Doctor Who hits its 60th anniversary this year and it’s split into 2 distinct eras, the classic era and then Nu-Who. As someone who has been a fan as long as I remember, one of my first memories is the Tom Baker regeneration.  To celebrate the 60th anniversary I have decided to put together a list of the top 10 classic Who serials in my opinion. This is a guide to all those who have only ever watched Nu-Who as to what, in my opinion they should watch to get a taste of the classic series!

10.  The Three Doctors

The first anniversary special of Doctor Who was to celebrate the shows 10th anniversary, though technically the first episode was released in 1972, the 9th year of the show. I am a bit of a sucker for a multi-Doctor piece and there’s so many things to like about this. I love the banter between the Second and Third Doctor. The Gel Guards were one of my favourite enemies, I recognised them from The Doctor Who Monster book (we didn’t have a video in those days), and they felt properly alien and weird.  It introduced Omega, one of the characters who has a huge impact on the ongoing story. It probably isn’t one of the best storylines in the shows history but the interplay between the 2 Doctors, as well as the poignant last look at William Hartnell as the Doctor. It also gives us so many quotes that become part of the lore, “so you’re my replacements – a dandy and a clown”; “I’m fairly sure that’s Cromer” and “You’ve redecorated – I don’t like it”.

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

9. City of Death

Tom Baker & Lalla Ward get to go to Paris in a script written by Douglas Adams, so no wonder it’s a lot of fun! This one always sits high in the fans top 10 and deservedly so. The jumping through time in this showcases the format at its best, it allows for multiple narratives in many time zones, but I think the supporting cast is part of the strength of this, David Graham, Catherine Schell and Julian Glover all add lots to it. This is also Doctor Who at its most humorous, which isn’t a surprise given what Douglas Adams did next, and there are aspects of this which appear years later in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – albeit not so much as Shada. I do miss K9 3 who is missing from this for logistical reasons but there’s so much more to enjoy. If you haven’t seen Doctor Who but want to see something that has some genuinely funny moments, this is a good starting place. From a fan of Big Finish’s output it also marks the first mentions of the Braxiatel Collection, and for all comedy fans there’s a lovely cameo from a Python! Favourite quotes from this include: “I say what a wonderful butler, he’s so violent”, and  “You’re a beautiful woman, probably.”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

8. The Time Meddler

The only straight Hartnell in the list, and again it’s because this is a serial that just feels a bit different, like City of Death it’s a story with a distinct sense of humour, this time written by Dennis Spooner. It’s a great example of William Hartnell’s comedic chops and also stars Peter Butterworth, now best known as a Carry On actor, but at this point had only just starred in Carry on Cowboy his first of the films, he would go on to star in 16 films and multiple TV iterations. Butterworth plays the Meddling Monk, and it marks the first time that we meet another member of the Doctor’s people – at this time not yet called the Time Lords.  The story is set in 1066 and it also marks the first episode in which the Doctor is the only character from the first episode, so it highlights the changing nature of the show. The Mink is played to great comedy effect, and it’s notable later incarnations of the Monk in Big Finish have usually been played by people who are specifically best known as comedians. This how serial also establishes Peter Purves’ Steven as a main companion, and is just a fun romp. Recommended a light intro into early Who. Favourite Quotes: “[Steven does not accept a Viking helmet as proof that they have travelled through time] What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?” and “That is the dematerializing control, and that over yonder is the horizontal hold, up there is the scanner, those are the doors, and that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy. Now please stop bothering me.”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

7. The Tomb of the Cybermen

A serial that was feared lost for many years and returned in the 90s Tomb of the Cybermen has a strong reputation amongst fans. It certainly has not aged as well as some and has some dodgy racial politics, but I view it as something of its time, similar to another story that is still to come. The story adds a lot of backstory to the cybermen who are amongst my favourite Dr Who villains, certainly more than the Daleks. The scene with the cybermen waking up is amongst the best scenes in classic Who I think. I think its also a great character piece for the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, as it’s Victoria’s first adventure. For many Caves of Adrozani is the ultimate cybermen story but not for me. It’s a great adventure story and ticks a lot of boxes, it also features Clive Merrison who went on to be a great Sherlock Holmes on BBC radio. When he was preparing to be the 11th Doctor this is one of the episodes that Matt Smith watched and apparently it was part of why he chose to wear a bowtie. Favourite Quotes: “You belong to us. You shall be like us.”,  “The power cable generated an electrical field and confused their tiny metal minds. You might almost say they’ve had a complete “metal” breakdown.”  and ” The Doctor: [reassuring Victoria, who misses her father, with recollections of his own family] I have to really want to – to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they… they sleep in my mind, and I forget.”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

