Doctor Who: The Newbies Guide
The Five Doctors
This is the 90-minute 20th Anniversary special. Whilst it was not officially part of any season, it is usually listed as the final story of Season 20.
Where does this fit?
For the first Doctor this happens at some point after The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
For the second Doctor this happens between the last scene of The War Games and his regeneration.
For the third Doctor this happens at some point after Invasion of the Dinosaurs
For the fourth Doctor this happens during Shada
For the fifth Doctor this happens between Seasons 20 and 21.
The first Doctor looks like a human in his sixties. He is physically quite frail, but has a keen intellect. He is paternalistic towards his companions, and has a degree of arrogance towards others. He sometimes mispronounces words. He spend his time on the run from his own people, the Time Lords, but in The Three Doctors he was taken from his own timestream by the Time Lords to assist his second and third incarnations.
Note that in this story, the first Doctor is portrayed by two different actors. The original William Hartnell initially appears in footage from The Dalek Invasion of Earth and then is portrayed by a new actor Richard Hurndall for the rest of the story.
The second Doctor is short with a beatles moptop. He tends to act the part of a fool and give events a push in the right direction rather than directly taking control. He also plays the recorder. In The War Games, the Time Lords sentenced him to regeneration and exile on Earth. For him this story takes place between the sentence being announced and it being carried out. In The Three Doctors he was taken from his own timestream by the Time Lords to assist his third incarnation, and both were then given advice from their first incarnation.
The Third Doctor has white hair, a large nose, and tends to dress as a society dandy. He has a love of technology, historical name-dropping, and vehicles. In The War Games the Doctor's people (the Time Lords) sentenced him to exile on Earth. In Spearhead from Space, he was appointed as scientific advisor to UNIT. In The Three Doctors the Time Lords revoked his exile.
The Fourth Doctor dresses in a rather bohemian outfit, notable for its long scarf. He is somewhat alien, willing to play the fool, and almost never gets on with authority figures.
The Fifth Doctor is physically younger than his previous incarnations. He wears Edwardian cricketing clothes with a stick of celery on the lapel. He is less eccentric than his previous incarnations. In Earthshock he was unable to save his companion Adric from dying.
Susan Foreman is the Doctor's granddaughter. She adopted the surname Foreman whilst staying on Earth during 1963. She appeared in the first TV story An Unearthly Child , where she was a pupil at Coal Hill School in London. During that story Susan was followed home by two of her teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. This led to them joining her and the Doctor in travelling through space and time. In The Dalek Invasion of Earth, she left the Doctor to marry David Campbell - a resistance fighter who had been fighting the Dalek occupation of 22nd Century Earth.
Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was the commanding officer of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT). He worked with the Second Doctor to defeat threats to Earth on two occasions (in The Web of Fear and The Invasion.) In Spearhead from Space, he teamed up with the Third Doctor to prevent an invasion by the Nestene and the Autons. During that story he persuaded the Doctor to work as his scientific adviser. In The Three Doctors, he encountered the second Doctor again and briefly saw the first Doctor giving advice to his second and third incarnations. He worked with the third Doctor for many years and witnessed his regeneration into the fourth Doctor. He subsequently worked with the fourth Doctor on a couple of different occasions. In Mawdryn Undead, after his retirement from military service, he worked with the fifth Doctor.
Sarah Jane Smith is a journalist who, in The Time Warrior, sneaked into UNIT in search of a story and ended up accompanying the third Doctor on a trip to the middle ages. She subsequently became the Doctor's travelling companion. Sarah was there when the Doctor regenerated into his fourth incarnation, and eventually left the Doctor in The Hand of Fear, the Doctor leaving her somewhere that was not her home town of Croydon. In the spin-off episode K9 and Company, she discovered that the Doctor had left her the gift of K-9 (Mark III).
Romanadvoratrelundar (or Romana for short) is a Time Lady. In The Ribos Operation, the White Guardian transported her onto the Doctor's TARDIS to help him in his quest for the Key to Time. In Destiny of the Daleks she regenerated into a new form. This version of Romana is fun-loving and definitely on a par with the Doctor.
