With the season finale of Doctor Who Series 6 coming up this weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to make some more Classic Doctor Who recommendations for some of the new fans out there who may have only ever seen the new series that has been going since 2005.
As mentioned in our post of our first 10 recommendations, to a generation of Doctor Who fans, there have been only three Doctors since they discovered the adventures of the Time Lord: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith.
Obviously, many of them want to dive deeper into legacy that has been spanning close to half a century, with some amazing stories being created from some of the creative geniuses including Robert Holmes, Malcolm Hulke, Douglas Adams, and so many more.
The only order this list is in is chronological – bear in mind, there are more episodes out there worth checking out. Also, some may find this post a little “Dalek heavy,” but there’s a reason these bad guys became the most famous of the Doctor Who villains. At any rate, have a look…
The First Doctor (William Hartnell): The Daleks
Following the launch of Doctor Who with the An Unearthly Child serial, the BBC producers needed a follow-up that would take the Doctor and his companions into space and the future as opposed to their previous adventure into the past. The concept of the Daleks was created by writer Terry Nation, who would later not only write many follow-up stories for Doctor Who, but would also move forward into expanding his Dalek universe in to a variety of other media forms, including comic books. The original Dalek adventure was an incredible smash that resonated very strongly with the young viewers of the show at the time, causing to frighten the crap out of countless British kids who would inevitably hide “behind the sofa.” The first Dalek story would be pivotal in setting the basic template for future frightening and evil monstrous villains.
The First Doctor (William Hartnell): The Dalek Invasion Of Earth
In the second season of Doctor Who, the producers knew that they would have to come up with some kind of sequel to the original Dalek story, due to the overwhelming success from the previous year. Terry Nation was brought back into the fold to write the follow-up, only this time, it was determined that the Daleks would invade Earth. The visual impact of seeing Daleks traveling through then-contemporary London was impressive to the young fans at the time. Looking at the episode now, in modern eyes, there are some flimsy costume attachments and strongly-dated effects, but the story is very strong, and stands up to the test of time. The serial also is the first time a companion departs the TARDIS permanently – significantly with the departure of the Doctor’s own granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), which coincided with perhaps the most memorable monologue performed by William Hartnell during his tenure as the First Doctor.
The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton): The Mind Robber
Written by Peter Ling and Derrick Sherwin, The Mind Robber features the unforgettable team of Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor with the Scottish Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) and the ravishing Zoe Herriot (Wendy Padbury). What is unusual about this specific serial is that it is neither a historical adventure nor a futuristic sci-fi epic – it instead sees the Doctor and his companions trapped in the void between universes and thrust out of reality and into a region known only as the Land of Fiction. While the concept may seem ridiculous at a glance, in actual fact, the adventure turns out to be a hell of a lot of fun; pitting the Time Lord against Medusa, a Minotaur, Gulliver, countless robots, and futuristic super hero called Karkus. This serial is notable because it is establishes the concept of the Void between the universes, a concept that would be re-used by Russell T. Davies in adventures featuring David Tennant‘s Tenth Doctor.
The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton): The War Games
Patrick Troughton’s epic swan song is made up of a mammoth 10 episodes, spanning from the TARDIS landing in a mysterious region that seems to be made up of Earth’s most historic wars and battles, to a finale that finally introduces more to the audiences of who the Time Lords were and where they were from. There are many notable aspects of The War Games worth mentioning. Firstly, from a historic perspective, in addition to it being Troughton’s last adventure (as well as the final adventures for companions Jamie and Zoe) it was the final Doctor Who adventure to be filmed in black-and-white. While fans had met Susan Foreman and The Meddling Monk from the Doctor’s home planet, this was the first time we would actually go to Gallifrey and meet Time Lords. Also significantly is this is the first time the audience does not see one Doctor regenerate into the next.
The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee): The Time Warrior
The opening episode of Jon Pertwee’s final season as the Doctor also featured two significant debuts. Firstly, the wonderful, and sadly missed, Elisabeth Sladen begins her tenure as beloved companion Sarah Jane Smith – a character that resonated so well with fans that she reprised the role numerous times over the years, and was a part of an attempt to give K-9 his own series in the early 1980’s. Finally, she became the star of her own Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures – and continued the role up until her passing earlier in 2011. The second debut in The Time Warrior is the first appearance of the Sontarans – there is only one warrior in the episode, but the potato head bad guy had such a huge effect on audiences that the militant race would eventually become a permanent fixture in the Whoniverse.
