Catching up on Doctor Who before the new doctor?
December 27, 2017 3:58 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to start watching Doctor Who again with the new doctor. Which, if any, of the past episodes am I likely to need to see for it to make sense?

I have never seen any of the pre-2000 episodes. I watched the Christopher Ecclestone season, and the first couple of seasons with David Tennant, but basically stopped after that. I'd prefer not to have to watch the seven seasons since. I always preferred the 'monster of the week' episodes to the long story arcs, and am not particularly invested in the deeper mythology, so I am really only looking for stuff that's absolutely essential for things to make sense. So I'll watch this year's Christmas special, but what else should I see? Can I just jump in there?
(I've seen this question but it's asking something a bit different. If I get sucked in and want to go back to find the good episodes I missed, that will be my guide.)
posted by une_heure_pleine to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: None. You won't even need the Christmas special.
posted by hawthorne at 4:13 PM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, you don't need to watch any of the previous episodes. The show is written to be easy for people to just jump into. Most of the Matt Smith stuff is terrible anyway.
posted by a strong female character at 4:17 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Nothing. I would not even watch the Christmas special (except the last 5 minutes to see the regeneration if you'd like, which should be on YouTube) because it's wrapping up a storyline and characters you know nothing about. The companion is changing too so you don't need to familiarize yourself with them. If the show decides to bring back any old characters in the next series, they should be adequately reintroduced so that newcomers can follow along... and besides, the series hasn't aired yet; how would we know where to point you?
posted by acidic at 4:32 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As others have said you can just jump in. The next season will be all new. New showrunner, new lead actor, new companion(s), new Tardis interior, new music director and filmed with new, “more cinematic” cameras. As such, the first few episodes will be a reintroduction to the show.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:37 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you don't care about the long story arcs or the mythology you don't need to watch anything. Of course a lot of things won't make sense, but that's true even if you have been watching. It's a pretty hard show to be completely caught up on.
posted by bongo_x at 6:05 PM on December 27, 2017

Best answer: I'm sure everyone's right, and the Whittaker series will be as open and inviting as possible to new viewers. There will doubtless be a lot of winking callbacks to previous Doctors, but if they hang a plot off them without explaining themselves, they're doing it wrong.

One notable constant across New Who, however, has been The Time War backstory. It's a messy sprawling hand-wavey thing that's detailed more outside the show than in it, but The Doctor's experience in the Time War was scarring, and it's used to explain the character's subsequent motivations (when it suits the writers' purposes). If it turns out that the Whittaker series references it in a confusing* way, you can probably learn all you need to know by watching the special 50th anniversary episode, "The Day of the Doctor."

* I'm pretty sure I've seen every New Who episode at least once, and I can't begin to explain the Time War, so "confusing" is relative. It's almost enough just to know that it happened.
posted by mumkin at 6:14 PM on December 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Put yourself in the shoes of the new Companion. The Doctor will hold your hand and explain what you need to know. Every Doctor has to re-explain, i.e., "what is a Dalek?" to their Companion, and you'll be told exactly as much as you need to know.

If there's some obscure reference that you think you missed, then usually you can treat it just like the Easter Eggs in a superhero movie that only a true comic book nerd will need to understand, and move on.
If you really want to know what something was, then google it and you'll get as much (or as little) explanation as you're after.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:59 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

A new Doctor is like hitting a reset button, so you can just jump in when the new season starts.
posted by O9scar at 9:16 PM on December 27, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks all. I didn’t realise that the whole thing got reset with a new doctor, so I’ll happily wait for the new season and start there.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 9:46 PM on December 27, 2017

Yeh, wouldn’t even bother with the Christmas special, I had skipped Season ten and so it was 90% wha?
posted by Iteki at 2:33 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

The whole thing doesn't always get "reset" with a new doctor. There is still history, there are still loose-end plots that may or may not be revisited, and there are still reocurring enemies/allies that are almost guaranteed to appear.

But this is a particularly good "starting over" time in Doctor Who.
Along with a new Doctor, you're getting a new Showrunner. And not only that.
The showrunner who is leaving -- Moffatt -- planted some seeds during the previous showrunner's course for some bigger story pieces, which have now been more-or-less resolved, enough that they can be anecdotal or sentimental going forward.
This will really be the cleanest restart since 2005, maybe enough to be defined as its own "era".
posted by jozxyqk at 3:16 AM on December 28, 2017

It's not a hard reset, it's just that typically the show runners take into account that there will always be new viewers coming on board with a new Doctor and they write in a way that eases newbies into the universe.

I was hardcore into DW fandom for many years but just despised the direction of the show so much post-Eleventh Doctor that I did the sane thing and stoppeed watching. We've prepared for the new era by catching up with just this past season, but I ain't going back to watch the season and a half I skipped. There's no need. If you do want to do some homework for funsies, this past season wasn't terrible and will catch you up on recent-past developments to which there may be call-backs in the upcoming season.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:53 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I’m mainly a Tenth Doctor fan and stopped watching once Matt Smith took over (except for the...I think it was the 50th anniversary special a few years ago, when Ten came back briefly and I was all YAAAAY!, lol), and I only watched one Capaldi ep even though I like his take on the Doctor very much. Also, I’ve seen very little Classic Who and only know what I’ve picked up from friends who are more into DW than I ever was.

So that was my frame of reference with the Christmas special, and although I didn’t understand some of what was going on, I picked up most of it easily enough. I think just watching the last few minutes is enough to get started with Thirteen, but the whole thing was worth the time I spent watching.
posted by QuickedWeen at 10:24 AM on December 28, 2017

I really liked the most recent season-- Capaldi's last with his new companion Bill. If you'd like an introduction to the current Who, it's well worth checking out. (But not, per your question, plot-essential).
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:02 PM on December 29, 2017

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