So you are the biggest Doctor Who fan in all of time and space and you are wondering how to get your non-Whovian friends into the show, and eventually become as obsessed with it as you are. Or you have never watched an episode of the long running British sci-fi show and are interested in finding out what all the fuss is about. Well this list is for you.
I have compiled eight episodes that are a good gateway into the series and ranked them on overall quality and effectiveness in setting up the show for those unfamiliar with it. With a mild SPOILER ALERT Allons-y, Geronimo and here we go:
#8 An Unearthly Child
The show is divided into two main parts, Classic Who (1963-1989, 1996) and NuWho (2005 onward). Now for your anal friends the easiest place to start would be the very first episode “An Unearthly Child” where schoolteachers Ian and Barbara discover that their student Susan is an alien, lives in a machine that travels through space and time, and is the granddaughter of the titular Doctor. But before you dive into this one please note there is a reason it is at the bottom of the list. While not a bad episode it is a bit slow, the Doctor is very unlikable and not really representative of the quality the show would attain later. And, as you would see by the other entries, I believe starting with NuWho is best and then going back to Classic after you are already hooked.
#7 Deep Breath
This eighth series premiere was the first full episode to feature the 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi in full (for the non-fans when the Doctor is facing death he can regenerate himself, getting a new body, personality and a new actor). He joins companion Clara Oswald and the quirky Paternoster Gang to deal with a dinosaur and body part stealing androids. It is a fun romp and an easy start for new viewers but the episode is tad bloated and some of the humour sophomoric.
This is the first episode of the revived series in 2005. We are introduced to the Ninth Doctor, new companion and fan favourite Rose Tyler and see the return of classic villains the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness. It is a brand new start to the show and an easy entry point but the overall quality of the episode is on the mediocre side and may not necessarily hook new fans.
#5 The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances
Our next entry features the Ninth Doctor and Rose again. And while they are already into their adventures at this point the quality of this two-parter is sure to make some brand new fans. You have a World War II setting, a fantastic villain in the Empty Child and his converts, lots of creepy atmosphere and the crazy fun of Captain Jack Harkness in his first appearance.
#4 Vincent and the Doctor
I love this episode. I love, love, LOVE this episode. It is just a beautiful work of art. In this story the Eleventh Doctor and companion Amy Pond travel back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh and deal with a mystery alien. I will not spoil this one for you but this episode leaves me in tears every time. Showing a non-fan this episode will paint a lovely picture of what they have been missing by not watching the show.
#3 The Girl in the Fireplace
Our bronze medal goes to this stellar episode featuring the Tenth Doctor and companions Rose and Mickey Smith. It is equal parts fun, creepy, funny, romantic, adventurous and tragic. And Sophia Myles as Madame du Pompadour gives one of the best guest star performances in the show’s entire history. The episode won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form and shows the Tenth Doctor at his best.
#2 The Eleventh Hour
Our penultimate entry combines great episode quality with a clean slate introduction for new fans. “The Eleventh Hour” is the first full episode with Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith and features the introduction of new companions Amy and Rory. A brand new Doctor and brand new companions – what better way to start? And we also have a super creepy villain, lots of running around and adventuring, one hell of monologue by the Doctor and a brief look at all of his previous incarnations (except the retconned War Doctor). To start your Doctor Who journey there is no better place, unless you are our number one.
“Blink” tops many fans’ lists of all time favourite episodes and with good reason. It is the story of a young woman named Sally Sparrow encountering the mysterious Weeping Angels, the greatest NuWho Doctor Who monsters and among the best of all time, and receiving help from the Doctor and companion Martha Jones who are stuck in the past. It is scary, funny and perfect. It is also a Doctor-lite episode so you are introduced to the character but not given too much information, piquing your interest. If this episode does not get a non-fan at the very least interested in Doctor Who then they are probably a lost cause. Just shake your head pensively and move on.
So which episode do you think is best to introduce non-fans? Feel free to share in the comments. For my Top 9 Doctor Who finales you can click here.