DOCTOR WHO EPISODE GUIDE
While my love for Doctor Who has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of my content, I started this a passion project a couple of years ago and it's just been sitting in a Google Doc ever since. At the time, I had friends who were interested in catching up on Doctor Who, but weren't wanting to sit down and watch eight or nine full seasons to do so. Now, I still bring it up if someone asks, but thought it might be nice to make it more publicly available for others. At the moment, it only goes up to Series 9, but I will try to work on the remaining series as well.
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
I am a completionist so I enjoy watching every episode of just about any series I commit to to get the full scope of what the writers and showrunners intended. That being said, taking on Doctor Who is a huge task. This list is intended for those who want to enjoy the show and/or catch up to the current seasons but either don’t have enough time to watch them all and/or can’t get past the campiness of some the earlier episodes. If all else fails and you really dislike the vibe of the earlier seasons, you have my blessing to skip to Series 5 to try to start there. There is a big jump in production value at this point, and it’s arguably the strongest overall season of the entire show. However, if you do, try to come back around to the earlier episodes once you're caught up. They're worth it!
Each series will have a completely spoiler free recap list with simply whether or not I suggest watching the episodes, but more detailed information on each episode follows if you want help making your decision. I tried to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but there are some minor spoilers in some descriptions. I recommend taking this one season at a time and not reading too far ahead.
What we would call a season in the U.S. is referred to by the show as a “series," e.g. Series 1 not Season 1. However, for simplicity's sake, I’m going to call them seasons, and when I say series (as in “series plot line”) I’m referring to the overall show. It got too confusing otherwise.
Skip: Not worth watching for plot or merit.
Skip*: Probably not worth watching except for a minor plot point. Read the episode recap for the “spoiler” information and skip.
Optional: Usually contains relevant plot information and/or has high merit as a standalone but not necessarily essential to the overall story line.
Recommended: Not quite good enough to earn the flat out “watch” rating, but unless you're really strapped for time, go for it.
Watch: Either has essential plot information and/or is a great episode in its own right; do not skip these.
Absolutely Watch: Doctor Who at its best, do not skip under any circumstances.
SERIES 1 (2005)
This series features Christopher Eccleston as the Nineth Doctor. Although Eccleston rarely gets the credit he deserves for relaunching the series, and there are some horrible aliens in this first go, none of this season’s episodes are flat out labeled as skippable. Each episode contains important character building and/or series information and helps to build one’s overall appreciation to the show. That being said, I have SO much more appreciation for it (and Eccleston’s Doctor) after having seen the rest of the show. If you really can’t get through it now, come back to it after you finish the other seasons.
1.1 “Rose” - Recommended
1.2 “The End of the World” - Watch
1.3 “The Unquiet Dead” - Optional
1.4 “Aliens of London” / 1.5 “World War Three” - Recommended
1.6 “Dalek” - Watch
1.7 “The Long Game” - Recommended
1.8 “Father’s Day” - Skip*
1.9 “The Empty Child” / 1.10 “The Doctor Dances” - Absolutely Watch
1.11 “Boom Town” - Optional
1.12 “Bad Wolf” / 1.13 “The Parting of Ways” - Absolutely Watch
1.1 “Rose” - Recommended. Painful but necessary pilot; the baddie in this episode is easily the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen and it personally took me FOUR tries to get through it and into Doctor Who. However it’s an important introduction to Rose and the Doctor. If you cannot forgive this episode for it’s campiness and must skip it in order to keep going, at least watch the next episode. It’s not quite as inclusive plot wise, but is a solid episode.
1.2 “The End of the World” - Watch. Better than the pilot in my opinion. Doesn’t contain the nuances of introducing the characters of Rose and the Doctor but shows a bit more of Rose’s character. We also meet a couple of characters that will return in later episodes.
1.3 “The Unquiet Dead” - Optional. As an episode, I’m not into the story at all, so I could take it or leave it but this episode has some backstory and plot points including finding out that Rose’s father died when she was a baby and learning a bit more about the Time War.
1.4 “Aliens of London” / 1.5 “World War Three” - Recommended. Rose has been missing for a year when she and the Doctor return. Earth is introduced to alien life, which will come up later in the season. The Slitheens are admittedly ridiculous and hard to watch, but we meet Harriet Jones, learn important information involving the TARDIS, and have our first “Bad Wolf” sighting.
1.6 “Dalek” - Watch. Very important introduction of a long-time enemy of the Doctor. We learn much more about the Time War and get our first minor Torchwood reference.
