Friday, 10 August 2012

What to watch to get into Classic Doctor Who?

Since 2005 there’s been a little show called Doctor Who on the BBC, you might have heard of it? And as most people know this is a continuation of the classic show that ran from 1963-1989, with a TV Movie in 1996. So what happens after you’ve seen all the Matt Smith, David Tennant and Chris Eccleston episodes? Well, you could watch them again I suppose, but you can’t keep doing that forever. So you might think about watching some of the old show. It’s got eight more Doctors you haven’t seen, plenty of great stories, you find out more of the show’s history and of course there are the earlier appearances by the Daleks, the Cybermen, K-9, the Master, the Sontarans, Sarah Jane, the Timelords… basically any of people or aliens the Doctor knows in the new show, he met in the old. Problem is, well it’s 26 seasons worth of TV. How do you really get into that?

Well, there are various ways of course, but I would suggest watching a number of different stories before you choose any point to start watching from. This gives an overall view of the show, how it’s different from the new series and lets you decide yourself which era interests you the most. To help with this I’ve made a list of the 8 best stories to introduce a New Who fan to the classic series. It’s not a list of the best episodes, or even my favourites, it’s just one story from each Doctor that’s the best to ease a fan of Eccleston, Tennant and Smith into the old show. So lets have a look.

 FIRST DOCTOR (William Hartnell)
The Time Meddler

So obviously you should watch the very first episode of Who ever, but the rest of that story is ok, but just not fantastic. But then, if you want to watch a full story from this time you should watch this, because it’s a very good mix of the aspects of the First Doctor era. It’s set in the past like a lot of the best early stories. However a number of them don’t have any sci-fi elements which make them… odd for a new series fan to watch. This one, while reveling in the past, does have an alien presence, the Monk. The Monk is another Time Lord, who travels through time and changes history, mainly just because he can. And the Doctor needs to stop him. This is the first time a Time Lord other than the Doctor and his granddaughter has appeared in the show and he’s brilliant. He’s a really fun character and this story is a good solid adventure without going off into a very long long adventure or having missing episodes like many First and Second Doctor stories. It’s a good place to start with the first Doctor, but and this is a big but, he’s very different. All the other Doctors are younger and more physical than the First, who’s a wise old man. That doesn’t make him worse, but it probably makes him harder to get into.

SECOND DOCTOR (Patrick Troughton)
The War Games OR The Tomb of the Cybermen

But Chris… you’ve picked two here? Well basically, I wanted to just pick The War Games. It’s the best Troughton story by far, introduces many of the major aspects of the show, including the Time Lords themselves and is a truly epic adventure. When people use the word epic to describe the season finales of the new series, well they ain’t got anything on this. Unfortunately I can only recommend that to people with patience, because while it is very good, it is about 4 and a half hours long in total. So, to a casual viewer, either you’d need to spread it out or you’d give up.
Tomb of the Cybermen isn’t quite as good, but it has some good fun from the Second Doctor and his long running companion, the highlander Jamie, it has a creepy atmosphere and it has the Cybermen at their best. It’s a fun little adventure and is also the first in Season 5 of the original show, so it’s geared toward people who want to get into the show and maybe haven’t seen it before, so is a perfect point to start.


THIRD DOCTOR (Jon Pertwee)
Terror of the Autons

This story introduces a companion, Jo Grant, who met the Eleventh Doctor in the spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures if you’re looking for a new series appearance of her. This allows for everyone to be introduced to her, and to the audience as new. You see the old UNIT, a staple of the Third Doctor era, with the oft mentioned Brigadier actually appearing. This story also features the Autons, the living plastic creatures that have appeared a number of time in the new show. It’s probably the best jumping on point to the Pertwee era for a new fan. Especially because of the introduction of a certain villain. Yes, this is the first story to feature the Master. And if you ever hear me complaining about John Simm as the Master, well you can see why here. Roger Delgado IS the Master. He just is, and he is magnificent. There are better Pertwee stories, but for all these elements, this is the best to start with.

