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Ten Who Episodes To Revisit Before The New Season

Doctor Who is almost back! Doctor Who is almost back! The long-running British science fiction show returns on Saturday for its second season with Matt Smith in the lead role, and having seen the first two episodes, I can happily report that it’s as good as ever. But if you’re wanting to get even more in the mood for the show’s return, here are ten episodes you should dial up on Netflix Instant to prepare yourself.

Sadly, Netflix Instant doesn’t have the fifth season (Matt Smith’s first) yet, otherwise I’d be pulling fairly extensively from that list (If nothing else, “The Eleventh Hour” and “Amy’s Choice” would be making appearances). But these ten episodes below still will get you in the mood for this Saturday’s enjoyable “The Impossible Astronaut”…

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
The first season of the reboot can look, from today’s vantage point, a bit uncertain… A little bit cheesy, a little bit cheap. But none of that can detract from the spookiness of kids with gasmasks asking if you’re their mummy. Current showrunner Steven Moffat’s first episodes of the show, and a fine example of the just-disturbing-enough creations he’d come up with.

School Reunion
As if this wasn’t a poignant enough episode already, this week’s sad death of Elisabeth Sladen really adds an extra layer of melancholy to this story of companions left behind when the Doctor moves on. While Russell T Davies could fall into lazy sentimentality every now and again, when he got it right, he really got it right.

The Idiot’s Lantern
I love episodes where the show surrounds itself with genuine historical events – One reason why the opening of the new season was such a hit with me, says he as a teaser and not a spoiler – and so this tale of the early days of television just before a royal coronation is just fine with me. It’s kind of sad that Who isn’t doing a royal wedding episode this year, come to think of it…

Another Moffat-written scary episode, and one of the show’s best “Doctor-lite” episodes to date – helped considerably by future-Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan as the luminous Sally Sparrow. Oh, if only we could get her back on the show again…

Human Nature/The Family of Blood
What makes the Doctor more than a man, and is it a bad thing for him to wish he could be one forever? The third season of the revamp produced some of the best episodes of the show, and Paul Cornell’s two-parter is some of the best of those, in my opinion, (literally) humanizing the Doctor and laying the groundwork for a season finale reveal worth the wait.

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
Even more Moffat – I like his episodes! So sue me! – and more scary monsters, but these episodes earn their place here for the introduction of Dr. River Song as much as anything else. The Doctor’s time-traveling love looks set to play an important part in the new season, so it’s time – no pun intended – to revisit everything we know about her.

Turn Left
A controversial opinion: Amy and Rory aside, Donna may be my favorite of the recent companions. And this episode, where circumstances create an alternate universe where Donna never met the Doctor, and disaster ensues, is all her, even if Rose tries to upstage her at the end. I’m a sucker for alternate timeline stories, and this is one of the few that Who has ever attempted. How could I resist?


  • Pez-la

    I had a somewhat drunken barney in a pub the other night regarding The Doctor’s recent companions. As much as I love Rose, and, truth be told, still have difficulty seeing the beach scene of her ‘final’ episode, Amy Pond works for me too, and although not a fan of her comedy, ‘Donna’ was waaay better than I would ever envision. It’s only Martha that I’m seemingly unphased by, even though, as noted above, she was present (no pun intended) during some of the great Tennant episodes…

  • Bill Reed

    Graeme, you are the only person on the internet, aside from me, who likes The Idiot’s Lantern. Congratulations!

    This is a solid list, though I’d switch out Turn Left for, I dunno, Girl in the Fireplace or The Waters of Mars.

  • Matt D

    Or you can watch a Rani episode just to brush up since she’s one of the last big pieces of mythos they haven’t tossed in yet.

    I won’t be doing that, but YOU could.

  • Jacob

    Way to not mention that The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances also introduced the wonderful Captain Jack Harkness into the series. (i needed SOMETHING to complain about, everything else in the list was spot on)

  • MeMyselfI

    Rose is still the best companion and Donna the worst.

  • Ninjamec

    Well… No.

    Rose startes as a pretty decent companion in season 27/series 1. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but strong willed and loyal to the Doctor.
    In Season 28, she started being a smug possessive annoying Mary Sue, because RTD was in love with her, and she would keep those traits till her later appearances.

