a few weeks last year running around saying, “Exterminate, Exterminate”. So no matter how silly these old villains are, they still have the desired affect on little kids.


You know, I think I’m missing something fundamental in my geekery… I appear to have missed a step or two.

I watched Dr. Who back in the day (early 90’s) on PBS, when they would run a whole story arc on Saturday night. I’m not sure which doctors I saw, though I know for a fact I got the first 3 (sonic screwdriver!). But I’ve never seen the fellow with the celery, and missed most of the dashing man in the scarf (liked him).

Then for some reason, they jumped right to… uh… 7? Bushy Eyebrowed fella.

Wonder if I should pick them up on Ebay or somesuch…

Dude, that and the craptastical editing are the most entertaing parts! That and figuring out how the Daleks have acheived interstellar spaceflight but still can’t manage stairs. (They totally ruined the gag when they allowed Daleks to hover.)

I haven’t seen the “new Who” and I fear that it make take itself way to seriously like the Fox one-off show did.

I fear now that I’ve said this I’ll be a pariah. Oh well.


Stranger, I really liked the Tom Baker Doctor, cheesy special effects and all. It had a great bit of humor without playing for camp or humor. It was fun, occasionally thought provoking and occasionally scary. Tom Baker reminded me a bit of Gandalf in his delivery at times.

The newest series is very good, the special effects are no longer cheesy but they have achieved the subtle humor and the occasionally thought provoking and occasionally scary plots. Do yourself a favor and catch some of them. I think the first of the new season is on BBC America and of course the most recent season is wrapping up on Sci-Fi. Two episodes back was one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever. The thread got surprisingly large on it. Last seasons “The Empty child” was just an incredible great episode and even had some cheesy special effects. :wink:


Hey, fellah, let me introduce you to a concept, which you should apply when watching ANY dramatic presentation. It’s called “the willing suspension of disbelief.”

People have been watching live plays for thousands of years without any special effects. They suspend their disbelief, and pretend that a stage is a battlefield one minute, and a castle a few minutes later.

So, special effects that were made forty bloody years ago don’t impress you? So what. Just enjoy the story. That’s what’s really important.

Just think that kids in forty years will say the same about today’s special effects.

Watch “Robot”, the first Tom Baker one: the effects might be rubbish but Baker himself is absolutely mesmerising - you can’t take your eyes off him even when he’s sleeping. The storyline itself is nothing overwhelming, a cross between King Kong and Frankenstein, but the dialogue and the playing absolutely sizzle, especially when the Brigadier is playing the long-suffering straight-man to the Doctor.

{The Doctor has to choose some inconspicuous clothes, and keeps emerging from the Tardis in increasingly eccentric garb, including a Viking dressed in skins and with a horned helmet}

{B} Doctor, I would remind you that UNIT is supposed to be a top secret military organisation.

{D} You think that I might… attract attention?

{B} It’s just possible.

And of course the Brigadier’s classic line “Just for once I’d like to meet an alien menace that wasn’t immune to bullets.”, or the Doctor’s “What’s the point of being grown up if you can’t act childish?”.

Pretty much any Tom Baker with Sarah Jane Smith or Leela as assistants were classics; from about '74 to '77 was the Golden Age of Doctor Who: in addition to the one’s mentioned, I’d go for The Brain Of Morbius, if only for the lines “Where’s the monster?” “Gone for a lurch”.

Oh, and and I almost forgot the classic Tom Baker story “Genesis Of The Daleks”, which is pretty much the Dalek story to watch: it backgrounds the Daleks’ creation at the hands {well, wizened claws, really} of the crippled evil genius Davros, and the Doctor’s attempt to prevent it… Davros, whose wheelchair was the bottom half of a Dalek, was a brilliant villain - a sort of wicked Steven Hawking - before the writers ruined him by turning him into a ranting caricature.

Forgive me, but am I the only one who always thought they were called “darleks”? When I was younger I thought it was just a British pronunciation that dropped the r. I’m not sure if I learned the truth from online discussions, or just Tivo titles and summaries.

There are more good Tom Baker ones than any others. The Brits really like Pertwee, but I never really warmed to him. Hartnell and Troughton were kind of boring, IMO.

Some favorites:
Tom Baker - The Horror at Fang Rock (may have slightly mangled the name) is my favorite. Takes place in a spooky lighthouse.
Peter Davison - Castrovalva (his first ep). A lot of people were put off by Davison playing the part so straight, but I thought it was a welcome change.
Colin Baker - The Two Doctors (has Troughton in it). Look for The Doctor grabbing the bodacious Peri by the breast, then quickly shifting his hand. Baker was not well liked, and was, I believe, fired. But I liked him a lot.
Sylvester McCoy - Paradise Towers (his first ep). Most of his eps kinda suck, but this one is very crisply written. Ice hot!

The one where the entire supporting cast - and the alien menace - die.


Not his first. But generally considered bad, even by 7th Doctor standards.

*Battlefield *is probably the least bad McCoy story, and features Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, which is always a good thing.

I’m an old-school Dr Who man myself (the mambo-children and I are watching "Ressurection of the Daleks as I type this)

I unabashedly prefer the “original” series and I prefer it before John Nathan Turner’s exesses and bad choices made it’s cancellation more of a mercy killing.

But that’s because I am old and cranky, I guess. I do like some of the new episodes but most of them just seem rushed and short on story telling - and whatever “special” effects they can add to them don’t make up for that…

Still, 5 old skool Dr Who’s to warm the cockels of your hearts -

  1. Talons of Weng-Chiang - any story by Robert Holmes is worth picking up
  2. Caves of Androzani - another Robert Holmes and the two best cliffhangers in the series
  3. Tomb of the Cybermen - this is what made Mamboman literally watch from behind the couch. And a superb score, too!
  4. Pyramids of Mars - yet another Robert Holmes - delightfully silly and Lis Sladen is very pretty in it
  5. The Daemons - everything Doctor Who should be - whimsical, scary, dramatic, overacted, heroic, funny, life affirming and good.

to be avoided AT ANY COST

  1. Twin Dilemma. Appears to have been made up as they went along
  2. Time Flight. Would have actually been better for less storytelling and more, indeed, any “special” effects
  3. Dragonfire. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear
  4. Time Lash. Makes Time Flight look like “Citizen Kane”
  5. Time and the Rani. So spectacularly sucky - from the sheer torture of TWO Mels, the unspeakably cheesy monsters, the killer “buterfly”, the impossbily complicated booby traps, the freshly regenrated Doctor who is utterly unengaging and a plot arc that could have been wrapped up in about 15 minutes. The authors, Pip and Jane Baker proved over their career as Dr Who writers to be the antithesis of Robert Holmes.