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Doctor Who: How and where to watch the wibbly wobbly, timey wimey show

Getting into Doctor Who can be a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey experience. Let Popverse be your companion

Image credit: BBC

It isn't every science fiction show that gets to turn 60. In fact, to our knowledge, it's just the one. With a monumental Doctor Who anniversary on the horizon, there's never been a better time to get into the time-traveling, planet-hopping, fan-bringing British series. But just where do you start?

Six decades of material means a lot of opportunity to binge, but it's also a daunting amount of seasons and TV specials to tackle.

How to watch Doctor Who in release order

Image credit: BBC

So, you want to watch all of it, eh? Straight through, from the top, no skips? Well get ready, friend, you are in for a journey, a journey that goes like this:

[NOTE: At this point, Doctor Who goes on hiatus for several years. Now, fans break up the show into pre-hiatus ('classic') and post-hiatus ('modern') eras.]

In case you're wondering, that's 871 episodes of television described above. Needless to say, Doctor Who isn't exactly a 'watch it in one sitting' kind of franchise, so you're going to have to find a way to break it up. Luckily, there's a perfect way to do that.

As anyone familiar with the show will tell you, the main character of the Doctor goes through various incarnations over the series. So if you're going to break up the Doctor's story, you can do it incarnation by incarnation (or 'regeneration' in the language of the show). Listed in order that the Doctors appeared on TV, here's...

How to watch Doctor Who by Doctor

The First Doctor

Image credit: BBC

While the First Doctor, played by William Hartnell, is not a favorite among many Whovians, you still have to him credit as the one that started it all. Watch all of the first Doctor's appearances in this order:

  • Season 1 (1963-1964)
  • Season 2 (1964-1965)
  • Season 3 (1965-1966)
  • The Five Doctors (1983)
  • Series 8, Episode 4, Listen (2014)
  • Series 10, Episode 12, The Doctor Falls (2017)
  • The Power of the Doctor (2022)
  • Since Hartnell died in 1975, other actors would take on the role for later appeearances. These include Richard Hurndall in the 'Five Doctors' TV special and Harry Potter alum David Bradley in recent episodes.

The Second Doctor

Image credit: BBC

A favorite of future modern Doctor Matt Smith, Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor brought an element of whimsy to the character that separated him from Hartnell's fantastic fogy. Watch this Doctor's adventures in this order:

  • Season 4 (1966-1967)
  • Season 5 (1967-1968)
  • Season 6 (1968-1969)
  • The Five Doctors (1983)

Not only does Troughton's time in the TARDIS (that is, The Doctor's timee-and-space machine) introduce a sense of humor to the series, but it also introduces frequently recurring antagonists the Cybermen. Still, a bigger and vn more popular baddie was on the way for...

The Third Doctor

Image credit: BBC

After six seasons, The Doctor's adventures finally enterd the age of techinicolor, and what a time they picked to do it. Spy-fi was popular when actor Jon Pertwee took over the role, and themes of the genre were introducd to the show. Most notable was the introduction of the Master, an Ernst Blofeld, James Moriarty-type adversary to match wits with the Doctor. The pair would square off several times during the Third Doctor's tenure, which runs like this:

  • Season 7 (1970)
  • Season 8 (1971)
  • Season 9 (1972)
  • Season 10 (1972-1973)
  • Season 11 (1973-1974)
  • The Five Doctors (1983)

Interestingly, the Third Doctor's adventures mostly took place on Earth, due to th TARDIS being grounded for reasons explained in the seventh season. After Pertwee, however, the show went back to its space-faring roots, paving the way for the most popular and visually iconic Doctor of the classic era...

The Fourth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

If you've ever been to a comic con and seen someone wearing a VERY long scarf, you're already somewhat familiar with Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor. The longest and some arguably most popular run of the show, Baker's adventures as the Doctor can be viewed this way:

  • Season 12 (1974-1975)
  • Season 13 (1975-1976)
  • Season 14 (1976-1977)
  • Season 15 (1977-1978)
  • Season 16 (1978-1979)
  • Season 17 (1979-1980)
  • Season 18 (1980-1981)
  • The Five Doctors (1983)

The Fifth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Ever since The Doctor first appeared in 1963, his appearance was that of an older man, lending to the idea of him as a sort of 'mad professor.' Peter Davidson, however, would change that as the Fifth Doctor. Youthful, witty, and a decent hand-to-hand combatant, this Doctor has a run that goes:

  • Season 19 (1982)
  • Season 20 (1983)
  • The Five Doctors (1983)
  • Season 21, Episodes 1 - 20 (1984)
  • The Power of the Doctor (2022)

This Time Lord (that is, the Doctor's species of alien) would become a favorite of many Whovians, including future Doctor David Tennant. His run would end in a non-traditional way, after he regenerated mid-season and introduced the world to...