The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker): Pyramids of Mars
The much-loved era of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor also saw a strong directional shift by showrunner Phillip Hinchcliffe during his tenure with Doctor Who. One of the episodes that marked the significance of his era was Pyramids of Mars. Aired a whole year before the Cydonia Imaging would cause many people to believe that there actually were pyramids on Mars; the serial is a key component of Baker’s incarnation of the Doctor. Elisabeth Sladen continues her portrayal as the Doctor’s companion Sarah Jane Smith in this episode, as they both find themselves face to face with the formidable Sutekh the Destroyer. Smith would later prevent NASA unknowingly discover the pyramids and the evil within in an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures – an indication of how well loved this Baker serial truly is.
The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker): City of Death
During the entire run of Classic Doctor Who, the production was always faced with the challenge of tight budgets, making it exceptionally difficult for the production crew (particularly those involved with visual effects) to make sure everything came together. City Of Death marks one of the only times that Classic Doctor Who left the studio for location shooting – and for this serial, the cast and crew found themselves in Paris, France. Centered around the fragile nature of time travel, the adventure sees the Doctor and companion Romana (Lalla Ward) face Scaroth – portrayed by Julian Glover, who would later move on to play General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back, and Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. City of Death became one of the most successful Doctor Who serials, with one of the episodes attaining over 16 million viewers – the largest UK audience to view the show in its history to that point. Current Who fans will note the similarities between this episode and Steven Moffat‘s sub-plot from Matt Smith‘s first season about the Cracks in the Universe – and other fans take note: while David Agnew is credited as the writer, the name is in actual fact a pseudonym for Douglas Adams who heavily rewrote the original treatment by David Fisher. Also, check out the awesome cameo from John Cleese embedded below.
The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison): Earthshock
Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor saw him with three companions: Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), and Aussie companion Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding). For some of the episodes, the writers found this dynamic a little “crowded”, but the chemistry headed to a major payoff in the serial Earthshock. It is Waterhouse’s final episode as Adric, in closing scenes that shocked fans followed by an unusual style of credit roll for the series. The adventure marked the return of the Cybermen, who finally had reached the pinnacle of their classic design stage – an appearance still held in high esteem among fans to this day. Also of significance is that this is one of the first serials that showed flashbacks of previous Doctors, an element that would later be emulated by Nu Who showrunners Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. For the hardcore fans, I’d also recommend checking out the audio commentary from the cast members on this DVD – it is absolutely brilliant!
The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker): Revelation of the Daleks
As mentioned in our previous Classic Doctor Who list, there are some fans that look down on Colin Baker’s era. Indeed, while there were some production issues, and criticisms against then showrunner John Nathan-Turner; that doesn’t dispel the fact that there were some excellent stories to come from this Doctor’s incarnation. Revelation of the Daleks (also called Dalek Revelation in some DVD markets) features the return of the evil Davros, creator of the Doctor’s main enemies. There are some key components explored in this adventure that would later be touched upon in Nu Who, such as a plan to mix Dalek DNA with Human DNA that would be later seen in The Parting Of Ways. Revelation of the Daleks is said to be influenced by Soylent Green as well, which is odd and intriguing – but another step and stage in the Doctor’s ongoing battle against the evil of the Dalek race.
The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy): Remembrance of the Daleks
I kicked off this list with a Dalek adventure, so it feels fitting that I close with one also. Remembrance of the Daleks opened Season 25 of Classic Doctor Who and has the long-awaited appearance of The Emperor Dalek, who had previously only been shown in Terry Nation’s The Daleks comic strip series. As time moves forward, it’s revealed that this is not actually the original Emperor, but is in fact Davros – who has claimed dominion over the Daleks once more. This was the first episode in which it was revealed that staircases are NOT a weakness for a Dalek – in a scene where we see for the first time that these bad guys can actually levitate and hover using some kind of ‘repuslorlift’ tech. It is important to note that the aims of Davros and the Daleks in this episode link directly to what would eventually become known as The Last Great Time War. Significantly, this was the final Dalek adventure for Classic Doctor Who, which makes it an important closing chapter in the history of the long running series. Incidentally, my TARDISblend co-host Tom Cheredar recently caught up with Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, where he discussed the origins of his name, and recited a Matt Smith Pandorica scene.
So there you have it. Another 10 Classic Doctor Who adventures worth checking out if you’re a new fan. I hope you get a chance to see some of them, and feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments!