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You will become like us! The Best ‘Converter’ Episodes

Guest contributor Callum Read picks his top eight episodes to turn someone into a Whovian.

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How often do you find yourself trying to justify your love for Doctor Who to someone who has never watched it? Perhaps you’ve entered a new relationship and you want your new partner to share your passion, or maybe there’s a friend who had ridiculed your love for the sci-fi show and you want to prove why you, and millions of others are so invested.

I’ve created a list of (new series) episodes that I’ve often referred to as ‘the converter episodes’ – in my opinion these are your best chance at making a Whovian out of someone who just doesn’t ‘get it’.

8. The End of the World (Series 1, ep 2)

the-end-of-the-world-earthAt the start of Series 1 Rose is the most basic, normal and therefore relatable character to discover the world of Doctor Who through. This second episode is the 9th Doctor’s first attempt to impress Rose, who isn’t sure if she trusts the Doctor, and at this point neither are we. Audiences are thrown in at the deep end with a futuristic story featuring a whole host of different aliens. The amusing references to contemporary Earth as ‘history’ help ground the story, and Billie Piper’s performance as Rose watching planet Earth’s final moments can’t really be faulted, as a viewer (and most likely a resident of Earth) you can’t help but feel sad watching the planet end and what a great way to introduce the life of the Doctor to a new audience. “You think it’ll last forever, the people and cars and concrete. But it won’t. One day it’s all gone, even the sky.” The end of the world, or just another day in the TARDIS.

7. The Christmas Invasion (2005 Christmas Special)

tennant-doctor-rose-christmas-invasionThis was the first Christmas special, and the first episode of David Tennant’s run as the 10th Doctor. The festive episode leaves Rose left to defend Earth from an alien invasion without the Doctor as he spends almost the entire episode asleep. Quite ingeniously this allows the audience to engage with Rose and get their teeth sunk into the drama without being forced to accept a new Doctor right away. When the Doctor finally steps in to save the day at the end it’s as if the show has just come alive, the 10th Doctor – charming and funny from his first moments immediately wins the audience and has everyone hooked for the series that follows.

6. Human Nature/The Family of Blood (Series 3, ep 8/9)

tennant-watch-human-natureThis 2-parter really shows off both David Tennant and Freema Agyeman as actors. It opens with a completely new scenario in which the Doctor thinks he’s human and cleverly uses flash backs to establish how/why they have ended up working at a school in 1913. It creates an interesting way for a new audience to discover the Doctor, he’s referenced as a ‘dream’ and we see flashes of his history in the pages of his ‘Journal of Impossible Things’. Timothy’s monologue as he describes the Doctor perfectly defines him, and why people should watch Doctor Who. “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe, and… he’s wonderful.” The Scarecrows are a great monster and the heart-breaking scene in which John and Joan see their potential future together is a sure winner with new fans. This month the official Doctor Who Magazine revealed Human Nature/The Family of Blood as the 9th best Doctor Who Story ever.

5. The Girl in the Fireplace (Series 2, ep 4)

Madame-De-Pompadour-mylesOnly in Doctor Who could a story be both a spaceship mystery set in the 51st Century, and a French love story set in the 18th century at the same time! A perfect story displaying everything a Doctor Who episode should be, it’s fast paced, features scary monsters, and throws your emotions all over the place! Reinette is an immediate hit with both the audience and the Doctor who seems to quickly develop feelings for her. Rose is on top form as she shows off in front of Mickey, and the Doctor shows off his more human side as he risks life on the ‘slow path’ to save the life of Madame de Pompadour. The heart-breaking ending is just testament to how hard life on the TARDIS can be, and audiences are treated to a beautiful piece of television sure to get new viewers hooked!

4. The Snowmen (2012 Christmas Special)

doctor-who-the-snowmen-gallery-(33)For someone who doesn’t want to travel back that far to catch up on Doctor Who, this is a great place to start. Following the loss of ‘the Ponds’ it introduces Clara as the new companion and sets up the ‘impossible girl’ story arc that runs for the second half of Series 7. We get a cleverly written episode with plenty of light hearted moments to balance with the dark themes emphasised by a mourning Doctor. Clara breaths fresh air into the show and into the Doctor himself as he springs back into life to save the day, the ‘bigger on the inside’ camera trick when Clara steps into the new TARDIS is mind blowing and the visual effects particularly on the Snowmen are on top form. The cliff-hanger at the end makes it a great episode to get new viewers hooked.

