5 Episodes to Convert Someone into a Whovian
Guest contributor Jordan Isaac Goodier lists his top five episodes to convert non-Whovians.
My own personal experience with converting someone into a “Whovian” was actually very easily done. She asked me why I was such a huge fan of it and I simply lent her the first series box-set. After that, she was addicted and I continued lending her the box-sets all the way up to Series 6. These days, you’d think she’d been a Whovian all her life! So my experience with converting someone into a Whovian was actually fairly easy. However, if I could only recommend five episodes for a non-Whovian to watch, to try and convert them, these are the ones I would choose.
Note: There won’t be any classic serials in my top 5 because if you tried to convince someone in 2013 to sit down and watch an episode from 1963, the chances are you would be laughed at; but more on that later.*
5. New Earth
New Earth has a classic set-up for Doctor Who. The Doctor takes his companion to see the future. And I think that it’s important when introducing someone to Doctor Who that they understand what the show is about. It’s about a very old man that has a machine called the TARDIS and he travels in time and space. Forget all the “feels” (See? I’m down with the kids) that you want to add to that basic premise for the show; at its heart, that is what Doctor Who is about. You could add that “New Who” is about a lonely, sad, even haunted man travelling through time and space. That’s up for debate. But an ancient man travelling through time and space in a box is what Doctor Who is. Everything else came in through the years and is (for a newcomer) irrelevant.
So, New Earth is a great episode for a newcomer to watch because it shows off one of the most interesting Sci-Fi concepts out there! I am of course talking about, the future. The future shown in New Earth, at first, appears to be pristine, and healthy and peaceful. But behind the scenes, we find out that the world of New Earth is anything but. Atrocities are committed in the name of the greater good though lives are senselessly wasted in the process. This episode, though perhaps not the greatest episode ever, is a fantastic introductory episode to the show because it showcases everything that Doctor Who is about. The Doctor and his companion travel through time (to the future in this case), find a problem that needs solving, save the day, there’s humour and there’s a lesson to be learnt. Obviously, that’s not all that Doctor Who needs, but they’re the few base ingredients to one type of great introductory episode.
If you’re prospective “convert-ee” (not a word, but we’ll pretend it is) is into a slightly darker and grittier bit of drama, then there’s no better episode to watch than Dalek. The added bonus is that the episode re-introduces the most iconic enemies of the Doctor and also features everything that, not just a great introductory episode needs, but a great episode needs period.
One of the great things about Doctor Who is that, even though it introduces aliens and monsters that are both good and evil and often somewhere in-between, is that it never forgets to remind us that these ideas for these evil deeds committed within the stories are thought up by us, humans. And we are by far the most dangerous and deadly beings in the universe. We are the greatest or the scariest monsters and are capable of committing atrocities that would shame the Doctor. Although Dalek is primarily about (perhaps) the most iconic alien ever, the episode also shows the ways in which humans can be as bad as Daleks, in some respects. This is shown, in particular, when Henry van Statten orders for the Dalek to be tortured. This episode was also set in the future, but it was such a near future, the episode is now our past – and that’s the beauty of Doctor Who really, isn’t it? This episode is also a great recommendation because it will allow newcomers to experience the wonderful Christopher Eccleston in his brief role as the Ninth Doctor.
3. The Eleventh Hour
The concept of regeneration is a stroke of genius that has allowed Doctor Who to continue for fifty years, and will allow it to continue for many years more. It allows the show to renew itself to keep it fresh for an audience, which is why the show will probably never end. Sure it make take a hiatus that can last anywhere from a year to sixteen years, but the fact the show can “regenerate” allows for the show to come back from the dead! It’s complete and utter genius. And that is why all new Whovians must watch a regeneration story. However, it’s not something they should be introduced to straight away because, as a concept, it’s actually fairly “out there”. Thus, it’s placing in the middle of this list. Let your prospective “Convert-ee” get used to the basic concepts of Doctor Who and then throw this bombshell on them.
I’ve chosen The Eleventh Hour because it demonstrates everything about regeneration perfectly. After a newcomer has experienced the last two episodes, they’ll likely want to know how a show can be carried by a lead actor playing the same character and this episode will show them exactly how. This being (if there’s any chance that you’ve followed the order of this list) their third episode of Doctor Who, they will also begin to understand that because the TARDIS can go anywhere in time and space, the show can be virtually any genre it wants. The quote “All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will; where do you want to start?” from the end of the episode is the icing on the cake to helping your prospective Whovian understand that this show will always be about that core concept, even with all the superficial design changes and the changing of a lead actor.
Now that your friend has experienced the fundamentals of the show, it’s time to show them an alien planet and who the Doctor is without his companion. This episode, in my opinion, is the crown jewel of Russell T Davies’ writing. It’s an exceptional episode that puts humanity right at its heart. What lengths will humans go to for their own safety? What will they do when pushed to their limit? We are shown, arguably, the best and worst of humanity in this episode.
Lesley Sharp plays her character, Sky, perfectly. At first her character seems perfectly normal, and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Lesley’s performance until she is possessed by the alien entity. This is when her performance skyrockets! The way she stares around the shuttle at the other passengers is unnerving. It isn’t a blank stare; it’s an inquisitive stare that almost bores into their souls. Then when the Doctor is possessed, Tennant’s performance is equally as incredible. You can see the physical pain that the Doctor is in trying to battle the entity in his head. It’s a very small scale episode about a strange, unknown, alien planet and the impossibly dangerous creatures there; as well as a story about humanity and what we are capable of at both ends of the spectrum.
1. The Girl in the Fireplace
Now to seal the deal, one of the most important aspects of Doctor Who is that it allows its characters and the audience to look into the past. This episode isn’t a straight up historical story, but I think it perfectly encapsulates what Doctor Who is about and what the show can do. The show is set in the future and the past in the same episode, fantastic. The episode let’s your “Convert-ee” experience what the TARDIS crew is like with more than one companion, it also allows them to view a historical and futuristic setting at the same time. The episode also includes some really creepy villains. It’s a great episode that really rounds everything up for a person experiencing Doctor Who for the first time.
So, hopefully, if you should choose to follow this list, you’ll have been successful in recruiting another Whovian to our ranks and we’ll be one step closer to world domination! Or perhaps you simply lent your friend the first series box-set and that worked for you as it did me? Either way, I’d be very interested to know what stories you have on turning non-Whovians into fully fledged Whovians!
*Obviously, as soon as the person you are converting into a Whovian has become a fan of Doctor Who, tell them to go back and watch a classic serial from each Doctor. But in this day and age, introducing a 12 to 20 year old to Doctor Who by telling them to watch the 1963-1989 episodes straight away, in most cases, will not work.