How does one Who?

KiriKiri Member
edited November 2013 in Kiri Callaghan

Be sure to check out the vlog associated with this bad boy only on the Geek and Sundry Vlog Channel. 

Also if you want to know more about Who History, definitely check out Doctor Who: A History by my awesome friend, Alan Kistler. You can see it displayed in the background of the vlog. Both he and his book were extremely helpful in putting this all together.

The following is a list of recommended stories from the classic Who series for anyone looking to get into it. If you have no Who experience, start with the modern series--it does a great job of catching you up--and you can start at the beginning and go straight through. Should still all be up on Netflix Instant as well if you're in the US. If you know where to find these in other countries, please post and help out your fellow current and future Whovians.


"An Unearthly Child" – The very first episode still holds up as far as many are concerned and starts off with the Doctor, the TARDIS, his granddaughter Susan, and the first two companions: Barbara and Ian. But the other three episodes that make up this first story are honestly kinda meh and people generally ignore them. 

Important things to know: Year-o-meter has just broken, so he can't control where in time he travels for a while, and he's also pretty shocked when he realizes the TARDIS has stopped changing shape.

 "The  Aztecs" – (Available on Netlix Instant) This is the first adventure where the subject of changing history was brought up. It's a pretty fun story and is also one of the rare instances of the classic run where the Doctor seems to possibly have romantic feelings for someone.

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" – This was the second time the Doctor ever met the Daleks and the first time he started realizing how dangerous they could be (in the first Dalek story, The Daleks, they didn't have space travel yet). This is also the first time a member of the TARDIS crew leaves. And it's sad.

Fun fact: They purposefully filmed this episode very early in the morning to avoid people on the streets and at the time it was absolutely shocking to kids at the time to see Daleks zooming up and down empty London streets.

"The Time Meddler" – The Doctor and his companion Vicki find a stowaway, Steven, a soldier from the future. This adventure was the beginning of a new era, with the Doctor as a more proactive hero. While Ian and Barbara sometimes took lead, new companions Steven and Vicki both saw the Doctor as in charge: “He’s the crew, we’re just the passengers.” So this is when the Doctor really became more the hero we know and love.

SECOND DOCTOR – PATRICK TROUGHTON (The favorite Doctor of Colin Baker and Matt Smith)

 "The Evil of the Daleks" – This is a lost adventure, but you can experience it as an audio play on CD (Thanks, Big Finish Productions!). This was intended to be the last Dalek story when it was written. Oops. Guess there was a demand to bring them back. Again and again and again.

 "Tomb of the Cybermen" – This is the first adventure with Victoria, a girl from the 19th century whose father was killed by Daleks, as an actual companion. She joins the Doctor and his buddy Jamie McCrimmon (18th century Highlander--not the "there can only be one" kind though) as they travel to the future on Telos, said to be the last remaining tomb of the now dead Cybermen. This is considered one of the best adventures of the classic era and is Matt Smith's favorite.

"The Mind Robber"  - The TARDIS explodes and the Doctor wakes up in the Land of Fiction, meeting literary characters. (Yes, please!)

"The Invasion" First appearance of UNIT

"The War Games" - First mention of the Time Lords, first appearance of Gallifrey, first story to reveal that the Doctor stole his TARDIS and why he left his people.


 "The Daemons" – The Master is masquerading as a man of God while secretly planning to summon forth a Daemon, a being from the planet Daemos whose race inspired many legends of devils and hellish beings. This story is part of the Third Doctor's four-year exile on planet Earth, while he's working with UNIT as their scientific adviser "Dr. John Smith." 

"The Three Doctors" – The tenth anniversary adventure. Gallifrey is under siege and only the Doctor can save the Time Lords. To make sure he has enough help, the Time Lords warp time and summon the First and Second Doctors to join the Third. This adventure also reveals information about Omega, one of the founders of Time Lord society.

