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Seeing as it's Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary year (in case you hadn't already noticed), I think now is a good time to reel in those people on the fence. You folk who watch it 'a little bit', who think it's 'ok'. Now is your chance to join the side of the Whovian, by watching these 11 television stories.
I have picked one story from each of the eleven Doctors so far, carefully selected for the inquisitive beginner. All of these serials are available on DVD, and after a marathon viewing, you may just open up your life to a world of jelly babies, long scarves and bow-ties!
1) The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) – This is the second Dalek story, in which the metal meanies not only invade earth, but actually conquer it! Scary, tense, and in its' final moments, heart-breaking, The Dalek Invasion of Earth pre-dates the eerie 'Night of the Living Dead' movie by a few years with the deserted streets and lumbering, zombie-like Robomen, and sees William Hartnell bringing a new heroic rise to the character of the Doctor. The cliffhanger to the end of episode 1 is also absolutely stunning.
2) Tomb of the Cybermen (1967) – A creepy, claustrophobic adventure seasoned with moments of genuine hilarity at the hands of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines, certainly one of the greatest Doctor/companion pairings of all time. This is one of the best Cyberman stories.
3) The Green Death (1973) – The one with the giant maggots. Scary, funny, camp, heart-breaking...a brilliant story with a strong exit for the Third Doctor's longest-running companion.
4) Genesis of the Daleks (1975) – A masterpiece. It is everything a Doctor Who story should be, and more. The regulars give sterling performances, but extra credit must be given to Peter Miles' cold realisation of Nyder, and Michael Wisher, the first actor to bring the Daleks' creator, Davros, to life. It was this story that cast me into the time vortex: 'How I Became a Doctor Who Fan: An Autobiographical Account of a Huge Obsession'
5) Kinda (1982) – A deep, beautiful story. Layered and slightly whimsical, it features collapsing sanity, possession, giant snakes, and a lavish jungle setting. One to make you think.
6) Revelation of the Daleks (1985) – A darkly humorous story from the 'violent era' of the show. It packs in references to cannibalism, necrophilia, incest, torture and alcoholism, and has the Doctor almost crushed by his own, giant headstone. The best Davros story since Genesis.
7) Battlefield (1989) – McCoy gives one of his best performances in this entertaining romp. He is at the top of his game in this tale of sword and sorcery. It also marks the last proper Doctor Who television adventure with the Brigadier, played by the late, great Nicholas Courtney.
8) The Movie (1996) – McGann's only TV story. A flawed, contrived plot and overly-Americanised elements can't detract from the shameless fun of this adventure. Paul McGann is excellent throughout!
9) Dalek (2005) – The Doctor comes face to face with his oldest enemy again in an underground base. Eccleston completely sells the Doctor's anger and fear of his arch nemesis, and takes the Time Lord to new, uneasy depths. The end is also surprisingly touching.
10) School Reunion (2006) – Elisabeth Sladen. 'Nuff said. I guarantee you will cry.
11) The Doctor's Wife (2011) – The TARDIS is personified, quite literally. A funny, beautiful love-letter to the show, penned by Neil Gaiman, this episode is brought stunningly to life with an endearing performance from Suranne Jones as Idris (the TARDIS), and some excellent set-design. A dark, whimsical adventure with a fairy-tale quality to it. Perfection.
All of these stories are available on DVD right now (!), so you have absolutely no excuse not to watch them. If anybody else has their own definitive 'Beginner's List', please feel free to share it!
And here is how Doctor Who can change your life...
- #1 Talk to Strangers
- #2 Tea is the Best
- #3 Be Yourself
- #4 Eat Jelly Babies