    In Season 29, even though Martha was supposed to be the companion, the writers always shoehorned “Rose was better” or “Rose would have known”, where Martha actually did better than Rose. And ruined her character who was awesome and smart and confident in Smith&Jones but quickly became irritating because of the writer’s tendency to play her as the unrequited love character, which the doctor almost explicitly considered as an inferior replacement to her actually inferior predecessor. That’s probably when Rose was at her most irritating.

    Donna is another matter entirely.
    She was most annoying in The Runaway Bride, and I dreaded her return (In retrospect what RTD initially planned before Catherine Tate showed interest in being a regular was much much worse than a whole season of Bride!Donna), but she followed a pretty nifty character arc (utterly ruined by her fate in the season finale), which made her, if not the best, by far the most sympathetic regular companion in the RTD years.

    What’s more the returns of former RTD companions was really badly handled.
    Martha’s Season 30 appearances had awful dialogue and the blandest characterization ever.
    And Rose’s were even annoying trhan in Season 28.

    So, NO, Rose isn’t the best, and Donna Noble isn’t the worst.
    If you consider only the regular companions of the RTD era, it’s even the other way around,

    Even though my favourite RTD companion is the ever awesome Wilfred Mott. Cos’ Bernard Cribbins is so wonderful.
    In my personal file he’s second only to the current Team TARDIS.

  • George Mitchell

    “The Girl In the Fireplace” gave the best example of the Doctor’s humanity and his ability to love and perhaps even fall in love. The slow reveal of the show was great as well.

  • George Mitchell

    Martha Jones may not have been the best, but boy howdy, Freema Agyeman could fill out some jeans.

  • Scot L

    On seeing the preview for “Human Nature,” I thought I was going to HATE the coming two-parter. But by the end of “The Family of Blood,” I loved it. More than anything this was due to Cornell’s great writing and Tennant’s amazing acting in the final scenes.

  • Richfirth

    I wouldn’t watch The Idiot’s Lantern if it was the only episode left. It’s rubbish.

  • Anonymous

    Bill Reed, I was just coming in to comment on being the only person who I thought liked The Idiot’s Lantern. So now there’s at least 3 of us.

    Though I’d keep Turn Left on the list as it’s one of my favorites of all time, let alone that season, so I guess it goes to show that opinions are weird and hard to nail down.

    As for the first season looking “cheap” or “unsure”, I really disagree. Maybe it isn’t as flash, but what gets to me when I watch it, especially as a whole, is just how sure-footed the cast seems to be from the get-go.

  • Jacob

    Amen. Hated Donna in “The Runaway Bride” but absolutely loved her when she became a full-time companion. I don’t think her story was ruined by the end of the season, it just became very tragic. But then, that was a recurring theme in RTD’s run. Tragic shit happens. Jack’s going to live forever. The Doctor loved and lost. Donna went insane and had to forget The Doctor. Martha was underutilized.

    But man, Wilfred kicked ass. Cribbins was fantastic in The End of Time.

  • Jacob

    Everything Cornell writes is gold. I hope you learned your lesson. :p

  • Companionless Doctor

    “The Idiot’s Lantern”? Seriously? The fact that “Love and Monsters” and “Fear Her” were in the same season was the only thing that stopped it from being Season 2’s worst. “Girl in the Fireplace” is a much better choice, at least for Proto-Pond and snogging.

  • DoctorTom

    Quite the misleading title, given that the author’s only worried about what he can get on Netflix. Never mind that BBCA has the entire 5th season on their video on demand right now, or that it can be found at iTunes or exists on DVD. So, there are recommendations for 10 episodes that you actually don’t need to bother revisiting before the new season, as opposed to recommending actual episodes that might be helpful, such as The Eleventh Hour, The Pandorica Opens and the Big Bang. It would make as more sense recommending revisiting City of Death, An Unearthly Child or The Curse of Fatal Death than some of the ones actually recommended here. If you want to limit the recommendations to what is on Netflix, then mention it in the title for the article. The only ones on this list that would probably be worth revisiting for purposes of the new season would be Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

  • Mars

    I LOVE the Idiot’s Lanterm. Great story, great backdrop and the greatest companion outfit ever!

