Doctor Who has been on for over fifty years. Starting a show that’s been on that long seems daunting, especially when you consider how many actors have portrayed the Doctor, and how many writers, producers, etc. have worked behind the scenes. For this reason, I’m presenting four possible starting points and the pros and cons of each one.
- “An Unearthly Child”–starting with the first episode seems the most logical place. The problem is many of William Hartnell’s episodes are still missing. Also, some concepts that later defined Doctor Who’s mythos aren’t present, such as the Doctor having two hearts, the sonic screwdriver, or UNIT. Those come in later eras.
2. “Spearhead From Space”–this is the first episode to be filmed in color, and starred Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. It’s a great starting point and will introduce you to UNIT and its commanding officer, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. (Although technically, both were introduced in Troughton’s era.) Of all the eras, Pertwee’s era has the most earthbound stories, as the show was finding ways to work with the limited budget. Beginning with “The Three Doctors”, the show becomes less earthbound. The Master is introduced in this era, portrayed by Roger Delgado, in the episode “Terror of the Autons”. While some of the episodes’ colorized versions are missing, the black and white prints still exist, and I hear some of those have been retouched so that they are now colorized.
3. “Robot”–The first episode of Tom Baker’s era, and the beginning of Doctor Who’s renaissance period. Many, including myself, consider Tom Baker to be the best actor to ever portray the Doctor, and he is one of two many actors use as their model (the other being Patrick Troughton). Tom Baker’s era introduces the Zygons and Davros, two villains who later appeared in the modern-day version of the show as well. Best of all, no missing episodes to worry about (well, except for “Shada”, but that’s more of an unfinished episode than a missing one).
4. “Rose”–The first episode of Chris Eccleston’s one-season era and the first episode written by Russell T. Davies, while he was the show’s executive producer. Davies took the show and modernized its story-telling style, using story arcs to link the episodes and creating new aliens and using story-telling methods seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There were no longer thirty-minute serials, which was the staple of the classic period. (although many episodes are still done in more than one part) The modern-day version is the least daunting method, as there are less episodes to watch. The only problem is that BBC completely ignores Eccleston and starts with Tennant instead. But you can still purchase the boxed set for Eccleston’s season.
These are great starting points, whether you want to see the classic style or modern-day.