Classic Doctor Who Episodes To Watch to Better Understand Season 10

There are loads of references to Classic Doctor Who in the new season. Here are the episodes you need to watch to better understand them!

From what we’ve seen so far of Doctor Who Season 10, the new season of NuWho may be the most nostalgic yet. From the Mondasian Cybermen to the Ice Warriors to the Fourth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, it’s filled with references to Classic Doctor Who— yet another reason why the timing of the release of BritBox’s Classic Who streaming collection couldn’t be better.

Check out the complete Classic Doctor Who library on BritBox!

Season 10 seems to be a trip down Doctor Who memory lane for Steven Moffat, Peter Capaldi, and Who fans. We’ve already written a general American’s Guide to Classic Doctor Who, but, if you’re a NuWho fan who’s excited to “get” all of the Classic Who references in Doctor Who Season 10, here are the episodes of Classic Who you should head over to BritBox to watch to better understand each episode…

Classic Doctor Who Episodes That Inspired… by denofgeek

Classic Who Episodes Referenced in “The Pilot”

“An Unearthly Child” (First Doctor, Season 1)

Connection to The Pilot: Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter

In “The Pilot,” the Doctor has two framed photos on his desk. One is of NuWho character River Song. The other is of Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter and one of his first companions. Susan traveled with her grandfather during the First Doctor’s reign, eventually leaving in Season 2’s “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.” 

Ad – content continues below

We recommend watching the first ever episode of Doctor Who to better understand Susan’s character. We think she might be important as Season 10 progresses, as might other First Doctor companions Barbara and Ian. “An Unearthly Child” introduces all of them.

“An Unearthly Child” might be particularly interesting to watch in comparison to “The Pilot,” given that it has similar themes. Not only is it also an introductory episode for this world and the Doctor character, but it features Susan as an intelligent student whose abilities catch the notice of schoolteachers Ian and Barbara. Sounds a bit like Bill, doesn’t it? And certainly lends some thematic credence to the theories that Bill might be somehow related to the Doctor. Just like Susan…

Watch “An Unearthly Child” on BritBox

“The Sontaran Experiment” (Fourth Doctor, Season 12)

Connection to The Pilot: The Fourth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver

The Fourth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver got some play in “The Pilot.” We see the Doctor throw it to Matt Lucas’ Nardole, who then gets to use it in various action-fueled situations. This is particular interesting given that the screwdriver seemed to be destroyed in 1982’s “The Visitation.” The plot thickens!

What better way to celebrate the Fourth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver’s Season 10 episode-in-the-spotlight then with a Fourth Doctor episode. We’ve chosen “The Sontaran Experiment” because the sonic screwdriver is a particularly worthy companion in this Classic Who ep. Problems solved include: fixing a circle of transmat refractors, breaching a force field, and shutting down Styre’s robot. All without breaking a sweat!

More generally, “The Sontaran Experiment” finds the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry arriving on a nearly-deserted Earth where a group of shipwrecked astronauts are being experimented on by Sontarans. The story was only two parts, making it the shortest Doctor Who story of the 1970s.

Ad – content continues below

Watch “The Sontaran Experiment” on BritBox

“Destiny of the Daleks” (Fourth Doctor, Season 17)

Connection to The Pilot: The Movellans

This one is more of a fun Easter egg than a full-on reference, but we were psyched to see the silver-dreadlocked aliens the Daleks were battling in the episode’s climactic scene. They are called the Movellans, and they appear in Classic Who episode “Destiny of the Daleks,” starring Tom Baker Doctor.

This is a doubly great episode to check out because it features the first appearance of Lalla Ward as Romana.

Watch “Destiny of the Daleks” on BritBox

Classic Who Episodes Referenced in “Smile”

“The Happiness Patrol” (Seventh Doctor, Season 25)

Connection to “Smile”: The “be happy or die” ultimatum.

Like “Smile,” the Seventh Doctor’s 1998 story “The Happiness Patrol,” sees the Doctor and his companion Ace facing off against an enemy who sees unhappiness as the ultimate crime. Helen A is the happiness-obsessed dictator of Planet Terra Alpha, where it is literally illegal to be unhappy. If you are found guilty of the ultimate crime, the punishment is death by molten candy. What a way to go.