 "The Time Warrior" – This adventure introduces the Sontarans and Sarah Jane Smith. Super fun episode. While previous traveling companions had been stuck with the Doctor because there was no way to determine where the TARDIS would land (or, in the case of Liz and Jo, they were literally employed to be his assistant), Sarah Jane was different. Now that the Doctor had greater control of his ship, it meant Sarah Jane remained because she chose to. Many had been called "assistant" before, but Sarah Jane was very much a friend and traveling companion. She's also probably my favorite Classic Who Companion. 

Not only did Sarah Jane appear in the modern series (that gives you all the feels), but she got her own spin off series that continued until Elisabeth Sladen's tragic death in 2011 when she lost her battle with cancer.

"The Claws of Axos" - the Master and the Doctor team-up against the Axons. 

"The Sea Devils" - features the Master and the Doctor having a sword fight and introduces the Sea Devils, cousins to the Silurians. 

"Invasion of the Dinosaurs" - Dinosaurs in London. It's fun, just trust me on this.


  • KiriKiri Member
    edited November 2013 PM

    ...This may have been an absolute fluke post right here.... dum dee dum...

  • FOURTH DOCTOR – TOM BAKER (Probably my favorite Classic Doctor)

    "Genesis of the Daleks" – The Time Lords force the Doctor to journey to the beginning of the Dalek race. This introduces Davros, creator of the Daleks, and Russell T. Davies considered it the beginning of the Time War.

    "The Brain of Morbius" – We learn about one of the worst villains of Gallifrey in this Frankenstein inspired story. We also meet the Sisterhood of Karn, an order of witches who have had dealings with the Time Lords and live nearby Gallifrey.

    "Pyramids of Mars" – The legends of Egyptian gods were inspired by powerful aliens who came to Earth thousands of years ago, powerful beings called Osirans who molded much of Egyptian culture. One of them is trying to escape his prison now. This adventure is considered one of the best. First story to have the Doctor truly show a companion that their world and history aren't stable things.

    Cool notes: Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen improvised a number of moments in this story. Tom Baker demanded the script be re-written so Sarah Jane came off as a stronger character.

    "The Deadly Assassin" – The Doctor gets a telepathic summons and has an adventure entirely set on Gallifrey. We learn about the Time Lord clans and about Rassilon, the first Time Lord. We travel into the Matrix of Gallifrey, a virtual reality computer world, and learn that Time Lords only have 13 lives. We also get more hints about the Doctor's past and see how corrupt his planet is and part of why he left.

    Cool notes: This episode contains the line “I deny this reality. The reality is a computation matrix.” This line would inspire a line nearly a decade later in the movie The Dungeonmaster, “I reject your reality and substitute my own” which would later be popularized by Adam Savage… because that movie was pretty dang awful save for that one line.

    "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" – A Victorian era mystery as the Doctor and Leela are trying to solve a series of murders. This adventure also introduced the Time Agency, of which Captain Jack was a member. It is also considered one of the funniest, introducing the characters Jago & Litefoot who later got their own audio play spin-off series that continues to this day.

    "The Pirate Planet" – The Doctor and Romana I, a companion who is also a Time Lord, find that one planet has been replaced with another one. This adventure is written by Douglas Adams and is one of the more memorable of the classic series. It also features K-9 the robot dog in a death battle with a robot parrot (you know you want to watch it for that alone.)

    "City of Death" – Another Douglas Adams story, the Doctor and Romana II (her second body) are in Paris and investigate a mystery around the Mona Lisa. There's also a villain who has some traits in common with current companion Clara. And a cameo by John Cleese.

    "Terror of the Zygons" - the Zygons are coming back soon

    "Face of Evil" - First Leela adventure

    "State of Decay" – Because vampires!

    "Logopolis" – The final adventure



    “Kinda” - A visit to a strange world leads to a battle between two societies ; there are also sci-fi elements that bring to mind the Garden of Eden and its famous snake. A story that has action, mystery and lots of banter, “Kinda” is an excellent showcase of the Fifth Doctor at his best and how different he was from the previous incarnations.

    Cool notes: Features a device that deals in delta waves, though notably less powerful (and deadly) than a similar device that the Ninth Doctor would construct years later.

    “Earthshock” - An alliance is forming to combat the Cybermen, so the vicious cyborgs have decided that the best solution is just kill all life on Earth in one swift go. This story closed the Fifth Doctor’s first season and had a couple of shocks for viewers at the time. Companion feels!

