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Doctor Who: where should a newbie start?

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Doctor Who: where should a newbie start?

Old 05-08-06, 05:36 PM
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Doctor Who: where should a newbie start?

I've been enjoying the recent series, and has my interest raised to see the episodes. Despite considering myself a big sci-fi fan, the new series is actually the first "Doctor Who" I've ever seen -- well, except for that 1996 American movie, which didn't do so much for me. I guess it just wasn't on my radar when I was a kid, and now none of my local PBS channels seem to show it.

With the exception of the missing episodes from the first couple of Doctor's, most of it is available in one form or another. Is there a recommended place for a newbie to start? Is it true that each of the serials are pretty much stand-alone, or are there some that really should be seen first? I was planning out checking out the new "Beginning" collection, but after that I'm not sure. I can say that I know any perceived "cheapness" will not be a factor. I'm a big fan of "old school" sci-fi -- original "Star Trek", "Outer Limits", Ray Harryhausen, Quatermass, etc. Thanks in advance for any insights!
Old 05-08-06, 05:52 PM
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As you have seen from the current show, you really don't need to know too much about the old show by, watching past episodes, to understand the new show. I started watching in the 80's when Tom Baker (Doctor #4) was portaying him. I would watch some of those, maybe some of the Pertwee (Doctor #3) . Maybe some of the Davidson (Doctor #5) ones. After that I didn't see many of the incarnations and I have never seen any complete episodes of Doctor's 1 and 2.

Have fun.
Old 05-08-06, 06:34 PM
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Tom Baker is the most popular old-school doctor, at least in the US, and he's usually the best one to watch first.

It's hard to recreate the excitement of the original because the DVDs are being released non-chronologically... My PBS station showed them all in order beginning with Pertwee.

If you want to do the same--emphasize continuity and watch more of the show cronologically, you can start with the Pertwee years and follow thru Baker & beyond, but you might be missing some unless you get them from "suspect sources"... Pertwee's show begins in B&W, and has an expanded "earthbound" period for several seasons--the "Unit" years. (Unit is a fictional UK military arm geared to fight aliens...) I enjoyed it nonetheless, but I don't know about most folks...
Old 05-08-06, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by adamblast
Pertwee's show begins in B&W
I believe that is incorrect. Pertwee's run coincided with the start of the color episodes. (I think that the BBC archives has only B&W versions of some eps, but I'm pretty sure they were all filmed in color.)

I'm partial to the Tom Baker era as he's the Doctor I grew up with, but I have come to really dig what I have seen of the Pertwee era.
Old 05-08-06, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by auntiewinnie
I believe that is incorrect. Pertwee's run coincided with the start of the color episodes. (I think that the BBC archives has only B&W versions of some eps, but I'm pretty sure they were all filmed in color.)
Well, you could certainly be right, but the broadcast syndication run displayed the first year or two of Pertwee in B&W each time I've seen it.
Old 05-08-06, 08:13 PM
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I had heard of Doctor Who as far back as the late 70s (watching Channel 52 in LA and thumbing through a Marvel comic in 81) but was never really hooked until watching The Five Doctors in 1883 (PBS). Something about a person meeting himself as 5 completely different people was really cool. That and I'm a time travel nut.

It was all downhill after that. I was sucked in. The PBS station in LA started airing the Tom Baker episodes and a few years later they started adding more Doctors (Tom Baker repeats for two years, then Tom Baker followed by Pertwee. Then Pertwee - Baker - Davison - C. Baker - McCoy. Man was I in Heaven then!).

The Tom Baker era seems to be the most accessable to newbies. Don't know why. It's not a knock against the other Doctors cause each of them embodied their eras perfectly. But the Baker stories are usually the most popular (City of Death, Genesis of the Daleks, etc). I'd say start there if you want a full run of stories.

Be sure to check out the One & Only Doctor Who DVD Thread to see what's available and what's coming out on DVD.

Oh, and welcome to the club!
Old 05-09-06, 11:27 AM
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I'm a long time Doctor Who fan and if you are really interested, I would suggest starting at the beginning with, well, "The Beginning" DVD box set has the first 3 stories, "An Unearthly Child", "The Daleks" and "Edge of Destruction" (making up 13 episodes)... plus it has a reconstruction of the lost 4th story "Marco Polo" WARNING= it's very old, slow, low budget and black and white! but you said you liked classic sci fi like old Outer Limits and such, so I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Most people on this thread will say Tom Baker (the 4th Doctor) is the most popular so see some of his stories or get the popular fan "classic" stories... and Yes, with a few exceptions, like companions coming and going or the Doctor regenerating, most Doctor Who stories are pretty much stand alone ( he lands in a time or planet and opens the door and the story begins) you could skip around and see them out of order... but here's a rare chance for someone who's never seen the classic series to see it in order from the beginning... I ask you other old school fans = how awesome is that?

