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DW primer: The Classic Doctor Who Episodes to Watch

what classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

This list should have been one of the easiest I’ve ever written. It was a straightforward primer for people looking for advice on which classic Doctor Who episodes to watch. In some ways, I’ve been waiting my entire career to write this list.

It proved to be far, far trickier than I thought.

Without getting into “TL;DR” territory, I grew up as a classic Doctor Who fan. The Fourth Doctor was “my” Doctor in terms of the one that got me into the show, but the Second was always my favorite. I watched them all as a kid though, and just kept watching over and over again. And I continue to watch today.

So when compiling a list of which episodes to watch, it became tough to separate the episodes that were the best from the ones that I just have positive experiences surrounding them. In some ways, it was like picking through my childhood.

With that in mind, I compiled my list, then I spoke to my brother who has been a fan of the show even longer than I have. We discussed it a bit and I modified a few picks. I then asked a few other people. Finally, I went to Reddit for some advice, some of which helped me immensely.

To help narrow it down further, I made a few rules. To begin with, the serial needs to be complete. If you don’t know the full story on the Doctor Who missing episodes you can read about it here. There are plenty of reconstructions out there, but they probably aren’t a good place for new fans to start.

So check out our “classic Doctor Who episodes to watch” primer. The list focuses on the First through the Seventh Doctors (with a nod to the Eighth), as well as a few special bonus episodes. Keep in mind this is just a good place to start. Hopefully, you’ll want to watch even more.

Which classic Doctor Who episodes to watch*

(*This list is presented chronologically based on the original air date. If you really want a Doctor Who primer, watch them in order.)

First Doctor (William Hartnell)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

The First Doctor – or just the Doctor back then – exists in a strange bubble. When the show was created, the writers and producers were pretty much winging it. They were making things up as they went, so unknowing fans of the current show without much knowledge of old days will probably wonder what the hell is going on. There are plenty of little things that contradict the story to come, so don’t watch it hoping for future spoilers.

With that said, for a show written more than 50 years ago it’s surprisingly advanced in its thinking. Sure, the Doctor and his companions manage to hide from enemies using Scooby Doo-like methods, and sure the stories lack emotional depth, and yes the Doctor is kind of sexist, but they are fun 60s adventures that launched an empire that has survived more than half a century and shows no signs of stopping.

Sadly, many of the First Doctor Episodes no longer exist, and those that survive are mostly from the first and second seasons. So many potentially great serials gone, probably forever. There is still plenty to enjoy, but it’s a shame.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Keys of Marinus”

Of all the serials on this list, this is the one that most people wanted cut. The effects are crap, the Doctor is absent from two of the episodes, and there are just better First Doctor episodes out there. All that said, this remains one of my favorite early serials. Plus, if you can buy into the low budget look of this story, you won’t have any problem with any of the others. If you are looking for places to cut corners on this list though, you can skip this one.

Summary: When the Doctor and his companions are cut off from the TARDIS, they soon find themselves transported around the planet Marinus in order to collect several mysterious keys developed by an ancient civilization.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Dalek Invasion of Earth”

This was the first serial chosen for this list and the first argument. You can make a good case that this episode should be replaced by “The Daleks,” the second full Doctor Who serial. “The Daleks” is the first time the Doctor and his greatest enemies meet so it has plenty of firsts for fans, but “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” is just a better story. It looks better than the previous Dalek serial, it’s paced better, and it has a more emotional weight. Plus, a lot of the details from “The Daleks” are quickly ignored to make the Daleks more formidable (starting with how they were able to leave their home city). In fact, it’s one of the best early Doctor Who stories and a must watch for all fans.

Summary: The Doctor and the crew of the TARDIS land on Earth in the 22nd century, shortly after the Daleks have conquered the planet. The population is subjugated and enslaved, and it’s up to the Doctor to free the people and liberate Earth.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Time Meddler”

This serial has two things going for it. First, it introduces a new antagonistic Time Lord, the Meddling Monk, giving the Doctor a worthy opponent (although technically this was before the concept of “Time Lords” was envisioned by the show). Second, it highlights one of the most common themes in the First Doctor’s run – historical fiction. Sadly, many of those historical serials have been lost, but this one offers a little taste of that, along with a sci-fi flair and an enemy that long-time fans still to this day hope might return.

