You will become like us! The Best ‘Converter’ Episodes
Guest contributor Callum Read picks his top eight episodes to turn someone into a Whovian.
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)
At 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)
This 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)
This 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)
Only 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)
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)
The 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)
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)
The 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!