3. The Day of the Doctor (50th Anniversary Special)

smith-tennant-day-of-the-doctorThe 50th special is a blockbuster, rollercoaster of an episode, perfectly paying homage to 50 years’ worth of story, while at the same time pushing forward and starting off the next era of Doctor Who. Not much needs to be said about why this is so exciting, audiences are treated to 3 Doctors, (10 and 11’s interactions are just brilliant.) We get Daleks, we get the Time War, we get the return of the Zygons, we get cinematic shots over London, we even glimpse into the future of the show and see Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor! With so much going on and so much love put into making it, it’s difficult for anyone to not enjoy the thrilling episode. The Day of the Doctor has been revealed by the official Doctor Who Magazine as the number 1 episode of all time, winning the hearts of the most die-hard of fans, and those of the next generation of fans who’s Doctor Who journey starts this year.

2. The Eleventh Hour (Series 5, ep 1)

Doctor-Who-The-Eleventh-Hour (8)One of my favourite stories will always be Matt Smith’s debut as the 11th Doctor, he has the duration of the episode to impress Amy, and as always, us. By the time you’ve reached Fish Fingers and Custard most people are already hooked. Smith delivers an iconic performance, Amy provides a strong companion, the brilliant story sets up the arc that will continue to provide mystery for the next few series and Murray Gold is on absolute top form with his theme and incidental music for Series 5. Amy first stepping into the TARDIS captures the amazement and beauty of the show itself and the moment Matt Smith say’s “Hello, I’m the Doctor” you believe him, and as the ‘I am the Doctor’ theme music kicks in you know that you’re in for a rollercoaster of a series and new viewers will be convinced that they’re coming too!

1. Blink (Series 3, ep 10)

blink-key-artThe Weeping Angels have quickly become one of the most iconic things to emerge from the modern era of Doctor Who, and their first outing remains one of the finest episodes ever. It’s perfect for it’s a job as a ‘Converter’ because we don’t learn about the Doctor through the companion, but through the eyes of a complete stranger. Sally Sparrow is a brilliant 3-dimensional character who acts as a perfect protagonist for what is widely recognised as the scariest episode ever. We get brilliant story-telling, plot twists, emotion and character development all in one 45 minute episode with barely any footage of the Doctor at all! Audiences become engaged in the story, and as it unfolds they discover just how mysterious the Doctor can seem to those who meet him, we see him passing by rather than him taking us on his adventure. What better way is there to make someone crave to follow his story, to discover where he’s going and where he’s been? The TV transcript conversation remains a fan favourite moment, and the official Doctor Who Magazine this month declared Blink the best episode of the RTD era, and the second best episode in the entire 50 years of Doctor Who.

As we all patiently wait for Series 8 and Capaldi’s Doctor to begin, why not see who you can convert to a Whovian? Hopefully these episodes will help you do so, and the amazing fan community Doctor Who has can continue to grow and get even more awesome!

Step back in time...

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203 comments
I'm Richard Nixon.
I'm Richard Nixon.

"The Day of The Doctor" is the worst converter on the list. Most non-whovians get lost about five seconds into it, followed by all the standard non-who questions…Had attempted it as a converter on three different women. Not a good converter at all. 


Went back to Blink (my converter standby) on all three now they are truly hooked. Blink works every time and should be number 1.







calliarcale
calliarcale

"The Day of the Doctor" I have observed perform precisely such a conversion.  My sister-in-law had never seen Doctor Who before, and now she loves it.  ;-)


From the classic series, I've found that "The Deadly Assassin" makes a good converter story, and so does the arc from "The Keeper of Traken" through "Castrovalva".

Mimi Kerry
Mimi Kerry

That's my boy but will take a lot to convert an oldie like me !!!! Xx

Polyphase
Polyphase

You can't go past The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances :)

CallumSimmons
CallumSimmons

New who wise I'd have to say 11th hour as it is an effective clean slate for new who. It doesn't have ties to the Tennant era and in style and visually it is quite different to older episodes. It has a fast moving action style plot which will make them interested I should imagine and there are no references to older characters to confuse anyone. It kicks off series 5-time nicely.