Summary: When the Doctor and his companions arrive in 11th century England, they meet a Monk that knows more about the events of the day than he should. When he attempts to use that knowledge to alter the timeline for his own benefit, the Doctor is not amused. 

Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

In one of the greater tragedies in entertainment history, only seven of Patrick Troughton’s 21 serials remain completely intact.

In many ways, Troughton was the most important actor ever to take on the role of the Doctor. Today, it’s an event when a new Doctor takes over. Back then though, Troughton was taking over a popular role from a beloved actor, playing the same character, and recreating it in a way no one had ever seen before (or arguably since). If Troughton had failed to win over audiences, if audiences weren’t willing to buy into the idea of “regeneration,” Doctor Who would have died and been forgotten.

Instead, Troughton not only made the role his own, he was one of the most interesting and entertaining characters ever to appear in sci-fi. His Doctor was the most brilliant man in every room and yet he looked like a charming hobo. He was Charlie Chaplin with a time machine, Einstein with a Vaudevillian background.

If you want to know why so many people still obsess over the missing Doctor Who episodes, just watch a few Troughton eps and dream about what might have been.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Tomb of the Cybermen”

One of the most common complaints longtime fans of Doctor Who have against the new series is that it has mangled the Cybermen. Even Neil Gaiman couldn’t really re-capture what made them cool and scary (although Capaldi’s two-part 10th season finale was a big step forward). “Tomb of the Cybermen” is a little too ambitious for its own good at times, but it remains a “must watch” and shows both Troughton and the Cybermen at their best.

Summary: The Doctor and his companions arrive on Telos, the resting place of the Cybermen. They are joined by an expedition that intends to investigate the tomb, but not everyone is content to let the Cybermen sleep.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Mind Robber”

I originally left this serial off the list because you have to overlook a whole lot of minor issues to really enjoy it. If you can, however, it is one of the more imaginative and bizarre serials of the early years of Doctor Who. It’s an ambitious episode that outstrips the BBC’s abilities early on, but you really, really have to be willing and able to forgive the effects and designs. On the positive side though, it shows Troughton at his most Troughton-y, and companions Zoe and Jaime make their case as two of the best companions from the classic show.

Summary: When the Doctor and his companions find themselves seconds away from destruction, the TARDIS jumps outside time and space into a new universe. There they find something waiting for them that has the ability to manipulate fiction.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Seeds of Death”

This serial features a little bit of everything that defined Troughton’s run. It has humor, 60’s era sci-fi style, and a memorable enemy in the Ice Warriors. Compared to other serials, it also had a fairly large scope with a story that takes place on Earth and the moon. It’s just a fun story with colorful secondary characters, and it remains one of the best remaining complete Second Doctor serials.

Summary: On Earth in the near future, the world relies on a global teleportation system to transport everything from food to people, and when it breaks down the world is thrown into chaos. In a last-ditch effort to repair it, the Doctor and his companions travel to the moon, where they soon discover that the malfunction is the start of something much more sinister.  

Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

While Troughton’s Doctor was a unique character for any era, Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor was very much a man of his times. He was more action oriented, with a smattering of “Venusian judo” and an Austin Powers-like set of clothes that looked dashing, albeit a little ridiculous as he swaggered around early 70s Great Britain.

Pertwee’s Doctor stood in stark contrast to Troughton’s, but that was just what the show needed. The BBC wanted Doctor Who to cut some cost corners, which led to a majority of storylines set on modern day Earth. In response, Doctor Who became more like spy-fi in the vein of The Avengers. And it worked too. The shift helped to keep the show feeling fresh.

Pertwee’s time also introduced the Master (played by Roger Delgado), but he was a very different type of character compared to what he would become. The Master and the Doctor were rivals, but gentlemen. It was a very English struggle. They were almost friends, minus the Master constantly trying to kill the Doctor (something Steven Moffat picked up on and twisted to fit modern audiences). Their rivalry became a lengthy story arc that unfortunately was forced to end following the tragic death of Delgado.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Spearhead from Space”

This spot was originally reserved for “The Silurians” (which is absolutely worth watching), but “Spearhead from Space” is a more important story. The serial sets up so much. It properly re-introduces UNIT (who appeared in two Second Doctor serials), it grounds the story on Earth, and it introduced the Third Doctor in one of the best introduction stories the classic series offered. It also debuted the Autons, who would appear just once more before being revived in “Rose.”