    "The Five Doctors" – Someone is snatching the Doctor, his old companions, and his previous incarnations from out of time and space and throwing them into the Death Zone, a place on Gallifrey where people had to fight to survive a journey to the Dark Tower-Rassilon's Tomb. Guest appearances by the Master, Cybermen and Daleks.

    “Caves of Androzani” - With his new friend Peri Brown, the Doctor lands on Androzani Minor. Very quickly, the two are exposed to a lethal poison, but before they can get proper treatment, they wind up in the middle of a war involving large businesses, gunrunners and androids. Along with being a great story for Peter Davison, this features a moment where the Doctor fights off an oncoming regeneration.

    Cool notes: Androzani Major would be mentioned years later in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”

    The first Doctor Who story directed by Graeme Harper, who went on to direct several episodes of the modern-day program, including “Rise of the Cybermen,” “Doomsday,” “Utopia,” “Time Crash,” “Turn Left,”and episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures.


    "Spare Parts" – The Doctor goes to Mondas, birthplace of the Cybermen (of our universe) and witnesses their creation. Scary.

    "Circular Time" – Four short stories of the Doctor and his companion Nyssa, including a meeting with Isaac Newton and revisiting the Fifth Doctor's final moments from another perspective.


    “Vengeance on Varos” – The Doctor has to make an emergency landing on Varos, where the population has limited power and food and is entertained by watching people fight for their lives on reality TV. In several cases, the audience has to vote on whether or not some of the people survive.

    During this early point of his life, the Sixth Doctor was very pragmatic and could be a bit cold, much like his first incarnation, and this adventure is an excellent example of what kind of man he was.

    Notes: It served as a precursor to later stories “The Happiness Patrol” and “Bad Wolf.” It also features Sean Connery's son.

    “The Two Doctors” – A really fun that serves to contrast the two incarnations of the Doctor rather than rushing into a straight team-up. We get a decent look at some of the Sixth Doctor’s best qualities and get to laugh at some of his best lines.

    Fun Fact: This adventure also resulted in the Doctor becoming a vegetarian for a while.


    “Holy Terror” – The Doctor and Frobisher (a shape-shifting penguin) wind up on a planet ruled by a religion that no one questions.

    “The Apocalypse Element" – The Daleks make a move to invade Gallifrey. Meanwhile, the Doctor discovers that his old friend Romana has become the President of Gallifrey.

    “Doctor Who and the Pirates" – An adventure that is both sad and comedic and involves a musical chapter where everyone sings. The Doctor signs his own version of "A Modern Major General."

    I also recommend the trilogy of stories made up by these three audio plays: “City of Spires,” “The Wreck of the Titan” and “Legend of the Cybermen.”



    “Remembrance of the Daleks” -  Deciding he would proactively hunt and defeat evil, this story has the hero dealing with not one but two Dalek armies engaged in a civil war. It also has the Doctor returning to the junkyard where we first met him in the TARDIS in 1963. And the Doctor's new companion Ace, a precursor to Rose in many ways, gets to fight Daleks with a cosmic baseball bat.

    Note: This story marked the Seventh Doctor changing from an odd adventurer to a manipulative master planner, earning him the nicknames of “the Dark One” and "the Master Planner" from many fans.

    “Battlefield” - The retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart joins forces with the Doctor again to defend the Earth from Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred. At Morgaine's side are knights armed with ray guns. And they all recognize the Doctor… except they call him "Merlin." I know, I know, knights with ray guns-- but seriously, check it out.

    “The Curse of Fenric” - A bizarre story of paradoxes, blood drinkers, possible future timelines, and the revelation of just how Ace really came into the Doctor’s life. The idea that a companion would have a mystery about them that would be slowly revealed over different episodes was a new one, later reflected by characters such as Donna Noble and Amy Pond.


    Sadly, Paul McGann has only appeared in one on-screen story, the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie (so check that out).

