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Gateway Stories


50 Who

There’s now over fifty years worth of Doctor Who rattling about, so what to do if you want to try and hook that friend of yours into watching if they’ve never seen the show before? Do you show them an easy ‘jumping on point’, like ‘Rose’? Or perhaps you forget about that and just show them what you consider to be a classic, like ‘Human Nature’, and hope that its quality will be enough to ensnare your prey?

Stop straining that flabby brain of yours, nerd, I’ve done your work for you; ain’t I a sweetie? Using my own thinking-smarts, and those of my sexy Twitter followers, I’ve collated a complete and total FOOL PROOF* list of stories that I think might be enough to turn a non-fan to the Who-side:

Modern Who

11th Hour

The Eleventh Hour

This would be my number one choice. Easy. Not only is it clearly a shiny, lovely piece of brilliance from Steven Moffat, but it’s a story in which everything is new. A fresh off-screen creative team flexes its muscles, whilst on-screen a new Doctor and a new companion capture our imagination. It’s a fresh start that’s not looking back, rather setting up things for the future. Even the look of the thing leapt up and pulled the show forward. If you can watch this and not want to see what happens next, you may not be human (maybe you’re a large dog in a human suit). Clearly I’m not alone in this (yeah, yeah, completely obvious) choice; Twit-folk like    and    and  and  and   and  and  and… and… basically loads of people agreed with me. What a clever, facially fabulous bunch.



Who author Jenny Colgan (@jennycolgan) tossed this one into the ring, and many lined up to agree.  ‘Blink’ seems to be a popular choice for many, but obviously it’s also an odd choice in many ways as it barely even features the Doctor or his companion. It instead focuses on Sally Sparrow, who exists only in this one episode. But it has several things going for it, not least of which is its sheer quality. Quality above all else is going to hook a new viewer into wanting to watch another episode. It also introduces The Weeping Angels, the most popular new series monster.


The Girl in The Fireplace

This one was the top choice of Andrew Ellard (@ellardent), and he could be onto a winner with it. It’s sci-fi! It’s historical! It’s a romance! It has scares, and clever stuff, and funny bits, and… well just about everything. Almost all of what modern Who can be is encapsulated in this one story.

Go Classic..?

Now I wouldn’t personally use a classic series story as a gateway episode. Perhaps to a very young child, otherwise I think you’ll be on far safer ground with a story from the modern series. BUT! If I had to go classic, then the one I would plump for is:
dalek rem

Remembrance of The Daleks

It’s a blooming Dalek masterpiece from the pen of Ben Aaronovitch, which jump-started the McCoy era and lead the charge for a final two terrific years of the classic series. It’s exciting, it looks great, there’s a terrific TARDIS team at the centre who clearly love being together, juicy questions about race and fascism to ponder; in short: it’s brilliant.

But others thought differently, @SDElsden reckons Tom Baker classic ‘The Robots of Death’ is the one to turn a non-fans head, @AlphaOod insists Pertwee’s debut, ‘Spearhead From Space’ is the obvious choice,  would point people towards ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’, whilst @MarkTrevorOwen says that the Douglas Adams penned ‘City of Death’ has never failed for him.

Start with P-Cap!?


Deep Breath

A new Doctor, a new start… and a new jumping on point? Nah, unlike Moffat’s other first ep for a new Doctor, this one has perhaps too much baggage to act as a clean jumping on point. From a carryover companion, to the Paternoster Gang, to the previous Doc phoning from Trenzalore. I’m sure it would work for some, but it’s as likely to befuddle just as many.

Looking over this I’ve realised that all of the modern episodes chosen are by Moffat. So… maybe just show them one of the best Moffat eps and job done..?

Which adventure do you think makes the ideal ‘gateway story’?

*may not actually be fool-proof.


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Author: Matthew Stott


7 thoughts on “Gateway Stories

  1. I *think* the Daleks Invasion Earth movie was the first Who that bit me, and the idea of starting with an outlier then moving on to something ‘real’ appeals.

    I veer away from anything continuity laden. Those are peaks to be built up to – I don’t want answers to questions I haven’t asked yet (rules out the excellent Remembrance in particular).

    Robots of Death stands out. Blends the gothic console room with the sleek sandminer, sound plot, nice intro scene about the Tardis, and the Doctor and Leela are still getting to know eachother.

  2. Definitely Blink! It shows how the complexity of time travel can support a dynamic plot, it’s scary, and suspenseful. The concept is intelligent and very sci fi (quantum locks!). Some episodes can come off a little cheesy to the layperson (like Rose). While I love the cheese, it may not be the best way to get someone hooked. Also, I suggest not trying to explain what the shows about…. that always results in weird looks and “so anyways…” moments

  3. The first Doctor Who I clearly remember seeing was Tom Baker’s last season, starting with “Full Circle”. It may seem a weird place to start – but it hooked me. I know I’d seen a few other stories, notably “Hand of Fear” when I was even younger, but the E-Space Trilogy, followed by Keeper of Traken and Logopolis hooked me. Personally, I don’t think regeneration episodes are a good place to start – the Doctor is frequently acting very weird, often even out-of-character compared to later stories with that actor as the Doctor (for example both Colin Baker’s and Sylvester McCoy’s first stories); or, even largely unconscious (Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, David Tennant’s stories: Planet of Spiders, Castrovalva, Christmas Invasion, respectively). So, I’d go with favorite stories, and nothing to filled with continuity or past-episode references (which lets out Remembrance and Deep Breath). As a Who fan, I like those stories, especially Remembrance – but I agree with Pete – the references to previous events will fly *over* your friend’s head. “Pyramids of Mars” is a favorite, maybe, “Genesis of the Daleks” if you think you can get someone to sit still for 2 hours and 15 minutes (bring snacks). “Robots of Death” isn’t really a favorite of mine, but I agree – it’s a good place to start.

    • Ooh yes, Pyramids is a good one to show a newbie, for sure! Good call on continuity, I think the ep should be as clean and graspable as possible so as not to put off or confuse.
      Doctor Who Thing.

  4. OPPPS sorry, “Planet of Spiders” is Jon Pertwee’s LAST story. I meant “Spearhead from Space” his FIRST story. so sorry!

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