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Doctor Who 2018 Binge Guide

Doctor Who 2018 Binge Guide

by Kevin Rusley

All right, so you’ve been avoiding “DOCTOR WHO” or just haven’t had the chance to give it the old college try. I understand. Even though I was very much aware of its return to TV screens back in 2005, I wasn’t properly caught up until after series 7 had aired. Now there are even more episodes to take in before the first female Doctor takes the helm of the TARDIS. The good news is there are plenty of ways to get into it. A show doesn’t last for 50 years without being easily accessible.

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First, you need to be sure that Doctor Who is even for you.

So here are a few one-offs from across the series to whet your appetite and give you an idea of what the show is like on the average day:

  • 2.2 “Tooth and Claw”
  • 3.7 “42”
  • 5.2 “The Beast Below”
  • 8.3 “Robot of Sherwood”
  Robot of Sherwood

Robot of Sherwood

Again, not the best, not the most genre-defining (that’s why “Blink” isn’t here), but if you like what you see, you’re ready for the full feast.

Obviously the first to go are the real stinkers like “Love & Monsters” and “Daleks in Manhattan”, with the utterly forgettable filler adventures going next. Keep in mind, this list is mainly weighted toward the show’s overarching story, with a few character- and series-defining stand-alones here and there. If you’re having a ball, keep an eye on those IMDb sluglines if you're curious about what comes in between.

SEASON 1

While a lot of this set the stage for NuWho, some of the myth-arc subplots are kind of irrelevant now, especially if you're really in a hurry to get caught up (we've got 100 episodes plus specials to knock out here, after all). What's more, the effects have stepped up in a big way since the beginning. So this selection is as lean-and-mean as I can get it without sacrificing the emotional payoffs later.

  Nine & Rose

Nine & Rose

1.1 “Rose”: Gotta start with the start, of course

1.6 “Dalek”: One of Nine's defining episodes and absolutely essential overall.

1.8 “Father's Day”: Kind of filler-y, but important for establishing the do's and don'ts of time travel, and perhaps THE key adventure for Rose.

1.9-10 “The Empty Child“/“The Doctor Dances”:Captain Jack Harkness! And another definitive story for Nine.

  The Empty Child

The Empty Child

1.12-13 “Bad Wolf”/“The Parting of the Ways”: The conclusion of season 1 and Nine, and that's all I’m gonna say.

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “The End of the World” (to learn what “Moisturize me!” is all about)
  • “The Unquiet Dead” (the Doctor is a Dickens fanboy)
  • “Aliens of London”/”World War Three” (the first big 2-part adventure)
  • “Boom Town” (follow-up on said 2-parter)

Now David Tennant takes over as Russell T. Davies’ tenure as showrunner truly takes shape.

SEASON 2

2.0 “The Christmas Invasion”: Meeting Ten, of course, plus the first Xmas special.

2.3 “School Reunion”: Sarah Jane Smith!

2.4 “The Girl in the Fireplace”: You may have heard of this one. It’s a keeper.

2.5-6 “Rise of the Cybermen”/”Age of Steel”: The return of another old nemesis. Plus it’s gonna be important for the finale.

  Rise of the Cybermen

Rise of the Cybermen

2.12-13 "Army of Ghosts/Doomsday": Yeah, straight to the finale.

ALSO CHECK OUT:

“The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” (The Doctor fights the Devil. I won’t give it away.)

SEASON 3

3.0 “The Runaway Bride”

  Runaway Bride

Runaway Bride

3.1 “Smith and Jones”

3.10 “Blink”: This is usually one of the first episodes you hear about.

  Blink

Blink

3.11 “Utopia”: Captain Jack’s back! It’s really a three-parter with the finale.

3.12-13 “The Sound of Drums”/”Last of the Time Lords”

  The Sound of Drums

The Sound of Drums

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “Gridlock” (fun concept)
  • “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood”

SEASON 4

Skipping the Xmas special (it’s fine, but on with the show).

4.1 “Partners in Crime”: Donna Noble’s back for more

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4.2 “The Fires of Pompeii”: Filler at first sight, but has a great payoff later on (you can probably guess why)

4.8 “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”: River Song! Also, this is the one to watch first (for story’s sake) if you’d prefer to skip Eccleston and Tennant and jump straight to Matt Smith (but I wouldn't recommend it).

  Silence in the Library

Silence in the Library

4.12-13 “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End”: Russell T. Davies brings everyone together for a save-the-planet party

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ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “The Doctor’s Daughter”
  • “Midnight” (The fabled bottle episode)
  • “Turn Left” (For a harrowing twist on the clip show)

Between season 4 and 5 was a year of specials before David Tennant signed off. While The End of Time is the important one, The Waters of Mars is also great to watch first, showing the darker side of Ten as he fights inevitability.

That’s the end of Davies’ run, now Stephen Moffat takes over.

SEASON 5

  The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour

5.1 “The Eleventh Hour”

5.7 “Amy’s Choice”: Time to put the family that is Amy, Rory and the Doctor thru the ringer.

5.8-9 “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood”: A thing happens to Rory that you might not want to miss.

5.10 “Vincent and the Doctor”: Get the tissues.

