Well, going through the list of Doctor Who stories that are available on DVD, and I’ve decided to write up my own “Recommended” list. For this list, I’m going to suggest one story per Doctor from the classic series.
So let’s get started. My recommendations are after the jump!
First Doctor (William Hartnell) – The Dalek Invasion of Earth
While the Daleks had first been seen in the second Doctor Who serial (called either The Daleks or The Mutants), it is in this story that the Daleks first truly come into their own. This story is not without its share of problems (at six episodes, it has its fair share of padding, and the Slyther seems completely pointless), but it’s a very enjoyable story all the same. This movie was adapted to color movie form with Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD, but I shy away from actually recommending those films, as they’re not connected with the show in any way.
But, for what it is, Dalek Invasion of Earth is an enjoyable story. It’s definitely a must-have for anyone collecting Doctor Who DVDs.
Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) – The Tomb of the Cybermen
Selecting just one story for each Doctor is never an easy task, but it’s somewhat easier with the Patrick Troughton, rather unfortunately. You see, not many stories survive in their entirety from Troughton’s time as the Doctor. A good number of stories from the Hartnell era also suffer the same fate, but Troughton’s time suffered greatly, with only about seven stories remaining in their entirety.
Anyway, among those that do survive, Tomb of the Cybermen is one of my favorites. The Cybermen, who had many stories in the Troughton era, make for a great story in this outing. Aspects of the story definitely feel dated, but, overall, the story still works. Among all the Cybermen stories from the classic series, this one is perhaps my favorite.
And while not that many complete stories with Troughton survive, this story gives a good sense of what kind of Doctor Patrick Troughton played. After watching this, you’ll realize what a shame it is that we don’t have more complete stories from the Second Doctor era.
Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) – Inferno
I’ll go ahead and admit it: I haven’t seen all that many stories from the Pertwee years. But, from what I have seen, Inferno ranks as one of my favorites. It’s interesting to note that, throughout the entirety of the classic series, this is the only one that deals with alternate universes (at least, this is the only story I can think of that does, at this point).
Anyway, if you want to get a feel for how Jon Pertwee played the Doctor, this story is a great example. And as a Doctor Who story, this is very well written.
Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) City of Death
Oh, Tom Baker, choosing a single story from your era is so very difficult. You’re my favorite Doctor from the classic series and, besides that, you were the Doctor for so long that choosing just one story is made even more difficult. But I’ll choose one.
I could’ve taken the easy way out with this and chosen Genesis of the Daleks (which is an excellent, must-see story), but I thought I’d play hard mode and not choose that story.
Instead what I chose is a fantastic story from later on in the Fourth Doctor years. Written by Douglas Adams, City of Death has the Doctor and Romana in Paris (well, mainly in Paris) in pursuit of someone who is planning on stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are on form in this story, from start to finish. The two had great chemistry as Doctor and companion, and that really shows in this story.
This story has its own unique feel, with all the on-location filming, and never feels slow. As I said earlier, this was written by Douglas Adams, and if you’re a fan, you’ll find a lot of inside jokes in this story. Also, watch for a cameo by John Cleese and Eleanor Bron towards the end of the story.
Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) – Earthshock
Okay, spoiler out of the way: this is another Cybermen story. And other spoiler out of the way: Adric dies.
Earthshock is, for the most part, a well-written story. It progresses nicely from initial setup to the actual attack by the Cybermen. This is a nice action story of the Doctor versus the Cybermen.
Of course, the revelation of Adric’s fate at the end of the story won’t strike you as all that important if you aren’t familiar with the character. But the idea of one of the Doctor’s companions actually dying is something that will catch you. But I’m not going to focus on this.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable story from the Fifth Doctor years, this is it. I was going to recommend Caves of Androzani, but seeing as that story ends with the Doctor regenerating, I chose not to.
Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) – Revelation of the Daleks
To be fair, Colin Baker didn’t have a fair chance on the show. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that went on that really hurt the show, and I’m not going into that here. But because of all of this, Colin Baker was only the Doctor for two seasons. And by choosing an individual story, you’re limited to his first season (which contained six stories) and the last story of the previous season (right after the regeneration). So really, seven stories, since Baker’s second full season as the Doctor was one continuous story, under the banner of the “Trial of a Time Lord” story arc.
That leaves me with my selection, Revelation of the Daleks. The specifics of this plot won’t make much sense to the new viewer, as they deal with Davros, the creator of the Daleks. There are two Dalek factions in this story, one that is loyal to Davros and accepts him as their creator, and the other faction, which thinks that accepting Davros as creator is sacrilege to the Dalek creedos of “Daleks are superior”.
But, for what it is, this is a good Dalek story. Perhaps not for people unfamiliar with specifics of the Doctor Who story, but a good story nonetheless.
Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – Ghost Light
Ah, Sylvester McCoy. Brought on as the Doctor after the show was put on a slight hiatus, and not given all that much time to play the Doctor before the show was again put on an indefinite hiatus. However, McCoy did star in some excellent stories. The quality of the stories served as an example that Doctor Who had finally grown up and, if it had continued, would have produced some extraordinary stories.
Ghost Light is a perfect example of the Doctor Who we could have had, and never did. You’ll probably not understand the story upon first viewing, but that’s what makes this so great: the more you watch it, the more you notice.
McCoy’s Doctor is a darker character than we’ve previously seen, and much wiser. The Fifth and Sixth Doctor stories had been peeling away the mystery of the Doctor, and McCoy’s time as the titular character restored the mystery and enigma to the role. Here we see a Doctor who knows what is going on, and seems to be playing more games than we know of.
The gothic setting of this story serves as a great backdrop for the Seventh Doctor and his new companion, Ace. Just as there was great chemistry between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward, there is equally great chemistry between Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.
There is a lot going on in this story, and it works as an excellent horror story. Definitely my favorite Sylvester McCoy story.
And there you have it, my list of recommendations.
Other Recommendations: The Time Meddler, The Mind Robber, Enemy of the World, The Time Warrior, City of Death, Talons of Weng-Chiang, Black Orchid, The Two Doctors, Battlefield, Ghost Light, The Curse of Fenric and Survival