Not all of them are on DVD... so you will have to do some hunting to find all the episodes... get the VHS or other ways... but I think it would be great to watch all 26 seasons in order from the beginning. I discovered the series by skipping around and I wish I got a chance to see them in order, but you couldn't get all the stories back in the 80's like you can now. Some of the old 60's stories are incomplete (only episode 2 of a 6 episode story survives, that sort of thing) I would suggest finding those surviving episodes too if you do watch them in order. Find an episode guide online and go for it!
Old 05-09-06, 12:22 PM
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As a Brit who grew up watching Dr. Who (my earliest memories from the show are of watching some of the, now lost, stories from the Doctor #2 Troughton era) I'd agree with what people have said.

However I'd reiterate the warning the earliest stuff is very slow. What was considered fast paced action in the 60's is very different to today. Obviously the sets were often also of low production standards but I just close my eyes to wobbly sets and imagine the solid walls they should be.

You mention Quatermass, if by those you mean the original BBC productions (was so delighted when all those were released on DVD recently) rather than the Hammer remakes then you should have no problem dealing with the dated nature of the earliest DW. In which case, if you can, then as other writers have suggested watching in order would be good.

There are some stories that rely on you knowing elements from other stories, but in general most stories are stand alone. Even when back references exist, such as meeting The Brigadier in Spearhead from Space (1st story Doctor #3) you'll pick up that Doctor #2 met him without needing to have seen the previous stories (which is fortunate as they don't all exist).

If you're uncomfortable with slower paced stories, then probably best to skip Doctor's #1 and #2 and start with #3 or #4.

For reference from Doctor #3 onwards all stories were broadcast in colour. However although all of Doctor #3 (Pertwee)'s stories exist not all still exist in colour and certain episodes or even full stories (e.g. Mind of Evil) only exist in B&W. However the first season of Pertwee does exist in full colour.
Old 05-12-06, 05:14 AM
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brainee, let us know how it turns out. I still think you should start with the first stories, if you can handle old black and white sci fi... which you said you could. But none the less I'm interested to heard what a fan of the new series thinks about the old series seeing it for the first time. Also remember the series ran for 26 years, so if you watch one era of the show and think it's complete crap, you might like another era of the series... the 60's is very different from the 70's Who and thats very different from the 80's Who.
Old 05-13-06, 03:51 AM
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It really blows the way the BBC has been releasing the Doctor Who series.

It's confusing as hell to new viewers even if the episodes tend to be stand-alones.

There have, so far, been ten different Doctors.

They're all the same person, but from time to time he undergoes what is called a "regeneration," and gets a new body (and a new actor to play him).

But the thing is, he also gets a different personality. (Though he also maintains the memories of all of his previous incarnations.)

The first Doctor (William Hartnell) was an older, grandfatherly man.
The second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) was middle-aged, and somewhat weasly.
The third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) was an older man, sort of a dashing swashbuckler.
The fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) was sort of like that college professor you really liked, clever and little bit insane.
The fifth Doctor (Peter Davidson) was a younger man, probably around thirty years old, and tended to be contemplative and vulnerable.
The sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) was an obnoxious smartass.
The sevent Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) sort of scheming and manipulative.
The eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) was kind of Victorian romantic.
The ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) was a tragic, needy figure who masked his pain with a lot of bluster and manic behavior.

So I suspect it would be rather jarring for a new viewer to jump right in and have to deal with a character who not only changed his face on a frequent basis, but his personality as well.

The best place to start with would probably be either Pertwee or Tom Baker, as by that time, the tone of the series had been solidified. In the early years, Doctor Who was very much intended to be a children's program, with most of the adventures being historical in nature. It wasn't until several seasons that this premise was dropped and it became a purely science-fiction oriented drama geared more toward an older audience. It's also probably worth mentioning that most people got hooked on Doctor Who by watching the Tom Baker version.

Considering that a large chunk of the Hartnell and Troughton era episodes are missing, it's probably best to view those episodes after you've familiarized yourself with the series.

Last edited by Josh-da-man; 05-13-06 at 03:59 AM.
Old 05-13-06, 11:06 AM
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I *may* have seen some of the old school episodes in my youth, but I don't recall them so I guess they don't count. I've been recording the new ones on SciFi here lately, and watching them in spurts here and there, and I think it's great. As a scifi fan in general, I've absorbed some of it's history in bits and pieces over the years just from other people mentioning bits of it like on message boards and such. With just the tiniest bit of backstory, and a smidge more imagination, I think a newbie can dive right into this stuff.