For earlier I would say Rose as it was the first episode I saw on my parents request the night It returned to television. The whole family has loved and watched it ever since including me. It has a mysterious introduction to the doctor and really feels like the beginning of a new era even moreso than the 11th hour. Day is also a good one but there are some references some people can't really appreciate til they've watched series 1-7. Thanks to Rose doctor who has become one of the largest parts of my life so I owe it that at least.


I find the younger audience of today are more into impressive visuals and action than before. So I wouldn't recommend starting with the classic series as I've heard some people dislike the pacing of the older ones as they are used to high octane stuff of the modern day. For high octane, day is good as it has a fair amount of action (battle of arcadia) and thrills and it could be used as a spring board to start Chris's series then rewatch it once they reach that points in matt's. Then everything will make sense like a glimpse into the future of sorts I suppose. I wouldn't recommend blink as although its a terrific standalone adventure, the doctor is not in it enough for people to understand his character. Just my spin on this matter.


A good analogy for this matter is if showing someone batman, you don't show them Adam West you show them Christian Bale or better yet Batman TAS. Personally on that matter I'm partial to Keaton but that's a matter of opinion. The reason you show them the modern one is because it gets them interested enough to delve into the others. (not batman and robin)... Still the point applies to doctor who as well!

conallmc2013
conallmc2013

dalek- the 9th doctor's performance was class, the end of time- the tenth doctor's performance was class, the rings of akhatan- the 11th doctor's performance was class. Best performance's and some of the best episodes for most whovians- IMO



Master Michael Moon
Master Michael Moon

I would personally swap Blink with The Eleventh Hour. The latter really was a fantastic way of kicking off a completely brand new era. However, with that said, Blink is still an amazing episode and of course written by the same genius. 


gwylock1
gwylock1

The first episode i ever saw Was Inferno. Then I watched Day of the Daleks, and that's the one that really got me hooked.

gwylock1
gwylock1

I just love how NONE of these are classic serials. I just can't take this list seriously, sorry.

LeeBeing
LeeBeing

...*cough* Season 12-18 *cough*

MaraBackman
MaraBackman

That photo of the Cyberman looks a bit like he would be a preacher having a passionate sermon, just when the gospel choir starts going really loud. :P


Seriously though: End of the World is my #1, because that is the episode that made me a fan. It's pretty much the archetypical Doctor Who episode that summarizes the tone of the previous 42 years in a single episode.

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit for those into great action/adventure, horror, Sci-Fi and thought-provoking concepts with a lot of depth aka awesome stories that let the imagination soar high, very high.

ChrisKilps
ChrisKilps

Really the episode that got my wife started was Partners in Crime. She thought Catherine Tate was very funny, and thought the  Adipose were so cute. Also showed her that doctor who could be funny and very nerdy at the same time.



CyberSilence
CyberSilence

An almost Doctor-less episode at no.1. Not sure...

Romanadvoratrelundar
Romanadvoratrelundar

Great choices! I think your reccomendations can fit different kinds of people very well:


- Blink is great for someone who is very new to sci-fi and Doctor Who concepts.

- The End of the World is good for sci-fi fans (eg 'Trekkies' etc), it very much throws you in the deep end

- The Eleventh Hour is great for people who love fast paced action and adventure (it was the first episode of DW that pulled me in and convinced me this was the best show in the universe) 

-  Human Nature is great for people who love horror and darker concepts 

- The Girl in the Fireplace hits the right spot with the romantics 

- The Snowmen is great for humour, while still showing off the more serious side of Doctor Who. 

- The Christmas Invasion is the choice for those who have a special interest in David Tennant (semi-eyeroll) and is good during the festive season in general.





DeadlyJellyBaby
DeadlyJellyBaby

I'd say Death to the Daleks, as I used to watch the video every time I visited my Grandma. It was also the first story I saw.

wholmesian
wholmesian

The Day of the Doctor? well...of course its story is great, but I doubt anyone who never watched Doctor Who can understand it.

