So you like New Who, but haven’t watched any of the original series. First up, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. You don’t have to ever watch the original show if you don’t want. There’s a lot there, 697 episodes, and chunks of those are missing! It’s a very daunting prospect, and a very different series to the one you’ve fallen in love with.
But of course, some of you are curious about the old show, so this is for you. It’s a list of mostly stand-alone stories, that exist in full, and have commercial DVD releases – so sourcing them shouldn’t be too hard.
I originally wanted to aim for stories that didn’t feature any of the big returning baddies, but that wasn’t practical. Mostly these are good to great stories for a variety of reasons, including some nice character parts. Steven Moffat has said that when you write a Doctor Who story, at the end you should be saying, “Well, there’s that feature film idea all used up!” A few of these fit the bill.
I’ll give you a very short non-spoilery run down on each. Just do yourself a favour – if you decide to try these recommendations don’t go reading up on them. Don’t look them up online, or read the back blurbs of the DVD. Try to approach them as freshly spoiler free as you can manage.
I’ve also made mention of New Who stories that have some similarities. But don’t go expecting these stories to be the same – the stories are only vaguely similar in certain rough thematic senses. The suggestions are only there to give you a more of a hook in the absence of more detailed, and therefore spoilery, write-ups.
And also remember – with Old Who, usually best to only watch one episode a night. Or one early in the day, and another in the evening. To do more can actually hurt the experience of otherwise good stories.
The Aztecs is a solid character piece on many levels. Jacqueline Hill shines as Barbara in this one, and each of the leads get their moments. The two priest characters also get a good look in, each acting according to his beliefs. As is to be expected from when it was written, there are some bits that can seem odd or silly to modern sensibilities, but just go with it and immerse yourself in the drama. It’s also the first story to look at the possible impact of time travel.
Worth considering if you like – Fires of Pompeii, Waters of Mars
Tomb of the Cybermen is the first to break my rule of not featuring the popular monsters, simply because there are so few complete Troughton stories. The Cybermen are a constant presence through this story – even when they aren’t around, the threat is there. This is one of the most solid of the existing ones, it’s got some interesting ideas, some lovely character moments, and Matt Smith loves it! He has actually said he prefers this cyber-design to the modern ones, and while it’s dated, it can also give you a great feeling of power and strength. Smith certainly has good taste
Worth considering if you like – Planet of the Dead, Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit
Carnival of Monsters is a bit of a romp, but with a cool SF idea at its core. It also plays with political satire and has some great characters. And it has the drashigs, one of the most popular single use monsters in the history of the show.
Worth considering if you like – End of the World, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The Seeds of Doom is dark. Oh there’s lots of fun stuff, some nice character moments, but it’s a brutal story. The main bad guys are genuinely nasty, and the threat grows inexorably. It’s also one of only two times I have seen the idea of deadly plants realised effectively, the other being the old BBC TV series of Day of the Triffids.
Worth considering if you like – Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, Waters of Mars
The Visitation has its flaws, but it’s a fun semi-historical. We get some nice ideas and twists, a gentleman rogue, and the grim reaper. Be ready to skip straight from the main menu into the episodes to avoid a spoiler in the animated menu footage.
Worth considering if you like – Shakespeare Code, Curse of the Black Spot
Revelation of the Daleks is the other story to break my self imposed rule of not using major baddies. I chose it because it is a good story with a broad streak of black humour. Sadly while Colin was an excellent Doctor, and fine actor, most of his stories are lacking – this is a stand out. Jump straight to episodes to avoid spoilers in the DVD menu.
Worth considering if you like – Unquiet Dead, Voyage of the Damned
Ghost Light is a weird haunted house story, with some strange ideas that don’t always hold together. However, it overcomes its flaws by maintaining a wonderful gothic atmosphere, and telling a strange and creepy tale. Again, skip the DVD main menu to avoid a minor spoiler.
Worth considering if you like – God Complex, Night Terrors
And there you have it. If you choose to have your first taste of the original seven Doctors using this list, please write and let me know how you went.