To give another comparison, I got into the new Battlestar Galactica with the the first regular season episode 33. I had read a few reviews of the miniseries, but I never actually saw it until I picked up the S1 DVD set.

Now, I am slightly interested in picking up a few of those older eps on DVD. What would be a good suggestion for a few one-ofs to get?
Old 05-14-06, 02:57 PM
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ok, here's my crash course in classic Doctor Who for fans of the new series...

1960's (Seasons 1-6)
- the first two Doctors (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton)
- Black and White
- introduction to the series two most popular returning monsters/aliens = The Daleks and The Cybermen
- Missing Episodes : many 1960's stories no longer exist, no one saw home video and DVDs coming and many tapes and films were just destroyed or lost. Seasons 1 and 2 and 6 are mostly intact, but Seasons 3, 4 and 5 are mostly gone except for a few episodes here and there that survived by pure luck. All time fan favorite classics like "Marco Polo", "Power of the Daleks", "The Abominable Snowman", "Fury From the Deep" and "Web of Fear" are all gone forever.

First Doctor's era - a mix of sci fi and historical adventures
Second Doctor's era - producers realise the sci fi stories get better ratings and do away with the historical stories and go pure sci fi. Also known as the "Monster era" of Doctor Who. Lots of returning aliens like the Ice Warriors and The Yeti

- The War Games : the final story of the 1960's is a 10 episode (yes, 10!!) classic called "The War Games" - in it fans finally find out "Who" the Doctor is, the first time we learn that he is a Time Lord. His people put him in trial for interfering in history and force him to regenerate and send him to Earth for exile.

1970's (Seasons 7-16)
- Doctor's 3 and 4 (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker)
- the first Doctor Who filmed in color
- the first 3 seasons of the 3rd Doctor's era has the Doctor stranded on Earth and he joins UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, which is a military group who looks into alien invasion and strange happenings, the show becomes James Bond meets the X-Files.
- toward the end of The 3rd Doctor's era he gets his TARDIS back from the Time Lords and starts traveling into time and space again, but most stories are still earth bound.
- the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, begins in 1975 and plays the part for 7 Seasons, longer than any other actor. Still today is the most popular actor to play the part and he's the guy most people think of when you mention "Doctor Who"
- the first 3 or 4 seasons of Tom Bakers (the 4th Doctor) era is the shows most popular stories and most fans feel this is when the show was the best. He heads out into time and space more, leaving the modern earth bound stories of the 3rd Doctor behind. Many stories at this time were more serious and very gothic in feel and were Influenced by the Hammer Horror fims. Many parents at the time said the show became too scary for children!
- halfway into Tom Bakers era the show gets a new producer and it becomes more family friendly with the Doctor getting a pet robot dog called K9 and the comedy in the show is played up alot more.

1980's (Seasons 17-26)
- Doctor's 5, 6 and 7 (Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy)
- producer John Nathan Turner takes over for Tom Bakers final season and trys to make the series more adult and serious with mxied results.
- like everything else in the 80's the show becomes more colorful
- the 5th Doctor, Peter Davison, is the youngest actor to play the part... most fans today feel he was a great Doctor but he struggled with mostly very average stories and having way too many companions (at one point he had 3!)
- The Five Doctors : 20th anniv. special where all 5 Doctor's and many old friends and enemies come together for one adventure.
- 6th Doctor, Colin Baker, is the most Controversial of all the Doctors with his rude behavor and ugly multi colored jacket. (Personaly, he's one of my favorite Doctors) The show is criticised for becoming too dark and violent.
- one season (1985) into the 6th Doctor, the show is cancelled, but a fan letter writting campaign brings the series back
- the series returns but with only half the number of episoes per season as before.
- after another season of the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker is wrongly blamed for low ratings and is let go as the Doctor.
- enter the 7th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, his first season is called the series worst, he plays the part way too silly and the stories are poorly written and painful to watch.
- the show does a complete 180 by the 7th Doctor's third Season (1989) and becomes very dark and serious, many fans call this the best Doctor Who in years... but too little too late, the series is cancelled for good by the BBC at the end of 1989.

- 8th Doctor Paul McGann
- in 1996 a one time 8th Doctor TV movie and possible TV series pilot is a co-production between BBC and FOX... it gets poor ratings and FOX doesn't pick it up, the movie gets mixed reaction from fans, some liking it, others calling it too american.
- hardcore fans keep the series going with a series of original books and near the end of the 1990's a series of audio CD stories with the actors from the original series.

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