1.7 “The Long Game” - Recommended. Not much essential plot information here, but I like this episode. Also introduces Satellite 5 which will come back up in the season finale.
1.8 “Father’s Day” - Skip* Rose and the Doctor go back in time to see Rose’s father before he dies. You do learn about the “psychic” connection between the TARDIS and its key, as well as some more character building for the doctor, but overall I don’t think this episode is crucial. Watch it if you want more backstory on Rose, otherwise I think it’s safe to pass.
1.9 “The Empty Child” / 1.10 “The Doctor Dances” - Absolutely Watch. Highlight of the first season. Brilliant acting by Eccleston and first episodes written by Steven Moffat. We meet Captain Jack Harkness and the thought behind this two-episode story is fantastic.
1.11 “Boom Town” - Optional. The Slitheen return for this episode. The Doctor, Rose, and Jack meet up with Mickey in Cardiff and Bad Wolf resurfaces. The Heart of the TARDIS is introduced. Both are important for the finale and it’s a decent episode, but you can skip it if you really need to.
1.12 “Bad Wolf” / 1.13 “The Parting of Ways” - Absolutely Watch. Two-part finale for Series 1. We revisit Satellite 5 where our cast is dropped into reality shows gone wrong and find out what’s behind Bad Wolf. We also say goodbye to Eccleston and witness our first regeneration.
SERIES 2 (2006)
Here we meet David Tennant as our Tenth Doctor, my favorite doctor. That being said, I will admit there are some real stinkers in this particular season. The lows are low, but the highs are wonderful. This season builds up to a very emotional climax in the finale and has some absolute must sees throughout.
“The Christmas Invasion” (Christmas Special) - Watch
2.1 “New Earth” - Recommended
2.2 “Tooth and Claw” - Recommended
2.3 “School Reunion” - Skip*
2.4 “The Girl in the Fireplace” - Absolutely Watch
2.5 “Rise of the Cybermen” / 2.6 “Age of Steel” - Watch
2.7 “The Idiot’s Lantern” - Skip
2.8 “The Impossible Planet” / 2.9 “The Satan Pit” - Recommended
2.10 “Love and Monsters” - Skip*
2.11 “Fear Her” - Skip
2.12 “Army of Ghosts” / 2.13 “Doomsday - Watch
“The Christmas Invasion” (Christmas Special) - Watch. Absolutely ridiculous start to the episode (you just gotta bear through the first 15 minutes), but it's David Tennant’s first episode and he's absolutely fantastic. He’s laugh out loud funny, and this episode is crucial to his character after going through the regeneration. We also see Harriet Jones again and hear more of Torchwood.
2.1 “New Earth” - Recommended. Mostly a standalone episode, but a good follow up to “The End of the World” from the first season, where we see some of those characters again.
2.2 “Tooth and Claw” - Recommended. The Doctor and Rose meet Queen Victoria in 1879 and defend against a werewolf. We find out how Torchwood was founded.
2.3 “School Reunion” - Skip* I don't like this episode, but it’s a huge throwback to the original series and at the top of many other Whovians’ favorite lists. We meet Sarah Jane from classic Doctor Who and Anthony Stewart guest stars if you’re a fan. Sarah Jane will make another appearance later in the series, so if you want to know who she is, watch this episode, otherwise you can skip it.
2.4 “The Girl in the Fireplace” - Absolutely Watch. Beautiful episode. Mostly a standalone, but one of the more notable Doctor Who episodes. I don't want to give anything away, so just watch it.
2.5 “Rise of the Cybermen” / 2.6 “Age of Steel” - Watch. The TARDIS is jolted into an alternate universe. We meet the Doctor’s other arch nemesis, the Cybermen. Contains important plot information.
2.7 “The Idiot’s Lantern” - Skip. Rose and the Doctor are in 1953 trying to stop an electrical alien stealing people's faces from televisions. Standalone and totally skipable.
2.8 “The Impossible Planet” / 2.9 “The Satan Pit” - Recommended. These episodes are highly acclaimed, but they are not personally my favorite. However, there is some fantastic acting by Tenant in particular, as well as the rest of the cast, and we meet the Ood who we will see again later. I’m leaning towards highly recommending watching it, though you can skip if you really can't spare the time.
