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December 26, 2012 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Please help me create an "Essentials of Doctor Who" playlist, to catch someone up on the show since the reboot.

I'm looking to introduce my wife, a self-professed hater of rubber-headed alien scifi shows and movies, to Doctor Who. She liked Firefly. Rolls her eyes at every Star Trek incarnation, Farscape and Star Wars.

I'd like to compose a playlist that will show her the best Doctor Who episodes of the last few seasons/series since the reboot -- ones that are character-driven and/or just tell a fantastic story, which she'll find appealing but not too cheesy.

What do you think are the most essential episodes of the last seven seasons?

Of those, can you please help me create a season-by-season playlist which minimizes camp and weird-looking aliens, but still tell awesome stories? I want to give her a strong sense of what the show is about without turning her off.

Thanks in advance!
posted by zarq to Human Relations (20 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
In no particular order: Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead hooked me. Midnight sealed it. The Eleventh Hour was also pretty great, as was The Girl Who Waited (though it filled me with grar feminist feels). The Girl in the Fireplace was also pretty great, and Blink, as well.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:39 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Blink. Human Nature/Family of Blood. If she liked Buffy, she might enjoy School Reunion because it features Anthony Head.

I like New Who, but get impatient with rubber headed aliens and silliness. I like for things to be DARK and I don't feel like it gets much darker than Ten at the end of the Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter. I mean, damn.

If she gets a kick out of barely suppressed homoeroticism (and who doesn't), try some of the episodes with John Simm's The Master. (Fair warning: while I LOVE Simm and his performance, I think the storylines for pretty much all of his appearances are stupid as hell.)

Good luck! If you couldn't sell her on Farscape, I'm not sure she'll be into Doctor Who either. But it'll be fun trying!
posted by Aquifer at 9:50 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Vincent and the Doctor.
posted by naturalog at 9:50 PM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


We are all Sally Sparrow.

Don't (let her miss) Blink.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:01 PM on December 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Season 1: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances two-parter is my favorite storyline of the series, and is very newbie friendly so long as you explain the basic concept (the Doctor, the companion, the TARDIS, time travel). Dalek and Father's Day are also great and fit your criteria, but may be too reliant on the ongoing character arcs of the two leads.

Season 2: The Girl in the Fireplace, Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. School Reunion is a little bit campy, but ... Sarah Jane Smith!

Season 3: Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Blink. This is one of my favorite NuWho seasons despite the way it fell apart at the end, but there's a lot of camp and the last few episodes aren't nearly as interesting without watching the whole way through. On the other hand, if I could only suggest two storylines for you, it would be these two.

Season 4: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Midnight.

Season 4.5 specials: The Waters of Mars.

Season 5: The Eleventh Hour, The Beast Below, Vincent and the Doctor... Vampires of Venice if you want to get Rory in there somewhere. In my opinion, this is the most cohesive season of NewWho in terms of both plot and character arcs with a glorious payoff in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, so it may be worth trying to get your wife to watch the whole thing through.

Season 6: The Doctor's Wife. Weakest season of the show, sadly, but that one is gold.

It's a little early to call the essentials of season 7, especially since the first half has mostly been about giving Amy and Rory a good sendoff, which is meaningless if you're not already invested in Amy and Rory. A Town Called Mercy is a pretty decent oneshot, albeit with some silly cyborg costuming.
posted by bettafish at 10:11 PM on December 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Girl in the Fireplace
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
Blink
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
Vincent and the Doctor
The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
The Doctor's Wife

Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and The Doctor's Wife are probably the most self-contained--they're easy entrance points that don't require a whole lot of canon to make sense. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is good for that, as well.

If you can't sell her with those episodes to go on, you should just give up.

Also, for whatever it's worth, I hated Farscape (stupid puppets) and am so-so on Star Wars, but love Who, and my partner is firmly meh on Farscape, Star Wars, and Star Trek, but was totally sold on Who after seeing The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Blink. Good luck!
posted by MeghanC at 10:16 PM on December 26, 2012


brilliantmistake had a pretty good list in an earlier thread on the blue.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:42 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dear Zarq,

Please do not start with any Matt Smith. While he is the fan favorite, he's a bit of what I think your wife rejects or find objectionable. Don't start there.

Start from the beginning of the reboot with Eccleston. Really.

That entire first season banged it out of the park, it was adult, precisely because of Eccleston.

The writing was so tight, the acting so great, I cried honest tears at the end of every episode. This tapered off for me during the Tennant years, and was entirely absent during the Ponds as companions.

Picking up, this last Christmas Episode with Matt Smith was AMAZING.

Since your wife has adult tastes, let me also reccomend ALL of the Catherine Tate as companion episodes. While The Runaway Bride Christmas Special was not so grand, her performance and story arc is SURE to engage your wife, overall. Donna NOBLE. I'll never get over that. Never. I'm tearing up right now thinking about how that all played out.

Yes. Watch it start to finish. Tennant has some high points, but he never achieves the dignity Eccleston brought. Matt Smith has finally hit his stride, I think, now that the Ponds are gone.

I don't dislike any of the Doctors or their companions. Just telling you which episodes and story arcs struck me as most compelling and genuine.

Eccleston. Catherine Tate.

