8 Classic Doctor Who serials every fan should watch

Doctor Who, a cornerstone of British television and the BBC’s output, has been captivating audiences for almost six decades with its unique blend of adventure, science fiction, and drama.

While the series was revived in 2005 and has since garnered a new generation of fans, the classic era of Doctor Who, which ran from 1963 to 1989, remains an essential part of the show’s rich history.

Over the course of 26 seasons and seven different Doctors, the classic era laid the foundation for the Doctor’s adventures, introducing a multitude of memorable characters, storylines, and iconic villains which has been continued by Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and Chris Chibnall as showrunners in the modern age.

For fans who are eager to delve into the roots of the long-running series or for those who simply want to revisit some of the most iconic moments from the show’s past, here are eight classic Doctor Who serials that should not be missed.

These episodes represent the diverse storytelling, imaginative adventures, and unforgettable characters that defined the show’s early years and continue to influence the modern series today.

“An Unearthly Child” (First Doctor, 1963)

The very first Doctor Who serial introduced us to the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, as well as their time-traveling spaceship, the TARDIS (it’s bigger on the inside as we learn!). Venturing back to the Stone Age, this four-part story not only set the stage for the entire series but also established the Doctor’s penchant for getting involved in historical events and his relationships as they will build with his companions allied against forces of bad in the universe.

“The Daleks” (First Doctor, 1963-1964)

This seven-part story marked the debut of the Doctor’s most iconic adversaries, the Daleks who will return time and again across sixty years of history of the show. Set on the desolate planet Skaro, the Doctor and his companions become embroiled in a conflict between the Daleks and the peaceful Thals. “The Daleks” is a must-watch for its introduction of the series’ most enduring villains and its exploration of the Doctor’s moral compass. These are themes that will continue to return through the many different faces of the Doctor in the show’s history.

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” (Second Doctor, 1967)

This four-part serial saw the return of the Cybermen, one of the Doctor’s most formidable enemies. The story features the Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, along with companions Jamie and Victoria, as they uncover the hidden tomb of the Cybermen on the planet Telos. With its atmospheric setting and chilling villains, “The Tomb of the Cybermen” remains a classic in that it brings together many of the building blocks that make Doctor Who so well loved.

“The Mind Robber” (Second Doctor, 1968)

In this five-part adventure, the Doctor, companions Jamie Fraser and Zoe find themselves trapped in a mysterious realm known as the Land of Fiction. Filled with imaginative storytelling and surreal encounters with fictional characters, “The Mind Robber” showcases the series’ ability to push creative boundaries and to take viewers to places that they aren’t expecting. This is something that we’ll see time and again for the next 60 years.

“Genesis of the Daleks” (Fourth Doctor, 1975)

This six-part serial delves into the origin of the Daleks and introduces the villainous Davros, the creator of the Daleks. As the Fourth Doctor (played by most people’s favourite Classic Doctor actor, Tom Baker) grapples with the moral implications of destroying the Daleks at their genesis, the story offers a thought-provoking exploration of the consequences of altering history. There are few more important episodes in the history of Doctor Who, and it teaches us a lot about the way the Doctor thinks and acts.

“The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (Fourth Doctor, 1977)

This six-part story features the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and companion Leela in Victorian London, investigating a series of mysterious disappearances. Combining elements of gothic horror, steampunk, and detective fiction, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” is a memorable and atmospheric adventure that sets up many similar adventures in the modern era of Who.

“The Caves of Androzani” (Fifth Doctor, 1984)

Widely regarded as one of the best stories in Doctor Who history, this four-part serial sees the Fifth Doctor (played by Peter Davison) and companion Peri fighting for their lives on the dangerous planet of Androzani Minor. With its dark and gritty tone, “The Caves of Androzani” offers a thrilling and intense adventure that culminates in a powerful regeneration scene, often regarded by Classic Who fans as one of the very best in the show’s history.

“Remembrance of the Daleks” (Seventh Doctor, 1988)

This four-part serial features the Seventh Doctor (played by the last Doctor of the Classic Who era Sylvester McCoy) and companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) returning to 1963 London to confront the Daleks once more. With its fast-paced action scenes, engaging plotline, and exploration of the Doctor’s darker side, “Remembrance of the Daleks” is a standout story that highlights the evolution of the classic series and sets the stage for the modern era – even if there was going to be a much loner than expected wait for that era to happen!