6. Pyramids of Mars

There was a point in the 70’s where Doctor Who under Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes mined some of the classics for what became some of the best Doctor Who of the era, one of these was an attempt to do a story loosely based on the Mummy and that became Pyramids of Mars. Tom Baker, Lis Sladen and a guest cast including the amazing Michael (Mr Bronson) Sheard. The story is set in 1911 in the building that becomes the UNIT headquarters (in real life Stargrove Manor which at the time belonged to Mick Jagger). It’s a story that relies a bit on the ancient astronauts theory that was prevalent at the time after Chariots of the Gods, but this story is far better written. It relies on mythology as a great backdrop for the story and it’s just a clever story that barrels along. Great writing, great setting and sets, and a strong cast mixed with a genuinely intriguing story helps to make this a classic of the era. I also really like the design of Sutekh, there’s some lovely design through the whole episode. Fun Fact: George Tovey who plays Ernie Clements in this is the father of Roberta Tovey who played Susan in both Peter Cushing movies. This story also contributed to the UNIT Datong conundrum. Favourite Quotes: “You don’t understand the implications. I’m not a hunan being. I walk in Eternity.” , “I shall mingle with the mummies, but I shan’t linger.” And “Kneel before the might of Sutekh!”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

5. The Five Doctors

Many people aren’t fans of this, but it represents a time when I really loved Doctor Who and it was the first chance I had to meet other Doctors. I would have been 7 when it was on and in those pre-video days (and at that point I hadn’t discovered the Target novelisations) . This was my introduction to Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee’s Doctors and also the character of the first Doctor, it was also the first time I saw Susan, Sarah-Jane and the Brigadier. There’s some lovely character moments amongst the absurdity, but I like the absurdity, well possibly except for Sarah -Jane falling down a tiny incline and needing to be rescued.  The story isn’t particularly exciting and acts as a framework to hang the characters on but that’s OK for me. It has multiple bad guys from yeti’s to cybermen but the main bad guys relate to the Doctor’s own people and that alone is interesting, it also brings together the legend of Rassilon. The Master’s inclusion is great and the Doctor refusing to believe that he’s there to help surprises no-one but the Brigadier’s distracting of him is a piece of genius. It’s completely OTT but again that’s fine it’s an anniversary special and doesn’t have to follow the rules of the normal episodes – a great introduction to those who haven’t seen 80’s Who, some dodgy effects but a really enjoyable story by Who legend Terrance Dicks.  Favourite Quotes:  “A man is the sum of his memories. A Time Lord even more so.” , “Like Alice, I try to believe three impossible things before breakfast.” And “As it happens, I am the Doctor. The original, you might say!”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

4. The Talons of Weng Chiang

Like the Tomb of the Cybermen, there are aspects of the story you wouldn’t do now, the use of quite dodgy make-up to portray a Chinese man doesn’t help this, and the use of the Yellow Peril fear of the late 19th century doesn’t help, this story owes a lot to Fu Manchu and not sure that would be done this way, I’d like to think we’ve got a bit better. There is, though a lot to enjoy in this once you get over that it’s of its time, including the introduction of two of my favourite characters, fleshed out over 20 years later by Big Finish – Jago and Litefoot.  This is Tom Baker at his Sherlockian best and its no surprise that he went onto play Sherlock Holmes after leaving Doctor Who. There is some great dialogue and the sets are great – the BBC is always great at period stuff, just not so good often at spaceships. Mr Sin is a genuinely creepy bad guy and the story works well. Leela playing the role of Eliza Doolittle to the Doctors Henry Higgins is also a nice touch. Tom Baker once summed this serial up as “The BBC is very good at period drama but not very good at giant rats.” And that seems eminently fair, It still stands up as great writing and apparently it is also Johnny Depp’s favourite serial.  When he was preparing for the role of the Doctor Chris Eccleston watched this on Russell T Davies advice. I would recommend this to anyone but please remember it is of its time and we certainly wouldn’t cast that way now, but it has a lot going for it. Favourite quotes: “Doctor You make me wear strange clothes, You tell me nothing! You Are trying to annoy me!”, “Savage. Found floating down the Amazon in a hatbox.” And  “”Eureka” is Greek for “This bath is too hot.”.

