Doctor Who Episode Guide

Series 5 of the new series for Doctor Who just concluded (unless you don’t cheat and are putting up with the BBC American broadcast delay.) This reminded me that I promised the Historian and episode guide for Doctor Who weeks ago. So here it is.

There are five ratings for an episode used here: Must Watch (Quality), Must watch (Continuity), Indifferent, Skippable and Do not Watch. Must watch episodes that are both good TV and important for Who continuity get the Quality ranking since I’m more interested in getting people hooked on the show than I am in making sure they catch all the great details. You should read an Indifferent ranking as “Fun, but probably forgettable.” And seriously, don’t watch the Do not Watch episodes. They never happened.

Also, final caveat, I despise the Doctor’s companion for the first two series. Not everybody does. You might want to adjust my rankings for those seasons if you do like Rose. Just make sure you feel like a bad person while you’re at it.

Series 1
The only season featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and that’s a shame because he was an good Doctor and the season, by and large, sucked. It’s the only full season of Who available on DVD that I do not own, and I don’t plan to acquire it. Really honestly truly, excepting the two Must Watch (Quality) episodes, the whole season is skippable.

Rose
Indifferent/Skippable
I’d rank it as entirely skippable, but what with it introducing you to the main cast for the first two seasons and the Whoverse there’s some benefit for the uninitiated. It does feature the one line that got me through enough of the season to get hooked on Captain Jack later and so is responsible for my Who addiction.

The End of the World
Indifferent
Much better intro than Rose, with better plot and introduction of recurring characters. Mildly continuity important.

The Unquiet Dead
Skippable
It’s cheesy in the bad way. It’s full of Roe being Rose. Yuck.

Aliens of London / World War Three
Skippable / Must Watch (Continuity)
I’d give these episodes a Do Not Watch except that they have bearing on continuity. If you do not care about Rose’s story continuity, then do not watch them. Read Wikipedia to find out who Harriet Jones is instead. (She’s the only good thing about these episodes) If you do watch, I hope you like fart jokes.

Dalek
Indifferent / Must Watch (Continuity) if you don’t know what a Dalek is.
This episode features Rose being stupid. It introduces a major Doctor Who villian. This episode shows off Eccleston’s Doctor well, but is thoroughly mediocre aside from that. If only all episodes with Daleks were as good as that.

The Long Game
Indifferent / Continuity
This setting comes back later in continuity important episodes, and this episode sets that up so I guess technically this episode is continuity important. You’ll definitely survive without it. And honestly, I don’t actually remember much else about it.

Father’s Day
Skippable / Extremely minor continuity
This episode is all about character development for Rose and Surprise! She’s an idiot. Related version of a major character in this episode comes back later, but you really don’t need to have seen this episode to figure out what’s up.

The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances
Must Watch (Quality)/ (Continuity)
Introduces Character who is important to show. Introduces writer who is consistently brilliant when interacting with the Whoverse. These two episodes are my only pang of regret about not having Series 1 on DVD.

Boom Town
Do not Watch.
No really. Don’t watch it. Not even Captain Jack being gorgeous saves this episode.

Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways
Must Watch (Continuity)
The Bad Wolf thing comes back endlessly. If you’re going to do more than watch a few episodes here and there, you really need to know about what happens in these episodes. They feature Jack being awesome, Mickey starting to evolve, and Rose being whiny. I still haven’t found the youtube video that summarized these episodes so well that watching them becomes optional.

The Christmas Invasion
Indifferent / Must Watch (Continuity)
The Christmas Specials are a special breed of crappy for Doctor Who. This one manages to be fun and introduce Tenant’s Doctor pretty well. If you don’t know who Harriet Jones is at this point, you’ll miss some of the punch for the episode.

New Earth
Indifferent
Return of previous villain, revisiting important recurring character, introduction of recurring setting. Fun, not engrossing.

Tooth and Claw
Indifferent / Must Watch (Continuity)
Queen Victoria tells off the Doctor. It’s pretty great. Everybody is hilariously British. This episode is twice as good as anything from season 1 ranked as Indifferent.

School Reunion
Indifferent
I am so tempted to put a Must Watch (Continuity) on here, but it’s not quite true since it’s old series continuity that it involves. This is where Mickey’s plot arc really gets going. Anthony Head is an amazing villain. I do not hate Rose (much) in this episode.

The Girl in the Fireplace
Must Watch (Quality)
The first perfect episode of the show. If you do not like this episode, it is highly likely you will not like Doctor Who at all under any circumstances. You are also a bad, soulless creature.

Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel
Must Watch (Continuity)
It’s good enough that I don’t feel the need to warn off people who don’t care about continuity. Very good episodes for Mickey fans. Rose his unlikeable.

The Idiot’s Lantern
Indifferent
Fun. Funny. Great Tenant as Doctor episode. I even like Rose. I hate the moral at the end, but it’s brief, and at the end.

The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit
Must Watch (Quality) / (Continuity)
On my own I wouldn’t give them the quality rating, but these are the first episodes Don got really enthusiastic about. The Ood are great, and we see them again.

Love and Monsters
Indifferent
Super fun. It stumbles at the ending, but recovers.

Fear Her
Do Not Watch.
Anti child abuse episode gone horribly wrong.

Army of Ghosts / Doomsday
Must Watch (Continuity)
Mostly fun, except that they promise you something awesome and then cop out. First episodes to commit the repeated offense of taking too long to end.

Series 3
This is the season where Doctor Who finally reaches the potential you knew it was hiding in the first two seasons. Also, Martha is so very much better than Rose. I love Martha.

The Runaway Bride
Do not Watch (continuity)
Characters introduced in this episode come back and are important later. When they show up again, the show does a fine job of explaining that they’ve been introduced before. This episode is made of suck. Christmas Special suck.

And I’m tired. The rest to come at a later date.

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