The Sixth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

The Doctor's regeneration into his Sixth form was a turbulent one, and its bumpy nature would set the tone for Colin Baker's (no relation to Tom) entire run. Despite his garish, even clownish, appearance, this Doctor could be dark and angry, which you can see if you check out:

  • Season 21, Episodes 21 - 24 (1984)
  • Season 22 (1985)
  • Season 23 (1986)
  • The Power of the Doctor (2022)

The end of Colin Baker's time as Time Lord would end in an equally bumpy way, with the actor declining to take part in the storyline that would regenerate him into the next incarnation. With viewership declining for the sries overall, it was time to usher in...

The Seventh Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Sylvester McCoy, who you may recognize as Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit films, would be the last person to land the role of the Doctor before the show's 1989 cancellation and the hiatus that followed. You can follow his run like this:

  • Season 24 (1987)
  • Season 25 (1988)
  • Season 26 (1989)
  • Doctor Who (TV Movie, 1996)
  • The Power of the Doctor (2022)

The Seventh Doctor would return, however, though not exactly in what's considered the 'modern' era. As you can see above, he would come back for the TV movie, the movie that bridges the gap between old and new Doctor Who and introduces us to...

The Eighth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Poor Paul McGann. Though the actor managed to craft a charming (and beloveed) incarnation of everyone's favorite Time Lord, his on-screen run only stretched over the course of one made-for-TV movie and a few cameo appearances in the storylines of somee other Doctors. Check out those adventures here:

  • Doctor Who (TV Movie, 1996)
  • The Night of the Doctor (2013)
  • The Power of the Doctor (2022)
  • Two quick notes before we move on:

    1.) If you're interested in spending more time with the Eighth Doctor, McGann has reprised the role in several critically-acclaimed audio adventures from Big Finish Productions. I highly recommend checking them out.

    2.) Seasoned Whovians might think I'm skipping over someone right about here on this list. I assure you I'm not; I just feel like putting it here might spoil some great surprises for people interested in the modern era of Doctor Who.

    An era, by the way, that begins with...

The Ninth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Though Christopher Eccleston's time as the Doctor is the second shortest on this list, his run is beloved by many fans. Like William Hartnell, Eccleston also deserves credit for sparking a milestone in scifi television history, a milestone you can watch in full here:

  • Series 1 (2005)

Due to Eccleston's reservations about the studio, his run on Doctor Who still introduced a new, more linear format for the show, not to mention an all-time favorite companion (that is, one of the Doctor's sidekicks/travel buddies) in Rose Tyler. Plus, it paved the way for perhaps the most beloved modern incarnation of the Doctor...

The Tenth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Long before he was stealing hearts and inspiring fanfic as Good Omens' Crowley, David Tennant was stealing hearts and inspiring fanfic as the Tenth Doctor. With a moddish look and legendary wit, Tennant brought leagues of fans into the show with his run, and if you want their experience, you can watch this way:

  • The Christmas Invasion (2005)
  • Series 2 (2006)
  • The Runaway Bride (2006)
  • Series 3 (2007)
  • Voyage of the Damned (2007)
  • Series 4 (2008)
  • The Next Doctor (2008)
  • Planet of the Dead (2009)
  • The Waters of Mars (2009)
  • The End of Time - Part 1 (2009)
  • The End of Time - Part 2 (2010)
  • The Day of the Doctor (2013)
  • The Time of the Doctor (2013)

Not since Tom Baker had one Doctor garnered such fanbase, but the days of the Tenth Doctor were never going to last forever. In 2010, fans said a tearful goodbye to Number Ten and braced themselves for...

The Eleventh Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Outside of Winston Churchill, the Eleventh Doctor as played by Matt Smith is probably Britain's most famous bow-tie wearer, and the most likeable one by leagues. Despite following the revered run of Mr. Tennant, Smith's time as the Doctor is still much adored; you can see why by watching:

  • A Christmas Carol (2010)
  • Series 5 (2010)
  • Series 6 (2011)
  • The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe (2011)
  • Series 7 - Part 1 (2012)
  • The Snowmen (2012)
  • Series 7 - Part 2 (2013)
  • The Day of the Doctor (2013)
  • The Time of the Doctor (2013)

Due to some lore established in Classic Who, Smith's Doctor was supposed to be the last incarnation of the character. Needless to say, his departure was an emotional and surprising one. But of course, neither the fans nor the BBC were going to let the Doctor go, and the world wound up with...

