Fifty years. Eleven Doctors. 798 individual episodes, adding up to 239 stories. If youre anything like me, youve seen them all. Repeatedly. You know the production history. Youve flipped through the telesnaps of junked episodes. Youre eagerly awaiting the 50th Anniversary Special with a thorough knowledge of Who mythos, ready to grin knowingly at any and every obscure reference that Moffat and Co. decide to throw at you. You might say that youve got an honorary Doctorate in Doctor Who. And if youre anything like me, this article is not for you. There are a lot of Doctor Who fans out there who started watching when the show came back in 2005. Some of you may have come onboard only as recently as the Tennant or Smith eras. And while youre curious about past Doctors, past episodes, and the long and winding mythos of a series that has become an international phenomenon, the sheer volume of television history you are confronted with can seem a little well daunting. You dont know where to start. This article is for you. An introductory viewers guide to the classic series, here is a list of episodes presented well, we cant really say chronologically, when were talking about time travel, can we? So presented Doctor by Doctor: the essential, the exceptional, the merely expository (as, sadly, the very best episodes and those that are important to the overall series continuity are not always the same), and the execrable. Obviously, such lists cannot transcend an inherent element of subjectivity and, in that respect, the opinions, arguments and alternative suggestions of other seasoned Doctor Who veterans are not only welcome, but encouraged. For the rest of you, I hope this guide can provide a jumping off point: the first few steps on a wild, weird and wonderful, one-of-a-kind, televised journey through time and space, so that you can arrive at the Anniversary special in November armed with an authoritative awareness and ardent appreciation of Doctor Whos rich history. But before we begin A few basics: 1) Classic Doctor Who was not presented in its current format of one hour-long story per week. Stories were broken up and serialized as (usually four, but sometimes more) half-hour episodes. Altogether, one story typically runs the length of your average movie. 2) Like its titular character, Doctor Who regenerates. From Doctor to Doctor, season to season, the series grows, changes, transforms. Fifty years is a long time, after all If you dont like a particular Doctor, or a particular era, dont assume the classic series is not for you. Move on the next season, or the next Doctor, and you might be pleasantly surprised. 3) Remember that this will not be the big-budget, action packed sci-fi spectacle that you have grown accustomed to with the current series. The pace is slower, the presentation is, often, more theatrical, and the production value, by modern standards, is well lets call it quaint. But, at its core, you will find the same exciting, entertaining, groundbreaking series you have grown to love. And at the center of it all will, of course, be The Doctor, who - different as his eleven incarnations may outwardly seem has always been, at his core, the same.
Matt J. Popham is an erratic, unreliable writer, an unapologetic intellectual snob, an opinionated political loudmouth, a passionate cinephile, and a near obsessive fan of Doctor Who and punk rock. I also tend to overuse commas and ellipses...
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