Doctor Who is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary with three special episodes shown on the BBC in the UK, and Disney Plus worldwide. Written by Russell T Davies, this three-part adventure is set to bring back fan favorites David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Doctor and Donna, respectively, for what is sure to be a thrilling adventure through time and space. The first episode will arrive on November 25, the second on December 2, and the finale will land on December 9.
This naturally calls for a Doctor Who rewatch – you can see old episodes on Max in the US, or BBC iPlayer in the UK. Where to begin, though? Is it worth picking up from the beginning of the new era with Christopher Eccleston before making your way through to the end of Jodie Whittaker? Or how about going back to where it all started with William Hartnell in 1963? There can't be that many episodes, right? More than 800! Oh boy.
To get you prepared for the reunion of the century we've rounded up seven Doctor Who episodes that will get you up to date in time for the show's return – though you can also check our guide to David Tennant's best Doctor Who episodes for even more. So to borrow a phrase from the Tenth Doctor: Allons-y!
The Christmas Invasion
Where better to begin than the Tenth Doctor's debut? Mostly unconscious for large parts of this episode, Tennant proved worth the wait with a fantastic monologue where he tries to figure out what sort of man he is: "Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy? Right old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed? Left-handed? A gambler? A fighter? A coward? A traitor? A liar. A nervous wreck? Judging by the evidence, I've certainly got a gob". And just like that, any fear of whether this Doctor is up to the job of leading the still-newly-refreshed show is instantly dispelled. The rest is history.
The Runaway Bride
12 months later and we get the first meeting between Donna Noble and the Doctor, as the soon-to-be companion suddenly appears in the TARDIS sporting a wedding dress. From here, it's a non-stop rollercoaster to get the AWOL bride to the church, including a kidnapping by a robotic Santa and a confrontation with a 50-foot spider. More importantly, it shows both characters at their lowest and why each needs one another – and that may be the case more than ever once the 60th anniversary specials happen.
Partners in Crime
Fast forward another two years or so, and Donna becomes a fully-fledged member of the TARDIS crew. The second coming together of the pair is a comedy bonanza with the first third dedicated to the Time Lord and human missing one another by seconds at every turn – that is, until they spot one another listening in on a villain's dastardly plans: ensue miming gold.
This episode is also vitally important as we are properly introduced to Donna's disapproving mum Sylvia (Jacqueline King) and her doting grandfather Wilfred (Bernard Cribbins). With both set to return, Cribbins in his final role posthumously, it's for sure set to be an emotional family affair.
The Unicorn and the Wasp
What The Unicorn and the Wasp does is showcase the chemistry of Tennant and Tate at its very best. Specifically, the scene where the Doctor gets poisoned by Cyanide still remains one of the best comedic two minutes the show has ever put to screen. Aside from this, we get a classic whodunnit with a great performance from Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Christie… oh and there's a giant wasp, of course. This episode is a showcase of why these two characters worked so well, and why anyone who hasn't seen the show before should be excited.
The Celestial Toymaker
This one isn't available on Max, but it's on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK. Now that Neil Patrick Harris has been confirmed to be playing The Toymaker in the 60th anniversary episodes, it's time to take a trip back in time to 1966. This four-part story starring William Hartnell from the classic era is the first and only time the villain has appeared in Doctor Who, played by Michael Gough before he took on the role of Alfred in the Tim Burton Batman films at a later date. It will mark the longest gap ever (57 years!) between an adversary's appearance.
The bad news is that the first three episodes are completely lost due to an old BBC policy where the company would erase old archival programs after their initial broadcast. At the very least, the fourth episode – known as "The Final Test" – still exists, giving us a look at the character's origins. Well worth a watch.
The Stolen Earth/Journey's End
Come the Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials, it's clear that the wiping of Donna Noble's memory is at the heart of the narrative. It's seemingly the reason why the Fourteenth Doctor has David Tennant's appearance, and why the Toymaker is looking to tamper with the pair's combined history.
The Stolen Earth/Journey's End is the season four finale that leads to these events, as the Daleks kidnap 27 planets from throughout the universe. So many threads from this two-parter are looking likely to be picked up, hence why it's a must-watch. That and it's just generally a triumphant moment for the show.
The End of Time
Just as Tennant's first appearance as the Doctor is important, so is his last. While he does show up again in the 50th anniversary special alongside Matt Smith, this is the true swansong for the character. Taking on the his nemesis The Master and his own race, the Timelords, in an attempt to avert death, this two-part finale from 2010 has stood the test of time. We even get appearances from Donna and her new fiance, Shaun, who will turn up again in the new episodes.
This was Doctor Who at one of its most popular periods throughout its six decades. Now let's hope the trio of Tennant, Tate and Davies can deliver again. We have a feeling they just might.
You might also like
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Matt is a full-time freelance journalist who specializes in arts, culture and tech – be that movies, TV, video games, or otherwise. He's also turned his hand to everything from mattresses to motorbikes as a journalist. Prior to this, Matt headed up the games and entertainment section at T3.com, alongside being published across TechRadar, IGN, Tom's Guide, Fandom, NME, and more. In his spare time, Matt is an avid cinema-goer, keen runner and average golfer (at best). You can follow him @MattPoskitt64.