The question came up: “What’s the big deal about Doctor Who? I’ve watched a couple episodes and couldn’t get into it at all.” Tastes differ, and not everybody is going to like it. But if you’re one of the people who might like it and might not, here are some episodes worth trying.
They’re not necessarily my favorite episodes, but they’re ones that might be good for a new viewer.
I’ve only included episodes through the end of Series 8, leaving out Series 9. I would not recommend that series as a starter.
Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston
Rose. This episode kicked off the first series of New Who, introducing the various characters. It’s fun and exciting and silly.
Aliens of London / World War III. Smart political satire mixed in with fart jokes.
Father’s Day. This is a good one for people who like sentimental stories and stories where time travel is explored in new and interesting ways.
The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances. This two-parter won a well-deserved Hugo award.
Tenth Doctor – David Tennant
The Girl in the Fireplace. Adventure in which time travel lends emotional depth to the plot.
The Runaway Bride. Comedy-horror. Actress Catherine Tate is magnificent.
The Shakespeare Code. If you like Shakespeare, you’ll enjoy visiting the actual Globe theater. The monster plot is fun too.
Blink. Seriously frightening monsters. Also, time travel done well.
Partners in Crime. Comedy-espionage with monsters made of human fat.
The Fires of Pompeii. Apocalypse story, as you visit Pompeii and see why it burned.
The Unicorn and the Wasp. The Doctor and Donna meet Agatha Christie and together they solve the classic drawing-room mystery. Also, giant flying wasp.
Midnight. This is a one-scene psychological drama.
Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith
The Eleventh Hour. This episode features a new Doctor, new traveling companions, and a new storytelling style. It’s sweet and funny and a good place to start.
Victory of the Daleks. Not a bad Dalek episode to start out with. It encapsulates the scariness and the silliness of the number one Doctor Who monster.
The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood. Antiwar plot.
Vincent and the Doctor. A visit with Vincent Van Gogh. Bittersweet, as the Doctor and his traveling companion both know his ultimate fate.
The Lodger. It’s your classic romantic comedy, except for the scary something on the top floor.
The Curse of the Black Spot. Pirate story!
The Doctor’s Wife. Neil Gaiman wrote this one. The time machine finally gets to speak for herself, and she’s amazing.
The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People. Good sci fi with dopplegangers.
Night Terrors. Proper scary. Don’t show it to your kids.
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Adventure. Dinosaurs. Spaceship. Fun.
The Snowmen. Victorian thriller.
Hide. Ghost story set in the 1980s.
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. This is if you like your time travel hard core and don’t mind getting dizzy.
The Crimson Horror. Lovely Victorian crime drama. Starring Diana Riggs as the villain.
Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi
Deep Breath. This episode features a brand new Doctor, who is much more cantankerous than the last several.
Time Heist. Your classic bank heist fun.
Kill the Moon. This is a strange episode. It features the Doctor abandoning the fate of Earth to three generations of women.
Flatline. Homage to Flatland.