Summary: A newly regenerated and freshly exiled Doctor must quickly find out what type of person he is following a series of meteorite strikes that bring an alien consciousness to Earth.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Inferno”

I didn’t want to flood the Third Doctor’s list with serials all from the same season, but Pertwee’s first year is by far his best (feel free to disagree in the comments). This serial and “The Silurians” are two of the strongest stories of Pertwee’s run, but “Inferno” has slightly better costumes (the original Silurians are somewhat silly looking). Other than that, the two serials just hold up better than most, and they feature one of the best – and criminally short-lived – companions in Liz Shaw. She was replaced the next season to introduce a more “traditional” companion, i.e. a screamer that couldn’t help getting in trouble.

Summary: While experimenting on the TARDIS, the Doctor accidentally travels to an alternate England where fascism rules. There he plays witness to a natural – and an unnatural – disaster.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Claws of Axos”

Although it might make more sense to feature a later Pertwee episode where the Doctor is again traveling through time and space, this serial is one of the best featuring Delgado as the Master. It highlights how well he and Pertwee played off each other, and it also featured a memorable alien race in the Axons.

Summary: When Earth is contacted by a seemingly benevolent alien race, the Doctor suspects there is more to it. When the Master gets involved, the two Time Lords battle by proxy for the future of humanity.

Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

Choosing just three episodes from the Fourth Doctor was by far the toughest part of this guide. Not only did Tom Baker occupy the role longer than anyone at seven years, he defined it for several new generations. Because of that, I broke my own rules a bit and chose four instead of three.

Baker’s Doctor helped to propel the show to international fame. His bohemian portrayal led the way for the property to expand into multiple fields, including comics, magazines, and more. Those all existed before Baker, but they became a cottage industry during his run. Baker’s Doctor even earned a spot at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.

He also straddled the role as the show underwent several significant shifts in tone, transitioning from the gothic stylings of producer Philip Hinchcliffe to the sci-fi adventure years of Graham Williams to the bizarre trapping of John Nathan-Turner. There was a little something for everyone, and through it all, there was Baker.

Plus, thanks to a local PBS station that aired things years after they originally debuted, Baker was my Doctor.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Ark in Space”

There are better Baker stories than “The Ark in Space.” There are also serials that offer a better look at the Fourth Doctor that highlight his appeal. Plus, one of the monsters is basically a guy in a sleeping bag crawling after people. I don’t care, this remains one of my favorite episodes to date. The tone is dark, the setting is imaginative, and the story is very smart. And I know I’m not alone, as “The Ark in Space” also sets up a handful of episodes from the current run of the show (starting with the Eleventh Doctor story “The Beast Below”) when the Doctor encounters humans in the future that were forced to flee a global disaster. That all started with this episode.

Summary: The Doctor and his companions arrive in Earth’s distant future after the planet has been abandoned. The best of humanity lies in cryo-sleep in an orbiting space station, waiting for the planet to heal itself. But something found the ark first and has plans for the last of humanity.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Genesis of the Daleks”

Baker’s first season was planned out before he was hired, which may explain in part why it is so strong – the producers were forced to tell the best stories they could to help ease the uncertain transition from Pertwee and a still-uncast replacement, so they couldn’t rely on a star to help sell it. And depending on who you ask, “Genesis of the Daleks” is one of the best serials the show has ever done. It’s certainly one of the most famous, and it has been referenced in the current show numerous times. If you are a fan of the current run of the show, this one is worth watching for the long term implications if nothing else.

Summary: The Time Lords divert the Doctor and his companions to Skaro on the eve of the birth of the Daleks. The Doctor is tasked with stopping them from ever being created, but he’ll have to survive the last days of a generations old war to do it.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

Deadly Assassin

My original pick for this slot was “The Talons of Weng-Chaing,” but it was pointed out to me (correctly) that this is a better serial with deep ramifications for the series – specifically the Master and the Time Lords. Plus, “Talons” was kinda racist towards Chinese people. “Deadly Assassin” is also something of a bridge between the earlier, darker Baker episodes, and the more sci-fi specific serials that would come. If you enjoy this episode, you should also watch “Invasion of Time,” a serial that is arguably a sequel to this one.