Tegan Jovanka is an Australian air stewardess who accidentally stumbled into the TARDIS in Logopolis. She has a tendency to moan. In Time-Flight she was left behind in her native time, but in Arc of Infinity she happened to run into the Doctor and rejoined him on his travels.
Vislor Turlough is an alien who was exiled to Earth. He was posing as a schoolboy at Brendon School. In Mawdryn Undead he made a deal with the Black Guardian to kill the Doctor in exchange for returning home. He did not manage to do so during that story but did stow away on the TARDIS and then ask the Doctor to allow him to join him on his travels. In Enlightenment he cancelled the deal.
Recurring and Historical Characters
The Time Lords are the Doctor's people. One of the founders of their society was the legendary figure of Rassilon. They have a general policy of non-interference in the affairs of the universe, although this was not always the case. In The Three Doctors, they were able to take previous incarnations of the Doctor out of their timestream in order to assist them with a major crisis. In The Deadly Assassin and The Invasion of Time the Doctor intervened in their internal politics. In those stories, a Time Lord called Borusa was seen to be one of the most important political figures in Time Lord Politics.
The Master is a Time Lord and an enemy and rival of the Doctor. In Terror of the Autons he arrived on Earth and allied with the Nestene Consciousness to attempt to conquer Earth. He was stopped by the Doctor and UNIT. He has since come into conflict with the Doctor on many occasions. In The Keeper of Traken he was reduced to a deathly husk, and then possessed the body of Tremas of Traken. In Logopolis he unleashed a wave of entropy that destroyed a large portion of the universe, including Traken. His actions were also responsible for the Doctor's recent regeneration from his fourth to fifth incarnation.
The Daleks are a race of evil mutants encased in powerful cyborg bodies whose shape is reminiscent of pepperpots. The Doctor has fought them many times, first encountering them on in a city on their home planet of Skaro in The Daleks. During that story their home planet was highly radioactive. In Genesis of the Daleks, the Time Lords sent the Doctor to the point when the Daleks were first created with a mission to either stop their creation or find a weakness. The Doctor considers the Daleks his greatest enemy and they are a serious threat to anyone they encounter.
The Cybermen originally came from the planet Mondas, a twin planet to Earth. The planet somehow left its orbit, travelling into deep space. In order to survive its people started replacing their body parts with cybernetics. Eventually they became more machine than man, removing their emotions. Now much stronger than humans they seek only to survive and convert human beings into more Cybermen. The Doctor has encountered them numerous times. In Revenge of the Cybermen, he discovered that gold dust clogs their breathing apparatus, and is fatal to them.
The Yeti were robotic servants of the Great Intelligence. They were controlled by means of a "control sphere". If the sphere is removed from a Yeti, it ceases to function. It is unknown if the Yeti seen in this story is the same kind of Yeti, and if so who is controlling it.
K9 Mark III is a robotic dog who the Doctor gifted to Sarah Jane Smith in K9 and Company.
Jamie McCrimmon is a scots piper who met the Doctor after the battle of Culluden in The Highlanders. During that story he fought on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie against the Redcoat forces of England. He is proud of his Scottishness and wears a kilt and carries a dirk (knife). In The War Games, Jamie was returned to his own time by the Time Lords and his memories of his travels with the Doctor were wiped.
Zoe Heriot is a scientist from the 21st Century with an eidetic memory. Her specialities are astrophysics and mathematics. She helped the Doctor and Jamie defeat Cybermen in The Wheel in Space before deciding to join them in their travels. In The War Games, Zoe was returned to her own time by the Time Lords and her memories of her travels with the Doctor were wiped.
Professor Elizabeth "Liz" Shaw was a scientist who was recruited as UNIT's Scientific Advisor in Spearhead from Space. She assisted the third Doctor in this role, but ultimately left UNIT to return to her scientific studies at Cambridge.
Captain Mike Yates was a UNIT officer who worked with the Third Doctor. In The Invasion of the Dinosaurs he betrayed UNIT, and was discharged from service. In Planet of the Spiders he redeemed himself by helping defeat an attempted invasion of Earth by giant spiders.
None. This is an anniversary special. Whilst it includes appearances and cameos from numerous old companions and monsters it does not require you to know anything significant about them. Nor does the plot rely on any previous stories.