Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityEpisode103Editor’s note: We recorded this before the Amazon Prime/Crave TV news dropped! Appropriate links below.

We’ve touched on it before, but in our year of firsts, we thought it worth revisiting–where do you recommend people start watching Doctor Who? And how can folks (especially in the US) find it to watch? Join Deb Erika, and Tansy as we dive deep into both halves of this tricky equation. There are many different strategies to get folks to join us in loving Doctor Who, but there are few ways to watch it–and even fewer now that Hulu and Netflix in the US have lost all DW titles.

How do you start new viewers on Doctor Who? Do you base it on the person, or do you have a go-to story? And where do you recommend they find what you want them to watch? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Bonus links:
Doctor Who: The Fan Show gives a Ribbon primer
Erika’s essay on starting new folks with “Blink”
Jason Snell’s post on how to start watching Doctor Who
Erik Stadnik’s open letter about what classic Who to watch before a con
Works of Lois McMaster Bujold
The Nerdist’s Guide to Watching Doctor Who online by Kyle Anderson
The Doctors Revisited series

Post-recording good-news links!
Series 1-8 coming to Amazon Prime in the US!
Doctor Who coming to CraveTV in Canada!

Download or listen now (runtime 1:28:42) 

Comments on: "103 – How to Watch Doctor Who" (25)

  1. Unearthly Child, (The Chase?), War Games, Terror of the Autons, Brain of Morbius, Enlightenment (or maybe Time-Flight)

  2. Sarah said:

    I’m not saying this would work for everyone, but the first story I saw back in 1981 was “Pyramids of Mars” (Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane). It grabbed almost-14-year-old me, but I’ve heard others since say it bored them. Oh well. It worked on me, made me wonder what in the world I was watching (since I stumbled across the story already in progress), where it had been all my life, and how I could see more.

  3. Urgh, Crave’s interface is *awful*. I have it, but if something is on Netflix, that’s where I watch it. Guess that’s why they’re doing the exclusive thing, but ugh.

    And relevant to the podcast, I started a bunch of my friends on ‘Rose’ when I moved to Canada. I created four new fans that night. And one of them spread the love to her entire family 🙂 I’d probably still do it that way if I was trying to create another group of fans.

    I’m trying to work out what the good stepping off point is for pushing classic Who on them. Vacillating between ‘City of Death’, ‘The Daemons’, or ‘Battlefield’.

  4. I was once challenged to pick a single episode (not a serial) as an introduction. I went with Stones of Blood Ep.3 for its range (e.g. its audacious leap from folk horror to lawyers on a spaceship; its mix of horror and comedy). It seemed to go down well.

  5. Great discussion! Matching the jumping on point to the new viewer is good advice. Interestingly, regarding the RTD vs Moffat discussion, I seduced a friend recently using The Eleventh Hour, after he had failed to be wooed by RTD era stuff in the past. He fell hard for it. Very satisfying. He got his own back by introducing me to Saga and Copperhead…

    One thing that I pondered as I was reeling him in was just how much to say. I worry that overexplaining can put too much pressure on them – we risk condescension if we seem to be telling them how to like something. It was enough with Eleventh Hour to say ‘new cast, new producer, and a good story.’ My next conundrum was what to do as they got to Victory of the Daleks and the Angels 2-parter. These don’t need their backstories, but it was a great way to say ‘watch Blink and Dalek if you like’. Not a bad gateway to the RTD era!

    As for classic, for a new Who fan I reckon Remembrance of the Daleks would be a good starting point. Good production values, a cold open (!), Daleks (ie a known quantity), hints of the show’s deep past and Ace kicking Dalek arse. Plus just a little bit of cheese (or, in this case, rice pudding!).

  6. Dave S. said:

    Unpopular post time: I was a new-Who fan and the first classic story I attempted was “The Ribos Operation”. I disliked it so much I didn’t try Classic Who again for a full year. I have since rewatched it and still rank it pretty low – so talky and absolutely nothing happens! (The story that finally got me on board: “Terror of the Autons”.)