Summary: The Doctor is forced to return to Gallifrey after he receives a psychic vision of the Gallifreyan president being assassinated. He is quickly accused of the crime, forcing him to investigate his own people.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

City of Death

Baker’s tenure oversaw several shifts in the tone, but it also saw the Doctor himself change. His portrayal always had a manic bohemian flair to it, but the longer he stayed, the weirder he got. That wasn’t in itself a bad thing, but it wasn’t easy to write for. When it worked though, it worked really well – as it did in “City of Death,” a serial which co-starred Julian Glover, had a script co-written by Douglas Adams, and even featured a cameo from John Cleese.

Summary: When the Doctor and his companion, fellow Time Lord Romana, arrive in Paris, they become embroiled in an art heist using alien technology. The Doctor soon discovers that the art thefts are just the tip of a much bigger plot, one as old as life on Earth itself.

Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, took over Doctor Who at a key moment. Baker had, arguably, been in the roll for just a bit too long, and audiences were growing bored. It didn’t help that producer John Nathan-turner was also taking control. Nathan-Turner was the longest running producer in the show’s history, and he also saw it go from one of the most popular shows in the world to canceled in less than a decade. One thing Nathan-Turner did right, however, was the casting of the Fifth Doctor.

Davison was an inspired choice for the role. He projected authority with the face of a young man and offered a balance to Baker’s wackiness. He also managed to help ground some of Nathan-Turner’s nuttier ideas – something the next two actors to play the Doctor couldn’t do.

The Fifth Doctor was the last classic era Doctor to remain truly relevant. Davison’s performances helped to keep the show in the public eye for a few more years, and many still count him as their Doctor.

Choosing the Fifth Doctor’s serials proved to illicit the most conversation of any of the Doctors. There were two distinct sides to the serials during Davison’s tenure. Some were traditional sci-fi stories with an emphasis on technology, others were more geared towards a humanist future. It provided plenty of variety, but there were also some significant differences between stories.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Arc of Infinity”

This story is a bit divisive among fans. It is something of a direct sequel to “The Three Doctors” (see the bonus episode section below), and it features the return of Omega, the original renegade Time Lord. It also expands the Time Lord mythology and introduces the actor Colin Baker, who would take over as the Sixth Doctor (although it was coincidence, not planning). It then becomes a character driven story, to the surprise of many.

Summary: The Doctor is forced to return to Gallifrey when a plot against him is uncovered that has far-reaching implications. In order to stop a plan that could destroy the universe, his own people order the Doctor to die – even though they know he is innocent.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Mawdryn Undead”

This serial is deeply invested in the lore of Doctor Who, both in Time Lord mythology and the Doctor’s personal history. It was originally meant to feature the First Doctor’s companion Ian Chesterton, but the actor (William Russell) was unavailable. Instead, it brought back Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. It also delved deeply into the concept of a regeneration limit, something the current series focused on, and it plays off the idea of time travel in a way few other episodes before it had.

Summary: When the Doctor and his companions are trapped in a time loop, it separates the TARDIS crew into two time zones split six years apart. The Doctor is soon reunited with an old friend, who may hold the key to the Doctor’s future.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Caves of Androzani”

The final serial featuring Davison was a little strange. Unlike most of the other regeneration episodes, it had no larger connection to the series. There are no famous villains, nor is there a galaxy threatening plot in play. It’s just a good story that shows the morality of the Doctor and his depth as a hero. It’s a strong finale for Davison that shows the Fifth Doctor at his best.

Summary: When the Doctor and his new companion Peri land on a desert planet, they find themselves in the middle of a bloody conflict over the source of a powerful drug. At the heart of the attacks though, there is a decades old revenge plot at work.

Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

To be fair, Colin Baker never really had a chance. He isn’t a bad actor, but by this point Nathan-Turner was calling all of the shots, from casting to script approval to costume choices. Baker was never given the chance to make the role his own, and Nathan-Turner’s instincts were not good.

If you need proof of that, just listen to Baker’s performances in the Big Finish audio productions. He has found a balance between what was forced on him and his own choices, and it absolutely works.

It was tough choosing three serials from Baker’s run. There were no great episodes, just bad and not as bad. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch them, just lower your expectations. These serials are also all from one season – Baker’s entire second season was a connected storyline featuring the Doctor on trial by the Time Lords, and it nearly ended the show for good.

Following Baker’s two years in the role, the BBC put the show on an 18-month hiatus and recast the Doctor.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Attack of the Cybermen”

When it aired, “Attack of the Cybermen” was criticized for being too violent and gory. It was a bit jarring for Doctor Who, but it was one of Baker’s better efforts. It also featured a strong question of morality and introduced the grotesque side of the Cybermen, something previously only hinted at that the current run of the show would go all-in on.

