Binge Guide: Doctor Who

By Nicole Fiorica

At a glance:
Genre: Sci-Fi
Seasons/Episodes : 8/116 (reboot)
Avg. Episode Length: 42 minutes
Available on: Netflix

What it’s about:
The doctor, an alien time lord, travels through time and space with his human companions in this fifty-year-old sci-fi adventure. As he encounters various forms of alien evils, the Doctor saves the universe again and again with little more than his police-box shaped spaceship, sonic screwdriver and, of course, his wits.

Why it’s so good:
“Doctor Who” has all of the elements that make the sci-fi genre so lovable, from time paradoxes to clever aliens to every kind of distant planet you can imagine. At the same time, it also contains a huge amount of heart,and is really about the relationships between the doctor and his friends. At its center, the doctor is a fiercely complex hero, driven by an innate sense of adventure but also harboring secrets wherever he goes. This complexity only increases with every one of the doctor’s “regenerations,” the secret behind the show’s tremendous longevity on television. Every time the doctor dies, he regenerates a new body, played by a new actor, which has happened twelve times over the last fifty years. It can be a lot to keep track of, which is why the principle issue isn’t if you should watch “Doctor Who” but how you should watch it.

How you should binge it:
There are two main ways to watch “Doctor Who.” First, you can start all the way in 1963 with the “Classic Who” episodes. On Netflix, you can find episode selections from each of those first eight doctors, although it would take some ingenuity to find the hundreds of other classic episodes that aired in those first twenty or so years. The second way to watch “Doctor Who” is the way I would recommend: starting from the BBC reboot of the series in 2005. These eight — going on nine — seasons of the show, all on Netflix, start with the Ninth Doctor and include some of the series’ most beloved characters to date, while still providing a pretty lengthy binge.

Standouts:
With hundreds of episodes and a constantly revolving door of doctors and companions, there are so many highlights for which to look out. The series’ Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) is the longest running and perhaps most iconic of all the doctors. However, it is the reboot’s Tenth Doctor (David Tennant, “Broadchurch”) who is almost universally considered to be the most loved regeneration of the character, and whose endearing charisma often conflicts with his superiority complex. As far as companions go, it’s hard to beat the down-to-earth Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), the beloved first companion of the reboot series. For viewers who are overwhelmed or on the fence about binging the series, start with the terrifying and iconic stand-alone episode “Blink” from Season 3, featuring guest-star Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby). Other favorite standalones that are highly regarded for their beautiful storytelling include Season two’s “The Girl in the Fireplace” and Season five’s “Vincent and the Doctor.”

Potential Pitfalls:
A show with so many constant changes in characters means a lot of goodbyes. No matter who your favorite doctor is, it is always difficult adjusting after a regeneration. Even worse is saying goodbye to companions, who often leave in heartbreaking ways, usually after only a few seasons. The writers of the show have been notorious for breaking the hearts of the viewers time and time again, but fans of the show have only increased as it has made its way into new territories.