10 Greatest Classic Doctor Who Stories

The best serials from Doctor Who's first 26 years, but how many star Tom Baker?

Doctor Who Genesis of the Daleks Tom Baker Fourth Doctor
BBC Studios

There have been so many lists detailing the greatest Doctor Who stories over the years that creating a new one can be a daunting prospect.

If the writer settles for the status quo then it's hardly worth writing a new list. If they're going to contentiously slaughter the sacred cows of classic Doctor Who, then are they just showing off?

Hopefully, this list falls somewhere in the middle: a collection of ten Doctor Who stories from 1963 to 1989 that represent the very best of what this show has to offer (for our "very worst" list, see here). Fan consensus could always do with a refresher, which is why there are some choices here that have never featured in the top slots of previous classic rankings.

The joy of Doctor Who is that it can be anything from story to story. It can be a dazzling view of humanity's future one week, while the next it can plunge viewers into the darkest periods of human history. Sometimes, it can do all these things at once.

While WhoCulture pooled some responses from Twitter as to which serials represent the very best of classic Doctor Who, the final ranking is your writer's own.

10. The War Machines

Doctor Who Genesis of the Daleks Tom Baker Fourth Doctor
BBC Studios

It's not a huge stretch to suggest that, without The War Machines, there would be no UNIT. The Dalek Invasion of Earth is great, but it takes place long after the villains have succeeded in conquering a future Earth. The War Machines is the first Doctor Who story that brings the threat to the audience's doorstep.

New companions Polly and Ben are the most contemporary companions since Ian and Barbara, and the story centres around the latest addition to the London skyline. It's a bracingly modern Hartnell serial that truly represents the crucial moment where Doctor Who fully broke away from its stuffy educational remit.

It's an attempt to move with the times and ground Doctor Who in the Swinging Sixties. It's also the last great performance by the ailing William Hartnell: as he stares down an advancing War Machine in the third episode's cliffhanger, there is absolutely no doubt that it's the Doctor who is the true hero of the show.

The War Machines establishes the template for Doctor Who's contemporary Earth invasion stories, a format that it continues to follow to this day. One of the most obvious links is The Bells of Saint John, which also features a nefarious Artificial Intelligence taking over a new London landmark.

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Citizen of the Universe, Film Programmer, Writer, Podcaster, Doctor Who fan and a gentleman to boot. As passionate about Chinese social-realist epics as I am about dumb popcorn movies.