Doctor Who is a franchise that has endured for over 60 years, a testament to its timeless appeal. With its spin-off shows, diverse showrunners, and actors, it remains a staple in the world of science fiction. Its ability to blend various storytelling genres and present a rich tapestry of characters to cheer for or against keeps it fresh and engaging. The show's vast universe of aliens, planets, and conflicts ensures that it can continue captivating audiences for a long time to come. 

The 15th Doctor and Ruby Sunday
Image Credit: Disney+

Through its partnership with Disney+, the show is now more accessible than ever to Americans. Global viewers no longer have to navigate a confusing web of different platforms and release schedules. The Whoniverse, a shared universe of Doctor Who media, has never been easier to explore. It’s an exciting time to start your adventure in this vast and captivating world.

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do." - The Doctor

The Whoniverse is full of stories for everyone and anyone. Whether you’re into period dramas or edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Doctor Who has you covered. 

Starting your journey now means you also have the previous 60 years of adventures to enjoy in addition to future stories. If that sounds like a lot, rest assured that there isn’t a formal “canon” to worry about. You can enjoy any Doctor Who story knowing it is part of the mythos in some capacity. This freedom allows you to explore and enjoy the Whoniverse in your own unique way. This freedom can be daunting at first, but this guide will lay the groundwork so you can experience many adventures with the Doctor. In the words of the Doctor, “Allons-y!”

The Basics of Doctor Who

Before diving into the expansive fandom, let’s answer some commonly asked questions new viewers have as they start their journey. Most importantly, who is the Doctor? The Doctor is a Time Lord, a humanoid alien species. The Doctor travels through time attempting to stop evil and injustice while helping people along the way. The Doctor can travel anywhere and to any point in time with a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space), a 1950s-inspired blue British police phone box. While the exterior may seem small, you’ll learn quickly that it's "bigger on the inside."

The legendary TARDIS!
Image Credit: Disney+

The Doctor’s ability to cheat death is an important aspect of the show. In recent years, television has struggled to balance bringing back "dead" characters and telling complete, full stories. However, in the early years of Doctor Who, script editor Gerry Davis devised a clever plot device when the original actor in the leading role, William Hartnell, struggled with deteriorating health. Davis proposed the idea that Time Lords have a biological ability to transition into a new body after sustaining an injury that would be fatal to humans.

This trait allows a new actor to bring a new personality and style to the role while still having the memories and consequences of each predecessor. Even with a new appearance, personality, and unique quirks, the Doctor is ultimately the same being, with a shared collective past across all character iterations. Fans refer to each Doctor by their placement number in regeneration (e.g., "the Fifteenth Doctor"), a variation of the actor’s name (first or last), or a specific title. 

What is a companion?

The Doctor rarely travels alone and is usually accompanied by a human female. Known as a companion, this individual usually stands in the viewers' place and provides the point of view for the story. Over the years, the Doctors have had many different variations of companions of different genders and even species. All of them bring a unique dynamic and flavor to the story. Sometimes, the Doctor will have different companions at various points in their generation. For example, one Doctor had a companion who was a romantic partner, and then later on, a different companion and their significant other traveled with the Doctor.

The 13th Doctor and Companions
Image Credit: BBC Studios Productions

When a companion leaves the show, their life is forever changed by the adventures they experience; however, unlike the Doctor, being human means they are mortal. Narratively, a companion’s departure sometimes makes for a happy conclusion. Other times, there can be severe tragic consequences. In the words of a popular companion, “Spoilers, sweetie!”

Who are the villains?

As you can tell so far, this guide does not dive deep into the lore and spoilers because our goal is to help you go on the journey and enjoy the experience yourself. Still, having a foundation — especially when it comes to the villains — can help answer some early questions as you begin. The following information is intended to help get you started and is not all-inclusive. There are many villains and evil entities in the franchise, but this short list will help you get more acquainted with the nefarious side of the universe.

Some of the villains from Doctor Who.
Image Credit: Gale Force Nine
  • Daleks: Known for their catchphrase, “Exterminate!” the Daleks, driven by their extreme hate, are considered the franchise's most popular and famous villain. They waged a great “Time War” against the Time Lords that affected much of the universe.
  • Cybermen: A cyborg humanoid species that seeks immortality. Cybemen lacked individuality and emotions despite being born out of fear for survival. Their goal is to convert as many humanoid species as possible into a metal husk of their former selves.
  • The Weeping Angels: Powerful creatures in Doctor Who, they turn to stone when looked at directly, giving them their "weeping" appearance. They send their victims into the past to feed off the potential energy of their lives. They're considered murderous psychopaths who have a twisted sense of kindness in their methods of dispatching victims.
  • The Master: A renegade Time Lord who craves power and chaos and often serves as both a friend and enemy to the Doctor. Despite their antagonistic relationship, they were once friends from their time at the Time Lord Academy and occasionally join forces. However, the Master frequently seeks to kill the Doctor due to their differing views on power and empathy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding Doctor Who villains. Additionally, some excellent one-episode adversaries bring plenty of twists and revelations alongside the major recurring ones that keep you paying close attention.

The Different Eras of Doctor Who

If you know someone who enjoys the show, you probably heard the terms "Old Who" and "NuWho" thrown around. These terms describe the different eras and iterations of the show. While it has been pretty simple to split it into two halves in the past, it’s become more apparent as the show continues to grow that there should be a broader classification of eras to simplify things for new fans. 

