Whats the best Doctor Who Season to start with for new comers?

Hey everyone,
I’ve wanted to get into doctor who for a while now, but to be honest, there are so many seasons, I just feel overwhelmed in what to start with. I’ve watched a couple of episodes here and there, and enjoyed them, but I felt like I had no idea what was going on.

Maybe I’m not starting on the right season? Maybe the shows not for me?

What are your thoughts?


I’m interested in the answers as well. Heard so many good things about the show, but have no idea where to start.


I have watched a couple of episodes in the first season and really enjoyed it. But still felt like I was drowning in what to expect, how to approach it, etc. Lol I am glad I am not alone.


The first Eccleston season is pretty solid (though rather dated now) but it’s straight-ahead Doctor Who as it is now.

The first Matt Smith is probably the strongest complete unit and plays better on a binge.

For older Dr who seasons . . .hmm. That’s gonna be tricky. The second Sylvester McCoy season is the one I continue to revisit and has the highest ratio of strong stories to investment of time.

Going any further down the old-school Who path, I recommend cherry-picking by story.


So, if you’re mainly interested in New Who, then the best place to start would be with Season 1, the beginning of the reboot. Christopher Eccleston is a great Doctor, you get to meet Rose, and it’s a good introduction to the rest of the New Who series to come. They mention stuff that happened in the past, but anything related to the “Time War” was made up for the reboot, so don’t feel like you’re missing out on lore.

Personally, I truly “started” New Who with Season 5, the start of the Eleventh Doctor. Once I finished that season, I watched what came beforehand. The Eleventh Doctor is a good start for a season or two before you need to look back. Especially in season 5, he and his TARDIS are as bright, fun, and full of potential like a freshly minted penny.

Overall, though, as long as you’re watching New Who, don’t worry about what happened in the Classic eras. They really are two different shows, albeit related ones that pick and choose which lore to follow.

Now, if you wanna start watching Classic Who, you really can start almost anywhere. Every Doctor’s era is different, with each Doctor giving it a different feel and energy. If you ever start watching Classic Who, I recommend watching an episode or two of a Doctor’s “best” episodes (you can ask around for that info), and if you dig it, then watch the rest of that Doctor’s time on the show. If you don’t dig it, move on to another Doctor. There’s no shame in that!

Hope this helps!


There are as many opinions on this as there are options, but I’d like to second this. As a complete series, this is a great, engaging, well-written arc. It’s newbie-friendly viewing, and if someone isn’t interested in seeing more after that season I’m not sure what would grab them.

[just my 2¢/ymmv/etc.]


I never watched a minute of Dr Who before the “reboot” but my husband had been a fan, so we both started watching when the Eccleston season started. [SPOILER ALERT … spoiler just ahead] Imagine my surprise when Eccleston died!

Anyway it worked for me! We’ve been watching it since and I’ve really enjoyed all the Doctors even when I was sure I would hate the new guy. I still haven’t gone back to the originals and not sure I will, but the new stuff is good on its own. I would recommend starting with Eccleston for no other reason than it’s less confusing – ironically for a time travel show, the narrative does develop over time and some things will seem random or confusing or you’ll just miss the significance if you skip the first year(s).


Wow, just Tom Baker-love watching those episodes over and over. I don’t watch New Who. I saw some-it’s ok.


To somewhat anti-answer your question, if you want to get into classic Who, avoid the 6th and 7th Doctors (bad writing, cheesy 80s effects) and probably most of the first two (B&W, pacing is often glacial and odd for modern audiences because it was taped in one or two takes due to tape editing being very difficult in those days, so flubs stayed in). Not saying never to watch them, but they’re best watch when you already have some affection for the show.

The Tom Baker (4th Doctor) era is the most popular. I personally think the best run was around when Philip Hinchcliffe was producer and Robert Holmes was head writer (mid 1970s, seasons 13, 14, &15).

For Nu-Who, honestly if you start at the beginning of any of the post-2005 Doctors’ runs (9th to present), you’re probably fine. Just accept that you’re missing some of the mythology and you can catch up on it as you watch. Each Doctor has their own personality and each pairing with companions has its own dynamics, so it’s kind of soft rebooted every couple years.


Tom Baker.