  • Bill Reed

    I quite like all three of those episodes. Yep. I’m the guy. (He defeats the villain in “Lantern” by inventing Betamax! Genius.)

  • Anonymous

    yeah. Cribbins PWNED.

  • MeMyselfI

    Sorry, but you’re wrong. Donna was the worst companion. So damn annoying with her horrid accent and her feelings for the Doctor.

    Rose was the definitive companion for the RTD era (it kinda sickens me that you’re referring to them as “Season 27″, etc. when it’s clearly Seasons 1-4). She gets a lot of hate from old viewers like you who fail to realize just how important she is to the new generation. So buzz off, old man, and let the new viewers enjoy our show.

  • MeMyselfI

    Season 2 was the best because of the chemistry between Rose and the Doctor, plus the final two episodes (especially Rose’s tearjerking departure). The Girl in the Fireplace was actually one of the worse episodes of the season. Moffatt didn’t get Tennant’s Doctor or Rose.

  • MeMyselfI

    Turn Left is good if only for the long-awaited return of Rose and the “Bad Wolf” ending. I get chills thinking of it!

  • MeMyselfI

    Rose is the best companion followed by Martha. Then I’d place Kylie Minogue’s Astrid third and Michelle Ryan fourth followed by the horrid Donna Noble and that woman from Waters of Mars. Cribbins doesn’t count because he’s an old man—I only count female companions. Who wants to see the Doctor with a male companion? Is he gay? I could get behind that if it were true, but I don’t think it is.

  • Ninjamec

    Must be the first time I’m called old man (I’m 23, and My first Doctor Who episode was The Eleventh Hour).

    But Yeaaaah, I’m convinced now, Donna’s accent makes her the worst companion.
    Sarcasm aside, what “feelings” for the Doctor are you talking about? the just-friends-hanging-around-the-unverse ones?
    To me It was Rose’s and Martha’s feelings towards the Doctor (and the way the Doctor reacted to them) that made them less brilliant than Donna.

    Rose was definitive to the RTD era, yes. Because he kept reminding people that Rose was here before Martha and Donna.
    And I accept calling the RTD years Series 1-4 (not Seasons 1-4, though, because they already exist), but I prefer Seasons 27-30, because it’s not a new show (compare the way Futurama numbers its seasons post-uncancellation), and that renumbering reminds me of Marvel’s annoying tendency to renumber everything every six months (the fact that there are 547 issues before it doesn’t make Big Time less of an awesome starting point for new Amazing-Spider-Man readers).

    So you prefer Rose and I can’t stand stand her. It’s a matter of taste, so don’t make it an obvious truth, thank you.

  • Whitster

    Nothing pre-Eccleston? For shame.

  • Nhproductions

    Oh Christ, you’re a fanshipper aren’t you, hence why you can’t stand the fact that people didn’t like Rose from season 2 and onwards, and the fact she was in all honesty just Russell T Davies’ Mary-Sue.
    Did you take a break from writing your drippy fanfics on Livejournal to come spout nonsense about how you “wove” 10 and Wose?

    And yes, many fans hated how only Rose-Tyler Davies (notice that, hmm?) wrote the Doctor as being uber-piney for Rose, only she was good, she would have known, blah blah blah. Other writers didn’t, unless RTD decided to edit it into the script, as he was prone to do, to fulfill his Mary-Sue quota.
    And don’t start with the “Moffatt didn’t get Tennant’s Doctor or Rose” BS, that’s just squee-girl claptrap.
    Moffat (yes only one t in that) gets the Doctor quite well, hence his stories are constantly rated the highest of each season and even won awards. RTD’s eps on the other hand wound up being deus-ex-machina cop-out endings (The TARDIS towing the Earth… please, give me a freaking break here, Rusty, you old geezer..) and finding ways to bring Rose (the buck-toothed wonder) back from an alternate universe from where she supposedly was never to return.
    And to add insult to injury, RTD even created a clone Doctor, just so he could keep them together in the alternate universe (excuse me whilst I go blow chunks.) That was pretty piss-poor writing.

    We owe many thanks for Russell bringing Doctor Who back. He did a decent job as Executive producer, but he should have kept his Mary-Sueing to a bare minimum.

    And if you want to argue companions: Sarah-Jane Smith. End of argument.