Shortly after my previous blog post, in which I ranked the eighteen Doctor Who stories available on Netflix streaming, I was alerted to the presence of a larger collection of stories available on Hulu Plus. If you don't mind three commercial breaks per episode (and having to pay for the privilege), you can watch all 18 stories also available on Netflix, plus 74 more.
I'm going to lump these into groups. Ones that I think will go over best with New Series fans, ones that I think are good stories but you might find a bit rough, ones that are mediocre/average (or may be rather tough to get through if you're used to contemporary storytelling and special effects), and ones that are best left untouched (or only for the really brave).
Note: These are listed in BROADCAST ORDER.
Start With These...
54. Inferno (1970, Pertwee, 7 episodes)
This is a rare treat - the Doctor witnesses the destruction of a parallel Earth, can't do a thing to stop it, and as all hell breaks loose around him, he's in the unenviable position to rally a handful of survivors - even though he can't save their lives - to help him get back to 'our' Earth to prevent the same fate here. Fascinating to watch England re-imagined as an Orwellian fascist police state, with deliciously evil versions of the Brigadier, Liz and others. Not so fascinating are the green gorilla monsters, but still, worth the longer running time.
57. The Claws of Axos (1971, Pertwee, 4 episodes)
I love this - golden aliens come to Earth, offering wondrous technology in exchange for nuclear energy for their spaceship. The Doctor isn't fooled, not for a minute. Boundary-pushing special effects (especially episode 4's psychedelic freakout) for 1971. And the Master and Doctor's relationship is fascinating. The Doctor's potential for amorality is never more on display; when he announces he's abandoning Earth to its fate, and is prepared to betray the Time Lords to the Axons, it's plausible that he's serious.
65. The Three Doctors (1972-73, Pertwee, 4 episodes)
66. The Carnival of Monsters (1973, Pertwee, 4 episodes)
69. The Green Death (1973, Pertwee, 6 episodes)
76. The Ark In Space (1975, Tom Baker, 4 episodes)
88. The Deadly Assassin (1976, Tom Baker, 4 episodes)
The Doctor returns to Gallifrey, is framed for the murder of the Time Lord President, and has to survive a nightmarish trip through the surreal terrain of the Matrix to unmask the real culprit. Very evocative of The Manchurian Candidate with all its political machinations, and the Matrix sequence is stunningly imaginative. Very controversial at the time, partly for the image of Tom Baker being drowned, and partly for knocking down our perceptions of the Time Lords from godlike superbeings to corrupt and/or clueless bumblers.
91. The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977, Tom Baker, 6 episodes)
A major character is an Asian man played by a caucasian in yellowface (and prosthetic eyebrows), but if you can handle that, this is a great story. And since the BBC's bread and butter was Victorian-era drama, the Sherlock Holmes atmosphere is superbly rendered. The duo of Jago and Lightfoot would go on to star in their own audio adventures.
105. City of Death (1979, Tom Baker, 4 episodes)
114. Warriors' Gate (1981, Tom Baker, 4 episodes)
The cinematic direction and avant-garde flourishes distinguish this convoluted and fascinating story. The third part of a trilogy set in E-Space, it involves a super-heavy spaceship stuck near the gateway to our dimension, who carry a slave race of telepathic lion-like men who navigate the time winds.
136. The Caves of Androzani (1984, Davison, 4 episodes)
If You Survived Those, Try These...
1. An Unearthly Child (1963, Hartnell, 4 ep)
It's a great first episode, with three decent bonus episodes tacked on at the end. It's amazing how much of the show's mythology dates back to these first 25 minutes, and how ruthless and machiavellian the Doctor is initially.
2. The Daleks (1963-64, Hartnell, 7 ep)
Despite show creator Sydney Newman's stern "No Bug-Eyed Monsters" directive, he had to admit his modest aim for an educational adventure program over teatime turned into a cultural institution because of this story. The Daleks are icons. As slow-moving as this show is, it's pretty compelling. The ethics of persuading a pacifist society to take up arms, partly for their own best interest but mostly because four strangers in a blue box need them to, is pretty sticky. And some awesome special effects shots that have aged quite well a half century later.
