6 doctor who literary episodes you should watch before the premiere

6 Doctor Who Literary Episodes You Should Watch Before the Premiere 

NuWho – the Revived Show 

[Updated through series 12]

Doctor Who is a great show, but let's be honest, it can be a bit intimidating to know where to jump in with a 56-year-old series. Luckily, I'm here to help! 

Let's start out with some history. Doctor Who started in 1963, but was cancelled in the 80s and subsequently revived in 2005. It's been running ever since. I'm assuming you want to start with the post-2005 revived show, called “NuWho” or “New Who,” so this list covers that – I'll be posting one for the Classic Show soon-ish. 

If you want start by sampling a good standalone episode, Blink (series 3) and Midnight (series 4) would be good choices – especially Blink, as it’s a Doctor-lite episode, while Midnight is a companion-lite episode that works better in context. Other options? A Christmas Carol is quite splendid, and features Matt Smith. Mummy on the Orient Express is a decent Peter Capaldi episode in series 8.

Entry Points

And these are the best episodes to jump into the overarching story with no prior knowledge of the show:

Series 1, Episode 1: Rose (The Ninth Doctor: Christopher Eccleston)

Series 2, Episode 2: New Earth (The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant) (but as this isn't the first episode of the season, watch a standalone first)

Series 5, Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour (The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith) (but go back to watch Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead before seeing The Time of Angels

Series 10, Episode 1: The Pilot (The Twelfth Doctor: Peter Capaldi)

Series 11, Episode 1: The Woman Who Fell to Earth (The Thirteenth Doctor: Jodie Whittaker) (best for if you just want to jump in as close to the current day as possible – this season isn't well loved)

Once you've seen one of them, you know the premise of the show. Then you can follow the skip/watch list on this page (scroll down.)

How to pick which point to jump in?

Series 1
The first thing you need to know about the show so far is it’s split into two segments – series 1-4 were masterminded by writer Russell T. Davies and feature Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant in the role of the Doctor. These seasons are uneven and a bit dated, but feature some of the show’s finest moments. While, theoretically, you could start at the beginning of series 2, 3, or 4 (Tennant's seasons), it could be quite difficult to keep up, so starting with series 1, episode 1 is a good idea and then you can learn the plot of the story as you go.

Series 5
Alternatively, when Steven Moffat (of Sherlock fame) took over in Series 5, the whole show got a new style and design, starting, basically, from the ground up, with a new Doctor (Matt Smith) and a new companion. You should watch the series 4 two-parter Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead for context right after The Eleventh Hour, but otherwise you should be able to follow things from there. Moffat’s era is more consistently good (it does have its own problems), but the downside of starting here is you miss two terrific Doctors and some amazing TV. (As for the rough episodes, that is what this skip/watch list is for!)

Series 10
Series 10 is Peter Capaldi's final season as the Doctor, but it reintroduces the show to newcomers and has terrific production values. It isn't the greatest season of the series – in fact, it is generally quite mediocre, but if you really want to start with Peter Capaldi, this is the best entry point.

Series 11
Again, not the world's greatest season, but a clean introduction to the world if you want to start with Jodie Whittaker. I recommend starting elsewhere, though.

Full Skip/Watch List

Essential – Watch – Maybe – Skip 

 ???? – Special episode, which probably means it will be bundled separately from the rest of the season, at least on Amazon Prime
???????? – Christmas special episode, also bundled differently

See also:  What are sequences in math?

Series 1 – Christopher Eccleston

6 Doctor Who Literary Episodes You Should Watch Before the Premiere

While the first season has its weak spots, Christopher Eccleston is highly underrated as the first reboot Doctor. He's charismatic and tough without being a typical brawny hero – he's smart without being soppy. And Billie Pipe is wonderful as everygirl Rose Tyler.

Rose – Essential – This one is pretty essential. It introduces the Doctor, his first companion, and the premise of the show. A bit dated, but not a bad episode. Just roll with it; it gets better.

The End of the World – Maybe – Just okay – it’s Rose’s first adventure off-world and features some quirky aliens who will turn up later. In addition, we find out a major revelation about the Doctor’s past, but if you want to skip the episode you can just watch that scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXdRts6kJC0

The Unquiet Dead – Maybe – This one isn’t essential at all, but Simon Callow puts in a fun performance as Charles Dickens and there’s wacky supernatural stuff going on. I’m rather affectionate towards it.

Aliens of London / World War Three – Skip – This two-parter features the first appearance of a very amusing recurring character, Harriet Jones, and some good stuff from Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith, but it’s not enough to overcome some of the series’ dumbest villains: the Slitheen. Do, however, read the Wikipedia summary for both episodes here and here.


List of supplementary Doctor Who episodes

Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The show has been a large influence in the media since its inception in 1963.

Running parallel to its parenting seasons and series' lie miscellaneous television broadcasts, several episodes into home video “exclusive” releases and many video games.

This list does not include adverts or skits from other shows (bar crossovers and stories as part of telethons i.e. CIN).

Television broadcasts

There have been several special Doctor Who episodes and serials that are produced by the BBC. They usually consist of minisodes, crossovers with other TV shows, and stories produced for special occasions.

TitleEpisodesDirected byWritten byOriginal release date“Search Out Space”[1]

Dimensions in Time

“Born Again”

“Attack of the Graske”

The Infinite Quest

“Time Crash”

“Music of the Spheres”


“Space” and “Time”

“Death Is the Only Answer”[5]

“Good as Gold”[6][7]

Pond Life

“The Night of the Doctor”

1 episode, 20 minutes Stuart Berry-Anne Billingsley Lambros Atteshlis and Stuart Berry-Anne Billingsley 21 November 1990 (1990-11-21)
A crossover with the children's education programme Search Out Science featuring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Sophie Aldred as Ace and John Leeson as K-9.
2 episodes, 13 minutes Stuart MacDonald John Nathan-Turner and David Roden 26–27 November 1993 (1993-11-27)
A thirtieth anniversary programme for Doctor Who for Children in Need. The special was also a crossover with EastEnders. It featured Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor plus many of the companions.
1 episode, 7 minutes Euros Lyn Russell T Davies 18 November 2005 (2005-11-18)
The Doctor has just regenerated; but will Rose be able to trust this strange new Doctor? Also known as “Children in Need special” or Pudsey Cutaway.[2]
1 episode, 14 minutes Ashley Way Gareth Roberts 25 December 2005 (2005-12-25)
An interactive “mini-episode” debuting on the BBC Red Button service
13 episodes, 45 minutes Gary Russell Alan Barnes 2 April 2007 (2007-04-02)–30 June 2007 (2007-06-30)
An animated serial debuting as segments during Totally Doctor Who made during David Tennant's tenure as The Doctor, plus his companion Martha Jones.
1 episode, 8 minutes Graeme Harper Steven Moffat 16 November 2007 (2007-11-16)
The episode, set during the last scene of the previous episode “Last of the Time Lords”, depicts a humorous encounter between the Doctor's fifth and tenth incarnations, played by Peter Davison and David Tennant respectively.
1 episode, 7 minutes Euros Lyn Russell T Davies 27 July 2008 (2008-07-27) (BBC iPlayer and BBC Radio 3)1 January 2009 (BBC One)[3]
A segment of the 2008 BBC Proms.
6 episodes, 45 minutes Gary Russell Phil Ford 21–26 November 2009 (2009-11-26)[4] (BBC Red Button and online)5 December 2009 (BBC Two)
An animated serial debuting on the BBC Red Button service and the BBC Doctor Who website, and later broadcast as one episode on BBC Two.
2 episodes, 6 minutes Richard Senior Steven Moffat 18 March 2011 (2011-03-18)
The episodes form a two-part story, set entirely within the TARDIS, starring Matt Smith as The Doctor, Karen Gillan as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams, and were written by the programme's head writer Steven Moffat.
1 episode, 4 minutes Jeremy Webb The Children of Oakley Junior School 1 October 2011 (2011-10-01)
Doctor Who Confidential special
1 episode, 3 minutes Saul Metzstein[8] The Children of Ashdene School 24 April 2012 (2012-04-24)
Blue Peter special
5 episodes, 5 minutes Saul Metzstein Chris Chibnall 27–31 August 2012 (2012-08-31) (webcast)1 September 2012 (2012-09-01) (BBC Red Button)
Five part mini-adventure premiering on the BBC's Doctor Who website. An omnibus version was shown on 1 September 2012 on the BBC Red Button service. Amy and Rory's life is seen throughout the year after the Doctor reunited with them at Christmas. Several times, they receive the Doctor's calls, learning of many ridiculous things he's up to. Other times, he shows up at the wrong time due to the TARDIS malfunctioning. He even accidentally leaves an Ood with them for a short while. When the Doctor calls again, he finds no one is home; he deletes his call. Unknown to him, Amy has kicked Rory out and is wishing the Doctor will come.
1 episode, 7 minutes John Hayes Steven Moffat 14 November 2013 (2013-11-14)
Paul McGann returns to the role of the Eighth Doctor. The story serves as his regeneration story into John Hurt's War Doctor,
See also:  Women in science: jill tarter, seti, and our search for extraterrestrial life

Home media

TitleEpisodesDirected byWritten byOriginal release date“The Pilot Episode”

“Destiny of the Doctors”

“Night and the Doctor”

“The Inforarium”

“Rain Gods”

“Clara and the TARDIS”

1 episode, 26 minutes Waris Hussein Anthony Coburn 26 August 1991 (1991-08-26)
A “first cut” version of An Unearthly Child.
1 episode, 15 minutes Stuart MacDonald Terrance Dicks 1997 (1997)
The scenes that accompanied the 1997 video game of the same name. It was later released independently as a bonus feature on the DVD release of Survival with a new end credits roll. It starred Anthony Ainley in his last outing as the Master.
5 episodes, 16 minutes Richard Senior[9] Steven Moffat 21 November 2011 (2011-11-21)
Four additional scenes written and produced for “The Complete Sixth Series” boxset. The episodes are titled “Bad Night”, “Good Night”, “First Night” and “Last Night” with the prequel “Up All Night” attached.
1 episode, 2 minutes N/A Steven Moffat 24 September 2013 (2013-09-24)
An additional scene written and produced for “The Complete Seventh Series” boxset.
1 episode, 2 minutes N/A Neil Gaiman 24 September 2013 (2013-09-24)
An additional scene written and produced for “The Complete Seventh Series” boxset. While credited to Steven Moffat, the mini-episode was actually written by Neil Gaiman.[10]
1 episode, 2 minutes N/A Steven Moffat 24 September 2013 (2013-09-24)
An additional scene written and produced for “The Complete Seventh Series” boxset.

Internet broadcasts

There have been several special Doctor Who internet broadcasts.

TitleEpisodesDirected byWritten byOriginal release date“Death Comes to Time”

“Real Time”


“Scream of the Shalka”

13 episodes Dan Freedman Colin Meek and Nev Fountain 13 July 2001 (2001-07-13)
Released on the Doctor Who website, it starred Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor.
6 episodes Gary Russell Gary Russelll 2 August 2002 (2002-08-02)
A webcast featuring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Maggie Stables as Evelyn Smythe plus the Cybermen.
6 episodes Nicholas Pegg Douglas Adams and Gary Russell December 2003 (2003-12)
Another special webcast featuring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana with John Leeson as K9.
6 episodes Wilson Milam Paul Cornell 13 November 2003 (2003-11-13)–18 December 2003 (2003-12-18)
Another special webcast featuring Richard E. Grant as the Ninth Doctor. It celebrated the fortieth anniversary of Doctor Who.


Throughout the sixth and seventh series beginning with “The Impossible Astronaut”, several prequels were released online, which acted as openers for their accompanying episodes.

All “prequels” were released ahead of their accompanying episodes, with the exception of “Battle of Demons Run – Two Days Later” which was released after “The Snowmen”. The concept is similar to that of the second series, in which each episode had an accompanying Tardisode.

In August 2013, a prequel to “Deep Breath” was shown in cinemas prior to the debut of the episode. Two prequels to the ninth series premiere, “The Magician's Apprentice”, were released in September 2015. The following year another prequel came out introducing the Doctor's companion Bill Potts.

Stories from the original run have also had new scenes and prequels, such as The Evil of the Daleks, which gained an extra prologue for its rebroadcast the following year, as did The Crusade for its 1999 VHS box set release.

Episode titleEpisodesDirected byWritten byOriginal release date“The Evil of the Daleks additional scene”

“Sir Ian Chesterton's Crusade”(“The Crusade” prequel)

“Global Conspiracy?”(“The Green Death” scene)

“Liberty Hall”(“Mawdryn Undead” scene)

“TARDISodes”(“Series 2” prequels)

“Meanwhile in the TARDIS”(“The Beast Below” and “The Vampires of Venice” prequel)

“The Impossible Astronaut”

“The Curse of the Black Spot”

“Brain Trafficking”(“A Good Man Goes to War” prequel)

“Let's Kill Hitler”

“Up All Night”(“Closing Time” prequel)

“The Wedding of River Song”

“The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”

“Asylum of the Daleks”

“The Making of The Gunslinger”(“A Town Called Mercy” prequel)

“P.S.”(“The Angels Take Manhattan” prequel)

“The Great Detective”(“The Snowmen” prequel)

“Vastra Investigates”(“The Snowmen” prequel)

“The Bells of Saint John”

“The Battle of Demons Run – 2 Days Later”(“The Snowmen” prequel)

“She Said, He Said”(“The Name of the Doctor” prequel)

“Clarence and the Whispermen”(“The Name of the Doctor” prequel)

“The Last Day”(“The Day of the Doctor” prequel)

“Deep Breath”


“The Doctor's Meditation”(“The Magician's Apprentice” prequel)

“Friend from the Future”(“The Pilot” prequel)

Original Series
1 scene, 2 minutes N/A David Whitaker August 1968 (1968-08)
1 scene, 4 minutes Paul Vanezis Stephen Cole 1 July 1999 (1999-07-01)
1 scene, 10 minutes Paul Vanezis Mark Gatiss 10 April 2004 (2004-04-10)
1 scene, 10 minutes Karen Davies Brendan Sheppard 10 August 2009 (2009-08-10)
Series 2
13 episodes, 10 minutes Ashley Way Gareth Roberts 2006 (2006)
Series 5
1 episode, 2 minutes Euros Lyn Steven Moffat 8 November 2010 (2010-11-08)
Series 6
1 episode, 1 minute N/A Steven Moffat 22 March 2011 (2011-03-22)
1 episode, 1 minute N/A Stephen Thompson 30 April 2011 (2011-04-30)
1 episode, 1 minute Marcus Wilson[11] Steven Moffat 28 May 2011 (2011-05-28)
1 episode, 1 minute Steve Hughes[11] Steven Moffat 14 August 2011 (2011-08-14)
1 episode, 2 minutes Richard Senior Tom MacRae 21 November 2011 (2011-11-21)
1 episode, 1 minute Marcus Wilson[12] Steven Moffat 24 September 2011 (2011-09-24)
Series 7
1 episode, 1 minute Marcus Wilson[12] Steven Moffat 6 December 2011 (2011-12-06)
1 episode, 1 minute Saul Metzstein[13] Steven Moffat 1 September 2012 (2012-09-01)
1 episode, 1 minute Neill Gorton[13] Toby Whithouse 9 September 2012 (2012-09-09)
1 episode, 2 minutes N/A Chris Chibnall 12 October 2012 (2012-10-12)
1 episode, 4 minutes Saul Metzstein Steven Moffat 16 November 2012 (2012-11-16)
1 episode, 2 minutes John Hayes[14] Steven Moffat 17 December 2012 (2012-12-17)
1 episode, 2 minutes John Hayes[14] Steven Moffat 23 March 2013 (2013-03-23)
1 episode, 1 minute Marcus Wilson[14] Steven Moffat 25 March 2013 (2013-03-25)
1 episode, 3 minutes Saul Metzstein[14] Steven Moffat 11 May 2013 (2013-05-11)
1 episode, 2 minutes Stephen Woolfenden Steven Moffat 22 May 2013 (2013-05-22)
1 episode, 4 minutes Jamie Stone Steven Moffat 21 November 2013 (2013-11-21) (webcast)
Series 8
1 episode, 6 minutes N/A Steven Moffat 23 August 2014 (2014-08-23)
Series 9
1 episode, 1 minute Hettie MacDonald[15] Steven Moffat 11 September 2015 (2015-09-11)
1 episode, 6 minutes Ed Bazalgette Steven Moffat 15 September 2015 (2015-09-15)
Series 10
1 episode, 2 minutes Lawrence Gough Steven Moffat 23 April 2016 (2016-04-23)
See also:  ‘council’ or ‘counsel’?

Parodic sketches

There have been several special Doctor Who parodic sketches either on television, online or on DVD.

TitleEpisodesDirected byWritten byOriginal release dateThe Curse of Fatal Death

“The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot”

4 episodes, 23 minutes John Henderson Steven Moffat 12 March 1999 (1999-03-12)
A Comic Relief spoof, starring Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Joanna Lumley as the Doctor, and Jonathan Pryce as the Master.
1 episode, 31 minutes Peter Davison Peter Davison 23 November 2013 (2013-11-23)
A 50th anniversary Doctor Who comedy homage debuting on the BBC Red Button service, featuring former stars Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and others.

See also

  • Doctor Who portal
  • BBC portal
  • Doctor Who
    • List of Doctor Who serials
    • List of Doctor Who missing episodes
    • List of unmade Doctor Who serials
    • List of Doctor Who audio releases
    • List of Doctor Who radio stories


  1. ^ “Search Out Science”. Dominique Boies. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  2. ^ Tribe, Steve (2009). Doctor Who: Companions and Allies. BBC Books. ISBN 978-1-84607-749-4.
  3. ^ “Programme Information – BBC Network TV Weeks 52/53 – BBC ONE” (Press release). BBC Press Office. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
  4. ^ Will R – Online Host (4 November 2009). “Doctor Who: Dreamland Animation Blog”. BBC. Archived from the original on 8 March 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  5. ^ “BBC announces one-off mini-episode of Doctor Who” (Press release). BBC Press Office. 24 August 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  6. ^ “Blue Peter | 24/05/2012”. Radio Times. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
  7. ^ “Doctor Who is Back”. Blog Post. BBC. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  8. ^

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