2.10 “Love and Monsters” - Skip*. I can't in good conscious say that this is a necessary episode in the slightest, but I think it's a fun and ridiculous comic relief from the more serious episodes around it. In a so bad it's good kind of way, it’s our first “Doctor light” episode narrated from an outside perspective about a group of friends is tracking the Doctor, but there's no essential series plot information. Safe to skip if you want to, and be warned that while I like this one, many others do not.
2.11 “Fear Her” - Skip. This not a good episode. A young girl is possessed by an abandoned alien, and as she draws people they disappear from the real world. Not worth watching, no essential plot info.
2.12 “Army of Ghosts” / 2.13 “Doomsday - Watch. The Cybermen are back for the finale, a finale where we say goodbye to a very important character. Must watch. Grab tissues.
SERIES 3 (2007)
This season is odd in that it has some totally skippable episodes and probably my least favorite companion (great actress with the potential to be great character, but the writers make her extremely whiny and co-dependent), but it’s also home to some iconic episodes of New Who. Tennant’s acting is wonderful as always, and some of the stories are great.
“Runaway Bride” (Christmas Special) - Watch
3.1 “Smith and Jones” - Watch
3.2 “The Shakespeare Code” - Skip
3.3 “Gridlock” - Watch
3.4 “Daleks in Manhattan” / 3.5 “Evolution of the Daleks” - Optional
3.6 “The Lazarus Code” - Skip
3.7 “42” - Skip*
3.8 / 3.9 “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood” - Watch
3.10 “Blink” - Absolutely Watch
3.11 “Utopia” / 3.12 “The Sound of Drums” / 3.13 “The Last of the Time Lords” - Watch
“Runaway Bride” (Christmas Special) - Watch. One of my favorite characters in the series is introduced as the Doctor grieves. This episode is crucial to numerous characters’ development.
3.1 “Smith and Jones” - Watch. The official season has begun and we have a new companion, Martha Jones, a medical student. In addition to the new companion, this episode is a pretty good one in general in which an entire hospital is transported to the moon while one species of aliens is searching for another wanted alien.
3.2 “The Shakespeare Code” - Skip. Martha and the Doctor visit Shakespeare as three witches are threatening to change history as we know it. Watch if you like historic episodes or Shakespeare specifically, otherwise completely safe to skip.
3.3 “Gridlock” - Watch. This is my first favorite of the season in which The Doctor and Martha are back in New New York and find that the residents have spent years trapped in the motorways. I really like this episode on it’s own, and we also have some important plot information dropped on us.
3.4 “Daleks in Manhattan” / 3.5 “Evolution of the Daleks” - Optional. Technically skippable in terms of the overall series plot, but a good Dalek episode with some 1930s flare. Only four Daleks remain and find themselves in Manhattan with a unique plan for adapting for survival.
3.6 “The Lazarus Experiment” - Skip. Just as ridiculous as I remember upon the first viewing, and it's one of my least favorite episode in the entire show. Unless you really want to see more of Martha's (unlikable) family, skip this one. All you need to know plot wise is that an unknown man has told Martha's mother that the Doctor is dangerous, and she tries to warn Martha against traveling with him.
3.7 “42” - Skip* Martha and the Doctor land on a spaceship that only has 42 minutes (in real time) until it crashes into a sun. It's not the worst but, a lot of people really don't like it. You can safely skip it, just know that a group of people are with Martha's mum monitoring her calls and trying to find the Doctor.
3.8 / 3.9 “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood” - Watch. In this pair of episodes, we meet the Doctor as a human, hiding in the past from a current enemy. While this two-part episode is technically a standalone, Tennant’s acting is stunning, and I highly recommend watching it.
3.10 “Blink” - Absolutely Watch. Most people consider this as the best episode of Doctor Who, the one that you make people watch to get hooked on the series. The only problem with that approach is that this episode is not like the others. It’s another "Doctor light" episode narrated outside of the perspective of the Doctor and his companion, but it is a fantastic episode and you should absolutely, positively watch it.
3.11 “Utopia” / 3.12 “The Sound of Drums” / 3.13 “The Last of the Time Lords” - Watch. This three-part season finale begins with the Doctor and Martha go to the end of the universe. Captain Jack Harkness returns and the Doctor finds out that the prophecy from the Face of Boe (about not being alone) is in fact true.
DAVID TENNANT SPECIALS (2008)
After Series 4, Doctor Who spent a year doing four specials. You can currently find these on Amazon Prime under the David Tennant Specials. This is the end of Tennant’s reign as the Doctor, so don’t miss them!
4.14 “The Next Doctor” - Optional
4.15 “Planet of the Dead” - Optional
4.16 “Waters of Mars” - Watch
4.17 / 4.18 “The End of Time” (Parts 1 & 2) - Absolutely Watch
4.14 “The Next Doctor” - Optional. The Doctor is visiting Victorian England when he meets… the Doctor! Together they face the Cybermen at Christmastime. Not necessary for plot, decent episode on its own.
4.15 “Planet of the Dead” - Optional. The Doctor finds himself on a bus that travels through a wormhole to another planet. He and the others on the bus must make their way back to earth before the alien inhabitants make dust out of them.
4.16 “Waters of Mars” - Watch. This episode completely freaks me out as far as visuals go, so for the skittish or easily startled, I recommend watching it during the day. However, this episode is really important to the Doctor’s story line, is pretty great on its own, and should definitely be watched.
4.17 / 4.18 “The End of Time” (Parts 1 & 2) - Absolutely Watch. We meet the Master and the Doctor makes his last stand. Some of our favorite friends return and say a heart-wrenching goodbye to Tennant as the Doctor, so grab those tissues and brace yourselves.
SERIES 5 (2010)
Series 5 brings the start of Matt Smith as the Doctor and Steven Moffat at the showrunner. There is a large boost in production value and this season is fantastically strong from top to bottom. Matt Smith is an adjustment from David Tennant. He's younger, loquacious, a bit rude and less forgiving, but he’ll grow on you. Also, just so you know, Moffat breaks a lot of our aforementioned “rules” of time travel throughout the next couple seasons so be ready to just go with the flow.
5.1 “The Eleventh Hour” - Absolutely Watch
5.2 “The Beast Below” - Watch
5.3 “Victory of the Daleks” - Recommended
5.4 “The Time of Angels” / 5.5 “Flesh and Stone” - Watch
5.6 “The Vampires of Venice” - Recommended
5.7 “Amy’s Choice” - Recommended
5.8 “The Hungry Earth” / 5.9 “Cold Blood” - Watch
5.10 “Vincent and the Doctor” - Absolutely Watch
5.11 “The Lodger” - Watch
5.12 “The Pandorica Opens” / 5.13 “The Big Bang” - Watch
5.1 “The Eleventh Hour” - Absolutely Watch. Matt Smith’s introduction as the Eleventh Doctor, a younger, eccentric version of the Doctor. We also meet the sassy Amy Pond, the girl who waited, who will be his new companion.
5.2 “The Beast Below” - Watch. Amy and the Doctor’s first episode together. The episode's story itself is beautifully touching as well. Definitely worth watching.
5.3 “Victory of the Daleks” - Recommended. Another Dalek episode, this time with Winston Churchill! It's a good episode and has a reasonable amount of plot information.
5.4 “The Time of Angels” / 5.5 “Flesh and Stone” - Watch. River Song and the Weeping Angels are back. Very important plot information. The crack from Amy’s wall makes a big appearance and we find out what it is.
5.6 “The Vampires of Venice” - Recommended. Relatively important plot information with Rory joining Amy and the Doctor. Also mentions the Silence which will come into the series later.
5.7 “Amy’s Choice” - Recommended. This is an important episode to learn more about Amy and Rory’s relationship, and it’s a solid episode, but it’s not absolutely essential to the series. You choose :)
5.8 “The Hungry Earth” / 5.9 “Cold Blood” - Watch. This two-part episode explores a tense relationship between humans and a subterranean reptilian race, the Silurians (who also appeared in Classic Who). The crack in Amy’s wall returns and there are some very important plot things towards the end of Cold Blood.
5.10 “Vincent and the Doctor” - Absolutely Watch. Amy and the Doctor visit Vincent Van Gogh in 1890 in one of the best episodes in the entire show. This episode addresses mental illness and depression with incredible respect while the trio look into an invisible creature that only Van Gogh can see. The ending is beautifully emotional.
5.11 “The Lodger” - Watch. Another great. This episode contrasts with the previous one quite a bit, bringing in some humor and showing the series’ wonderful versatility. James Cordon guest stars in this episode where the Doctor is stranded on earth and separated from Amy who is stuck on the TARDIS. He takes up residence with Craig, an average bloke, and tries to fit into everyday human life.
5.12 “The Pandorica Opens” / 5.13 “The Big Bang” - Watch. A message is transported through time and space to get to the Doctor. Amy, River, and the Doctor face the Pandorica… and the Daleks and the Cyberman and many other enemies they have faced before. An important person in Amy's life returns. The Big Bang is especially important to watch for Amy and Rory’s story. It gets very wibbly wobbly timey wimey.
SERIES 6 (2011)
Overall, this season may not be as great as the last, but even the “optional” episodes are only labeled as such if you need to skip them to save time. They are all solid episodes on their own, but there are quite a few standalones that are not essential to the overall series. We learn a lot more about River, opening and closing the season with her and a bit sprinkled in the middle.
This list is complete aside from the Christmas Special.
“A Christmas Carol” (Christmas Special) - TBD
6.1 “The Impossible Astronaut” / 6.2 “Day of the Moon” - Absolutely Watch
6.3 “The Curse of the Black Spot” - Optional
6.4 “The Doctor’s Wife” - Optional
6.5 “The Rebel Flesh” / 6.6 “The Almost People” - Watch
6.7 “A Good Man Goes to War” - Watch
6.8 “Let’s Kill Hitler” - Watch
6.9 “Night Terrors” - Skip*
6.10 “The Girl Who Waited” - Recommended
6.11 “The God Complex” - Watch
6.12 “Closing Time” - Recommended
6.13 “The Wedding of River Song” - Watch
“A Christmas Carol” (Christmas Special) - TBD
6.1 “The Impossible Astronaut” / 6.2 “Day of the Moon” - Absolutely Watch. Amy, Rory, and River are summoned by a future version of the Doctor where he is met by an astronaut in a lake. Later they meet up with the current Doctor and travel to 1969 to find out who the astronaut is. We are also introduced to the Silence, one of Doctor Who’s most terrifying villains, learn more about River and the Doctor, and meet a very important little girl.
6.3 “The Curse of the Black Spot” - Optional. Arrg, matey. Thar be pirates. Watch if you like pirates, skip if you don't.
6.4 “The Doctor’s Wife” - Optional. This is an odd episode where the Doctor follows a distress call outside of the universe. I don’t think it’s essential, but the Doctor meets his TARDIS in human form so there are some feels. Your call.
6.5 “The Rebel Flesh” / 6.6 “The Almost People” - Watch. Another solid two-parter episode exploring human nature and emotion with a sci-fi flare. The ending is extremely important for the series overall plot.
6.7 “A Good Man Goes to War” - Watch. Great episode, we see the return of many of our old friends standing by the Doctor during a time of great need, and we get a huge reveal. Don’t miss this one.
6.8 “Let’s Kill Hitler” - Watch. Look, things are getting awfully wibbly wobbly timey wimey. I definitely feel like there should have been at least one more episode between this and the last to soften the transition of information. Regardless, this is a crucially important episode for our all of our main characters. Must watch or you will be very, very confused. Well, you’ll be confused anyway, but still watch it.
6.9 “Night Terrors” - Skip* This is a standalone episode about a boy who calls the Doctor through psychic paper to save him from the monsters in his cupboard. It's an okay episode but for me personally, I think it interferes with the flow of the big picture episodes on either side. I’m inclined to say skip, though because others seem to really like it, I’ll leave it up to you. I just wish they had used this episode slot before the last for reasons mentioned above.
6.10 “The Girl Who Waited” - Recommended. This is a rather heartbreaking episode in which Amy is stuck in an alternate time stream for decades, waiting for Rory and the Doctor to save her. Not technically essential to the overall series, but if you're Rory and Amy fans, do not skip it.
6.11 “The God Complex” - Watch. The TARDIS lands in a haunted hotel full of the guests deepest darkest secrets and the Doctor sets out to save everyone imprisoned there. While this is mostly a standalone episode, the ending brings a goodbye to Amy and Rory as the Doctor breaks her faith in him and leaves them to live out their lives in safety.
6.12 “Closing Time” - Recommended. James Cordon’s character makes a reappearance as Craig as he and the Doctor fight a mini Cyberman invasion. We also meet Alfie, Craig’s infant son, who has some witty dialogue with the Doctor, who can of course speak baby.
6.13 “The Wedding of River Song” - Watch. For the finale, we pick up where we left off in The Impossible Astronaut at the beginning of the season, we see who was in the astronaut suit (though we’ve all known for a while), the Silence return, and time has gone wrong.
