Doctor Who: Where to Start? (Ultimate Guide)

Doctor Who: Where to Start

Doctor Who is one of those staple pieces of the science fiction legacy. The ever-charming Doctor managed to intrigue fans around the world producing in a total of 38 series over the 57 years the show was active. It’s one of the few shows from that time period that remained relevant to this day. This does complicate things for new people looking to get into the show since it is not very clear where to start with Doctor Who?

Although you can start watching Doctor Who virtually anywhere, a common understanding is that you should either start from the beginning or from the renewed Doctor Who from 2005, starting with the ninth Doctor.

There are mixed opinions regarding this topic among Doctor Who fans so if you want to learn more about these two methods make sure to read this article to determine the right method for yourself.  

Which Doctor Who should I start with?

So, when you are offered a series that takes place everywhere, during all the time that ever was and ever will be, where do you start? Although you can start essentially anywhere you want, there are two most popular methods; from the beginning and from the beginning of the modern series.

The classic series starts in 1963 with the First Doctor, portrayed by William Hartnell and the modern series starts with the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston in 2005.  

The classic series would be a great start if you would like to get deep into the Doctor Who lore and have a better understanding of the entire series. It will take you through the entire Doctor’s journey.

One thing to keep in mind is that the first series was filmed almost 60 years ago, hence not all of it aged well. Some of the special effects and overall view of future technology may be a bit cringe-worthy. Another thing to consider is the fact that the first six seasons of the show are in black and white which doesn’t sit well with some viewers.

Despite this, the popular opinion is that the classic is underestimated. All of the actors are at the very least good and some of them are even considered among the best regenerations, for example, the fourth Doctor.

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If you chose this approach, there is no need to stick to strict order, beyond major plot point since a portion of the series got lost over time.

A great advantage of actually watching the Classic Who is a more comprehensive understanding of the Doctor’s backstory. In addition to this, the series is known for including references from the Classic series in the Modern series, and watching it will allow you to understand these subtle nods.

One of the most popular examples of this happened when the eleventh Doctors open an episode with a cowboy hat and River Song shoots it off his head in a reference to Classic Who when The Doctor makes requests that someone shoots the hat off his head if he ever wears it again.

If you are short on time and do not want to put yourself through half a decade old show you can start from the beginning of the modern series. The modern series marks the revival of the show with a new Doctor.

It has everything the Classic Who has doesn’t have but improved in terms of special effects and general filmmaking due to technological advancements.

The modern series is often praised for its ability to combine more mature and darker themes with more comedic moments to it, especially after the ninth Doctor.

You can also watch it without previously seeing the Classic Who series without losing much from the modern series. It also revisits some important plot points from the Classic who enabling the viewer to skip the first part of the series altogether. 

The fact that you have not seen Classic Who will not affect your viewing experience since all of the characters get reintroduced in the Modern series.

Certain parts of the series, most episodes directed by Steven Moffat, are exceptionally well written and present this new take on the character of the Doctor. 

One such aspect of the modern series is the character of the Master. He is a sort of Doctor’s enemy, but not really. The modern Who takes this idea of another Time Lord with opposing ideologies to Doctor’s own. They revived him twice and his last appearance as Missy even has a redemption arc which shows that Doctor managed to change her after all.

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One thing to keep in mind is the ongoing debate among the fans regarding the first series of the modern Who. Depending on who you ask, they may recommend you to skip Christopher Eccleston’s series. 

Although he gives an amazing performance and the series has some amazing plot points many will tell you that it does not represent what the show is today. Some choices made during that run were dropped as soon as the next series.

One thing worth noting is that despite the popular belief the modern Who actually is not a reboot of the original series and it is in fact a continuation of the first series. Although they are one story, as it was already said if you skip the classic series you will not lose much from the overall plot, but it will provide you with the ability to enjoy the subtle hints and easter eggs sprinkled throughout the Modern Who for the most loyal of fans to enjoy.

Do you have to start Doctor Who from the beginning?

As it was already stated in this article, you do not necessarily need to watch the series from the beginning. Not only that you do not need to watch it from the beginning, but it is also often recommended that new viewers come back to it after watching the modern Who first.

Many people recommend watching modern Who firs to get to know the characters better and to immerse themselves into the show’s universe. That way you will be able to enjoy the classic Who for what it is despite the holdbacks relating to the time it was made and the budget it had.

Most people will recommend starting with the episode eleventh hour, Matt Smith’s first episode or the beginning of David Tennant’s run as the Doctor.

This way will make it easier to follow the plot and get the feel of what the show is like, making it easy to determine if the show is something you would enjoy. If you end up liking the show and want to see more after you finished the modern Who, you can go back and rewatch parts or even the entirety of the Classic Who if you end up enjoying it. 

Can you watch Doctor Who out of order?

Since the show deals with time and space travel, most of the episodes are standalone stories that mention a few plot points that stretch over more episodes. Because of this, you can watch it in any order you want.

Unless you have nothing else to do most people will recommend you start out of order. Furthermore, many watch lists will suggest watching in order of best to worst Doctors from the Modern Who and then moving onto the Classic series. 

The modern series has more stories that stretch over multiple episodes so for the most part, you should watch it in chronological order. However, when it comes to different Doctors feel free to jump from one to another without following any specific order.

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The Classic Who is on the other hand much looser regarding this continuity issue. In the beginning, it did not have many overlapping ideas so for most parts you can watch it in any order you want and even sip between different Doctors in between the episodes. 

The overlining theme is that each Doctor has some overarching idea, but before every regeneration or sometimes even before the change of companions all the loose ends get tied up so that from that point on the show can move onto new ideas.

This works due to the nature of the show and is in part the reason why so many people love the show. This applies to pretty much an entire show, with the exception of Rose’s story arc since it stretches over multiple seasons and few different Doctors.

  • Hrvoje Milakovic is co-owner of Fiction Horizon and a big cinephile. Apart from that, he likes to read comics, play games and collect action figures. He has been featured on LifeWire, Yahoo and IMDb, to name a few.