The bigger question is how far back do you want to start. The nice thing is you can pretty much jump in whenever a new Doctor era starts.

The series all started with William Hartnell, but I find his stories some of the hardest to watch. They are slow and they are still in the mindset of filming a theater performance

Personally, I loved the Patrick Troughton seasons. (2nd Doctor). He had great chemistry with his co-star, Frazer Hines, and there are some great stories in there.

A caveat to these two Doctors: many of their episodes are missing. There is an effort to animate the missing episodes (they have the audio files, just not the video).

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) was more Earthbound and James Bond-esque.

The Fourth Doctor was Tom Baker. He’s the one most Americans will recommend as he was the first Doctor we got on this side of the Pond. His first few seasons are great, and a lot of fun. The back half of his run gets tedious.

Peter Davison was the Fifth Doctor. He had some good stories but was saddled with some annoying companions.

Then we have poor Colin Baker. His era is probably the hardest to get into (and it’s one of the shortest). The Comptroller of the BBC hated the show and was actively trying to get it cancelled.

Sylvester McCoy has a rough first season, but once he’s teamed with Ace, his stories really take off.

Paul McGann only had the movie, so not much there to get your teeth into.

This brings us to the current era.

Christopher Eccleston had, I think, a pitch-perfect season. Not a bad episode in the bunch.

David Tennant is the Tom Baker of the current era. Most of his stories are very good and his Doctor gets probably the most character development over his run.

Matt Smith had some big shoes to fill but managed with great success. His first season is probably my favorite, but he had a great run of episodes.

Peter Capaldi was a great Doctor, but the writing was on the wall as far as the writing was concerned. He’d have a few great episodes, and then a run of … not so great.

Sadly, I can’t really recommend Jodie Whittaker’s episodes. Some of the worst writing in the history of the show. Her companions are little more than cardboard cut-outs and I found her epsiodes dull and boring.


@LadyShelley the Time Lady of Gallifrey has given an excellent precis, so I have little to add. But since I came here to post I’ll throw in my two farthings worth.

For Classic Who the most accessible to a newcomer are the Tom Baker (4th Doctor) seasons. As @awatts mentioned, the seasons helmed by Philip Hinchcliffe are nonpareil - The Robots of Death, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Masque of Mandragora, The Pyramids of Mars, and so many other classic storylines took place under his guidance. These stand up well even today, with a kind of Hammer/Quatermass vibe that makes them all the cooler.

Once you’ve settled in comfortably with the 4th Doctor then you can try some other Classic vintages. I find Patrick Troughton to be the best, and indeed he’s “The Doctor’s Doctor”, with a lot of Who actors naming him as their favorite. There are a number of good Pertwee stories as well (personal fave - The Claws of Axos).

Regarding New Who you are best off starting at the beginning. Russell T. Davies rejuvenated the show and his seasons still contain the best stories. Christopher Eccleston is brilliant, but I’m already biased towards him as an actor. David Tennant is definitely the quintessential Doctor of the new era in the way he embodies so much of the panache and eccentricities of the Doctor.

Anyway, hope this helps, and I envy you in all the great stories you have ahead of you to discover!


Rewatch Boom Town Clockwork Orange style and recant. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

For the Hartnell, I’d go with The Romans. Good fun and the Doctor tosses an assassin out a window. For Troughton, Tomb of the Cybermen is a classic for a reason. Fun Fact; The human antagonist in Tomb appeared as an antagonist in several Hammer Mummy movies. After that, just about anything written by Robert Holmes is good. The man was brilliant and, unlike most writers, he could take his psychological traumas and convert them into quality entertainment. Consider Terror of the Autons regarding his intense loathing of plastic and its ubiquity. Or how The Sun Makers was written not long after Inland Revenue (the British IRS) raked him over the coals.


'Eh, even Boom Town has a good through-line. Rose dealing with the fact she really doesn’t want her old life anymore and how she tries to deal with that. And the whole plot with Blon was a good morality story that didn’t beat the viewer of the head with the “right” choice. (Chris Chibnall should have taken notes)

And yes Tomb of the Cybermen is an absolute fantastic story.


I don’t know. I saw some of the Tom Baker as a kid…really it was what my pops was watching and all that. I was little so it was like “weird looking phone booth! long scarf!”