To be clear, there is no official classification; all of Doctor Who is Doctor Who. For ease of discussion, this guide groups the show into four eras. They’re not official, but definitely helpful in keeping track of 60+ years of storytelling! 

The original Doctor Who logo
Image Credit: BBC Studios Productions

Classic Era 1963-1989 (Old Who) 

The Classic Era, most commonly referred to as “Old Who,” comprises the first seven Doctors. It used a season system and lasted through season 26 before its cancellation in 1989. This era can be hard to watch for several reasons, including missing episodes, a slower pace, and the evolution of the show's identity over time. The show also started in black and white and didn't convert to color until seven years later, in 1970. 

Silent Era 1990-2004

After the cancellation, there was no new Doctor Who television, although BBC often assured fans that the show would return. A failed American backdoor pilot TV film introduced the 8th Doctor. It was initially to be a new American version starting fresh, but its creators decided to continue where the British production left off. Despite its popularity in the UK, it did not do well enough in America for the new show to be picked up by Fox.

After the failed attempt to launch a new program, Fox did nothing and let the rights revert to BBC in 1997. Novels and audio dramas were the only new content fans were getting. BBC eventually began work on a revival, but it would be a few years before anything substantial started to take place. To celebrate the show's 40th anniversary in 2003, BBC released six weekly animated shorts with Richard E. Grant providing the voice for what fans thought was the 9th Doctor. However, when Grant did not appear in the revival, the animated character became known as the 40th Anniversary Docor or Shalka Doctor.

Revival Era 2005-2022 (NuWho)

In September 2003, BBC announced a new series was officially in the works. The long beloved show was set to return to TV screens. In 2005, the first new episode aired, launching a rebirth for the show and fans. The show switched to a series numbering system, starting with one and ending with 13. It featured the 9th-13th Doctors, including The War Doctor and The Fugitive Doctor. Many modern fans' entry to the franchise lies somewhere in this era.

Modern Era 2023-Present

A new era was imminent with Disney's announcement of funding and airing on Disney+ (where available outside the UK). The show reverted to numbered seasons, just like in the Classic Era, but started the numbering over with Season One. Three 60th anniversary specials and the introduction of the 15th Doctor marked the new era's debut. Additionally, everything in the Whoinverse was made available to those able to access BBC’s iPlayer. Viewers in the U.S. can find the Revival Era on Max and the Classic Era on several free-to-watch streamers.

Where to Start Watching Doctor Who?

With a new season, Doctor, and companion, it’s easier than ever to join in on the fun, and you now have the foundational understanding to start watching the show. But where do you start? There are three options, none necessarily wrong; it’s all up to your personal preference. 

  1. You can start with Season One of the Modern Era without watching anything, but if you want the easiest introduction, include “The Church on Ruby Road,” which introduces the 15th Doctor and his companion.
  1. Once you've seen the new season, or if you're just beginning, you can start where many Doctor Who fans have: the start of the Revival Era, Series One Episode One, “Rose.” The episode was released in 2005, as you can clearly tell from the animation, but as the show progressed, so did the technology and storytelling. Of course, this represents a much larger time commitment.
  1. Another option is starting with the beginning of any Doctor; each Doctor has their own style and personality. Each regeneration is essentially a soft reboot of the show. This option might work for you if you know and appreciate a particular actor. The following are the first episodes of each Doctor in the Revival Era.
    • 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston): Series One Episode One, “Rose”
    • 10th Doctor (David Tennant): Christmas Special. “The Christmas Invasion”
    • 11th Doctor (Matt Smith: Series Five Episode One, “The Eleventh Hour”
    • 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi): Series Eight Episode One, “Deep Breath”
    • 13th Doctor (Jodi Whittaker): Series 11 Episode One, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” 

If you're looking for advice, Youtini’s recommendation is the first option, beginning with “The Church on Ruby Road,” This is the most accessible way to get into the franchise, and we think it’s the best way for you to get up to speed and ready to share your newfound enjoyment of the show with other fans.

Image Credit: Disney+

You are now prepared to ride in the TARDIS and go on many adventures with the Doctor and companions. The official Doctor Who website has additional resources, guides, and news. On the Youtini Podcast Network, The Star Wars Archives had a Doctor Who takeover episode with hosts Trevor and Jose exploring the Whoinverse.

Get ready for the ride and enjoy every moment. Allow what happens to happen; sometimes, it might not all make sense right away — Doctor Who is always evolving like its characters.

Finally, join the Younited Discord, where you can connect with like-minded fans exploring Doctor Who, Star Wars, sports, and many other fandoms. Whether you have Doctor Who questions or want to share your excitement for an awesome episode, we want to connect with you in our Discord! 

JG has been a fan of Star Wars since childhood, and his passion for the franchise has only grown over the years. He has always been drawn to the complex and intricate world-building in the Star Wars universe, and is excited to share his knowledge and insights as a Content Manager with the Youtini team. He is particularly interested in the animation side of Star Wars, and is always on the lookout for new and exciting content to analyze and share with others. With his background in customer service and his skills in filmmaking and journalism, JG is well-equipped to bring a unique and valuable perspective to the Youtini team. He is excited to be a part of the community and help create and curate content that will entertain and engage Star Wars fans everywhere.