They say that your first doctor is usually your favorite. That wasn’t true for me.

A long time ago I watched the first episode of Doctor Who after it was rebooted in 2005, but I didn’t like it. I thought it was over the top, impossibly absurd, and had the visual feel of a soap opera. I did not understand how anyone in their right mind could like it. Over time I saw several more clips, but they still never really clicked with me.

Several months ago, on a whim, I decided to give it one more try. This time, I decided, I would start with series 5. It was the first episode featuring Matt Smith (“The Eleventh Hour”). To my surprise the overall quality of the show had improved greatly. The cinematography was extraordinary and it looked great it HD.

But that’s not what made me fall in love with the Doctor Who universe. From the moment Matt Smith first appeared on screen, he was my doctor. I connected with his version of the character. He embodied everything that is so extraordinary about the Doctor: care and compassion toward everyone, an uncompromising sense of wonder, and a childlike innocence (despite all the awful things he has seen).In retrospect, all the Doctors have had roughly those same characteristics. They’re all incredibly compelling, funny, caring, and clever. Despite my new-found appreciation for the character, I still would be lying if I said past episodes (especially during Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s runs) weren’t a little too cheesy for my liking.

I know that a lot of Whovians have criticised Steven Moffat, the current showrunner, for how he has handled the Doctor, but for me Moffat has handled it better than anyone before. Not only does Doctor Who have a more serious and professional feel where appropriate, but it also has more sentimental and emotional scenes. I have cried many times throughout the series. You really do come to care for the characters, both companions and series regulars alike. I’m also surprised at how well it tackles difficult questions about life, death, and everything in between.

So, people who I’ve said were crazy for liking Doctor Who: I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It’s a very important show with 50 years of incredible cultural influence. And it also happens to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

I’ve spent the past three months on a whirlwind tour watching as much Doctor Who as possible. I’ve seen all of series 5, 6, and 7 (multiple times), and all of the Matt Smith specials. I’ve also watched a lot of episodes featuring David Tennant and Tom Baker (who, behind Matt Smith, is my favorite Doctor, although I also really like Tennant). That said, I have seen at least one episode featuring most of the doctors. So here is my opinion on how to get started if you’re a new fan, or if you’ve seen episodes in that past that have turned you off to the series. No matter how many fans tell you to start with the first episode and watch it straight through, the proper order (IMO) is:

  1. Start with series 5. DON’T make any judgements one way or another until you are at least four episodes in.
  2. Follow with series 6.
  3. When you are finished with series 6, go back and watch the episodes “Silence in the Library” and “Forrest of the Dead.” Optionally, watch “Blink” because it’s often cited as the best episode of Doctor Who.
  4. Watch series 7, but make sure to watch the Christmas special called “The Snowmen” at the appropriate point half-way through the series (it will be obvious).
  5. After series 7, watch “The Day of the Doctor” (the awesome 50th anniversary special that is one of my favorite episodes of television that I’ve ever seen) and “Time of the Doctor.”
  6. Finally, go back and watch old episodes at your leisure. Series 2-4 with the tenth doctor are mostly good, but can be fairly cheesy sometimes. As I said before, I also recommend watching the episodes featuring Tom Baker if you can find them.

I have immensely enjoyed watching Doctor Who, and can’t wait to see what new adventures lie ahead when the show returns this year with a new Doctor. As much as I miss Matt Smith, I’m curious to see how Peter Capaldi will handle the Time Lord. Allons-y!