In the modern age, I started with the Chris Eccleston when it was live, and continued with the David Tennant for a bit. No idea what’s happening currently.

I like the ones where Billie Piper was the tag-along. She’s got spunk. I hate spunk! No, it was good chemistry.


I started with the 9th doctor/ season one of New Who. More specifically, I started with the Empty Child episodes of that season, which I think isn’t a bad start because they’re really strong episodes and I got invested right away. A lot of people skip 9, which I don’t get- it’s a great start to Doctor Who and makes for an easy, understandable introduction to the show. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the show!


Tom Baker


It’ll be easier to recommend a starting place, if we know a bit more about your other television watching habits. What other sci-fi series are you a fan of? For example, are you a fan of classic Star Trek? Have you watched other British sci-fi like Blakes 7 or Space 1999? Are you a fan of Hammer Horror films? Do you primarily watch modern television or frequently dip into the past?

Also, and this may be the biggest question… do you have BritBox? (which is the only channel streaming the classic series), HBO Max? (which is the only channel streaming the modern series), or access to all previous episodes through torrents or an enthusiastic friend’s DVD collection, or are you considering purchasing individual episodes or sets to start with?

That said, here are a couple of recommended jumping on points:

If you think you’ll be more interested in the modern series of Doctor Who, I recommend starting with Season 5. Yes this is dropping you straight in the middle of the modern era but the Steven Moffat seasons comprising the entirety of the 11th and 12th Doctors’ runs, are (in my opinion) more consistently enjoyable than the Russell T. Davies 9th and 10th Doctor eras, which are an extremely inconsistent jumble of very good episodes (many of which were written by future showrunner, Steven Moffat) and utter crap (most of which were written by Russell T. Davies.)

The Eleventh Hour, the first episode of season 5 and the 11th Doctor, also does a fairly good job of reintroducing the character fresh to new-ish viewers. Chances are, if you have an even passing familiarity with the program, you already know what the TARDIS and regeneration is, and you can pick up most of the rest along the way from here.

If you do decide to start at the beginning of Season 1 of the new series with Rose and the 9th Doctor, just know going in that modern era Who is always going to be uneven, and the first couple of seasons were especially so. Things pick up a bit in season 2, once you get David Tennant settled as the 10th Doctor (who is much more of a “classic” Doctor than Eccleston’s somewhat brusque 9th incarnation) but you’ve still got really good episodes like School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace, standing alongside the worst of the worst like Love and Monsters and Fear Her.

As for the two most recent seasons 11 & 12 with the 13th Doctor… just don’t. No shade thrown on Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal of a female Doctor, but current producer Chris Chibnall is responsible for 9 of the 10 worst rated Doctor Who episodes of all time, and has about as much talent when it comes to writing sci-fi as a moldy cheese sandwich. Save these seasons for when you’re so desperate for Doctor Who that it’s a choice between this or rewatching Twin Dillemma and Time and The Rani.

If you’re looking to go back and enjoy the classic series, make sure you go in with the understanding that:

A) most of the serialized stories are several hours long and move a lot slower than modern television. Generally speaking, anything over 4 episodes is usually going to contain about 4 episodes worth of plot and 2 to 3 episodes of padding. And B) The budget of the classic series was about £5 and whatever they could nick from the BBC commissary. Sets will wobble, early green screen technology (called CSO back then) will be incredibly ugly and fake looking, and monsters will look surprisingly good in one episode and like cheap rubber Halloween masks in the next, depending on how good the production staff was as creating something out of nothining.
On the plus side, while the classic series suffers on a SFX/budget level compared to modern Who, the stories themselves are usually more consistently entertaining and well scripted… at least until you get up into the 80’s with the 6th and 7th Doctors.

As for jumping on points, there are several, depending on your threshold for classic television.
In most cases, I’d recommend starting with Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor, widely regarded as one of the most enjoyable and easiest to love Doctors, with several of the classic series’ best episodes under his belt. If you’re thinking of purchasing DVD/BluRay sets, Tom’s first season (season 12) was recently rereleased on blu-ray and contains several classic episodes, including Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks, two of the best Doctor Who episodes… period. Additionally, if you happen to find a copy of the Key to Time DVD set (season 16), that’s another good starting place since all the stories are linked, and (mostly) all good.


