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October 10, 2015

Catch Up With 'Doctor Who': 5 Essential Episodes

by Catherine Lawson, posted Aug 9th 2011 3:30PM
So you've heard the buzz, your interest is tickled and you're ready to take the plunge into a new show. There's just one problem -- you don't have time to catch up on multiple seasons.

Have no fear, AOL TV is here. We'll be spotlighting five episodes from some of the best scripted comedies and dramas on TV that you need to see before jumping into the new season this fall.

Up now? 'Doctor Who.'

'Doctor Who'
Starring Matt Smith, 'Doctor Who' follows the adventures of the ancient, mysterious alien Time Lord known as "The Doctor." A British cultural institution, it originally aired on the BBC from 1963 to 1989, and was then resurrected as a TV series in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston in the title role.

The Doctor travels through time and space in his sentient time machine, the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). Bigger on the inside than the outside, the TARDIS is disguised to look like a 1960s London police box.

Not a sci-fi fan? Don't let that put you off. 'Doctor Who' has all the components of a truly classic TV drama series: Compelling storylines, outstanding performances from some of the best actors around, great scripts, a wry sense of humor, and moments that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

The Doctor has been played by 11 actors so far, and the transition from one to another is written into the plot of the show as "regeneration," whereby The Doctor takes on a new body and a new personality.

Fan favorite David Tennant replaced Christopher Eccleston in Season 2 of the new era and steered the TARDIS for three seasons until Matt Smith took over in 2010.

Each Doctor has one or more traveling companions -- usually feisty, attractive young women -- to share his adventures. Matt Smith's Doctor shares his TARDIS with Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and, in a first for the series, her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill). He also has an occasional passenger and partner-in-crime, River Song (Alex Kingston), who may or may not be his wife.

The series enters the second half of Season 6 on Sat., Aug. 27, at 8PM ET on BBC America. Interested in tuning in? These are five episodes -- yes, some are two-parters -- you need to watch before diving head-first into the long-running critically-acclaimed sci-fi drama.

'Doctor Who' S01/E011. 'Rose' (Season 1, Episode 1, 2005)
Why you need to watch it: The premiere episode starring Christopher Eccleston, this season opener provides great context for newbie viewers. Having barely survived The Great Time War, a recently regenerated Doctor lands on Earth just in time to save his soon-to-be companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) from a horde of homicidal department store mannequins, pitting the pair against a malevolent alien intelligence with the ability to bring plastic to life.

'Doctor Who' S01/E092. 'The Empty Child'/'The Doctor Dances' (Season 1, Episodes 9 and 10, 2005)
Why you need to watch it: Also known to petrified viewers as "Are You My Mummy?" this is a truly chilling two-parter set in London during World War II. Notable for the baddies being children with gas masks for faces and the introduction of Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), sometime TARDIS resident and star of spin-off show 'Torchwood.' Despite all the tears and trauma, there is a happy ending. Phew.

'Doctor Who' S03/E083. 'Human Nature'/'The Family of Blood' (Season 3, Episodes 8 and 9, 2007)
Why you need to watch it: Another superb two-part story in which The Doctor has hidden his true identity to escape capture by a race of alien hunters known as 'The Family.' Living as human schoolteacher John Smith on the eve of World War I, The Doctor embraces his newfound humanity and finds true love with school nurse Joan Redfern (Jessica Hynes), only to be forced into sacrificing their happiness. Heart-wrenching.

'Doctor Who' S03/E104. 'Blink' (Season 3, Episode 10, 2007)
Why you need to watch it: A truly classic episode from the mind of showrunner Steven Moffat, The Doctor is largely off-screen, offering nuggets of advice from the past to Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) who's battling The Weeping Angels. Now a 'Who' staple, this was the first outing for the Angels, who look like the stone statues you see in cemeteries or on old buildings, but who are really vampiric aliens who creep up behind you when you're not looking and steal your life force. "Don't blink or you're dead!"

'Doctor Who' S05/E115. 'The Lodger' (Season 5, Episode 11, 2010)
Why you need to watch it: There's always been a lot of humor in 'Doctor Who,' and this affectionate episode showcases the eccentricities of his youngest incarnation so far. The Doctor's stranded in modern-day Essex after the TARDIS -- with Amy inside -- dematerialises into the time vortex and refuses to rematerialise. So, he rents a room in a shared apartment, takes up soccer and tries to blend in. Along the way, he discovers that the apartment upstairs is actually an alien spaceship and he plays relationship guru to his roommate, Craig (James Corden).

'Doctor Who' Season 6, Part 2 premieres Saturday, Aug. 27, 8PM ET on BBC America.
'Doctor Who' Seasons 1-5 are available on Netflix via streaming and DVD.

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Tegan N

Oh God, imagine a life without knowing Dr Who!

Anyway: Tennant was in four seasons if you count the year of Specials before he regenerated.
Good list except not sure about 'The Lodger'...I agree that 'Vincent', 'The Doctor's Wife' or the second of the Cyberman 2-parter where Rose gets trapped in the parallel world were all better than that.

March 26 2012 at 6:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I want to add another one as well. "Vincent & The Doctor" where after seeing a Van Gogh painting seeing a monster inside a church so The Doctor & Amy travel back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh & try to save him. Great acting & the last 10 minutes of the episode could make you cry out of happiness.

August 11 2011 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Katie Mercury

This list is 100% accurate for those thinking of jumping into Doctor Who, but don't know where to start. One of my all-time favorite episodes, Blink, made this list. Honorable mention goes to The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon just to shear cringe factor over...well, you'll have to watch it. Some of Steven Moffat's best work.

Netflix Watch Instantly has all these episodes available with the exception of The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon. I thought David Tennant was a good Doctor and that I'd never like Matt Smith, until Matt Smith proved he's a much better Doctor: full of mistakes and anger barely hid by his whimsy. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is incredible. You can't imagine these story lines! And you get so sucked in! The writing is just fantastic for the vast majority of the episodes for Tennant and it's never been better. And on top of it all Moffat's doing Sherlock?! The man is unreal as an author. Other worldly even.

August 11 2011 at 10:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Lodger description is wrong, the Doctor doesn't take the roommate opening just for a lark, he takes it because he knows something is up with the building, he just doesn't know what.

Also, I would recommend as an addition to the list "The Doctor's Wife", including the Tardis herself, or as The Doctor calls her "Sexy thing", a character who's been with the show since the beginning, but we've never heard from before that episode. It was a very well done episode, and was a great look at the characters.

August 10 2011 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No Girl in the Fireplace or the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead?

Blink is amazing, and The Lodger was a pretty fun episode.

August 09 2011 at 7:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I second this list.
Especially blink, that was creepy awesome.
And as an added Bonus. Girl in the Fireplace.

August 09 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You need to watch the two parter where the doctor and rose are on the asteroid near the black hole. I loved that one a lot.

August 09 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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