Enjoy.
posted by jbenben at 1:15 AM on December 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


If she doesn't enjoy "Blink" and "Vincent and the Doctor", then she won't like Who at all. They're both pretty standalone one-shots.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:13 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think I turned my oldest boy into a Doctor Who fan on Christmas Day. We watched "Blink" and then the Christmas episode. That seemed to be enough.
posted by maurice at 5:26 AM on December 27, 2012


jbenben might be Doctor Who enjoying twin! I think watching a season makes more sense to me than a smattering of episodes. I always enjoy how relationships and the characters develop over time.

Seriously, season one would be great, but if I had to show anyone a single episode, it would be Blink.
posted by bubonicpeg at 5:57 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, folks. I loved "Blink" too, but if you show someone "Blink" and they love it, they will be disappointed, because there is nothing else like it in Doctor Who. I would get your wife started with "Rose" and "Dalek", then "The Christmas Invasion" to introduce her to Tennant and "The Girl in the Fireplace" as a fantastic example of a great but fairly typically structured Doctor Who episode. If she likes those, she has a chance to like the rest of Doctor Who, but if she doesn't, show her "Blink" as a fine send off from the series and let her go her own televisual way.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:12 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was going to say try "Blink," then start over from the beginning with Eccleston, but I can see Rock Steady's point. Maybe start with "Dalek" just to see if she's on board at all, then go back to the beginning.

I'd just go through from the start and skip the bad episodes. It's hard to distill out much of the Tenant years; a lot of what's compelling about them is the slow burn of the relationships and the character development, which is lost when you start jumping around. And the Matt Smith episodes are so serial and plot-heavy that you can't miss too many of those either; there in particularly the best episodes require that you've seen basically everything that came before.
posted by gerryblog at 7:02 AM on December 27, 2012


I have not read the responses very carefully because I am only partway through the second season (my wife has gotten me into the show) but I was hooked by Eccleston and by the overarching plot, the design of the series... which of course is not evident without watching the whole series.

Specific episodes might be "The End of the World" and "Dalek"... in that I could clearly see the character of the 9th Doctor... and "The Christmas Invasion" has thus far been a good introduction to the 10th Doctor... but I would not approach this from single out-of-context episodes. I had seen a few old episodes and one or two from the reboot but they never did much for me; on the surface the show is not what I go for in sci fi (I prefer the harder stuff like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly).

That is, Doctor Who is definitely a "rubber-headed alien scifi show" and I have yet to see a single episode that I would not consider cheesy (and I like most Star Trek!) but I am sold on it due to the overall design of significant character drama. The show doesn't care about science, it doesn't care about realism and it doesn't have the budget for realistic special effects... but it is generally written well enough that I can accept all the silliness.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:06 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


A bit outside the question, but in parallel with the topic and the wife's expressed interests --

Torchwood is a great series which is a Doctor Who spinoff that was created specifically as a more adult, more dark set of stories in the Whoniverse. She might truly enjoy that. It hangs together really well as a series, it's pretty limited in scope (so not a huge committment overall), it's fun and dark and adult and might be a doorway into Doctor Who if she can get into the spirit of things through that.

And no matter what anyone tells you, the mini-series Miracle Day is actually great television while you're watching it. It's just later when you think about it that it loses its luster.

Other than that, I underscore the recommendation to start with Eccleston. The darkness and savagery bubbling beneath his surface gave the Doctor such an interesting, threatening edge which he hadn't ever really had before....

Anyway, the great thing about Who, when it is at its most brilliant, is the writing and the story, not the means through which the story is communicated. I know, medium = massage and all that, but while watching Who, I've forgiven a LOT over the years in regards to clumsy execution because the story is so compelling.
posted by hippybear at 7:07 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've had several friends fall asleep while watching Blink.

However, I've also had several friends be disappointed by the opening in Rose. It's silly, low-budget, and corntastic. Your wife probably will not be into the autons. Seriously, don't start with Rose; it's exactly what you want to avoid. Best to go back to that when she's already invested.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:09 AM on December 27, 2012


I'm going to chime in and say that I whole-heartedly agree with jebenben and rocksteady. the DoctorDonna is a fabulous couple. And Blink isn't really standar Who, so it can be misleading and might possibly be a setup for failure.

Girl in the Fireplace, yes yes yes.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:51 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tangentially, would Torchwood be more her thing? Rather less of the rubber-suit vibe, and significantly more adult plots and themes (also spelled "wow, this may be a Dr. Who spin-off but it is NOT for the kiddies, is it?")

Plus it has John hubba hubba! Barrowman.
posted by Lexica at 9:29 AM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm of two minds on this. My girlfriend (who turned me on to Doctor Who) strongly feels that Blink is the best first episode for people to see. I can't remember if that's how she got me started or not, but it's a damn good first experience.

That said, I have always thought Eccleston was goddamn awesome from start to finish. My instant reaction to his first appearance in episode one was, "This dude is the fuckin' man!"

I have liked Tennant, and I'm fine with Matt Smith, but I have always wished Eccleston had done more than one season. Anyway, yeah... Season One had a lot of goofy in it, but Eccleston sold it so well that I didn't care. I'd go with that, but potentially use Blink as the first intro even though it's out of sequence.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:23 AM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Late to the party but I've had great success swaying people with The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.
posted by kariebookish at 11:14 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


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