classic who (1)

Classic Who: Starter Pack/List of Recommended Stories

So, you love Doctor Who and want to see what the Classic series is all about. But, you know, it ran for 26 years and it’s fucking huge and just way too daunting, and something about missing episodes?? Help?? Never fear. 

The great thing about Doctor Who, especially Classic Who, is that watching it in order really isn’t that important. 

So, as far as I’m concerned, the best way to get into Classic Who is to sample a bit of each Doctor, and see what takes. And so here is my list of recommendations for each Doctor for those of you wanting to give this beautiful low budget sci-fi meme-factory masterpiece a try. 

  • Note 1: Classic Who is formatted differently to New Who. It’s made up of ‘serials’, which are storylines of anything from 2-10 episodes, 25 minutes each. Most are 4, but 2 and 6 parters are also common in some eras. So I’m recommending the serials, as opposed to episodes, obviously. 
  • Note 2: I want to express that this is my personal rec list, and what I think people will enjoy/enjoyed myself. I’m not claiming that these are definitely the best storylines or the ones people will enjoy most because Doctor Who is an incredibly subjective show, and deciding on ‘best’ storylines is so difficult. So, this list is fallible, probably, but I hope you like it anyway. 

These are listed, in chronological order, with serial title, then companions, and then any additional notes I have about the story. 

(Italicised serial title is my top rec for that era if you’re just looking for one of each, with the exception of The Unearthly Child because it’s the first one so just watch it, okay?)

First Doctor

  • An Unearthly Child (not the unaired pilot version, the proper first episode!! If Susan is drawing weird shit on paper you’re watching the wrong one) - Ian, Barbara and Susan - just episode 1 and first half of ep 2, once they leave the TARDIS you’re good to stop unless you want to keep going which is totally fair but it’s just a lot of cavemen grunting about fire really, though there is an interesting moment where the Doctor wants to kill a dude with a rock
  • The Aztecs - Ian, Barbara, and Susan - okay basically if you want the serious historical storyline go with this one, otherwise see The Romans
  • The Dalek Invasion of Earth - Ian, Barbara and Susan 
  • The Romans - Ian, Barbara, and Vicki (newly joined) - if you want the funny, very silly historical storyline, go with this one, otherwise, go Aztecs

Second Doctor

  • The Mind Robber - Zoe and Jamie
  • The War Games  - Zoe and Jamie (as a warning, it’s fucking 10 episodes long but really good if a little stretched out) - first naming of and appearance of Time Lords as a people, Two’s regeneration episode 

Third Doctor

Three’s era has way too many great serials so I’m just gonna let you pick from what you think sounds good. All of these feature the Brigadier to some capacity, too. 

  • Spearhead in Space - Liz (first appearance) - important for getting an idea of what the UNIT situation is, first Auton appearance, first episode following the regeneration
  • Inferno - Liz - it’s basically an “all the Doctors friends are evil!AU verse” story
  • Terror of the Autons - Jo (first appearance), first appearance of the Master
  • The Sea Devils - iconic Best Enemies serial (the sword fight!), has the Silurian’s “cousins” the Sea Devils, plus the actual Navy and lots of boats
  • The Three Doctors - Jo - MULTI DOCTOR, First and Second Doctor, first appearance of Omega
  • The Time Warrior - Sarah Jane (first appearance) - first Sontaran appearance, first naming of Gallifrey! 

Fourth Doctor

  • Genesis of the Daleks - Sarah Jane and Harry - first Davros appearance/Dalek origin stuff! TMA/TWF in Series 9 of New Who is basically a sequel to this story
  • Invasion of Time - Leela - set on Gallifrey with Time Lords and Sontarans
  • City of Death - Romana II (Time Lady companion!!) - centred around the Mona Lisa kinda 

Fifth Doctor

  • The Five Doctors - Tegan and Turlough - plus old companions, MULTI DOCTOR, first five doctors except Four
  • Caves of Androzani - Peri (newly joined) - very acclaimed story, Five’s regeneration episode, think Phantom of the Opera meets alien mining shit  

Sixth Doctor

I’ve not seen enough of his first season so this is my main rec, along with the whole Trial of a Time Lord season if you’re looking for more Six. 

  • Mark of the Rani - Peri - first appearance of the Rani (another renegade Time Lord, amoral scientist who was at school with the Doc and the Master, hates them both lmao), plus the Master, it’s a big messy school reunion set during the Industrial Revolution

Seventh Doctor

  • Remembrance of the Daleks - Ace - set at Coal Hill, Ace beats a Dalek up with a baseball bat, literally creating the “defining moment of awesome” trope because she’s that iconic
  • The Happiness Patrol - Ace - dystopia where unhappiness is illegal, the TARDIS gets painted pink

Eighth Doctor 

  • The 1996 movie - Grace - take the ‘half human’ thing with a grain of salt because Eight is a little shit and the Master was dealing with shifty information

And there we are!

If anyone gets through this list and wants to ask for additional recs, feel free to come into my inbox, I’m always up for helping others get into the joy that is Classic Who. 

Otherwise, sit back, strap in, and prepare to laugh at some questionable guest acting, stuffy Time Lords in stupid clothes, and of course the old/cheap special effects. And of course, enjoy, because the storylines are still solid as HELL and so are the main characters.