Smith and Jones
Indifferent / Must Watch (Continuity)
We introduce the Doctor’s new companion, who is awesome. We also introduce her major giant flaw, i.e. her inexplicable crush on the Doctor. I will be annoyed by it for the entire season. But it ends well. One set of antagonists will return later. Recurring side characters are introduced. The episode is fun, and funny. This is a good place to jump into the series if you don’t need to be persuaded to watch it.
The Shakespeare Code
This episode is also fun, but I will always feel like it didn’t quite live up to its potential. Shakespeare fans will be amused, if not impressed.
Indifferent / Must Watch (Continuity – but really only the last 8 minutes)
Also a fun episode. Return to familiar place and familiar faces. Gratuitous inclusion of kittens. That’s not a complaint.
Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks
Do not watch / Continuity
It’s a dalek-centered episode which is already starting poorly, but it also features a side character so annoying that alone would be reason to avoid these episodes. If you’re not familiar with Doctor Who cannon then Dalek characters introduced here will come back out of nowhere later and you won’t know who they are. You also won’t care.
The Lazarus Experiment
Indifferent / Continuity
You meet important characters and plot devises. The episode itself is a bit weak. If you’re invested in series continuity then don’t skip it, but don’t go in with high hopes either.
This episode is actually pretty bad, but I don’t want to dilute my Do Not Watch rating by using it on this episode. Mostly this episode is stupid and a rehash of episodes you’ve already seen that did the same thing better. Early on you’ll be wondering why the Doctor is so stupid he can’t figure out that this is the same episode Star Trek had already don’t two or three times.
Human Nature / Family of Blood
Must Watch (Continuity and Quality)
This is some of my favorite television ever. Somebody woke up one day and went, “Hey, we’ve got a brilliant actor playing a fascinating character, let’s do something with that!” and what you get is astounding. Astounding. These two episodes alone make me feel guilty about being on record thinking Series 5 is the best of the new Who. I would not dive into the series right here since you’ll miss some of the emotional impact if you don’t know the Doctor and Martha. If you don’t like these episodes, this show is not for you.
Must Watch (Quality)
The single most quotable episode of Doctor Who ever. Scariest Doctor Who villain ever. This episode is brilliant.
Must Watch (Continuity)
Jack! Also, a fabulous use of soundtrack. Fun episode with fantastic ending that launches you into the finale at high speed and copious glee.
The Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords
82 minutes of fabulousness with ten minutes of painful, but forgettable cheese. Best Doctor Who villain ever. Great character development for several characters. If you don’t walk away from these episodes certain that being evil is the most fun thing ever, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. The Deus Ex Machina is wretched, as usual, but the episode recovers very nicely.
Donna is, hands down, the best of the Doctor’s companions, and she helps make this season much more balanced in quality than the other seasons. The season as a whole is a bit of a letdown after the quality heights reached in season three, but it doesn’t trudge the depths of crap plumbed by prior seasons either. This season is fun for the Who fan, but probably not a great recruiting point.
Must see (Quality)
A short special written by Stephen Moffat. It’s hillarious, and touching. Yes, I just called something touching. Now you know it’s good.
Voyage of the Damned
Do not Watch
Hey, look, a Christmas special with yet another pop star! OMG I want to die. Melodrama and suck.
Partners in Crime
Must see (Continuity)
Donna is back! And she’s magically not annoying this time! It’s so fun. Who cares about the content of this episode? Watch it just for the Doctor and Donna interacting.
The Fires of Pompeii
Fun, and somebody finally starts testing the capabilities of the TARDIS’s translation abilities.
Planet of the Ood
They did not ruin the Ood. This is important. People act like people, in the good way. Fun, though I feel like they were trying to make it more meaningful than it really was.
The Sontaran Strategem / The Poison Sky
These episodes aren’t bad, I’m just not a huge fan of them. I’m not sure why. There are a ton of fun moments, and part of the bad guy contigent is fairly sympathetic. I suspect the inherent cheese level with the episode plot is a bit off putting to me.
The Doctor’s Daughter
Do Not Watch
This episode might someday become important for continuity, but it better not. Even the hard core completists of my acquaitance agree this one should never have been made.
The Unicorn and the Wasp
This one does one better for Agatha Christie than Shakespeare got in S3. Very fun.
Silence in the Library / The Forest of the Dead
Must Watch (Continuity – Quality)
Absolutely the best of S4. Awesome character development for the Doctor. Why didn’t they put Stephen Moffat in charge for S4?
Must Watch (Quality) if you like the Twilight Zone
Doctor Who does the Twilight Zone. Well. Non fans of the Twilight Zone do not like this episode. They are broken. This episode is not fun, but it is good.
Must Watch (Continuity)
Fabulous Donna Episode, which she deserved. This launches us into the finale for S4. Shame the S4 finale sucks.
The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End
Must Watch (Continuity)
103 minutes of cheating, nonsensical plotting, stupid characters being stupid, massive suspension of disbeleif violaters and the dumbest Deus Ex Machina ever seen in Doctor Who, with four minutes of the show treating Donna well. This finale sucked so badly it pissed me off. After the first viewing I thought it was worth it because Donna was handled so well. Upon second watching, that was me lying to myself. If RTD weren’t already leaving these episodes should have gotten him fired.
To which I say,”Who thought it was a good idea to let RTD piss on this show some more?”
The Next Doctor
The best Christmas special to date. Really predictable, but fairly fun.
Planet of the Dead
Stupid plot. But the temporary companion for this episode is loads of fun.
The Waters of Mars
Do not Watch
This episode is worse than bad, it’s boring. Melodramatic, dumb, and boring. And then they rush to some character development for the Doctor in the last five minutes that would have been fascinating to watch done properly and instead renders the ending of the episode unparseable when it should have been emotionally fraught.
The End of Time
Do not Watch (Continuity)
These episodes did not happen. I don’t know how David Tenant became Matt Smith. I don’t care. Neither should you. And if I ever meet RTD there’s a fair chance I’ll be rude by accident because of these episodes that did not happen.
To be concluded with Series 5.