6. The Aztecs (1964, Hartnell, 4 ep)
9. Planet of Giants (1964, Hartnell, 3 ep)
The "Honey, I Shrank the TARDIS"plot dates to the early brainstorming sessions in the show's development, and they pull it off pretty darn brilliantly. Post production, they edited the third and fourth episodes into a single episode - even then, they acknowledged that the emphasis on dialogue over action could make for tedious TV. Smart choice.
45. The Mind Robber (1968, Troughton, 5 ep)
51. Spearhead From Space (1970, Pertwee, 4 ep)
52. Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970, Pertwee, 7 ep)
Script editor Robert Holmes and producer Barry Letts quickly realized that once they confined the Doctor to Earth, they were limited to two plots: Mad Scientists and Alien Invasion. Here they cleverly sidestep that plot - they've been here already - and throw in a not too subtle parallel to Middle East politics. What do you do when you oversleep, wake up millions of years later, and those pesky apes have evolved into the dominant species on the planet? The Doctor is in the unenviable position of trying to negotiate a peace between two mutually xenophobic species... and he fails spectacularly.
55. Terror of the Autons (1971, Pertwee, 4 ep)
A soft re-boot of the series, with shorter stories, a new companion (Jo Grant), and Barry Letts' master-stroke: an arch-enemy Time Lord, the Master. And in addition to the Autons, we have everyday household items turning into fatal traps: inflatable chairs, troll dolls, and plastic daffodils.
56. The Mind of Evil (1971, Pertwee, 6 ep)
A mess of a plot, but a lot to recommend. An homage (read: ripoff) of A Clockwork Orange that can't decide if criminal behavior is actually due to 'evil impulses' that can be siphoned out of a person's mind, or if that's the bridge being sold to the gullible politicians who buy into it. And Britain has an illegal nerve gas missile that it's trying to dump; shame on them.
59. The Daemons (1971, Pertwee, 5 ep)
The Master appears in his fifth straight story, and after sub-contracting an alien entity that yet again grows too powerful for him to control, and once more has to rely on the Doctor to save his sorry butt, you'd think he'd've learned. This time around he poses as a rural vicar (quite a treat to see him wearing a collar), while summoning a cloven-hoofed demon in the church basement. The Doctor is rather a jerk to Jo in this one, at least in the first scene.
61. The Curse of Peladon (1972, Pertwee, 4 ep)
By this season, the production team was stretching the "exiled to Earth, with certain exceptions" beyond credibility. But this is still a treat, an alien whodunnit that's all about joining the EU, with a bevvy of alien creatures - including the much loved hermaphrodite hexapod Alpha Centauri.
67. Frontier In Space (1973, Pertwee, 6 ep)
Doctor Who rarely attempted grand space opera - mostly because it didn't have the resources - but here they go all out. The Master, with the Ogrons, is secretly manipulating Earth and Draconia into war... and he's a subcontractor working for another menace who are waiting to pounce... Most of this is capture/escape/re-capture writ large, but it's a grand adventure, and the Draconians are awesome. Pity, though, that it all falls apart at the end, and Roger Delgado never got the sendoff he deserved.
78. Genesis of the Daleks (1975, Tom Baker, 6 ep)
The Time Lords draft the Doctor into trying to prevent the creation of the Daleks. The debut of Davros, their creator, superbly performed by Michael Wisher. Terry Nation modeled the Daleks after Nazi Germany, and no story he wrote made that clearer than this. Lots of corridor acting, and a major cliffhanger copout, but some supremely iconic moments balance it out.
82. Pyramids of Mars (1975, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
92. The Horror of Fang Rock (1977, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
98. The Ribos Operation (1978, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
100. The Stones of Blood (1978, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
Part 3 of the Key To Time season. Blood-sucking rocks, a great villain in Vivian Fay, and a superb sidekick in Professor Rumford (who might be Vivian's lesbian partner...). Great line: "Doctor, are you from outer space?" "No, I'm from inner time."
110. The Leisure Hive (1980, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
112. Full Circle (Tom Baker, 1980, 4 ep)
Underrated and overlooked.
115. The Keeper of Traken (1981, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
A civilization so placid that evil shrivels up and dies. Yeah, that won't last long...
116. Logopolis (1981, Tom Baker, 4 ep)
Tom Baker's last. Bonkers evil scheme by the Master.
117. Castrovalva (1982, Davison, 4 ep)
Peter Davison's first. Bonkers evil scheme by the Master.
125. Snakedance (1983, Davison, 4 ep)
The Mara (from Kinda) is back.
127. Terminus (1983, Davison, 4 ep)
Grim story, but look for the moment at the end of Ep 3. The Doctor is standing next to the corpse of the space pilot who inadvertently caused the Big Bang... consider the theological implications here.
128. Enlightenment (1983, Davison, 4 ep)
Yacht race in space. Devious girl pirate.
132. The Awakening (1984, Davison, 2 ep)
English Civil War re-enactments are inadvertently summoning a malevolent alien entity. And Tegan visits her grandfather or uncle or something.
133. Frontios (1984, Davison, 4 ep)
Giant alien woodlice destroy the TARDIS, temporarily. Another grim story; one of the last human space colonies are under siege from meteors from above, and said bugs from below.
152. Remembrance of the Daleks (1988, McCoy, 4 ep)
The first story to feature script editor Andrew Cartmel's 'masterplan' to re-envision the Doctor as having a deeper, darker backstory than just being a 'madman with a box.' Two warring factions of Daleks bust up stuff in the Doctor's old stomping grounds.
155. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988-89, McCoy, 4 ep)
An extended metaphor for the state of the program; the Doctor and Ace are trapped in the Psychic Circus, which fanboy WhizzKid acknowledges as "not as great as it used to be, but still..."
158. The Curse of Fenric (1989, McCoy, 4 ep)
159. Survival (1989, McCoy 4 ep)
An ironic title for the final story of the Classic Series... but the Master hasn't been this awesome in over a decade, the cat people look pretty cool, and stuff blows up real good.
If You're Still Hungry For More...
The Chase (1965, Hartnell, 6 ep) - A bumbling troop of Daleks build their own time machine to pursue the TARDIS through eternity. Incompetently executed on every conceivable level (particularly the robot duplicate of the Doctor), this one is classified as "So Bad, It's Actually Awesome." Though the montage of Ian and Barbara safe at home is legitimately wonderful. (The Hulu version contains a clip of the Beatles performing "Ticket to Ride," which is edited out of the DVD release)
The Time Meddler (1965, Hartnell, 4 ep) - We meet another Time Lord for the first time, a comically mischievous meddler in a monk's cassock, trying to change the outcome of the Battle of Hastings, just for the hell of it apparently.
The Ark (1966, Hartnell, 4 ep) - The TARDIS lands on a giant spaceship in the distant future containing the last surviving humans escaping the doomed planet Earth, and new companion Dodo's head cold causes an epidemic.
The War Machines (1966, Hartnell, 4 ep) - the first story since the debut episode set on contemporary Earth, and the first story to feature a supercomputer primed to take over the world.
The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967, Troughton, 4 ep) - not quite as good as its legacy, but still worthy of viewing, though the character of Toberman is troubling
The Enemy of the World (1968, Troughton, 6 ep) - Dr Who does James Bond, and Troughton pulls double-duty as the villain as well. Be glad this was re-discovered.
The Web of Fear (1968, Troughton, 6 ep) - Fondly remembered for its atmosphere - Yeti in the subway! plus the debut of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and a memorable climax. Though to me, it drag
Colony in Space (1971, Pertwee, 6 ep) - Impoverished space farmers versus an all-powerful intergalactic mega-conglomerate. And a doomsday weapon. Guess who wins.
The Sea Devils (Pertwee, 1972, 6 ep) - A virtual re-write of "Silurians," with less subtlety and more stuff blowing up.
The Mutants (Pertwee, 1972, 6 ep) - Better than its reputation, though rather patronizing in that we need the white fathers to sort out the lives of the indigenous people.
The Time Warrior (Pertwee, 1973-4, 4 ep) - Hello Sarah Jane Smith!
Planet of the Spiders (Pertwee, 1974, 6 ep) - Goodbye, Jon Pertwee.
Robot (Tom Baker, 1974-5, 4 ep) - Hello Tom Baker!
Planet of Evil (Tom Baker, 1975, 4 ep) - generic, homage to Forbidden Planet
The Masque of Mandragora (Tom Baker, 1976, 4 ep) - generic, nice medieval setting.
The Sunmakers (Tom Baker, 1977, 4 ep) - extended metaphor for state taxation.
The Invasion of Time (Tom Baker, 1977, 6 ep) - Such a mess, but fun to watch Tom Baker chew scenery
The Pirate Planet
The Androids of Tara
The Power of Kroll
The Creature From The Pit (Tom Baker, 1979, 4ep) - Yeah, the one with the alien that looks like a big green willy. And Tom blows on it. Oh dear.
Nightmare of Eden (Tom Baker, 1979, 4ep) - Drugs are bad, especially when they are the crystalized remains of nasty hairy space beasties. Tom sabotages the ending.
The Horns of Nimon (Tom Baker, 1979, 4ep) - Such a mess, but fun to watch everyone chew scenery.
Meglos (Tom Baker, 1980, 4 ep) - Such a mess, but nice to see Jacqueline Hill (Barbara from season 1-2) again
State of Decay (Tom Baker, 1980, 4 ep) - Decent story, undermined by the hand puppet at the end.
Black Orchid (Davison, 1982, 2 ep) - No alien menace, a murder caper, a cricket match, and it's short.
Resurrection of the Daleks (Davison, 1984, 2 45-min ep) Tedious and grim, but with good moments.
Delta and the Bannermen (McCoy, 1987, 3 ep) Genocide and mass murder at a holiday camp with a hip 50's soundtrack.
Dragonfire (McCoy, 1987, 3 ep) - Alien done as a Christmas pantomime. It almost works.
The Happiness Patrol (McCoy, 1988, 4 ep) - Orwell on acid. Be happy or else.
Battlefield (McCoy, 1989, 4 ep) - Doctor Who does King Arthur. Of course the Doctor is Merlin, who else could he be?
Only The Brave Dare...
The Edge of Destruction (Hartnell, 1964, 2 ep) - trapped in a malfunctioning TARDIS, strong suggestion that it has telepathic capabilities. Great idea but executed poorly and awkwardly.
The Sensorites (Hartnell, 1964, 6 ep) - slow and tedious slog about xenophobia
The Rescue (Hartnell, 1965, 2 ep) - spoiler: Bennett is Koquillion. Now you can skip it.
The Web Planet (Hartnell, 1965, 6 ep) - revolution on a planet of insect people. epic in conception, tedious in execution.
The Space Museum (Hartnell, 1965, 4 ep) - revolution in a museum.
The Gunfighters (Hartnell, 1966, 4 ep) - aka Dr Who at the OK Corral
The Dominators (Troughton, 1968, 5 ep) - it's fun to imagine the title characters as a bickering gay couple
The Krotons (Troughton, 1968-9, 4 ep) - Robert Holmes' first script. They got better.
Planet of the Daleks (Pertwee, 1973, 6 ep) - Invisible Daleks, boring Thals, long slog.
Death to the Daleks (Pertwee, 1974, 4 ep) - Unarmed Daleks, boring Humans, interesting maze.
The Monster of Peladon (Pertwee, 1974, 6 ep) - Caves and corridors, corridors and caves.
The Sontaran Experiment (Tom Baker, 1975, 2 ep) - Filler.
The Android Invasion (Tom Baker, 1975, 4 ep) - aka, the alien plot falls apart if that dude looks under his eyepatch
The Invisible Enemy (Tom Baker, 1977, 4 ep) - Hello, K9.
Underworld (Tom Baker, 1978, 4 ep) - the one with the infamous CSO caves
Destiny of the Daleks (Tom Baker, 1979, 4 ep) - Terry Nation wrote this in his sleep.
Warriors of the Deep (Davison, 1984, 4 ep) - Sea Devils, Silurians, nuclear brinksmanship, all the elements of a good story, but nothing gels. And then there's the Myrkha.
The Twin Dilemma (Colin Baker, 1984, 4 ep) - Worst Doctor Debut story ever. Start of a long, sad decline.
The Mark of the Rani (Colin Baker, 1985, 2 45-min ep) - She sets a trap that turns people into trees. Trees. As if the acting wasn't wooden enough already.
The Two Doctors (Colin Baker, 1985, 3 45-min ep) - Unrelentingly grim, intentionally and unintentionally.
Timelash (Colin Baker, 1985, 2 45 min ep) - famously spells "Lame Shit." Sums it up nicely.
Time and the Rani (McCoy, 1987, 4 ep) - Worst Doctor Debut story since... the previous one.
Silver Nemesis (McCoy, 1988, 3 ep) - Cybermen vs Neo-Nazis vs oh god make it stop.