Do you need to watch the rest of Doctor Who before the new season?

Doctor Who is back and The Doctor has a new face. Should you spend time watching the previous seasons before jumping into this one?
Doctor Who. Credit: BBC Studios
Doctor Who. Credit: BBC Studios /

Doctor Who is back. The Disney+ version of the story is promoting it as Season 1, but we all know that there is far more to this tale than initially meets the eye.

In fact, this show is the longest-running sci-fi series of all time. It started in 1963. Yes, there was a break between 1996 and 2005, but the story has continued with the classic series being used as the basis for the rest of the story. Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is the Ninth Doctor, following on from Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in 1996.

That’s a lot of episodes to get through if you want to get into Ncuti Gatwa’s iteration of The Doctor. Do you really need to watch it all?

Watch the 60th Anniversary special and the Christmas Day special

There are two episodes that you will definitely need to watch to get an introduction into Gatwa’s iteration of The Doctor. The first is the last 60th Anniversary special episode. This third episode brought us the bi-generation storyline, which changed the mythology of Doctor Who forever!

After that, you’ll need to watch the 2023 Christmas Day special. This not only allows Gatwa to make his iteration his own, but it also introduces Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday, the new companion.

The good news is that when there is a new companion, it means that a lot of the basics you need to know about The Doctor are explained again. You get to find out what the TARDIS is, and you’ll learn about The Doctor’s home planet and how he is the last of the Time Lords. You don’t need to know too much, as there is a lot of further explanation usually during the seasons. When you want to know more, you can then go back to watch older episodes.

Watch the New Who to get into the new Doctor

If you want to watch more than a few episodes, then you can start with New Who. This is Doctor Who from Eccleston’s introduction in 2005. The basic information is shared as this brought in a new generation of fans. Rather than forcing everyone to watch from the beginning—and there are some lost episodes of the series!—New Who made the entire series accessible to old and new fans.

You’ll want to work your way through all the episodes from 2005. This will introduce you to some of the important companions of the current day, including Donna who we meet again in the anniversary specials. You get to meet the Fugitive Doctor, who is actually an iteration before the First Doctor. Yes, there is also various iterations of The Master, who we’re sure to see return at some point because The Master always does!

The classic Doctor Who episodes are more than worth watching. When you have the time, do go back. Some of the previous iterations have shown up in the new series and we’ve seen a few companions as well. However, you shouldn’t need to watch all of it to understand the new season coming up this month.

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Doctor Who returns on Friday, May 10 on Disney+.