'Doctor Who': How to start watching
Are you a Doctor Who virgin who wants to start watching the Time Lord’s adventures, but is daunted by the fact that the British science-fiction show’s half-century history now encompasses literally dozens of seasons, not to mention 11 small screen Doctors, two ’60s-era films, one TV movie, and numerous specials?
Good news! You don’t have to watch every episode of Doctor Who to know what’s going on. In fact, that’s impossible “thanks” to the BBC’s habit during the ’60s and ’70s of wiping the show’s tapes.
So where should non-Whovian readers start viewing? Well, folks interested in the “old” 1963-1989 Doctor Who might care to sample either of executive producer Steven Moffat’s two favorite shows featuring actor Tom Baker’s so-called Fourth Doctor: 1975’s “The Ark in Space,” an Alien-esque tale of egg-laying extraterrestrials, or 1979’s Paris-set “City of Death,” which was penned by Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy creator Douglas Adams. “It’s not often Doctor Who is written by a genius,” says Moffat.
On the other hand, you could check out one of current Doctor Who star Matt Smith’s favorite old school adventures, 1967’s “The Tomb of the Cybermen” in which Second Doctor Patrick Troughton faced off against the titular metallic monsters. “I love Troughton,” says Smith. “I don’t think the Cybermen have ever been as scary as they were in that.”
The “new” revived Who has several obvious entry points, notably the Christopher Eccleston-starring 2005 relaunch, the show’s second season which found David Tennant in charge of the TARDIS, and the 2010-11 adventures, the first to be fronted by Matt Smith. Smith himself recommends the Eccleston-starring two-parter “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” and the Tennant-featuring “Blink,” which introduced the terrifying Weeping Angels.
Then again, you could start your adventures in time and space by viewing the show’s new episodes when Doctor Who returns to BBC America on March 30 armed only with Moffat’s following synopsis of the show’s more-basic-than-you-might-imagine premise: “Doctor Who is about a man can travel anywhere in time and space in a box that’s bigger on the inside. Ta-dah! You’re done.”
All of the shows mentioned above are available on DVD. You can check out clips from “The Ark in Space,” “The Doctor Dances,” and “Blink,” plus one from the batch of new episodes below.
Where would you suggest a Who newbie start watching?
For more on Doctor Who, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, March 22.