It’s a rough time to be a Doctor Who fan. Having only two new Christmas specials to tide us over between November 2015 and April 2017 is certainly trying, but the fact that the classic series aren’t available to stream is even more frustrating. I own all the DVDs, sure, but it’s hard to recommend new fans to get into the older stuff when the discs are out of print and there’s nowhere to legally watch it. That’s changes now with the announcement that BBC Worldwide and ITV’s joint global subscription service BritBox will be the home to the largest Classic Whocollection ever.
Launching Tuesday, April 4, BritBox will offer 550 episodes of existing classic Doctor Who stories, spanning from 1963 to 1989 and covering the first seven Doctors. As there are currently 597 extant episodes, BritBox will launch with the majority. And soon, the audio of the 97 “lost” episodes (i.e. the ones that are missing from the BBC archives) will be available as well, so even if you can’t see some of the older stories, you will at least be able to hear them. BritBox will also feature specially curated Classic Doctor Who playlists like “Monsters” and “Companions,” so viewers can take a trip back in time to witness the Doctor’s most epic battles through the years against classic foes like Daleks, Cybermen, and Autons.
BritBox will run you $6.99 per month and has tons of shows from both BBC and ITV, the top commercial network in the UK. This is essentially like if HBO and Showtime got together to offer a streaming service. The Doctor Who alone is reason to give it a look if, like me, you’re a completist. It should be noted that New Who will still only be available on Amazon Video. License agreements and all that.
In honor of decades of Doctor Who being available to view at the touch of a button, I’m also giving you seven of my favorite stories that you all should stream as soon as you are able; these will give you a good smattering of older, lesser-seen Who. (As a reminder: each Classic Who story was comprised of multiple episodes, in a serialized format. That’s just how they rolled back then.)
“The Time Meddler” – First Doctor, 4 Episodes (1965)
This is the very first story that truly feels like what we know to be Doctor Who. It’s the finale for season two and it finds the Doctor and his two companions, Vicki and Steven, visiting England just prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD. There they find strange, anachronistic technology, and a character known as the Monk who seems to have something in common with the Doctor. A truly wonderful story, with some excellent acting by William Hartnell.
“The Enemy of the World” – Second Doctor, 6 Episodes (1967-1968)
Until just a few years ago, five out of the six episodes of “The Enemy of the World” were missing, so most people didn’t think of it very highly. Now, we have the whole thing, and a complete rediscovery has taken place. In a season (5, if you must know) which was almost exclusively base-under-siege monster stories, “Enemy” is a near-future story of espionage and doppelgängers as the Doctor happens to look exactly like the beloved but secretly evil dictator Salamander. Ergo, he has to impersonate the despot to help the resistance with an overthrow. Patrick Troughton is dynamite as both characters, and it has a really cool rocket age futurism to it.
“The War Games” – Second Doctor, 10 Episodes (1969)
Ten episodes might sound like a slog, but honestly I’ve watched this story in one go on more than one occasion. This is the Second Doctor’s final story, and it takes him and his companions, Jamie and Zoe, to WWI, only to realize they’re actually in a bit of land controlled by aliens using humans from various historical wars to help them obtain military dominance. They’re getting help from a Time Lord, and in order for the Doctor to stop it, he’ll have to contact his own people…even though he’s a fugitive. This story is so lovely, so exciting, and provides a terrific send-off for a wonderful Doctor.
“Inferno” – Third Doctor, 7 Episodes (1970)
This just happens to be my favorite story of my favorite Doctor from my favorite season of Doctor Who; yes, it’s my #1 favorite story ever. It sees the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) assisting UNIT at an experimental dig site where a company is attempting to drill to the center of the Earth. When no one listens to him, the Doctor attempts to leave using his then-faulty TARDIS and ends up not forwards or backwards in time, but in a parallel dimension, one in which the world is under fascist military control and his friends the Brigadier and Dr. Liz Shaw are corrupt and evil, but conducting the same drilling experiment, though slightly ahead of his own reality. The evil from inside the Earth begins to bubble up and the Doctor will have to do anything he can to escape one apocalypse to prevent another. I cannot say enough great things about this story. I love it to pieces.
“Frontier in Space” – Third Doctor, 6 Episodes (1973)
This is the closest Doctor Who ever got to full-on space opera. The Doctor and his companion Jo Grant end up as pawns in a plot to escalate the Cold War between the Earth Federation and the lizard-like Draconian Empire into a hot war. Someone is making it seem like each side is attacking the other, and neither side will believe the Doctor that it’s some shadowy third party. And then, just when things couldn’t get any worse, the Master shows up, but even he might be working for someone else. I adore this story, top to bottom, and it’s the very last story to feature the first Master, Roger Delgado.
“The Seeds of Doom” – Fourth Doctor, 6 Episodes (1976)
I feel like most people have seen a lot of Fourth Doctor stories–and definitely his era was the most widely streamed when it used to be on Netflix–but I’m picking a story that hasn’t been available much, and is pretty crackerjack if you ask me. An Antarctic research team finds mysterious alien seed pods which hatch and infect, turning people into plant monsters. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are dispatched to help, but a plant-obsessed billionaire has sent his mercenaries to capture the seeds…and that’s NOT a good thing. This one feels like a sci-fi Bond movie, so obviously I love it.
“Enlightenment” – Fifth Doctor, 4 Episodes (1983)
This very well might be the best-written episode of the ’80s, and it looks great too. Is it a coincidence that this is the only Doctor Who story ever to be written and directed by women? Peter Davison’s Doctor and his companions Tegan and Turlough arrive on board an Edwardian sailing vessel only to find out it’s actually a spaceship, and that god-like beings called Eternals are having a race in period Earth sailing ships, using real kidnapped humans as crew. The prize for winning this race is a jewel called Enlightenment, but the stakes for the losing crew are their lives. I adore this story to bits. Watch it right now.
These are but 42 episodes of the over 550 available right away. If you’ve ever been interested in giving Classic Who a shot, this is way to do it.
Will you be subscribing to BritBox? What Doctor Who stories would you watch first? Let me know in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!