SERIES 7 (2012-2013)
This season has a different vibe than the last. In the first half of Series 7, the Doctor goes back to Amy and Rory who are living a normal, suburban life, but it definitely feels like we're in between companions. Each episode is narrated by a different person in a story like format. In the second half of this season we get a new companion and things normalize a bit. Clara and the Doctor have fantastic chemistry and we get to see more of Jenny, Vastra, and Strax.
This list is complete aside from the Christmas Special.
“The Doctor, the Window, and the Wardrobe” (Christmas Special) - TBD
7.1 “Asylum of the Daleks” - Absolutely Watch
7.2 “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” - Skip*
7.3 “A Town Called Mercy” - Skip*
7.4 “Power of Three” - Optional
7.5 “The Angels Take Manhattan” - Watch
“The Snowmen” (Christmas Special) - Watch
7.6 “The Bells of Saint John” - Recommended
7.7 “The Rings of Akhaten” - Recommended
7.8 “Cold War” - Optional
7.9 “Hide” - Recommended
7.10 “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” - Watch
7.11 “The Crimson Horror” - Watch
7.12 “Nightmare in Silver” - Optional
7.13 “The Name of the Doctor” - Watch
“The Doctor, the Window, and the Wardrobe” (Christmas Special) - TBD
7.1 “Asylum of the Daleks” - Absolutely Watch. We meet Oswin Oswald (Jenna Coleman) who is brilliant both in terms of intelligence and in character, trapped inside the Asylum of the Daleks. Hands down my favorite Dalek episode.
7.2 “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” - Skip* I would love for this to be a must watch. I love dinosaurs. I love Doctor Who. But this episode falls a bit flat for me. Queen Nephratiti and a big game hunter join the team to find out what happened to the Silurians on a particular ship, that also happen to be full of dinosaurs.
7.3 “A Town Called Mercy” - Skip* Oh Doctor Who. Leave the space westerns to Firefly, please. A cyborg and the alien who created him duke it out in an old western town. Matt Smith goes a little too ham in with his campy, over the top cowboy impression… which some people dig, so this one is up to you.
7.4 “Power of Three” - Optional. The Doctor goes back to see Amy and Rory in when the world suddenly become littered in tiny black boxes that cannot be destroyed. UNIT returns.
7.5 “The Angels Take Manhattan” - Watch. The Weeping Angels are back and they've created a time paradox. We say a final goodbye to Amy and Rory, so it’s pretty important.
“The Snowmen” (Christmas Special) - Watch. This episode’s baddies are killer snowmen which isn't that exciting. However, we learn the Doctor is grieving in solitude over losing Amy and Rory, though he has some old friends helping him out. Jenna Coleman returns as Clara Oswin Oswald. She is the same-looking woman that we met in Asylum of the Daleks, living in another era. This will be important for the next episode.
7.6 “The Bells of Saint John” - Recommended. It’s not the best episode, but we meet Clara and it does lay the groundwork for the rest of the season, so yeah, probably watch it… After the last episode, the Doctor is consumed trying to the impossible girl who is alive during different time periods. Modern day Clara gets his Police Box number from a shop girl and calls him about a problem with the internet.
7.7 “The Rings of Akhaten” - Recommended. Clara and the Doctor are in Space again where a young child called the Queen of Years is responsible for saving her people from sacrifice to an ancient god through song. We learn more about Clara's past.
7.8 “Cold War” - Optional. Our duo finds themselves on a soviet submarine during the Cold War, where the crew has unknowingly found an alien frozen in ice. Good episode but not essential.
7.9 “Hide” - Recommended. The Doctor continues to search for what exactly Clara is (given that she’s been three different women in different eras). In this “ghost stories” episode, they connect with a psychic in the past investigate a spirit in another realm. The TARDIS finally trusts Clara and it’s a good episode, but otherwise not particularly crucial to the overall series.
7.10 “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” - Watch. The TARDIS crashes and the Doctor employs a couple of men to help him find Clara inside before the TARDIS self destructs. A good episode worth watching. More bonding time for Clara and the Doctor.
7.11 “The Crimson Horror” - Watch. This is a really solid episode in which the Doctor and Clara investigate Sweetville where attractive people are recruited then turn up with the “crimson horror.” Our friends Jenny, Vastra and Strax are back too.
7.12 “Nightmare in Silver” - Optional. Clara and the Doctor take the kids that Clara nannies to the largest amusement park in space. The Doctor comes face to face with an out of commission Cyberman. Matt Smith gets to have quite a lot of fun in this one so I think it's definitely worthwhile, but not necessary to the series.