Kiki Kiki
Kiki Kiki

The perfect converter episode is "Dalek".  Full stop.

videogamemad00
videogamemad00

I see so many people saying Blink is a good starting point and I completely disagree. I think Blink is one of the most un-Doctor Who like episode of Doctor Who ever and can make the rest of the show seem different compared to it.

DaftDalek
DaftDalek

While I can totally understand the importance of an episode, I believe the Whovian-Conversion can be a long process that demands more than one episode. For example, I had persuaded a friend to watch Series 1 and then he'd decide if he wants to watch the show. While he found the first episodes OK, the show gradually grew on him and now having watched Series 1,2 he has found Eccleston "fantastic" and Tennant "f*****g awesome" and he has even become attached to certain characters. All in all, while an episode can attract someone's interest in general it's the show's overall magic that can keep them going and in that we trust!

JolomontheCube
JolomontheCube

8. ok not a bad choice

7. (ditto)

6. HELL YEAH

5. good one

4. *facepalm* It's not that good you know. it's just average

3. why am I not surprised?

2. That's a good choice

1. My top pick as well

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

Girl In The Fireplace and Blink are 2 of the best pieces of television, not just Doctor Who, ever made. Of course they are perfect converter episodes.

I'm Richard Nixon.
I'm Richard Nixon.

@calliarcale I'm surprised that "The Day of the Doctor" worked, I've tried it on three different occasions, and completely flopped all three times.  Had to go back to "Blink" on all three occasions.  

For classic who I'd go with the ones you've listed and add "Armageddon Factor", "The Unearthly Child" and "Frontier in Space".  

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@CallumSimmons Technically, there are some references: like the fact that the TARDIS blew up, and the images (of classic, and RTD era Doctor Who) shown in the Atraxi eye hologram.


And I also love Keaton's Batman, more than the others - Also a big Batman fan, though not as much as Doctor Who (and I don't like Nolan's trilogy). 

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@conallmc2013 Technically, you just stated, a supposed fact: that those episodes are Whovian favourites. And then you put: 'IMO', which suggests that's just your opinion, and not necessarily others.


I, by the way, am definitely not a fan of 'The Rings of Akhaten' - I just hate the story, of a sun creature that lives off stories.

ClaireAbraham
ClaireAbraham

@gwylock1  If you must insist that every list include the Classic Doctors, regardless of context, you will be disappointed a lot. This list is very specifically about what episodes to show when you want to convert somebody who has no interest in Doctor Who at all. The Classic episodes feature tight writing and some great performances, but they look very dated. 

Dated special effects in a science fiction show are a problem.  People who already love the show already will forgive the dated special effects, but in order to gain new converts you've got to show the stuff that not only tells a great story with a talented man as the Doctor, but that also looks convincing and exciting. Classic Who special effects will not easily win new converts, no matter how compelling the writing is or how well Tom Baker does his thing.

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@gwylock1 Well, maybe if you read at the top, where it says "I’ve created a list of (new series) episodes that I’ve often referred to as ‘the converter episodes’" you would be able to take it seriously.

Emphasis on the "new series" being stated.

It's not that he has completely disregarded the classic series. This is just a list of episodes from MODERN Doctor Who, that he thinks would make good converters.

So instead of being over-dramatic, rude and sarcastic, why don't you try reading the article fully, and not just skipping bits.



stargazer0118
stargazer0118

@MaraBackman I loved the show from the start, but it wasn't until The Impossible Planet when I felt this was the most amazing show.

I'm Richard Nixon.
I'm Richard Nixon.

@CyberSilence It's the best one to bring in new whos. See there is no need to explain the doctor, TARDIS, 50 years of story ext ext. 

Blink brings the newbie into a story that introduces time travel, the Doctor, and the"whovian" physics that exists in the Doctor Who universe.  Plus, it hooks them every time. I agree that an episode that does not have much of the Doctor in it is a weird choice but it really does work. Not something that I can say for The Day of the Doctor.