Genesis of the Daleks


This story is often called the best Doctor Who ever, and while I might not agree, it’s definitely up there. It’s darker and grittier than the vast majority of the show, but it works here when it tells the story of the creation of the Doctor’s greatest enemy, the Daleks. The Doctor is sent back in time by the Time Lords to stop the Daleks from ever having existed. Nowadays you can look at this as the first strike of the Time War. This story has everything, while it’s a little bit longer than some, it has fast pace and a dark tense atmosphere that keep you on the edge of your seat. If you want to see Sarah Jane Smith in action as the Doctor’s companion, she’s on top form here. But the real draw is the story of the beginning of the Daleks and the first appearance of Davros. If you like Daleks, this is a must see.

FIFTH DOCTOR (Peter Davison)

This one might need a little bit of explaining. All the other episodes have a new companion joining, so the Tardis crew is introduced easily. Here, well there’s Nyssa, who’s a genius from a world destroyed by the Master who also stole her father’s body, Tegan who’s an Australian airhostess that just wants to go home and Adric, who’s an annoying dick. Now at the start of this story there’s a bit of continuity about Adric, but once you get past that, it’s clear sailing for one of the best Fifth Doctor stories. Archeologists in the future are disappearing on a dig, so the military head in to check it out. They start getting picked off and discover a mysterious hatch whose protectors are desperate to keep hidden. Sounds intriguing? Well I’ll also say this is a Cyberman story and they’re at their best here and say no more. You can find it out yourself.

SIXTH DOCTOR (Colin Baker)
Kind of depends really…

Ok, so the Sixth Doctor era on TV is the black sheep of the show. Every story has faults, there’s not very many of them and a number are regarded as the worst in the show’s history. The companions are: Peri, who’s fun but has a terrible and distracting American accent or Mel who is just really irritating. And of course, the Sixth Doctor has the worst costume of all time. Now, none of this is Colin Baker’s fault and from listening to some of the Doctor Who audios that he’s done you can tell that he’s a great Doctor and has a passion for the role. Unfortunately all these issues make it difficult to recommend one of his stories as your first experience of the classic show. I like a number of them, but they have their flaws. So really it’s just picking your flaw. There’s Attack of the Cybermen which is my favourite, but it’s filled with so much continuity that you probably won’t understand half of it; Vengeance on Varos which is bit too dark and violent for its own good or Revelation of the Daleks which is a bit camp and the Doctor is almost a secondary character. There are more, but they’re the best, so just take your pick, don’t judge Colin Baker too badly for the quality and never watch The Twin Dilemma.

SEVENTH DOCTOR (Sylvester McCoy)
Remembrance of the Daleks

This story is awesome. That’s really the best way to describe it. It’s got Daleks fighting Daleks, ancient Time Lord super weapons, some of the best of the scheming Seventh Doctor and his most 80s of companions Ace, it’s set in the 60s in the very place the first episode of Doctor Who ever starts and it introduces the Special Weapons Dalek. Oh and it’s the first time a Dalek flew up stairs. Oh and the Seventh Doctor’s Scottish which is brilliant. And so many other things. While Genesis of the Daleks is the most serious and well made Dalek story, this is the most fun to watch. I won’t say much more, because the story takes a lot of twists but it’s stories like this from the end of the classic shows run which make it all the more confusing why it was taken off the air.

The Eighth Doctor Adventures Series by Big Finish

This might seem like a cop-out, but there is only one TV episode with the Eighth Doctor and while it’s campy fun, it’s not what anyone could really call good. If you want to get into the Eighth Doctor, it’s best to listen to the Eighth Doctor audio dramas by a company called Big Finish who make lots of audio stories with past Doctors and companions. The Eighth Doctor series is probably the best as it teams him up with Lucie Millar. Lucie is basically a companion from the new show, she’s just a normal girl from the present day, but she’s stuck with an old school Doctor, still dress in Edwardian clothes and acting like a suave alien rather than the more human Ninth and Tenth Doctors. This gives these stories a unique dynamic that really really works. It’s also a good way to get into the old show as these are a mix of the old and new and they shouldn’t be sold short just because they’re only audio.

Hopefully that’s given you a few different choices of stories and I hope you enjoy them. Once you’ve watched them all and if you still want to get into the show then just choose your favourite of these and watch the stories from the same time as them. Just a quick warning, yes in some cases the effects aren’t great and yes, most of the Doctors are older and there’s no romance between them and their companions and yes, the Sixth Doctor’s costume sucks, but if you look past these superficial aspects then you should really enjoy these.

Feel free to leave comments below about if you enjoyed these after you watched them, or if you disagree with my choices of story.

No comments:

Post a Comment