When I ask other Doctor Who fans if they’ve watched the Classic series I often get this response, “There’s just too much, I don’t know where to start.” For me, its quite obvious where you need to start, and no, you DO NOT start at An Unearthly Child. This is a common mistake. There is a proper viewing order for an American to experience Classic Doctor Who for the first time and I shall list it here:
Note: For brevity sake, I list the range of stories that should be watched. Any stories that were missing, incomplete, or unfinished before 1990 should be omitted until step 34.
1) Watch the entire Tom Baker run… TWICE!!!
2) Watch Peter Davison from Castrovalva to Time-Flight
3) Watch more Tom Baker!!! From Robot to The Sun Makers
4) Watch the Five Doctors 2 days before all your British friends do
5) Watch the Five Doctors again on the same day that your British friends do, just to rub it in
6) Watch more TOM BAKER!!! From Image of the Fendahl to Logopolis
7) Rewatch the Peter Davison stories you’ve already seen!!! From Castrovalva to Time-Flight
8) Watch Peter Davison that you haven’t seen yet! From Arc of Infinity to The King’s Demons
9) Watch the Five Doctors again!!! This time understanding where that unpleasant ginger fellow came from
10) Watch more Tom Baker!!! From Robot to Terror of the Zygons
11) Watch new Peter Davison stories interspersed with MORE TOM BAKER!!! (From Warriors of the Deep/Planet of Evil to Caves of Androzani/The Masque of Mandragora)
12) Re-watch all of Peter Davison’s run interspersed with the rest of Tom Baker’s run
13) Make sure you understand the concept of regeneration by watching Spearheads from Space, Robot, Logopolis, and Caves of Androzani all in one night!
14) Think you have a grasp on regeneration now? Then re-watch Destiny of the Daleks to remind yourself that Romana does it COMPLETELY DIFFERNTLY!
15) Think you’re ready to dive into Colin Baker? Tough! It’s time to watch some Jon Pertwee! From Doctor Who and the Silurians to The Planet of Spiders. (Note: it is assumed that you’ll lose interest if you watch these straight through so mix in some Tom Baker and Davison stories beginning with City of Death)
16) You’ve waited for it, its time to finally watch Colin Baker in The Twin Dilemma!!! I’m sure it will exceed all of your expectations.
17) Now watch more Colin Baker stories from Attack of the Cybermen to Revelation of the Daleks! Follow each story with a Tom Baker story, starting with Robot
18) Wait before watching anymore Colin Baker, its time to dive into the Hartnell era. To make this transition less jarring, watch this short video first:
19) Now watch from An Unearthly Child to The War Machines. Oh, and don’t forget to mix in the obligatory Tom Baker stories.
20) Try not to be confused as you’re going to be jumping ahead to Patrick Troughton now. Watch from The Dominators to The War Games, add Tom Baker.
21) Watch the Pertwee era again. Add Tom Baker and Davison
22) As you wrap up the Pertwee era, watch the Colin Baker episodes you’ve already seen. I’m sure you’ll find them even more enjoyable the second time around!
23) Now watch this:
24) Seems like this is the perfect time to watch something new, right? WRONG! Go back and watch the Hartnell era again and add Tom Baker!
25) Now Troughton… Don’t forget to add Tom Baker.
26) And finally, NEW COLIN BAKER!!! You can now watch The Trial of the Time Lord!!!
27) Watch Tom Baker
28) Re-watch The Trial of the Time Lord.
29) Watch Time and the Rani, Sylvester McCoy’s first story
30) Get excited that there’s a new Doctor you weren’t expecting
31) Have that excitement crushed and spend the next year and nine months watching the Pertwee era again. Adding Tom Baker is always acceptable.
32) Watch from Paradise Towers to Survival
33) Watch Tom Baker
34) Track down home video releases of previously missing, incomplete, or unfinished stories. Example: Tomb of the Cybermen, The Invasion with linking narration by Nicholas Courtney, Shada with linking narration by Tom Baker, etc. Watch in the order you find them.
35) Watch Tom Baker
36) Watch more Tom Baker
Congratulations, you have now experienced Classic Doctor Who in the American way!
Bonus points if you managed to find copies of these stories that had been edited together as one long movie.
When in doubt, watch Tom Baker.