    Re: the streaming issue, I think of it as unfortunate but not exactly a public good issue. TV has never been free, for the most part – it just appears that way sometimes. And titles randomly appearing and disappearing is one of the main things to know about streaming. I’m not unsympathetic, but if permanence was a concern, that’s why we still have physical media.

  7. Kyle Miller said:

    The very first Doctor Who story I saw was The Armageddon Factor. All six episodes one after the other on a San Francisco PBS station on a weekend. This story may not be a good story to start anybody watching Doctor Who, but it made me want to see other Key to Time stories. I liked Tom Baker’s Doctor and I wanted to see more of him and the show. This was back in 1981. I found and bought all of the Target novels and I bought most of the VHS tapes. I was able to buy all of the DVDs as they came out. I like every story, some more than others and I am waiting patiently for the missing episodes to be found.

    • Were you watching on KQED? Hello, SF Bay Area Whovian. *grin* (I “met” DW in 1981 on KQED, then continued on KTEH later. I miss KTEH.)

  8. My first memory of watching Who is seeing Terry Walsh fall off of a ladder in The Time Monster on PBS! It wasn’t the most dynamic start to things.
    A friend just asked me this week where she should start with watching the new series. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime and the advice in this episode. I’m going with Rose for the suggestion, although it’s always a big toss-up between that one and the Eleventh Hour. It really does come down to how you guess that individual will react.
    Classic Who is much tougher to recommend, even when it is available. City of Death is good for lit & sci-fi nerds. The first episode of An Unearthly Child is always a surefire hit. Following it up can be difficult. Remembrance of the Daleks seems to go well for the later years.
    One interesting avenue I’ve seen for new fans branching into classic Who: cosplay. Their passion and interest in the various costumes from the series leads fans to check out characters from previous eras. A friend wants to watch Mel episodes because she likes polka dots!

  9. terminuspodcast said:

    One other ‘Doctor Who’-related thing about ‘The Decoy Bride’ is that it was directed by Sheree Folkson, who has, of course, also directed ‘Doctor Who’. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for the film, as well, but then I have a great love for both Tennant and Kelly Macdonald, so I was easy for them being in a rom-com together. 🙂

  10. terminuspodcast said:

    I always wish I could remember the first Doctor Who serial I saw. I know it was in 8th grade for me (late 1986/early 1987 — I’m old!), as a new friend of mine back then found out I loved ‘The Tomorrow People’, so she recommended it as ‘more awesome British SciFi’ and I only knew her that school year.

    I believe the first story was in S14, though (obviously on repeat on PBS), since my first strong memory of Doctor Who was the secondary control room and, luckily, it was only seen in that season. I seem to have stronger (early) memories of Leela than Sarah Jane, so it might have been post-‘Deadly Assassin’.

    Either way, I was hooked and watched it every Saturday going forward for several years. (And later as an adult watched the whole classic series all the way through) 🙂

  11. terminuspodcast said:

    I need to stop commenting…but I was just thinking of how getting into ‘Doctor Who’ coincided with one of my first queer experiences. The girl who got me into the show (I believe she was named Tammy? I wish I could remember) was very androgynous and was bullied for that and since I had the same problem (being a rather androgynous tomboy, myself), we bonded together and found we were both Sci-Fi geeks. After I started watching ‘Doctor Who’, she would play the ‘Doctor Who’ role-playing game over the phone with me almost every day after school (she would run it) and in the game I played the companion to her (male) Time Lord character. Our two characters ended up in a romance and even had a ‘Time Lord wedding’ (concocted by her) and we played this very romantic dynamic between each other in the game. Soon after, by the end of the school year, she moved away to the other side of the country, though, and we never spoke again, but looking back I’ve often wondered if she was sort of acting out feelings for me in the game. I mean, there were other signs as well, but I was so shy and oblivious, I had no idea back then! I do still think about her sometimes and wonder whatever happened to her and if she still watches the show. I’ve even thought about talking about it on my podcast sometime. 🙂

