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The five best Doctor Who episodes to revisit as the show's 2024 generation materializes on Disney+

We're not going to spoil anything, but there's a few old Who episodes you might want to take a look at...

Doctor Who
Image credit: Disney+

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After far too long, Doctor Who is back on our screens as a regular occurrence, with the first two episodes of the new season — season 1, or series 14, depending on how you count these things — debuting around the world later today. While the two episodes are wonderful introductions to the show for new viewers (we’ve been lucky enough to get an early look, so we know what we’re talking about), it’s also safe to say that those excited about the new season might want to take a quick look back at some earlier episodes to prepare. Why…? Well, we’re not going to spill all the beans ahead of time… even if a show about time travel makes the idea of “ahead of time” somewhat hard to fathom.

Doctor Who: The Chase, Part One

The Chase
Image credit: BBC

Okay, this one is an intentionally silly one that we will explain: it’s well-known by this point that the second episode in the new season, ‘The Devil’s Chord,’ features the Beatles in a pretty important role. This 1965 episode of the show — the beginning of the final serial of the show’s second season ever — marked the very first appearance of the Beatles in the series… and it’s the real thing. The original version of the episode — sadly unavailable today for copyright reasons — featured the Doctor and companions watching the Beatles perform ‘Ticket to Ride’ on an episode of Top of the Pops, much to the surprise of… well, everyone who wasn’t the Doctor, it seems. “I had no idea you knew about the Beatles!” exclaims companion Ian. “I didn’t know they played classical music!” adds Vicki, because time travelers have very strange ideas about what constitutes “classical,” when it comes down to it…

Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code

The Shakespeare Code
Image credit: BBC

There’s a time travel idea that Doctor Who has, prior to this season, purposefully made fun of and refused to take seriously, and it’s one explicitly mentioned in this episode from 2007 — the so-called “butterfly effect,” which takes its name from a 1952 short story, ‘A Sound of Thunder,’ by Ray Bradbury. New companion Martha Jones brings that up in this episode, as she travels back in time with the Doctor for the first time, and it’s casually shrugged off — but things go pretty differently when Ruby Tuesday and the Doctor go back in history for the first time. Considering that both episodes were written by Russell T. Davies, it’s worth wondering… is this just a gag, or a sign of something more important to come? (After all, experience has shown that Davies does like to foreshadow things pretty heavily.)

Again, we’re not giving anything away here — this scene was released by the show ahead of the episode’s debut:

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Related: Doctor Who: How and where to watch the classic sci-fi show in order

Doctor Who: The Timeless Children

The Timeless Children
Image credit: BBC

Okay, now we’re moving into more spoilerish territory, but no matter the specific callouts being made, it would definitely seem like a good idea to revisit the final episode of the show’s thirteenth season, back in 2020. Why? Because it’s a pretty significant piece of stage setting when it comes to the current status quo of the character, and their history: ‘The Timeless Children’ was, after all, the episode that explained the secret history of the Doctor — secret even to them! — and the fate of Gallifrey. As the Doctor’s new life begins, it’s probably a good idea to know where they come from.

Doctor Who: The Giggle

The Giggle
Image credit: BBC

‘The Giggle,’ the third of three 60th anniversary specials from 2023, isn’t just the episode in which Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor appears for the first time, it’s an episode that resets some of the Doctor Who mythology in a very subtle way… which might be one of the few subtle things about the episode, all things considered. What happens when the Doctor is forced to deal with things that simply don’t make sense, and rely on faith and supernatural rules more than science? And what if things didn’t exactly go all the way back to normal afterwards, like we all thought they did? It might be too early to say, but introducing “bi-generation” and a second Tardis might not be the only lasting effects of what happens in this episode.

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road

The Church at Ruby Road
Image credit: BBC

The first full episode from the new regime, a Christmas special from 2023, was always going to be a worthwhile rewatch headed into the first episode proper of the new season… but, given that ‘Space Babies’ literally picks up from the end of ‘The Church on Ruby Road’ — in fact, just instants before the end — and, in many ways, acts as a second half to that episode that you didn’t know existed… something that gets called out in dialogue, so it’s not unintentional… then it really, really would be a good idea to take another look before tuning in to the new stuff. You’ll be glad you did.

That’s great, but where can I watch all of this?

If you’re in the UK, it’s very easy to stream old Doctor Who episodes: they’re all on BBC iPlayer. Outside of the UK, that’s a little more complicated. Classic Doctor Who — which is to say, the show as it ran between 1963 and 1989, when it went on decades-long hiatus —is available in the US via BritBox, as well as Pluto TV; Doctor Who’s 2005-2022 episodes… which take the Doctor all the way through the end of the 13th Doctor era… can be streamed via Max. Everything after that is on Disney+. (Phew. Brits, you have no idea how good you have it.)

If you want to start watching Doctor Who and don't know where to start, check out our handy Doctor Who watch guide. Or maybe you're already finished with the show - We've got the perfect Ten shows to watch when you're done watching Doctor Who guide for you too. If you're already heads over heels for the Fifteenth Doctor and want to learn more about the actor playing him, check out what he's been in before here. Or maybe you just need to figure out how the new series numbering is going to work (Are there really gonna be two series 1s? Yes.) - if so, this is the explainer you want.