"Doctor Who" is more than 50 years old and that amount of history can be quite daunting for a new fan. Luckily, the show can be classified into two eras, classic and modern. For the sake of a viewer's sanity, here are the best modern episodes new fans should check out before the "Doctor Who" Season 8 premiere airs on Saturday.
Many places have created lists of the best modern "Doctor Who" episodes, and there is spirited debate over who is the best Doctor since the series returned. What has captivated fans over the years is the sheer diversity of the show. "Doctor Who" can be a campy comedy, a philosophical science fiction, an action-packed adventure, a terrifying horror or a historical drama. Here are some episodes new fans must check out based on lists compiled by HitFix, Buzzfeed, iO9, BBC America and the Telegraph.
"Blink" (Season 3, episode 10)
Everyone loves this horrifying episode featuring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and the Weeping Angels, Steven Moffat's new monster. The Weeping Angels send people into the past and feed off their potential lives. The statues can not move while you look at them so once you see them, you can’t blink. It's a smart and fun concept that really showcases Moffat's writing talents.
"The Girl in the Fireplace" (Season 2, episode 4)
The Doctor, Rose and Mickey wind up in a 51st Century spaceship that happens to contain 18th Century Versailles. The episode features Madame de Pompadour, love, time travel and heartbreak for the Doctor. BBC described the episode as "By turns clever, funny and moving, it also contains an absolute gut-punch of a closing shot that makes you want to go back and watch the entire thing over again immediately."
“The Empty Child” / “The Doctor Dances” (Season 1, episodes 9 and 10)
Christopher Eccleston's Doctor really shines in this two-parter that introduces Captain Jack Harkness. Another Moffat episode, the episodes have everything a fan loves about "Doctor Who," including creepy children in gas masks asking, "Are you my mummy?" that takes place during the London Blitz.
"The Doctor's Wife"(Season 6, episode 4)
Neil Gaiman ("Sandman" and "American Gods") writes this episode which bring the TARDIS to life. The TARDIS is as much a part of the show's DNA as the Doctor and Gaiman delivers a clever way to explore this relationship. Matt Smith delivers a great performance as we get to see him have a conversation with his "wife."
“Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood” (Season 3, episodes 8 and 9)
Tennant's great run as the Doctor continues in this two-parter. The Doctor becomes human and falls in love but doesn't know he is the Doctor. It takes his companion Martha to finally convince him to return to the Doctor but that also has its share of problems as he can be quite harsh. "The god who becomes briefly mortal is a familiar trope of fantasy and science-fiction; this two-parter is an outstanding example of why people keep returning to that well," said HitFix.
“Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways” (Season 1, episodes 12 and 13)
While the whole fixation on Rose has drawn the ire of fans, this was a great way to end the first season of "Doctor Who." The return, and success, of the show was not a sure thing. Eccleston gets to say goodbye and viewers get their first look at regeneration and the sense of loss that occurs in the process.
"School Reunion" (Season 2, episode 3)
"Doctor Who" has a rich history and this episode includes two links to that past. New fans may not know Sarah Jane as the companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors, but she gets a hero's welcome in this episode. Another fun aspect of the show is the emergence of unlikely heroes, in this case K-9, the Doctor's mechanical dog.
"Vincent and the Doctor" (Season 5, episode 10)
"Doctor Who" likes to revisit the past and viewers get to spend some time with Vincent Van Gogh as he befriends the Doctor and Amy. The episode explores Van Gogh's troubled life. It's heartbreaking, but ends in such a satisfying way.
"Turn Left"(Season 4, episode 11)
Donna was a great comedic companion and she gets to take on a serious challenge in "Turn Left." The story is equal parts terror and drama and uses a conventional framing device to explore Donna's character.
"Dalek"(Season 1, episode 6)
No list would be complete without at least one episode featuring the Doctor's most famous monster. Daleks may not seem like a huge threat, they look like giant pepper shakers, but "Dalek" helps introduce the foe to a modern audience.
For another look at the history of "Doctor Who," fans should watch the 50th anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor," which features the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors joining forces with the War Doctor. For Peter Capaldi's first appearance on "Doctor Who," watch "The Fires of Pompeii." The episode is special because it includes a future Doctor and a future companion, Karen Gillan, who went on to play Amy Pond.