So, back to Doctor Who. I’ve considered a lot of things for this post and, while I’m still working on the companions piece in my head as I walk to and from work, I know I’ve got lots of recs for folks looking for a way either to hook their friends or get into the groove themselves.
To start with, here’s post A: “Episodes With Which to Hook Your Friends.” New series today; old series to come.
Rose (2005; Season 1, Episode 1). It starts the new series; it starts it with a bang; it starts with Christopher freakin’ Eccleston, okay? (and his jumper.) I feel that the Nestene are an odd choice for a monster, but that’s only if you remember them from the old series and have this vague sense that they should all be toting around daffodils in this weird flower power parody. Rose is nice, clean, well-paced storytelling. There’s no need to know anything about the series going in because it’s all explained for you: the Doctor is the Doctor; there are aliens; the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. There you go. All in a nice neat 40-minute package. There’s also Rose (Billie Piper) before she goes all dreadful, and Mickey (Noel Clarke) before being dubbed Mickey the Idiot, and Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri), Rose’s mother, who is eminently write-offable in her first few episodes — but don’t do it. Seize on to Jackie. You’ll be glad to did.
Human Nature/Family of Blood (2007; 3.8-9). This is a season 3 two-parter and is a choice I debated about. I think it would still work well as an introduction, but it would be most logical if you knew a little something about the show going in: like, not much, but maybe roughly who the Doctor is, what the companion’s role is (and who she is), and maybe a bit about how Time Lords work. But even if you don’t know any of that — this two-parter is an attention-grabber. The Doctor isn’t really the Doctor (for a wide variety of reasons); there’s a very Boy’s Own Paper-boarding school; and some extremely nasty scarecrows. Martha Jones (Freema Ageyman), the companion of the hour, gets to be totally kickass, and there are some wonderful secondary characters: the Family of Blood themselves, particularly Son of Mine (Harry Lloyd); Timothy Latimer (Thomas Brodie-Sangster who also did a great turn as Liam Neeson’s stepson in Love Actually); and Joan Redfern (Jessica Hynes), matron of the boarding school. There is one of the best (hands-down) monologues in the entire new series so far at the end of the second episode and you may want to have some tissues on hand. Just sayin’.
Blink (2007; 3.10). Ah, Blink. Blink is almost a gimme it’s so easy to get people hooked with this episode! The trick with Blink is that the Doctor and Martha aren’t really in it very much; it certainly doesn’t center around them. They do make appearances but they’re…odd appearances. (Again, a little background knowledge might be helpful here but you do get some pretty useful info dumps throughout the episode that should make good any major gaps.) Instead, you get a cast of fantastic one-offs starring Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow but not forgetting Lucy Gaskell and Finlay Robertson as Kathy and Larry Nightingale, and Michael Obiora as Billy Shipton. Blink is a monster-of-the-week; it doesn’t really hook into larger canon for 10 (although hold that thought ’cause it means a lot for 11). But the monsters are in-fucking-credible: the Weeping Angels are possibly, for me at least, the scariest creation in the new series. I don’t scare easy and Blink scares the shit out of me every time. I recommend watching it at night and, if you can, in a darkened room. Don’t say I didn’t warn you but you are welcome.
Eleventh Hour (2010; 5.1). Cards on the table time here, folks: I love 11. It took me some time (okay, okay, so it really just took me until the end of Hour) but I adore 11. He isn’t “my” Doctor, but he comes as close as any of the new ones have to taking the spot. Hour is the first episode of the 5th season and, for my money, it is great Who. It’s quick, it’s funny, it’s fun, it’s a little foolish — and a lot not, if you watch it carefully enough. Matt Smith had a ginormous PR problem going into season 5: he wasn’t David Tennant. I think he’s done a bang-up job not being David Tennant and reformulating the role into something new and exciting while building on what Tennant handed off to him in the way of character development and depth. Hour introduces a season-long story arc that will, in the end, be frightening and heartbreaking and quite funny, while making it look entirely effortless. Steven Moffat, who took over as show-runner and head writer after the departure of Russell T. Davies at the end of 10’s tenure, may not get it right all the time (ahem, Silence in the Library?) but when he gets it right, he nails it and he nails it with season 5. Things get off to a serious, game-changing bang with Hour. (Pretty much) everything is introduced to you; there’s a great new companion (or two); and the promise of fantastic, scary things to come.
Are you a Whovian with your own favorite episodes for introducing newbies to the Whoniverse? Share ’em in comments!