So, you’re new to Doctor Who and want to start watching. Well, read on! There’s a couple starting points you can take. I’ll break down each potential starting point below as well as include episodes that can be skipped. The difference between starting points really bogs down to a balance between the introductory elements to Doctor Who and the position of the good episodes relative to that.
Episode Numero Uno (Season 1, Episode 1)
Starting from episode numero uno is definitely not recommended for the average viewer. Doctor Who has been airing for 50 years and it went on hiatus in 1989 before being revived in 2005. The average viewer need not bother to start with the pre-revival episodes as no background knowledge is needed to watch starting from the first episode of the 2005 series. If you’re a hard-core fan, do watch the pre-revival episodes – a lot more of the Doctor’s people are covered there. All of the starting points below include a good episode within the next 5 and are suitable to watch with no background in Doctor Who.
Pre-revival Doctor Who is categorized in seasons whereas post-revival Doctor Who is categorized in series.
2005 Revival (Series 1, Episode 1 – Rose)
This is essentially the new starting episode of Doctor Who. The mystery of finding out who the Doctor is, the introduction of classic Doctor Who monsters, and Easter eggs to the pre-revival episodes are all here. This is the starting point for those who want to start at the very beginning. Starting here will introduce many of the classic and reoccurring Doctor Who monsters. However, it can be skipped if you’re willing to learn about the monsters as they appear again and you’re looking to start with the higher quality Doctor Who episodes. The series doesn’t hit it its stride until later on, albeit some of the earlier episodes have their charm. Watch from here if you want to see everything.
The 10th Doctor (Series 2, Episode 1 – New Earth)
A great many hold the 10th Doctor as the best Doctor. There’s a brilliant episode near the beginning (The Girl in the Fireplace) and we get to see more of the Doctor’s and Rose’s relationship grow. This is where Doctor Who starts to hit its stride (actually it’s in the middle of the last series, but starting there would leave you with a lot less introductory elements). Watch from here if you want to see the Doctor Who after the introductions to the classic monsters.
The 11th Doctor (Series 5, Episode 1 – The Eleventh Hour)
This is perhaps the best starting point for anyone new to Doctor Who and wants to get into the meat of the series. The writing style of the episodes overall changed here as the head writer was replaced. The stories from here onwards are almost like a second revival. The new companions in this episode learn about the Doctor and, in turn, introduce the audience to his new quirks. Watch from here if you just want to see the Doctor with a companion that lasts more than a season.
The 11th Doctor (Series 7, Christmas Special – Snowmen)
You’ll skip a lot of good episodes and storylines starting here. However, it’s the closest good starting point to the recent episodes. You’ll get the background on the recent plot developments and you’ll be introduced to the Doctor alongside the future companion. There’re a few characters from previous storylines, but suffice to say they are just friends of the Doctor. Watch from here if you want to skip all the finished story-lines and just want to catch up to the current episodes.
Personally, you should start from the beginning of the 2005 revival and skip all the episodes listed below. Every Doctor is a facet of the Doctor and all have their own appeals.
Episodes to Skip:
The Idiots Lantern (S2E7), Love and Monsters (S2E10), Fear Her (S2E11), The Shakespeare Code (S3 E2), 42 (S3E7), Midnight (S4E10), The Next Doctor (Specials), The Curse of the Black Spot (S6E3), Night Terrors (S6E9), The Crimson Horror (S7E11), Robot of Sherwood (S8E3), Kill the Moon (S8E7),
Honourable Mentions – Episodes to Skip:
Tooth and Claw (S2E2), In the Forest of the Night (S8E10), Under the Lake (S9E3), Before the Flood (S9E4)
Episodes to Watch (chronological order of the series):
The Empty Child (S1E9), The Doctor Dances (S1E10), The Girl in the Fireplace (S2E4), Gridlock (S3E3), Human Nature (S3E8), The Family of Blood (S3E9), Blink (S3E10), Silence in the Library (S4E8), Forest of the Dead (S4E9), The Lodger (S5E11), A Christmas Carol (S5 Christmas Special), The Doctors Wife (S6E4), The Day of the Doctor (Special 50th Anniversary), Flatline (S8E9), Heaven Sent (S9E11).