7.13 “The Name of the Doctor” - Watch. The Great Intelligence is back and a new baddie called the Whisper Men confront the Doctor on Trenzalore. Jenny, Vastra, Strax, River, and Clara stand by the Doctor’s side and we finally find out about the impossible girl.
THE SPECIALS (2013)
This pair of special episodes bids farwell to our Eleventh Doctor.
“Day of the Doctor” - Absolutely Watch
“The Time of the Doctor” (Christmas Special) - Absolutely Watch
“Day of the Doctor” - Absolutely Watch. It's incredibly hard to pick an all time favorite episode but this is on my short list. Matt Smith and David Tennant’s Doctors join the John Hurt as the War Doctor as he struggles with his decision to destroy Gallifrey during the Time War. We get a tiny glimpse of our next Doctor, and Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) also makes an appearance.
“The Time of the Doctor” (Christmas Special) - Absolutely Watch. This is Matt Smith’s farewell episode and it's just as gut wrenching as Tennant's in a very different way. Many of our favorite villains make a return as Clara and the Doctor find themselves in a town called Christmas. The Doctor is charged with the task of protecting Christmas from all of his enemies for the rest of his years.
SERIES 8 (2014)
This season brings the start of Peter Capaldi’s reign as the Doctor, and yes, we’ve seen him before. He guest starred in a prior episode, The Fires of Pompeii. There is a theory about how two men with the same appearance could appear in the show by Moffat which you can research if you’d like to. Anyhoo, he may take a while to grow on you, but upon a second watch I love Capadli's portrayal of the Doctor. This season brings a darker tone to the series. Nearly all of the episodes tease the idea of Heaven and introduce a mysterious new character, leading up to the seasons finale. This season is not Who’s strongest overall, but most episodes are well written and worth watching. It definitely feels at times like the individual parts are greater than the sum of the whole.
8.1 “Deep Breath” - Watch
8.2 “Into the Dalek” - Optional
8.3 “Robot of Sherwood” - Optional
8.4 “Listen” - Absolutely Watch
8.5 “Time Heist” - Watch
8.6 “The Caretaker” - Recommended
8.7 “Kill the Moon” - Optional
8.8 “Mummy on the Orient Express” - Watch
8.9 “Flatline” - Skip*
8.10 “In the Forest of the Night” - Optional
8.11 “Dark Water” / 8.12 “Death in Heaven” - Watch
8.1 “Deep Breath” - Watch. This longer than usual episode introduces Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. As he struggles to find out what kind of man he is now, he and Clara land in an underground den of cyborgs reminiscent of the robots in the Girl in the Fireplace. The Eleventh Doctor and Clara get a proper goodbye, and our new Doctor delivers a heartfelt plea to Clara (and what feels like the viewers as well) to stay with him. This also the last time we will see Jenny, Vastra, and Strax for the foreseeable future so be sure to soak them up.
8.2 “Into the Dalek” - Optional. I think this is an optional episode. It is Capaldi’s first interaction with a Dalek and we meet a new character that will be important later, but it's not essential. Basically, the Doctor and Clara go on a mission literally inside of a stolen Dalek and explore the meaning of life and whatnot.
8.3 “Robot of Sherwood” - Optional. Another optional fairy tale meets alien period episode. Clara insists on meeting Robin Hood and she and the Doctor land themselves inside of Sherwood Forest where something is a bit off.
8.4 “Listen” - Absolutely Watch. This is probably the best episode of the season and important for both Clara and the Doctor’s personal stories. The Doctor ponders a creature than can perfectly hide that has existed for all of time, and Clara struggles with the start of her relationship with Danny.
8.5 “Time Heist” - Watch. Clara and the Doctor find themselves with their memories wiped and learning that they previously agreed to heist an unbreachable intergalactic bank. It’s quite a good episode, even though it’s a standalone.
8.6 “The Caretaker” - Recommended. The Doctor goes undercover at Clara’s school, and Danny and the Doctor meet for the first time. I don’t love this episode on its own, but we get to see more of Clara and Danny’s budding relationship, which will certainly be meaningful for the rest of the season.
8.7 “Kill the Moon” - Optional. Our lead characters join a team of astronauts on the Earth’s moon to investigate some strange happenings and creatures. When the Doctor cuts and runs in a great time of need, Clara and the other’s are faced with a very difficult decision. Really strong for Clara’s character development but not entirely essential.