The Twelfth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

It was long time Doctor Who fan Peter Capaldi's turn to pilot the TARDIS as the Twelfth Doctor after Smith's run concluded. Capaldi, who had already appeared in the show in a much smaller role, would be known for his sharp wit and a reimagined Master to face off against. See it all in this order:

  • The Time of the Doctor (2013)
  • Series 8 (2014)
  • Last Christmas (2014)
  • Series 9 (2015)
  • The Husbands of River Song (2015)
  • The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016)
  • Series 10 (2017)
  • Twice Upon a Time (2017)

Over the course of the Modern Who era, a lot changed about the Doctor in terms of personality, style, and worldview. But it wasn't until the end of Capaldi's run that the largest change would occur, and fans would welcome...

The Thirteenth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Actor Jodie Comer made history as the first woman to play the Doctor in a run that saw a swath of new companions and old enemies. Hers is the most recent run to date, a run that stretched over the following chapters:

  • Series 11 (2018)
  • Resolution (2019)
  • Series 12 (2020)
  • Revolution of the Daleks (2021)
  • Series 13 (2021)
  • Eve of the Daleks ()
  • Legend of the Sea Devils (2022)
  • The Power of the Doctor (2022)

And that's it! Now you have everything you need to watch Doctor Who by incarnation of the Doctor, and I'd bet that you won't stop at one. I know I certainly could not. But before you get to any of the Doctors, you'll need one major question answered. That is, of course...

Where can I stream Doctor Who?

Image credit: BBC

Though streaming Doctor Who is (thankfully) fairly straightforward, you're going to have to do a bit of digging if you're an absolute completionist. For example, almost all Classic Who is available via a subuscription to BritBox. However, there are a few episodes that have been effectively 'lost,' that is, are missing hefty chunks of footage, and are only available as animated reproductions on AMC+.

Then you come to Modern Who, which is almost entirely available for streaming on Max. However, the most recent TV special, The Power of the Doctor, is also only available on AMC+. I should also note that the Doctor Who TV movie, the one and only Eighth Doctor-centric onscreen adventure, is not available anywhere to stream in the US. Still, I'd argue it's worth the price of a Blu-ray.

Moving forward, new Doctor Who episodes will be available on Disney+. Which brings us to the question...

When does Doctor Who return?

Image credit: BBC

As I mentioned previously, Doctor Who is nearing its 60th anniversary as of this writing, and it's coming back with a series of specials that are appropriately monumental. Those three specials will air in November 2023 in the UK, and be on Disney+ shortly thereafter. And they'll all be starring...

The Fourteenth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Wait, what? Hold on a second, there's a new Doctor? And he looks just like the Tenth Doctor?

Yeah, that's right. The latest regeneration saw David Tennant returning to the role of the Doctor, but not as his Tenth form. I won't get into exactly what's going on with this Doctor (partially because we just don't know yet), but I will tell you that his adventures are as follows:

  • The Star Beast (2023)
  • Wild Blue Yonder (2023)
  • The Giggle (2023)

And after that...

The Fifteenth Doctor

Image credit: BBC

Though we know next to nothing about who the Fifteenth Doctor will be in terms of personality, companions, or impact on his universe, we know for sure who will be taking on the role. That's Ncuti Gatwa, the first Black man to portray the Doctor in the show's long history. Gatwa, who you may recognize if you saw the hit film of this summer, Barbie, was announced as the new Doctor in May of 2022.

Will Gatwa's run be as popular as Tennant or iconic as Baker? As with every Doctor Who question, the answer will only come... with time.

Doctor Who returns to the BBC in November 2023.

Is David Tennant's latest turn as Doctor inspired by a comic created by none other than Watchmen's Dave Gibbons? We looked at the evidence.

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About the Author
Grant DeArmitt avatar

Grant DeArmitt

Contributing writer

Grant DeArmitt (he/him) likes horror, comics, and the unholy pairing of the two. He has written for Nightmare on Film Street and Newsarama, despite their better judgement. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Kelsey, and corgi, Legs.

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