A Friend of the Ood
A Friend of the Ood

@wholmesian My dad had only seen a few episodes before it and he seemed to understand it better than some Whovians. When my mom (who has actually seen more than him) was confused, he explained parts of it to her and when the War Doctor regenerated he asked "So, he becomes the 9th Doctor, right?" while some parts of the "fandom" still thought he was before the first Doctor or after the 11th. I had to explain the Time War, but he seemed to understand it after that and watched until the end.

TheCallumRead
TheCallumRead

Agreed, they won't necessarily appreciate or understand it, but I honestly have a best friend who hated Doctor Who, and would actually tease me for liking it... but watched the 50th on it's transmission, and since then he's watched every episode! It did it's job!

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@Kiki Kiki The reason you'd say "Full Stop", is to emphasise, that there is a full stop there, as it cannot be seen, and therefore emphasise your point. Whereas, if you write a full stop, then write "Full Stop", then write another full stop, that just seems silly.

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@JolomontheCube  Saying "*facepalm*" and "you know" are both quite rude and condescending. It's not like he's made some really obvious error, that deserves to be looked down on intensely. That's just your opinion.

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

@MeglosProductions I adored The Girl in the Fireplace the first time around, but hated it after I had seen the RTD era; the Doctor seemed so out of character, IMO.

MaraBackman
MaraBackman

@stargazer0118 @MaraBackman I agree that it is a fantastic story, but I still think that the best episodes to lure in fans would be ones that showcase a more or less typical adventure for the Doctor. The End of the World has many reoccurring elements seen in multiple stories over the years, such as bizarre creatures and wonky scifi-elements that defy the conventions of the genre, so much that it resembles the works of Lewis Carroll more than most other scifi.

A Friend of the Ood
A Friend of the Ood

@stargazer0118 @MeglosProductions I think it's because it was written by Moffat, who didn't want RTD to tell him what happens so he could be surprised when he watches it. He probably didn't know that Rose and the Doctor were going to fall in love.

MaddyKika
MaddyKika

@stargazer0118 @MeglosProductions I have the same feeling. The Girl is a great episode, but it's like the Doctor simply falls for Reinette out of nowhere and then in Rise of the Cybermen his infatuation for Rose is back.

TheCallumRead
TheCallumRead

No worries guys, people have had some really interesting opinions and I've liked reading through all the comments! I never actually thought my 1st article would get posted!

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

A Friend of the Ood - I think that's not giving Moffat enough credit there. I'm pretty sure they would have had discussions about it. And it's really not that big a deal. The Doctor wasn't exactly, completely head over heels in love with Rose at that time.

stargazer0118 - Rose wasn't initially happy about Mickey wanting to join, but she clearly liked him during that episode. She was even showing off to him. And you're ignoring what I'm saying. In every series there are relationships. Much of the time, those relationships are complicated. Nearly all of the time, the characters do not want to/aren't ready to admit their love for each other, or even, don't think they are in love with each other. So, as they aren't exactly together, they have brief crushes on someone else, or flings with someone else; sometimes lasting a few episodes, sometimes lasting only 1.

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@WhovianKika @stargazer0118 @MeglosProductions It's not like that. Rose has Mickey along, and they're a bit flirty. And so The Doctor has a brief love interest in Reinette. It's not like he falls in love with her instantly out of nowhere. She's just fascinated by him. And he's interested, in her interest in him.

That kind of thing happens in a lot of tv series'. When 2 characters clearly like each other, but aren't at the point of admitting it yet, so one has a brief fling with/interest in someone else.

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

@WhovianKika @stargazer0118 @MeglosProductions Well said. It was so clear to me that Rose really meant a lot for the Doctor by the end of Series 1 and especially to Tennant's Doctor, but in Girl he simply forgot about her.. Girl is a great standalone, but it's lousy as part of the continuity of the whole RTD era. I suppose it's fantastic for those who hate Rose, though.. 

The Outer Space K9
The Outer Space K9

Plus the fact that Mickey and Rose were stuck on the spaceship and the Doctor doesn't seem to care about that. There may have been an emergency protocole to take them home but it's strange he was so caught up with Reinette that he almost forgot about his companions

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

I don't think that's 'clear' at all. I don't think it's fair to just accuse him of lack of continuity, or not caring just because he concentrated less on the Doctor's relationship with Rose in one episode.