❉ Jim Sangster is your guide to watching every episode of Doctor Who in order.
Previously… PART ONE
At either end of Season 3, Doctor Who fans would have rushed to the cinema to watch two movies, Dr Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD. While some blowhards will tell you these “don’t count” as they’re adaptations of the first two Dalek serials and the Doctor is played by the non-canonical Peter Cushing, the films are highly recommended as supplementary material. The second one is especially joyful in a way the TV original was never intended to be.
I’m trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible here, but even the newest fans will know that the Doctor regularly changes, so by Season Four you’ll be watching the first of these replacements, Patrick Troughton. Thanks to some archive recoveries and a few animated episodes here and there, you should find it a bit easier to work your way through Troughton’s three seasons with a few stories where you’ll be searching Daily Motion. Many of the reconstructions for this period also feature short moving sequences, either clips that survive in the archives or, usually in Dalek stories, CGI-animated scenes. There’s a fan edit of Season Five’s The Wheel in Space that’s particularly good for this.
By the time you’ve got to the end of Patrick Troughton, you’ll have watched 253 episodes – plus an optional pilot episode and two Dalek movies, you lucky thing! If you’re rationing yourself to no more than two episodes a day, you’ll be four months into your pilgrimage. Don’t let this put you off; Seasons in the 1960s spanned 40 weeks or more a year, but from 1970, with the introduction of colour and Jon Pertwee, you’re looking at just 25 episodes per year. Also, everything exists in some form from this point on and they’ve all been released on DVD (and at the time of writing, Pertwee’s first story and selected entire seasons are also available on bluray, and very nice they look too!).
You should be able to make it all the way to episode 525 – The Horns of Nimon episode 4 – before your next big choice. We’re in Season 17 now and Tom Baker’s the Doctor but a strike in the BBC meant that the final six-part story of the season, Shada, was cancelled partway through production and never completed in time for broadcast. Some 40 years later, members of the cast were reunited to voice animated segments of the missing scenes and this “complete” version was released on DVD and bluray. If you choose to include this (and you really don’t have to), your episode count will now be 531.
VIEWING NOTE #1
In the winter of 1981, a one-off special aired in the UK. K9 and Company featured two of the fourth Doctor’s companions and though it was hoped it would lead to a full series, nothing more became of it. However, viewers in the north-west of England missed out, due to a transmitter fault, so they only got to see this the following December. So firstly, you can choose whether or not to include this (although it does help to explain the beginning of 1983’s The Five Doctors, so it’s recommended) and secondly, decide whether to watch it before or after Season 19.
Speaking of The Five Doctors, it’s one 90-minute special episode, so you should probably tackle that in one go. Be warned though, there’s an extended version out there too, so if you get the Special Edition DVD set, you’ll have the choice of watching the original or the longer version with new effects. Also, in 1984 during Season 21, the four-part story Resurrection of the Daleks was edited before broadcast into two 45-minute episodes, a format that was then used throughout the following season.
If you’re still sticking to two episodes a day, it’s up to you whether these actually count as one episode or two, but if you started your pilgrimage on 1 January, you should be winding up the original series at some point in the first week of December with episode 695 – part three of Survival.
VIEWING NOTE #2
If you’ve seen every story before, but never tried to watch the show in chronological order, there are a few points where you can choose to mix things up for fun: In season seven, swap the running order by putting Inferno before The Ambassadors of Death as this way round kind of provides a departure scene for Liz Shaw; in Season 25, swap Silver Nemesis for The Greatest Show in the Galaxy to sort out a continuity error and provide more of a thematic structure to the series; and in Season 26, swap The Curse of Fenric and Battlefield so that there’s a cute reveal for the Doctor’s tweaked costume and some nice foreshadowing for a story later in the season.
❉ From 2020, Britbox will carry all surviving episodes of Doctor Who, and other streaming services such as HBO Max will stream the modern era.
❉ Jim Sangster is an author, TV historian and regular contributor to Doctor Who magazine. He’s also been a talking head on numerous documentaries, including contributions to the Doctor Who DVD range. He lives alone, surrounded by Daleks.