Summary: The Doctor and Peri return to Earth where they discover that the Cybermen are kidnapping people and sending them to their adopted homeworld of Telos. The Doctor soon finds that the Cybermen have plans that could change history.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Mark of the Rani”

This may be the best serial of the Sixth Doctor’s run, although the bar is low. The story introduced another renegade Time Lord in the Rani, and it featured some interesting banter between her, the Doctor, and the Master. It’s also a period story, something the BBC knows how to do well.

Summary: The Doctor and Peri land in 18th century England and hear of a washhouse where people leave more violent. They soon discover that the old woman in charge is far more than she appears, and suddenly three Time Lords are battling over the future of humanity.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Revelation of the Daleks”

Although not a bad episode, “Revelation of the Daleks” highlights just how weird Nathan-Turner could be. He puts quirky characters and odd supporting stories in front of solid storytelling. The fame of the Daleks, however, helps to salvage this episode and it establishes some Dalek mythology that continues to this day.

Summary: When the Doctor and Peri arrive on a funeral planet, they are attacked by a mutant who was the subjects of horrific genetic experiments. The Doctor investigates and finds that Davros and his Daleks are at war with another sect of Daleks, and the Doctor is stuck in the middle.

Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

In one of the more misguided decisions in the history of the BBC, the network decided to bring back Doctor Who after a brief hiatus and decided that the best way to do so would be to fire the actor playing the Doctor and yet keep the producer that hired him and designed his unpopular portrayal.

As a result, Baker found himself on the outs and Sylvester McCoy was hired as the Seventh Doctor. Nathan-Turner remained in control.

The results were a truly bizarre 24th season, featuring a returning companion (Mel) that everyone disliked, a Doctor that was still undefined, and four serials that were at times incomprehensible.

The next two seasons showed improvement though, as McCoy made the role his own and one of the better companions in the show’s history, Ace, was introduced. The stories improved as well – but only slightly. It also introduced the concept that the Doctor may be more powerful and important than previously hinted at. That particular storyline never reached fruition, but it’s an idea the current series embraces to a degree.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Remembrance of the Daleks”

The first serial of the landmark 25th season was an anniversary story that probably kept the show on the air for at least the next season. It also ties into the current series, specifically the location Coal Hill School. This story also saw the first time the Daleks showed the ability to climb stairs! It was a big deal at the time…

Summary: The Doctor and Ace arrive in England in 1963, shortly after the First Doctor’s departure. The Seventh Doctor is seeking something he left behind, and the Dalek will do anything to get it.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Ghost Light”

This serial was initially going to explode the origins of the Doctor. The original script was set on Gallifrey in the Doctor’s ancestral home, but at the last minute, Nathan-Turner decided not to reveal that much of the Doctor, at least not yet. As a result of the rewrites, there are a few parts that don’t completely make sense, but overall the episode holds up.

Summary: After Ace tells the Doctor of a house she visited as a kid where she felt an evil presence, the Doctor takes them back in time to the 19th century to investigate. There they discover a house run by a mysterious man, staffed by people in different stages of evolution, and in the basement something is being kept prisoner that could redefine the world.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Curse of Fenric”

Although audiences were tuning out, the Doctor Who production team was beginning to find something of a groove in its 26th season, producing serials that were smart and relevant – if flawed. Rather than trying to be experimental, the show focused on the plot and characters. Doctor Who would be canceled at the end of the season, but it at least went out on a decent note, paving the way for the TV movie and the proper return 16 years later.

Summary: Set during World War II, the Doctor and Ace discover a Viking artifact containing an ancient evil that has been around since the dawn of time. The Doctor, Ace, and the soldiers are soon under siege from a force they can barely comprehend.

Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

Seven years after Doctor Who left the air, producer Phillip Segal and writer Matthew Jacobs got ahold of the rights to the show with the goal of doing a soft relaunch of the character for American audiences. The hope was to create a new series, but the only network that showed any interest was Fox and it was only willing to put up money for a one-off TV movie that could serve as a pilot.

The movie met mixed reviews, and it was a much bigger hit in the UK than in the US. That likely helped encourage the BBC to keep Doctor Who on the back burner for the next nine years until the time was right for it to return, but it sent the property back into hiatus.