Watch “The Happiness Patrol” on BritBox

“The Seeds of Doom” (Fourth Doctor, Season 13)

Connection to “Smile”: Humans as fertilizer.

Ad – content continues below

Were you into “Smile”‘s creepy human composting story element? Because it’s been done on Doctor Who before. In the Fourth Doctor’s “The Seeds of Doom,” the Doctor and Sarah Jane face off against ruthless botanist Harrison Chase, who tries to use his human-sized composting machine to turn them into plant fertilizer. The episode also includes some great lines of dialogue, including this gem of an exchange: “What do you do for an encore, Doctor?” “I win.”

Watch “The Seeds of Doom” on BritBox

Classic Who Episodes Referenced in “Thin Ice”

“Terror of the Zygons” (Fourth Doctor, Season 13)

Connection to “Thin Ice”: Monster in the Thames

This isn’t the first time the Doctor has encountered a waterborne alien hanging out in the Thames. In “Terror of the Zygons,” the Fourth Doctor travels with Sarah Jane and Harry to Scotland to discover that the Loch Ness Monster actually does exist. Well, technically, it is called a Skarasen and it was brought to Earth by the Zygons who need the creatures to survive. The climax of that serial takes place in London where Nessie makes a rather big scene. 

Watch “Terror of the Zygons” on Britbox

“Pyramids of Mars”(Fourth Doctor, Season 13)

Connection to “Thin Ice”: The TARDIS wardrobe.

In “Thin Ice,” we see the Doctor direct Bill to the magic of the TARDIS wardrobe, which has been used by companions before to find period-appropriate outfits for new adventures. Though it was presumably around from the very beginning, the first time the TARDIS wardrobe makes a notable appearance is in “Pyramids of Mars,” when Sara Jane picks out a dress to wear formerly seen on Second Doctor companion Victoria. A pretty cool connection!

Ad – content continues below

Watch “Pyramids of Mars” on BritBox

Other Classic Who Episodes to Watch to Prepare For Season 10

We initially started this list prior to the Season 10 premiere, based mainly on the trailer and other details about the upcoming episodes we knew. Here are some episodes to watch to prepare for the rest of Season 10…

“The Seeds of Death” (Second Doctor, Season 6)

Connection to Season 10: The Ice Warriors will be back in Episode 9 of Season 10.

Watch out, Season 10! The Ice Warriors are coming for you — this time, in an episode penned by Mark Gatiss. Eagle-eyed viewers of the Season 10 trailer have seen what look like female members of the Ice Warrior race. This will mark the first time we have ever seen female Ice Warriors and only the second time the alien race will appear in NuWho, following their appearance in Season 7’s “Cold War.”

Sadly, the Ice Warriors’ original appearance — in Season 5’s “The Ice Warriors” — is partially-missing and currently unavailable. However, the streaming service does have the Ice Warriors second appearance — in Season 6’s “The Seeds of Death” — and it features the same adorably clunky costumes from the first story.

In “The Seeds of Death,” the Second Doctor and companions Jamie and Zoe are hanging out in a 21st century space museum on Earth when they find out the planet has lost contact with the moon. They hitch a ride to the satellite to find that a group of those pesky Ice Warriors have taken over the moonbase and have some nefarious plans…

Watch “The Seeds of Death” on BritBox

“Terror of the Autons” (Third Doctor, Season 8)

Connection to Season 10: First appearance of the Master.

Ad – content continues below

Missy, aka the latest incarnation of the Master, has been an integral part of the Twelfth Doctor’s run, so it makes sense that she will be back in Season 10 for his last hurrah. To get ready for that delightful experience, we recommend watching the Master’s original appearance during the Third Doctor’s reign in “Terror of the Autons.”

Like Twelve, Jon Pertwee’s turn as the Doctor was also partially-defined by his relationship with his Time Lord frenemy. “Terror of the Autons” is where that first starts, with Roger Delgado’s Master popping onto the scene with a dual plot to both take down humanity and his old foe, the Doctor. His method? Use a Nestene energy unit to control the plastic of the world, including killer Autons, plastic mannequins capable of forming an army. (NuWho fan will recognize this scheme from “Rose.)