  12. I have a memory of starting with Robot (but I might just be projecting as well). Not sure the best place to start for someone else. I know that Amazon Prime will be streaming but I also want to point out how I watch normally. I do not both having cable except the very lowest level as I just don’t watch enough tv to justify the cost. I do however, buy the season as it comes out on Amazon. There is a 24 hour delay which is a little frustrating but not the end of the world and I have it available from that point on.

  13. Joe in NoCal said:

    Hi. Another great episode. The Eleventh Hour was the first Doctor Who episode I had ever seen. I’d known about the show since the late 70s, but had never seen any classic episodes. Our local PBS station rarely showed it, and Dad hated Sci-Fi.  I was deployed when it came back in 2005 and after I returned and got married, we went without TV/Satellite for a few years. 11th Hour is a great jumping on point. When Matt Smith walked through the images of the previous doctors and said “Hello, I’m the Doctor. Basically…run”, I was hooked.  When that series ended with The Big Bang, I knew I had found my tribe. I went back to Series 1 via iTunes and then the Tennant Years via other downloads. When I got to School Reunion that was that episode that made me want to watch Classic Who. Sarah Jane was amazing.  I knew nothing about Classic Who, but she made me want to check it out. Unfortunately I picked Ark In Space via iTunes to dip my toe in Classic Who.  I can appreciate it now, but it’s slow. Very slow.  I should have picked Pyramids Of Mars. Luckily I continued my research, and was more informed when I purchased my first few DVDs: The Beginnings Box Set (An Unearthly Child, Daleks, and The Edge of Destruction), The Mind Robber, and City of Death.  Much better especially the last two.  In fact, when I wanted to introduce my New Who loving 6 year old daughter and 5 year old son to Classic Who, I picked The Mind Robber. Not too scary and it had Rapunzel and an Unicorn. I had to explain episodic television and black and white to them and they got it. She loved it. She loves the 2nd Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe. For a while, it was called the story with the snakes, because Medusa made quite an impression on her. Still a bit scary for my son, but he’s come around. Both of them love the Weeping Angels.

    I love Remembrance of the Daleks. It’s my favorite Classic Who story. Great message, fast paced, fantastic guest cast, and Ace is amazing.  That would be my go to intro to Classic Who for adults.

     Regarding DVDs. I want the whole set. I am a completionist and I want my VAM. I love VAM like Johnny loved June.  I don’t care about streaming, because I want my VAM.  I paid $80 on a used copy of The Invasion. Totally worth it because I love the Second Doctor. However, Ebay is listing a used copy of The Web Planet for $750.00. No freaking way. But there is one weird trick I use to buy Doctor Who DVDs without going broke and being killed by my wife. I spent $32 and bought a region free DVD player.  You can get a new copy of The Web Planet Region 2 DVD for less than $10 bucks.  Even DVDs that are not out of print are still cheaper when you get them as Region 2. I bought the Inferno Special Edition Region 2 for less than $10. It’s $25 on Amazon for region 1.  You can buy Region 2 DVDs from Amazon US. Modern TVs don’t have NTSC vs PAL issues. Both my 8 year old TV and my 4 year old TV play my region 2 DVDs. My Doctor Who DVD shelves are a mix of Region 1 and 2 DVDs and I’m ok with that.



    • Echoing the bit about R2 DVDs. I’m an old-school fan but late adoptee to this strategy, but it’s easy and amazingly affordable (especially with the current exchange rate between US$ and UK£). A decent multi-region DVD/BD player start at around US$150, but you can get a USB DVD drive for US$25, if you want to start even more modestly. Plus, unlike in North America, all the released DVDs are still available in the UK (at least for now…).