As for the rest of the classic era, here’s a brief rundown of what you’ll be letting yourself in for with each Doctor:

1st Doctor (season 1-4) - One of the hardest eras to get into, unless you really love classic black and white sci-fi. Though this was where it all started and there are some definite classics every true fan should see (especially the very first episode, An Unearthly Child, and the first two Dalek stories, The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth) they hadn’t yet developed The Doctor as the brave, brilliant, and funny intergalactic savior of the entire universe several times over. He was much more of your typical 1950’s crotchety old professor, and most of the real heroics were taken care of by the younger handsome leading man companion, Ian Chesterton. His stories tended to be rather long, and shot on a sound stage the size of a broom cupboard, where they could only afford 3 or 4 sets per episode, and everything was recorded live to tape like a soap opera (flubbed lines and all), so it’s a very different animal than what you’ll become accustomed to in later seasons. Also, about half the Hartnell stories were straight up historical adventures with no aliens, monsters, or sci-fi elements other than time travel, where the Doctor and his companions show up someplace dangerous like ancient Rome, the Crusades, or the French Revolution, and then immediately get separated from one another and spend the next 4-6 episodes looking for each other so that they can leave again.

2nd Doctor (Season 4-6) - The Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, is largely responsible for setting the stage for all future Doctors. And is a good jumping on point if you want to explore Doctor Who in the 1960’s. While this period of Doctor Who was still in black and white, it’s a lot more fun and active than the 1st Doctor era, especially once you get the 2nd Doctor paired up with fan favorite companions Jamie and Zoe (Victoria can be fun too, though is a bit more of a scream-at-everything load). Sadly, a lot of the 2nd Doctor era is missing from the archives, and while many stories have now been animated to match the surviving audio tracks, they can be a bit rough to watch. If you want a taste of the 2nd Doctor at his best, I recommend beginning with Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion (both Cybermen stories), followed by The Dominators (which is light fun and my personal favorite Troughton story), The Krotons and The War Games, (Troughton’s epic 10-part swan song, and the story that introduces us to the Time Lords and the idea of him as a run-away in a stolen TARDIS for the first time.)

3rd Doctor (Season 7-11) - In color for the very first time and responsible for shaping a lot of what would eventually go on to become the series lore (until Chibnall bunged it all out the window with his latest version of the new series) the 3rd Doctor era is a little harder to get into for a couple of reasons. They decided to maroon him on Earth and make him the scientific advisor to UNIT, so most of his stories involve protecting 70’s Earth from alien invasions or various schemes of The Master, and to save on production costs, almost all his adventures are six episodes long… with the afore mentioned four episodes worth of plot. There are still some great episodes during his era, especially Spearhead from Space, The Three Doctors, Planet of the Daleks, and The Green Death, but even these have their “get on with it!” moments.

4th Doctor (Season 12-18) - As previously mentioned, widely regarded as the “best” era of classic Who, where it was at it’s most creative and fun. There are so many good episodes in here, it’s hard to pick just a couple of highlights, but Ark in Space, Pyramids of Mars, and Seeds of Doom are all brilliant. And if you’re a Douglas Adams fan, you’ve got to check out City of Death.

There were several mini eras within Tom Baker’s run, which may appeal more or less to you depending on your interests. Season’s 12 through the first half of season 15 (the “Hinchcliffe era”) was heavily influences by Hammer Horror, and tends to be a bit darker and scarier. Season 15-17 saw Robert Holmes and Douglas Adams take over as script editors, and tend to be a bit lighter and sillier (but still good.) And his final season, which saw the show dragged kicking and screaming into the 80’s, was a return to a slightly darker more serious version of the Doctor, though at the same time, the beginning of the era where the show realized that the public’s expectations for sci-fi had been raised thanks to big budget productions like Star Wars, and they felt the need to taking more risks and stretch their meager budget to the breaking point… which didn’t always pan out.

5th Doctor (Season 19-21) - A bit of a mixed bag. As previously noted, the show was starting to stretch itself with mixed results. You’ve got great episodes like Earthshock and Frontios, back-to-back with turds like Time-Flight and The Awakening. You’ll also see the influence of American television on the show, where the companions became louder and more obnoxious (especially Tegan and Peri.)