In addition to being relevant to Season 10, “Terror of the Autons” is just a great episode of Classic Who (in fact, it was our “essential adventure” suggestion for the Third Doctor in An American’s Guide to Classic Doctor Who), and introduces companion Jo Grant and recurring UNIT character Mike Yates to the Doctor’s team.

Watch “Terror of the Autons” on BritBox

“The King’s Demons” (Fifth Doctor, Season 20)

Connection to Season 10: The Master, of course!

This list wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from Peter Davison’s Doctor and what better way to prepare for Season 10 than with another incarnation of the Master? After all, there will be at least two incarnations of the Master in Season 10: Michelle Gomez’s Missy and John Simm’s Master.

“The King’s Demons” sees Anthony Ainley portraying the Doctor’s arch-frenemy in this tale of jousting, imposters, and shape-changing androids. (We’re looking at you, Kamelion.) When the Doctor and companions Tegan and Turlough arrive in 1215 England, King John greets them warmly as his “demons,” which immediately sets the Doctor’s spidey sense tingling. The Master must be near!

Ad – content continues below

“The King’s Demons” may have been the lowest-rated story of the Fifth Doctor’s era, but it involves Davison getting a chance to show off his fencing skills and attempts to tell a Doctor Who story about the signing of the Magna Carta. What’s not to like?

Watch “The King’s Demons” on BritBox

“Attack of the Cybermen” (Sixth Doctor, Season 22)

Connection to Season 10: The Mondasian Cybermen are back!

The Mondasian Cybermen are back in Season 10, which means it’s time to dive back into the First Doctor story that first introduced the original version of the Cybermen. Given that the Mondasian Cybermen will be featured in the two-part finale of Season 10, which could see the beginning of Peter Capaldi’s regeneration into the next version of the Doctor, these Classic Who villains have a major part to play in NuWho history.

The Mondasian Cybermen first appeared in the First Doctor’s story “The Tenth Planet,” but we’re recommending the Sixth Doctor’s “Attack of the Cybermen.” In the 1985 serial, the Doctor runs into the Cybermen as they plot to change the course of human history by crashing Halley’s Comet into the planet. (Yeah, not the most elaborate plan, but it would probably get the job done.) Things are further complicated by the involvement of Lytton, a villainous mercenary last seen working with the Daleks in “Resurrection of the Daleks.”

“Attack of the Cybermen” is notable both for being in a 45-minute format (most Classic Who installments were 25 minutes), and for being particularly violent. (Gotta love the Sixth Doctor!) It was chosen by Whovians to be representative of the Sixth Doctor’s tenure for the 40th anniversary celebration rebroadcast.

Watch “Attack of the Cybermen” on BritBox

“Survival” (Seventh Doctor, Season 26)

Connection to Season 10: Rona Munro, who penned “Survival,” also wrote the ninth episode of Season 10: “The Eaters of Light.”

Ad – content continues below

Classic Who writer Rona Munro is back for the ninth episode of Season 10, making her the only writer so far to write for both Classic and NuWho. That’s pretty cool. Munro has penned the ninth episode of the season, called “The Eaters of Light.” (Great name.) What can we expect from her installment? Perhaps we can get from clues from her Classic Who story: the Seventh Doctor’s “Survival.”

The last episode of Classic Who before the show entered the so-called “Wilderness Years,” “Survival” truly is one-of-a-kind. Guys, there are Cheetah People. People… who are Cheetahs. Though contemporary production values may not have been quite up to portraying that particular idea, “Survival” is a solid episode of Classic Who, bringing Ace’s story as the Doctor’s companion to some kind of thematic conclusion, even if it wasn’t meant to be one.

In “Survival,” the Doctor brings Ace back to her suburban hometown, only to find out that some of her friends have been kidnapped by a race of alien hunters known as the Cheetah People. Of course, the Master is involved with the harebrained scheme — just another Season 10-relevant aspect of the three-part story.

Watch “Survival” on BritBox

We’ll continue to update this list with other Classic Who recommendations after each new Season 10 episode. Be sure to check back!

A Guide To Classic Doctor Who by denofgeek