  Vincent and the Doctor

Vincent and the Doctor

5.12-13 “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”: This is one of my favorite finales, and a great payoff to Moffat’s first (and arguably best) season as showrunner.

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “The Time of Angels”/”Flesh and Stone” (The Weeping Angels return for more being total dicks)
  • “The Lodger” (James Corden!)

There are additional Christmas specials breaking up the Eleventh Doctor’s run (“A Christmas Carol,” and “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe”), and while they’ve got some nice bits, they’re largely filler stories.

SEASON 6

This is probably as serialized as the show ever got (until season 9), but also where Moffat got a tad self-indulgent with his story choices.

6.1-2 “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon”

6.4 “The Doctor’s Wife”: Another fan-favorite, written by Neil Gaiman.

  A Good Man Goes to War

A Good Man Goes to War

6.7 “A Good Man Goes to War”: One of those big important mythos-redefining installments where Moffat gets to make his fan-fiction canon. But don't let that put you off, it's still a good one. Also, the previous 2-parter (The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People) sets this up, but only at the very very end, and is otherwise kind of a bore.

6.8 “Let’s Kill Hitler”: Finally answers the dangling River Song questions. Plus punching Hitler is never un-fun.

6.13 “The Wedding of River Song”

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “The Girl Who Waited” (another emotional Amy/Rory favorite)
  • “The God Complex” (a nice counterpoint if you’re sick of Eleven always being high on himself)
  • “Closing Time” (More James Corden!)

SEASON 7

7.1 “Asylum of the Daleks”: Not a game-changer of an opening, at least not at first sight…

7.4 “The Power of Three”: A real underrated ep, IMO, plus we meet Kate Lethbridge-Stewart who is a boss.

  The Power of Three

The Power of Three

7.5 “The Angels Take Manhattan”: Saying bye to the Ponds. Kind of uneven, but essential.

7.6 “The Snowmen”: Wha? A Christmas special in the middle of the season?

7.7 “The Bells of Saint John”: Meeting Clara (well...again)

  Hide

Hide

7.10 “Hide”: It’s bad to go straight to the finale, so this one makes for a good buffer.

7.14 “The Name of the Doctor”

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” (Just damn fun)
  • “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” (builds on the larger story in some minor ways)
  • “The Crimson Horror” (More Madame Vastra & co)

BONUS: Night of the Doctor, a web short, at long last gives us the final fate of the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and sets up for the next big special.

 Ten and Eleven in  Day of the Doctor

Ten and Eleven in Day of the Doctor

From there, it’s time to say goodbye to Eleven with the excellent 50th special The Day of the Doctor, and the mostly good The Time of the Doctor.

Plus, An Adventure in Space and Time, the how-it-all-began TV movie, dropped at around this time.

Now at last we come to Twelve (Peter Capaldi).

SEASON 8

  Deep Breath

Deep Breath

8.1 “Deep Breath”: Great introduction to a new, more prickly Doctor.

8.4 “Listen”: Not my favorite, but a big fan-favorite. Maybe the most Moffat episode ever.

  Flatline

Flatline

8.9 “Flatline”: Not to oversell it, but I fucking love this one

8.11-12 “Dark Water”/”Death in Heaven”

  Death in Heaven

Death in Heaven

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “Time Heist” (does exactly what it says on the tin)
  • “The Caretaker” (more on Danny Pink)
  • “Mummy on the Orient Express” (rated by fans as highly as "Flatline", so who am I to argue?)

The Xmas special Last Christmas is mostly filler, with the only important part being that the Doctor and Clara find out they’ve been lying to each other (plus we get Nick Frost as Santa). Check it out if you’re enjoying the show.

  Last Christmas

Last Christmas

SEASON 9

This one is interesting because it’s almost all two-parters, except for a single limp stand-alone (“Sleep No More”) which you can definitely skip. As a result, you kind of have to watch all of them. The good news is the whole thing is head and shoulders above Season 8. This includes the powerful “The Zygon Inversion” and the unforgettable “Heaven Sent,” finishing it off with the superb Xmas special “The Husbands of River Song”. If you’re in a hurry, you can probably skip “Under the Lake”/”Before the Flood”, which is still a thrilling story on its own.

  Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent

The Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” (the only episode of 2016) is a fun homage to classic American comics, but is otherwise marking time until the return of the newest season.

SEASON 10

Stephen Moffat’s final leg is one of the more consistent seasons of the whole run. Basically, if you like Bill Potts, go ahead and watch them all. Otherwise, here’s the truncated version.

10.1 “The Pilot”

10.5 “Oxygen”

  Lie of the Land

Lie of the Land

10.6-8 “Extremis”/”The Pyramid at the End of the World”/”The Lie of the Land”: A very interesting 3-part story that keeps you guessing.

10.11-12 “World Enough and Time”/”The Doctor Falls”: The final fate of Bill, and of old/new enemies.

ALSO CHECK OUT:

  • “Smile”
  • “Thin Ice”
  • “Knock, Knock”

And at the end of it all is the Twelfth Doctor’s final Xmas adventure, "Twice Upon a Time," and the entrance of Thirteen (Jodie Whitaker)!

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Congratulations, you made it! You may now join the conversation as a fully appraised Whovian! The only thing to decide is which Doctor and/or companion you’ll be cosplaying at convention. Will it be sand shoes? Or fez?

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