6th Doctor (Season 21-23) - Do not start with the 6th Doctor. This was the start of the death of classic Who, where producer John Nathan-Turner made a series of increasingly bad decisions to try to keep the show “fresh” and compete with more popular American TV series of the time. There are a few okay episodes from this era like Attack of the Cybermen, Mark of the Rani, and The Two Doctors, but by and large best avoided if you’re looking for a way into the classic show.

7th Doctor (Season 24-26) - A return to mixed bag Doctor Who. The show was just starting to find it’s footing again when it got cancelled. While Sylvester McCoy does his best, a lot of this era is crap. But then you get episodes like Remembrance of the Daleks and The Curse of Fenric, which are absolutely outstanding and the true start of “modern” Who.

8th Doctor TV Movie - A great big ball of WTF. Paul McGann is great, and it looks pretty… at times, but yeah… don’t bother with this one as a casual viewer.


Starting with Pertwee (especially the year they introduced The Master), Tom Baker (Series 17, script edited by Douglas Adams would be my choice) or Eccleston’s year is usually pretty safe. They’re all solid Doctors with some great stories. However, if it’s someone who likes (or at least doesn’t mind) a more casually paced story, there’s no harm in going all the way back to Hartnell (say, ‘The Meddling Monk’) or Troughton (‘The Enemy of the World’, perhaps).


I did a whole panel about this for a few years at All-Con. Here’s my list of recommendations.

Spearhead From Space - The first Third Doctor story. Effectively reboots the series, as the story finds the Doctor (newly regenerated) exiled to Earth. All the continuity from the previous episodes is laid out simply and they establish the new Doctor’s personality perfectly. It was also the first episode of the classic series to be released on Blu-Ray as it was also the only classic Doctor Who episode to be entirely shot on film. Also the first color episode, for what that is worth. :slight_smile:

The Three Doctors - the first team-up of multiple Doctors and the show’s 10th anniversary special, this one is easily accessible and a lot of fun and also offers the first glimpse of the society of the Time Lords.

The Key To Time - available as a box set and edited by Douglas Adams (who wrote the episode The Pirate Planet, which is one of my favorites), this was Doctor Who’s first attempt at a season-long story. It’s a darn good story, too.

City of Death - another candidate for the best Classic Doctor Who story ever, this one boasts a script largely rewritten by Douglas Adams, a stunning turn by Julian Glover as the villain, on-location filming in Paris and a delightfully insane plot involving a heist to steal the Mona Lisa that adds twists within twists.

Rose/The End Of The World/The Unquiet Dead - the first three episodes of New Who (Series 1) form a neat trilogy which introduce us to the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) through the eyes of his new companion, shop-girl Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). The stories run the gamut of traditional Doctor Who stories, featuring an alien invasion of Earth, a science-fiction trip to the future and a historical piece set in the past. This perfectly set the tone for the new series while honoring all that came before.

The Christmas Invasion - the first story featuring David Tennant as The Doctor and the first yearly Doctor Who Christmas special of the new series. This was my mother’s introduction to the new Doctor Who and she loved it. It may be a bit more meaningful coming into it from the end of the Eccleston run, but it’s a great introduction for the Tenth Doctor.

The Girl In The Fireplace - another modern classic, which finds the Tenth Doctor discovering random time portals into the life of a French noblewoman on a ship in deep space and an army of clockwork robots trying to kill her. Pretty much the definitive Doctor Who story for how it blends history and sci-fi in a weird fashion.

The Eleventh Hour - the first story for Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. It gives a number of nods to Spearhead From Space and is another contender for the best introductory episode, as The Doctor is rescued by a little girl after his ship crashes in her backyard and he arrives 20 years too late to take her on the adventure he promised as repayment, by which point she has grown into Karen Gillan and the crack in reality in her bedroom has become bigger…

Flatline - my own personal dark horse pick and my personal favorite of the Peter Capaldi era of the show, this episode finds the Doctor fighting an invasion from the second dimension and features what I think may be the best single Doctor speech in history. (Capaldi had a lot of crap episodes, but also had some great speeches.)