There’s a step that a great deal of New-Who Whovians want to take – wandering over to the Classic stories and becoming a “true” fan. But how? With 696 episodes comprising of 156 (well, it depends on who you ask) stories – many of which are missing from the archive – watching classic Doctor Who is a daunting task for most. Many attempt to start right from the beginning and watch every episode in order from the start, but hours upon hours of reconstructions and somewhat dodgy story lines take their toll, and many struggle to make it past the Troughton era. Others take the approach of simply picking random stories to watch, and while this approach can work it ultimately doesn’t allow them to fully appreciate each story’s context and what it did for the show. Some others rely on having episodes picked out for them, electing to watch high-rated stories or ones selected for events such BBC marathons; but where’s the fun in only watching stories that someone deemed “the very best”? Some much-loved stories for some fans are much-hated by others (The Rings of Akhaten being a textbook New Series example), some of the worst stories contained some of the series most important long-term developments, and furthermore every Whovian deserves to have a unique Classic-Who experience.
Because here’s the thing: half the fun of watching Classic Doctor Who in the 21st century is understanding what it did for the show’s legacy. Ever wondered exactly how the sonic screwdriver was introduced? Ever been curious about how each companion came and left the Doctor, and how this tended to change with the show over the years? Wanting to know where the recently resurrected “you’ve redecorated” joke originated? Sure, a reference book could give you the answers, but it’s not quite the same as experiencing it yourself.
Welcome to what I hope is one of the most helpful guides you’ll ever read. Made specifically for New-Who Whovians who want to get into the Classics, it briefly examines each story not just for it’s quality, but considers it’s context, uniqueness and contributions to Doctor Who‘s history. Perhaps most importantly, it encourages readers to experience the stories chronologically; but only the ones they decide, on their own, that they want to watch. Of course, nothing beats watching every story in order from the start, but as this is an unrealistic venture for most I present the next best option, which allows readers to get the gist of each story and pick out as many or as few as they’d like.
Please note that I wrote this guide purely with a New-Who target audience in mind, and it’s therefore not “Doctor Who for Dummies”. I don’t take two seconds to explain the concept of a ‘Cyberman’, what I mean when I say “this story is like The Pandorica Opens“, or who Sylvester McCoy is. I’m assuming you’re reasonably well versed in all the New-Who stories, and have a really, really basic idea of who the classic Doctors are. A small amount of knowledge of how the show was produced over the years (particularly in the early 60s) is preferable, but not required – I do my best to briefly spell this out where it affects the context of a story or era.
The guide is spoiler-free*, and designed to provide an overview of each story in the context of what it did for both the short and long term future of the show. There may also be discussion on the fandom’s response to the story, as well as its general perceived quality both then and now. The guide’s body has been broken into several parts, each containing four to six stories. Every story has it’s own section, which is laid out in the following way:
Of course, a guide such as this can never truly be “spoiler-free”. However, my mission is to encourage people to watch Classic Who – not spoil it for them – so careful thought and consideration goes into exactly what facts I choose to give away. My rule of thumb is that I don’t include anything that isn’t established in episode one, or otherwise included in the DVD cover art or the title of the serial. If you feel I’ve ‘spoiled’ a story, feel free to leave a comment on the post and I’ll do my best to correct it.
Another Small Side Note
It’s important to keep in mind that while I tried to keep this guide as objective as possible, it’s simply unfeasible to write anything of this nature without opinions getting in the way. For this reason I do my best to make it clear when I feel any of my comments or recommendations may be subjective, and I still try to consider “both sides of the argument” before making any recommendations. For this reason you’ll frequently see me write things like “if you like the Daleks, you’ll like this story” or “it’s kind of similar to ______ of the ______.” At the end of the day it’s not about what I think, it’s about making sure your Classic Who journey is tailored to your tastes.
A lot of time and love has gone into constructing this guide, and I sincerely hope you can benefit from it. Please enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions or kudos!