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Dr Who - what to watch?

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This answer is going to depend heavily on how much depth you want to the story... To me, there is no question you should start with the modern series. There are two different start points you could jump into though. Personally, I recommend option A, but it IS a lot of watching and requires some patience in the beginning.

Option A)
Start at Series 1 with Christopher Eccleston and watch from Series 1 - Series 7. This is a lot of watching but in my opinion will give you the best story. Series 1 and part of Series 2 has a fair bit of cheesy stuff in it, but if you can put that aside or even learn to enjoy it, you'll have a much greater appreciation for the show. The David Tennant era is some of the best TV writing out there and really builds the character of the Doctor. Jokes are thrown around in the current series that still reference back to series 1 and 2, etc.

Option B)
Start at Series 5 with Matt Smith. This was a good reboot point in the show and you're not going to feel entirely in the dark if you come in at Series 5. There is an excellent story there, and because the production quality gets better with every series so you will enjoy the quality a bit more than say Series 1. Series 1, however, is not awful quality or anything - just a bit more cheesy.

I am willing to bet if you take option A David Tennant will win your heart for favorite doctor. If you take option B, even if you go back and get the whole story by watching the other series later, Matt Smith will probably win your heart. At least that has been the case for most people I've talked with. The point is, once you start watching you'll get hooked! I've introduced the show to many people over the years and I don't know a single one that hasn't enjoyed it.

It is worth noting that you might also want to check out Torchwood. It add's a lot of information to the story and at times is darker than Doctor Who. It's definitely not your "family oriented" TV show. However, Torchwood is only going to make sense if you watch it in the order it was released and bounce back and forth between Doctor Who and Torchwood, starting at Doctor Who Series 1. It references series 1 - 4, so you would really need to be committed to starting at the beginning of Who.

Again, if it were me, I'd start at Series 1 of the modern series. Give it a chance for two series and you'll be hooked - especially the Series 2 finale. Best of luck and I hope you enjoy!