As for the story itself, it is somewhat oddly placed when it comes to the show’s canon. Paul McGann is unquestionably the eighth Doctor (he reprised the role in a web special that acted as a lead-in to the 50th anniversary), plus the movie featured the regeneration of McCoy. McGann has also recorded dozens of audio plays for Big Finish as the Eighth Doctor.

Where the current series ignores the movie, however, is in the “reveal” that the Doctor is half-human. That was just dumb.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“Doctor Who movie”

The Doctor Who movie aired in 1996 as an American/Canadian/British joint venture. It co-starred Eric Roberts as the Master and Daphne Ashbrook as the Doctor’s new companion – and a potential love interest. It was designed to be a standalone story with the potential to act as a pilot, but it failed to attract enough viewers to justify the costs.

Summary: After the Daleks execute the Master, the Doctor is called upon to return his enemy’s remains to Gallifrey. Things aren’t what they seem though, and the Doctor crash lands on Earth where he regenerates at the worst possible time.

Bonus Classic Doctor Who Episodes

The serials chosen above are all somewhat traditional stories. Each can be watched without too much explanation or setup. There are a few others, however, that are worth going out of the way the watch if you are a fan.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Unearthly Child”

When Doctor Who first aired, it didn’t feature names for the entire serials, instead each 25 –minute episode had its own title. To be clear, this recommendation is for the very first episode of Doctor Who ever aired, which was titled “The Unearthly Child.” The other three episodes that make up the serial that was later given the name “The Unearthly Child” feature a completely different story set in the time of the cave men. You can skip those episodes.

Summary: When a pair of teachers follow a strange teenage student back to a junk yard after school, they force their way inside a police box and into the wrath of an old man with a secret.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“War Games”

This serial was originally included in the proper list, but many people pointed out – correctly – that it may not be the most accessible episode to fans just getting into classic Who. “War Games” simultaneously has some of the best and worst features of the early Doctor Who. The story is one of the best of Troughton’s time, but it is also exceedingly, even unnecessarily long at 10 episodes. It could easily cut two or three episodes without missing a beat. Still, it is an excellent serial that also serves as the first true introduction of the Time Lords and the departure of Troughton. It’s a must watch for dedicated fans, but not a great introduction to the show.

Summary: The Doctor and his companions land in the middle of a war zone from Earth’s past. They escape, only to find another war zone from a different era bordering it, and then another and another. Once the Doctor discovers the scope of the problem, he realizes that the solution may cost him everything.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Three Doctors”

This serial originally debuted during Pertwee’s run in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the show. It brought back the first three Doctors, (although Hartnell appeared in a lesser capacity due to health concerns), and featured the Time Lords in a more active capacity than they had been seen before. It’s a fun episode, but you may want to hold off until you have a better feel for the classic show.

Summary: When the Time Lords discover a threat coming from a black hole, they turn to the Doctor for help. When the threat proves bigger than anyone first thought, they turn to the Doctor again, and again.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Five Doctors”

To celebrate its 20th anniversary the show reunited the five Doctors – sort of. Tom Baker elected not to return, forcing the producers to use unaired footage to explain his absence, and by this time Hartnell had passed away (the show cast Richard Hurndall as a fill in). This serial appeared as a special, airing 20 years to the day after the show originally debuted.

Summary: The Fifth Doctor is forced to return to Gallifrey after he feels pieces of his former self being removed from his timeline. He and his previous incarnations are then reunited to play a deadly game with many of the Doctor’s deadliest enemies.

What classic Doctor Who episodes to watch

“The Two Doctors”

This serial wasn’t exactly a special, just a means to boost viewership. It didn’t help, but it did provide Troughton one last chance to appear as the Second Doctor alongside fan-favorite companion Jamie. It’s not a great story, but if you have a soft sport for Troughton, it’s worth seeing.

Summary: When the Second Doctor and Jamie are captured, the Sixth Doctor feels the pain of his former self and proceeds to investigate. The two Doctors then stand together.

“Doctor Who: The Curse of the Fatal Death”

This one is a pure bonus. In 1999, the British charity telethon Red Nose Day filmed a Doctor Who comedy special starring several famous British actors and actresses, including Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, Julia Sawalha as the Doctor’s companion, and Jonathan Pryce as the Master. Coincidentally – or perhaps in a piece of cosmic foreshadowing – it was written by Steven Moffat.

You can watch the entire skit above.

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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