Doctor Who is a pretty awesome TV show, but is a little intimidating to get into because there are over 700 episodes. Thankfully, it only seems difficult; there is a really easy way to get into the show.
Just start with series 1 of the 2005 reboot. It has Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor and most stuff is explained as it goes on. The first season can be pretty clunky at times, (it has more than one episode based around farting aliens) but it gets things going for the much better later seasons.
Doctor Who is about The Doctor(his name is not Doctor Who, it's just The Doctor), a member of the alien race known as the Time Lords. He looks human except he has two hearts along with a few other neat tricks. When near death, Time Lords can regenerate. This involves having an entirely new body and a slightly different personality. This is so when a new actor is required they can get away with having a new person play the protagonist. The Doctor at the beginning of the 2005 reboot is the Ninth Doctor.
He travels around in a ship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). It looks like a blue policebox and is bigger on the inside. He goes through time and space having adventures with human companions he picks up. The Doctor is a pacifist and will go out of his way to avoid serious violence when solving problems through out time.
That's all you really need to know to get started, everything else is explained as the series goes on.
All of the 2005 reboot up to the current season is available on Netflix Instant Streaming and for purchase on iTunes. BBCAmerica will rerun episodes from time to time as well and you can buy the DVD sets in America. The current season's episodes are avaliable on iTunes, but only up to what has aired on BBCAmerica, which is two weeks behind the British schedule for some reason.
If you want just a great episode to show you what Doctor Who can do, watch Season 3 Episode 11 - "Blink." "Blink" is one of the best episodes in the entire series and doesn't require much prior knowledge to understand what's happening.
At the end of series 4 there are four specials that you need to watch before series five. They are:
- The Next Doctor
- The Planet of the Dead
- The Waters of Mars
- The End of Time Parts 1&2
"The Next Doctor" and "The Planet of the Dead" are avaliable for instant streaming on Netflix, but the other two are not. They are all avaliable for purchase on iTunes and are avaliable on DVD. "The Next Doctor" and "The Planet of the Dead" are not particularly good, and you really wouldn't miss much if you skipped straight to "The Waters of Mars."
So to recap:
- Start with 2005 reboot
- All episodes are on Netflix and iTunes
- Once you've finished Series 4, go to the specials
- Series 5 is avaliable on iTunes
Now is when it gets tricky, because there are spin-offs.
The first is called The Sarah Jane Adventures, which is a children's show based around one of the Doctor's former companions from the pre-2005 reboot. It crosses over with the main series a couple of times, but you don't need to watch Sarah Jane to get it. I've personally never watched The Sarah Jane Adventures, so I can't say much about it. They can probably be watched at any time, but it might be better if you wait until you see the Doctor Who episode that introduces her as a character, I believe it happens in season 2 or 3 of the reboot.
The second is aimed more at adults. It's called Torchwood and is about a government agency that deals with alien threats. Imagine Doctor Who, minus the 900 year old time-traveling Doctor who actually knows what he's doing and more sex. It's more violent as well. The first series is really fairly uninteresting. It has some good episodes here and there, but is never quite as good as Doctor Who. The second series picks up and has some really good episodes and the third is a phenomenal mini-series called Torchwood: Children of Earth.
There is a viewing order for Torchwood and Doctor Who though, and here it is:
- Doctor Who Series 1
- Doctor Who Series 2
- Torchwood Series 1
- Doctor Who Series 3
- Torchwood Series 2
- Doctor Who Series 4
- Torchwood: Children of Earth
- Doctor Who Specials
- Doctor Who Series 5
That's the best way to avoid spoilers, as the crossovers with Doctor Who do reveal plot information from Torchwood.
Torchwood is avaliable for instant streaming on Netflix and avaliable for purchase on iTunes and DVD.
So to sum up everything:
- Watch the 2005 reboot, all of which are avaliable on iTunes and mostly avaliable on Netflix Instant Streaming
- If you are interested in watching Torchwood, watch series 1 after Doctor Who series 2 and series 2 after Doctor Who series 3. Children of Earth can be watched at any time after that.
- If you wish to watch The Sarah Jane Adventures, watch it after her episode in Doctor Who
If you really get into the show, there are books, radio plays, comic books, and a lot of old episodes you can try out. I am not going to try to explain all of those though. If you really enjoy Doctor Who enough to get into that, there are other places on the internet to help you out. This is really just a beginners guide, so go watch some Doctor Who and have some fun.