  14. James said:

    For Classic Whobies, start them off with “An Adventure in Space and Time”.

  15. I haven’t watched huge amounts of classic Who, but a lot of what I have watched I got through a service in Australia called QuickFlix. If you buy a subscription, then you can create a queue and the will send out what ever the highest available DVD on queue is through the post, but they won’t send the next one until you return the previous one (they include prepaid and addressed packaging to do so. I’m tremendously lazy so I can hang onto the same DVD for 6 months, but if you are committed to trying Classic Who, but don’t want to completely binge, it’s away of accessing it at a slower pace without having to fork out the high prices to buy it in a shop. Basically, DVD rental by post with a good amount of Classic Who.

  16. Great discussion about fan origins and access to Doctor Who. This is exactly the thing I was hoping to talk to people about at Gally for my own research. By the way, on that note, I’ve made a survey on Google Forms, and I invite anyone to fill it out and help me build my picture of Doctor Who collection and curation!

    Here’s the URL:

    As for my own “origin story,” I’ve written a bit about it here, but the short of it was encountering “The Robots of Death” on PBS in Chicago in 1981, and then watching it religiously when it finally showed up on my Arizona PBS station (KAET) in 1982. I started recording it in 1984 (when we got a VCR), and found fans elsewhere who made copies (of copies of copies of copies…) of newer and older stories I didn’t otherwise have access to. I only watched a few this way (a couple from Colin Baker’s first season, I think, and maybe a very fuzzy and flickery Troughton or two).

    I want to point out that it’s interesting that today we talk about how varied all of Doctor Who is (old and new), when back in the day, when all we had were Tom Baker episodes, it was a show that largely looked and felt the same. Yes, there were differences between the Hinchcliffe and Williams stories in terms of tone, and Season 18 was perceived as massively different stylistically (though those differences were certainly exaggerated, in retrospect), but for the most part, it was this odd show shot mostly on video with “that guy with the scarf” that was radically unlike anything else on US TV in the 1980s.

    Anyway, as for gateway drugs, I echo “The Eleventh Hour” as probably the best jumping-on point for a viewer most comfortable with contemporary (i.e., 2010s) narrative and aesthetic styles, though both “Rose” and “Smith and Jones” are viable as well. There are also many stories that could function more as “samplers” than “jumping-on points,” giving a great sense of the show’s style and scope, but not burdening with too much continuity: e.g., “Father’s Day,” “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit,” “The Fires of Pompeii,” “The God Complex,” “Time Heist,” “Under The Lake/Before The Flood.”

    For the classic series, I totally agree that small doses and warming up would probably be best. I echo Erika’s point about The Doctors Revisited; there’s also myriad fan tribute videos on YouTube that function the same sort of way. For actual stories to suggest, and depending on people’s interest in particular eras or Doctors, I’d go with “An Unearthly Child” (i.e., that first episode), “The Aztecs,” “The Mind Robber,” “Spearhead From Space,” “Terror of the Autons,” “The Claws of Axos,” “The Three Doctors,” “Carnival of Monsters,” “The Time Warrior,” “Pyramids of Mars,” “The Masque of Mandragora,” “The Robots of Death,” “Horror of Fang Rock,” “The Ribos Operation,” “City of Death,” “The Visitation,” “Earthshock,” “Mawdryn Undead,” “The Mark of the Rani,” “Remembrance of the Daleks,” and “The Curse of Fenric.” Phew! 🙂

  17. I started watching a few years ago when I was browsing Netflix for something to watch while sewing. I started with Rose, and basically binge watched 7 seasons of new Who. Somewhere in there I got hooked. I watched all of Peter Capaldi’s episodes as they came out, on iTunes or Amazon instant video, with nearly undivided attention (maybe just buttons or some small hand sewing). In the last year I started on classic Who and, being a completionist I wanted to start at the beginning- between Hulu, Netflix and unauthorized video sites it was going pretty well. I skipped a couple of reconstructions that were too hard to find online and made it all the way through the first doctor when BBC pulled everything. I was so sad! I bought one second Doctor collection on iTunes and will probably continue to buy more as I watch them until something better comes along. My plan is to savor the episodes, watching one at a time rather than marathoning (as is my normal tv watching habit). I am crossing my fingers that BBC will license classic who for streaming somewhere if they aren’t going to have it available on their own service.