8.8 “Mummy on the Orient Express” - Watch. After the last episode, Clara has had enough of the Doctor and in this episode, he takes her on one last hurrah to say goodbye. They find themselves on the space version of the Oriental Express where a mummy is taking people’s lives. The bigger problem is that no one can see it until they’re marked for death.
8.9 “Flatline” - Skip* The TARDIS is shrinking and the Doctor is stuck inside while Clara fights 2D alien monsters and trapping them in the walls. The only thing you really need to know for the overall story is that Clara told Danny she was traveling with the Doctor, and she told the Doctor that Danny was fine if she stayed on the TARDIS. Lies. Oh, we also meet a guy named Rigsey who will be in a future episode.
8.10 “In the Forest of the Night” - Optional. There’s a lot of hate out there on the interwebs for this episode that I just don’t get. It’s a visually beautiful episode in which an overnight forest springs up across the world. A girl name Mave finds the Doctor and they work together to find out what's going on. I like it.
8.11 “Dark Water” / 8.12 “Death in Heaven” - Watch. The episode opens with Clara suffering a huge loss. She and the Doctor use the TARDIS to follow him to the afterlife where they finally come face to face with Missy.
SERIES 9 (2015)
Capaldi is quite wonderful in this season. There are some quirky changes I'm not a fan of (...sonic sunglasses?) but otherwise a very solid season with lots of two-parters and deep, story-driven episodes.
“Last Christmas” (Christmas Special) - Recommended
9.1 “The Magician's Apprentice” / 9.2 "The Witch's Familiar" - Watch
9.3 “Under the Lake” / 9.4 "Before the Flood" - Recommended
9.5 “The Girl Who Died” / 9.6 "The Woman Who Lived" - Watch
9.7 “The Zygon Invasion” / 9.8 "The Zygon Inversion" - Absolutely Watch
9.9 “Sleep No More” - Skip
9.10 “Face the Raven” - Watch
9.11 "Heaven Sent" / 9.12 “Hell Bent” - Absolutely Watch
“Last Christmas” (Christmas Special) - Recommended. Clara and the Doctor meet Santa Claus and then abruptly find themselves in a research base on the North Pole. Along with four scientists, they try to figure out how to escape face-attaching, brain eating alien, and we find out if Clara will continue to travel with the Doctor or not.
9.1 “The Magician’s Apprentice” / 9.2 “ The Witch’s Familiar” - Watch. A boy is stuck in a field of handmines when the Doctor arrives to try to save him, next we are back with Clara as she comes face to face with Missy once again. The three are reunited under the pretense that the Doctor is about to die, and they face the Doctor's greatest enemy.
9.3 “Under the Lake” / 9.4 “Before the Flood” - Recommended. A rather good pair of episodes in which Clara and the Doctor end up on a submarine with mysterious ghosts. Not crucial plot-wise, but worth watching.
9.5 “The Girl Who Died” / 9.6 “The Woman Who Lived” - Watch. The Doctor and Clara land in Viking country and must prepare for a battle against a false Odin. Very good pair of episodes and relatively important for the Doctor’s story. Maisie Williams guest stars.
9.7 “The Zygon Invasion” / 9.8 “The Zygon Inversion” - Absolutely Watch. This is my favorite pair of Capadi episodes. We learn that an alien race has been disgusted and millions are living as humans on Earth, unknown to the majority of the human race. A rogue group of the Zygons are staging a coup and wish to overturn the cease fire.
9.9 “Sleep No More” - Skip. Unless you want to soak up every moment of Clara this season or really like thriller episodes, you can skip this one. This is a standalone episode that uses the ridiculous premise that the eye crusties you get when you sleep can be turned into monsters. Gross. No essential plot information.
9.10 “Face the Raven” - Watch. Clara gets a call from Rigsey (from “Flatline”) asking for her and the Doctor’s help. They are led to a secret alley that is a safe haven for aliens, they run into a familiar face, and the Doctor suffers a loss.
9.11 “Heaven Sent” / 9.12 “Hell Bent” - Absolutely Watch. In the finale, the Doctor is teleported to an unknown castle where he is perpetually chased by a hooded monster and he copes with losing Clara. The first heart-wrenching episode features Capaldi and Capaldi alone and he tries to escape his prison. It's his best acting in the entire series. I don't think that there's anything I could tell you about the second episode without spoiling it so you'll just have to watch it.
“The Husbands of River Song” (Christmas Special) - Absolutely Watch
To Be Added