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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings
Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

The Day of the Doctor The last two months of 2013 brought us a spate of magnificent Doctor Who television shows:
"The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot" (comedy special written and directed by fifth doctor Peter Davidson)
"An Adventure in Time and Space" (docudrama about William Hartnell, the First Doctor), written by Mark Gatiss.
"The Night of the Doctor" (short featuring Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor and John Hurt, the War Doctor), written by Steven Moffat.
"The Last Day" (short about the time war, the Doctor does not appear), written by Steven Moffat.
"The Day of the Doctor" (50th anniversary special with several incarnations of the Doctor), written by Steven Moffat.
"The Time of the Doctor" (800th episode, introducing Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor), written by Steven Moffat.

I won't say any more about these, except they are all (with the possible exception of "An Adventure in Time and Space," which I haven't watched) infinitely worth watching. The first two are not part of the mythos. I try to avoid spoilers. I would have had some extra enjoyment watching "The Day of the Doctor" if I had known nothing at all about it going in. "Say no more." "I can say no more."

Instead of reviewing "The Day of the Doctor," and risking spoiling some of the fun, I have a word or two for those of you who have not watched Doctor Who, or who have watched a few episodes and dismissed Doctor Who as low budget trash. Some of Doctor Who is low budget trash, and even the recent big-budget New Doctor Who includes some stinkers. On the other hand, Doctor Who has won six "best drama" Hugo Awards, so it must be doing something right.

You could just watch those Hugo winning episodes, but much of the charm of Doctor Who lies in the lore, which you would miss out on by only watching the best. On the other hand, it would be masochistic to try to watch all 800 episodes, not to mention the countless animated features, radio dramas, and novels. It would also be impossible, since many early episodes are lost.

My recommendation is to watch a selection of episodes starting with the first. If you watch one serial chapter a night, the weaker episodes will at least be over quickly, and you will absorb enough of the backstory to appreciate what writers Douglas Adams, Russell T Davies, Neal Gaiman, and Steven Moffat are doing.

Here are the serials I recommend, which will introduce you to all of the incarnations of The Doctor and much of the lore. (The Tor website recently had a similar list.)

The First Doctor: William Hartnell
Story 001: "An Unearthly Child," by Anthony Coburn and C. E. Webber
Story 002: "The Daleks," by Terry Nation

The Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton
Story 050: "The War Games," by Malcolm Hulke & Terrance Dicks

The third Doctor, Jon Pertwee
Story 051: "Spearhead from Space," by Robert Holmes
Story 065: "The Three Doctors," by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Story 074: "Planet of the Spiders," by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts

The Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Story 075: "Robot," by Terrance Dicks
Story 078: "Genesis of the Daleks," by Terry Nation

Starting with Story 108, the Wikipedia numbers and the Region One DVD numbers diverge, because Wikipedia does not count the (partially) lost story "Shada," which is on DVD. I use the DVD numbers below.

Story 109: "Shada," by Douglas Adams

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davidson
Story 117: "Castrovalva," by Christopher H. Bidmead
Story 130: "The Five Doctors," by Terrance Dicks

The Sixth Doctor: Colin Baker
Story 137: "The Twin Dilemma"

all of The Doctors

The Seventh Doctor: Sylvester McCoy
Story 145: "Time and the Rani," by Pip and Jane Baker
Story 146: "Remembrance of the Daleks," by Ben Aaronovitch

The Eighth Doctor: Paul McGann
Made for TV movie: Doctor Who, by Matthew Jacobs

By cleverly not numbering the made for TV movie, I can now return to the Wikipedia numbering. The stories on later DVDs are not numbered. While not all of the new stories are equally good, you may by this time want to start watching them all, or at least all by Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, or Neal Gaiman. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Ninth Doctor: Christopher Eccleston
Story 157: "Rose," by Russell T Davies
Story 164: "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances," by Steven Moffat
Story 166: "Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways," by Russell T Davies

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant
Story 167: "The Christmas Invasion," by Russell T Davies
Story 171: "The Girl in the Fireplace," by Steven Moffat
Story 202: The End of Time, by Russell T Davies

The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith
Story 203: "The Eleventh Hour," by Steven Moffat
Story 224: "The Wedding of River Song," by Steven Moffat
Story 238: "Nightmare in Silver," by Neil Gaiman

Which will prepare you to enjoy "The Night of the Doctor," "The Last Day," "The Day of the Doctor," and "The Time of the Doctor," all by Steven Moffat.

Copyright © 2014 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon. Visit his web site at comicsrevue.com.


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