  18. Been massively wrapped up with work and travel, so it has been a while since my last comment. Was in LA but unable to stop by the Gally lobby (no tics anyway, so more of a hope to catch some of the Verities in person). So close, but yet so far…

    Anyway, I thought this was a great discussion topic. Even with the Amazon streaming news, I am worried about the BBCs moves, both with schedule and with streaming. One thing that you touched on, that puzzles me is why the new BBC store is not globally accessible. In fact, if I could advise the BBC (1. I cannot, 2. Sounds a bit egotistical, 3. But maybe others feel the same) I’d say they should market a more global presence. The fact that BBC America is no longer BBC “owned” and that the global audience seems to be outpacing the potential market growth in the UK, seems to point to a financial need to monetize the Intl audience more effectively. I would gladly pay for access to the new BBC offerings, but they won’t let me. It would be especially nice to have the whole body of work and be able to buy just what I wanted to watch to stream, and if I really love Ken it, an additional amount to download.

    I don’t think that makes the shows that would be available any “less British” and am not sure why that is even a thing. But I’ve always felt that easier access (not just to Dr Who) at a reasonable price is critical. For me growing up, some/most of the great British Telly that has come to the US was/is via PBS (a free service). That is how I got hooked on most of the shows that I love and also what got me exploring more non-US programming. Cost is an issue, especially for younger people still in school or just starting out. 80 bucks for a season on DVD or $99/year for streaming are not affordable for everyone. The LIBRARY comment is most helpful for those who cannot or do not want to fork over that kind of money.

    I worry that the “under toad” in all of this is the behind the scenes political pressure on the BBC to change, and the impact that will have is likely not good.

  19. Typo there, I don’t know anyone named Ken, let alone love him. (Note my my husband, that is not a Freudian slip). That should have been “if I really love it then for an additional amount…” Good grief auto-correct.

  20. Nicole said:

    I’m a bit of a completionist, so for me, when I decided I wanted to watch Classic Who, and all of it (that’s available /cry), I printed a list of every story and have been working my way through. Trying to go in order as well as I can, knowing full well that isn’t always possible. I made it through Pertwee before getting a little burnt out, took a break, and am now starting on Tom Baker’s era. For me, the easiest and cheapest way I’ve been able to watch is utilizing my local library. I do have to wait a little longer at times, since they have to be shipped in from other libraries, but it’s been a good experience so far.

  21. Terrence Keenan said:

    Another lovely episode. The first time I ever saw a part of a Who episode was seeing The Sontaran Experiment on WOR Channel 9, after a New York Mets rain out back in the late 70s.
    In early 83, I started watching Who on my local PBS station on Saturday nights in the omnibus versions. I caught the end of The Armageddon Factor, then came back in two weeks and saw City of Death in it’s entirety. Made me a fan for life.

    • Terrence Keenan said:

      Also, as far as recommending classic Who for newbies of the classic era, I find that City of Death is a strong standalone story, especially if they’re fans of Douglas Adams. Also, I find for fans of more serious sci-fi, that starting with Davison’s debut and going from there. If they liked Sarah Jane in School Reunion, then start off with Robot.

  22. I am listening to this episode and I am absolutely flailing right now! I don’t know if this was true at the time, but New Who is available on Amazon Prime’s free streaming video, and a smattering of Classic episodes are available for purchase. Amazon Prime is less expensive per year than Netflix and it comes with other perks as well.

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