    He’s also done a freaking ton of audio plays and you should at the very least check out these—they’re great for traveling! (Just in time for the holiday commutes):

    “Storm Warning” – The first of the 8th Doctor audio plays, it introduces the companion of Charlie Pollard, "Edwardian adventuress." Russell T Davies said once that without Charlie, Rose Tyler would have never existed.

    “The Chimes of Midnight” – The Doctor and Charlie are in a house where it's always Christmas eve and its midnight every hour and each time the clock bell tolls someone new is murdered.

    "Time of the Daleks" – The Daleks are up to a new plan and somehow they're wiping out Shakespeare from history. Are you ready to hear a Dalek quote the bard? Cuz that happens here.

    "Seasons of Fear" – An immortal enemy is hunting the Doctor, but he swears they've never met before. He and Charlie must go back in time to try and understand this enemy and learn how he's been changing history.

    “Terror Firma” – After spending months exiled in a "timeless universe," Charlie, the Doctor and new friend C'Rizz (pronounced Care-rizz) find themselves landing in a Dalek base. This is a terrifying adventure full of psychological games. The Doctor talks about what he expects to do in the future when he's tired of travel and confronts actions from his past such as when he tricked the Daleks into blowing up their home world Skaro.

    “Blood of the Daleks” – The Doctor is alone again and suddenly a smart-ass Northern girl named Lucie Miller is teleported onto his TARDIS.

    "The Earthly Child" – So long after they said goodbye, the Eighth Doctor decides to find his granddaughter Susan and meet her son Alex, who seems to be human. This brought back Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan originally, and has Paul McGann's own son play Alex. 

    Seemed like a good place to end this list. Has a nice circular quality to it.

    Share your favorite classic Who moments, ask questions! Let us know where to get access to these in different regions as I know not everyone has access to Netflix.

    I hope your Day of the Doctor is a great one. 

  • This is honestly so incredibly useful to a Who newbie like me! Thank you for putting this together, Kiri! I'm excited to delve into the larger world of Who as soon as my Christmas break arrives ^^
  • I have been informed that Canada also has a lot of Who available on Netflix.

    Also, I believe you can get all of the audio plays here:

  • That was an amazing recap from someone who I'm guessing is too young to have seen even parts of the classic series when it was on the air. I gotta ask: what led you to classic Who? How did you find the older black-and-white episodes (most of them are not even available on VHS, much less DVD!)?
  • If anyone's wondering, Hulu Plus has the exact same "Classic Doctor Who" episodes that can be found on Netflix in the US, plus an additional three ("The Claws of Axos" Parts 1-3).
    Also, the seasons on Hulu are numbered 1-26 (with some gaps) instead of Netflix's 1-17 (without gaps), and Hulu uses the actual episode numbers, unlike Netflix.

    In short, Hulu has 78 episodes from 18 different seasons, while Netflix US has 75 episodes from 17 different seasons (if I've counted correctly).
    Not much of a difference, but I thought I'd share.

    I can also reveal that Netflix Sweden doesn't have a single episode of "Classic Doctor Who" (only series 1-5 of the modern Doctor).
    On the other hand, Netflix Sweden has "Real Humans", which would make US Netflix customers jealous if only they knew what they were missing....
  • I didn't know their were radio plays of Doctor Who. I'll just add it to my list of The Shadow and HGTTG.
  • Thank you so much @Kiri for putting this together! It's not even been a year that I've gotten into the new Doctor Who series and without this list I still wouldn't have a clue on where to start for Classic Who. Guess I'll have to import a few DVDs (still no Netflix in Germany... *sigh*)
    I sometimes tweet: V_Arakawa (in several languages)

    Author Thread: Kouri

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  • @Kiri you are so thorough!

    We watched The Three Doctors to prepare for the multi-Doctor interactions in the 50th, and it's on Netflix instant (U.S.)!
    Follow us:
  • Rewatched "Class Reunion" the night before the fiftieth, to get a bit of a Tennant refresher. I had forgotten how bad the CGI monsters in the Eccleston/Tennant era were (and they're not a whole lot better in the Smith era, but other CGI elements got better.) The best monsters in the series are the ones achieved with makeup and practical effects.
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