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

3. The Daemons

Some of the best of the classic series are when they take inspiration from other sources and make them their own, this one has a very strong Quatermass and the Pit vibe to it. It feature Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning as the Doctor and Jo and has a strong supporting cast made up of the UNIT personnel, a local white witch played by Damaris Hayman and of course Roger Delgado’s Master. This episode was also Jon Pertwee’s favourite out of the ones he did.  The episode has a strong Devil rides out vibe to it as well as borrowing from the aforementioned Quatermass and if you like that kind of Hammer vibe of the 70’s you will enjoy this. It captures the time period really well and may be Delgado’s finest performance as the Master, the effects aren’t amazing but as weith all good Doctor Who that can be overlooked because of the great story. Fun Fact: One of the UNIT soldiers is identified as Lt Osgood, when Steven Moffatt wrote Petronella Osgood in Day of the Doctor he had intended for her to be Osgood’s daughter, however other EU material has implied he is in fact her uncle. Favourite Quotes: “Jenkins… chap with wings, there. Five rounds rapid.” And “I see. So all we’ve got to deal with is something which is either too small to see or thirty feet tall, can incinerate you or freeze you to death, turn stone images into homicidal monsters and looks like the devil.”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

2. Curse of Fenric

An incredible serial featuring some of the best special effects/make up in any of Classic Who. This, more than any other serial, except Ghost Light, also shows the Seventh Doctor at his most manipulative. Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor is my favourite and Ace is probably my favourite companion and is the definite precursor to the modern companion. This story is based during the Second World War and features the Doctor and Ace arriving at a Military Base, they are not the only ones as there’s also a platoon of Russian soldiers, who are trying to get a secret that is on the base. They also meet a local vicar played excellently by Nicholas Parsons in one of the few stunt castings that JNT did that really worked, and they discover there is a link to Vikings in the area. There is a cool take on vampires with the Haemovores and as mentioned some of the best makeup seen in classic Who and this leads to a showdown with Fenric, an ancient evil the Doctor has fought in various ways since the beginning of time and who had  manipulated Ace’s whole existence to lead to this point. It feels more sophisticated in many way than many Doctor Who’s and there’s some great acting. Sophie Aldred is particularly good as Ace and it’s the beginning of us seeing her not as a teenager but a mature person in her own right, it really is a cracking story. Favourite Quotes: “We hoped to return to the North Way, but the curse follows our dragon ship… the Wolves of Fenric shall return for their treasure, and then shall the dark rule eternally.”, “And the half time score: Perivale, six hundred million; Rest of the Universe, nil!” and “We’re hardly moving yet… Sometimes I travel so fast I don’t exist.”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)


1. Remembrance of the Daleks

The Daleks have a chequered history in Doctor Who but this one is my all time favourite. This was in the 30th anniversary series and is another seventh Doctors story is Ace’s first full story as a companion having joined in the previous story Dragonfire. This story links into the very first episode of Doctor Who in several ways, one the Dalek is first encountered in Totters Lane in the yard of IM Forman (typo in the name though) which was where Barbara and Ian first encountered the first Doctor and also much of the action takes place in Coal Hill School, the school Susan went to in an Unearthly Child, and later where Clara would teach. There is just so much I enjoy about this, it’s a great story in which the Daleks feel like they have some genuine menace, the Doctor is at his best and the side characters and actors are all great. This also features the great Michael Sheard (as mentioned above) playing the headmaster of Coal Hill, but also introduces the Countermeasures Group, later immortalised by Big Finish. This was written by Ben Aaronovitch who went on to write the amazing Rivers of London books much later. There really is just so much to enjoy in this, great dialogue, powerful writing – the subplot highlighting racism and fascism was unheard of – Ace’s face when she sees the “no blacks” signs shows her disgust, and highlights that this version of the show in many ways feels like the stepping stone to Nu-Who. It also gives us one of my favourite ever Doctor Who lines – in the quotes below and the Special Weapons Dalek.  If you like Nu-Who and are interested in trying the classic series, this is the one to start with! Favourite Quotes: “Ace, give me some of that Nitro-9 that you’re not carrying. Quickly!”, “Every great decision creates ripples, like a huge boulder dropped in a lake. The ripples merge, rebound off the banks in unforeseeable ways. The heavier the decision, the larger the waves, the more uncertain the consequences.” And “Powerful! Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! Unimaginable power! Unlimited rice pudding! Et cetera! Et cetera!”

(trailer by VERITASERUMUK)

I hope you have enjoyed this list, please feel free to add your own top 10 in the comments!

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