Doctor Who, the British science fiction show, first brought the time-traveling doctor and his “bigger on the inside” time machine (the Tardis or Time and Relative Dimension in Space) that looks like a blue police box to audiences in 1963. After cancellations and restarts, the show continues, with a core of recurring characters, locations, and alien friends and enemies. Since the title character of the Doctor regenerates when a particular actor leaves the show, the series has remained interesting as each new Doctor has his own skills, perspectives, and many, many quirks.
After 60 years, the show has not only generated nearly 900 episodes plus spinoffs and after-shows, but also inspired films, books, fan fiction, museum exhibitions, video games, and a treasure trove of podcasts. All “Whovians,” diehard fans of the Doctor, can listen to episodes of the show along with numerous analyses, commentaries, and spoofs.
1. Radio Free Skaro
Often considered the most popular Doctor Who podcast, Radio Free Skaro has offered relevant and irreverent commentaries on the show since 2006. Since the podcasts are usually an hour or more, the hosts have to time to hold free-wheeling discussions of current topics that they relate back to the announced subject of the show. A recent show called Isolation of the Daleks, for example, spent nearly a third of the time discussing the impact of the coronavirus on podcasts and other Doctor Who productions and merchandise.
Hosts: Canadians Steven Schapansky (who also does Lazy Doctor Who), Chris Burgess, and Warren Frey, known as The Rule of Three, have over 800 episodes under their belts. The tone is so conversational that it is hard not to get pulled into the chitchat by these seasoned Whovians, even if you only started watching the Doctor Who episodes with the ninth doctor in 2005.
Format: While they occasionally have had guest interviews, the hosts have so much to say about so many Doctor Who topics that none are needed. While the program features ongoing talk, the show does have different segments, such as answering reader questions. While some listeners get annoyed when the show does not stick to the topics, the banter is always interesting.
Must Listen Episodes
2. Lazy Doctor Who
If you are knowledgeable about Doctor Who, the Lazy Doctor Who is a friendly chat between the two hosts that pulls story arcs from various serials within the show, as they discuss the characters (down to their haircuts), storylines, and even the music. Since the most recent podcasts discuss episodes from 1971, you will enjoy this podcast most if you have seen the episodes under review. Currently, this era of classic Doctor Who is available free to Amazon Prime subscribers, so listening to the podcast after watching the show will add great value to the discerning listener.
Hosts: Married Whovians Steven Schapansky (Radio Free Skaro, The Memory Cheats) and Erika Ensign (Verity!, The Incomparable, Total Party Kill, The Audio Guide to Babylon 5) are experienced podcasters who have watched every Doctor Who episode and have produced nearly 200 episodes of this podcast. As “woke” 2020 commenters, they are not shy about pointing out elements of the show that are now considered culturally insensitive such as the homeless mentally-challenged character played for laughs in the The Claws of Axos Part 1 in their episode 192.
Must Listen Episodes
Format: The two hosts do not chronologically retell the plot lot of the episode, but chat about it as two fans might for 20 minutes. Steven loves all Doctor Who, while Erika is more critical. Their casualness makes the show relatable. In a discussion of a physically sizable character who was eating a chicken leg, Erica saw that as fat-shaming, while Steve saw it as a symbol of a man in the ministry growing fat on the labors of the people. In any case, the discussion made them hungry for chicken, which they decide to make once the podcast was over.
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3. Splendid Chaps
When Doctor Who celebrated its 50th anniversary, the podcast Splendid Chaps premiered to introduce the 11 doctors who traveled into living rooms everywhere. Intended as an 11-month event, the series was so popular that it continued through 2014. As the show expanded, so did the topics, which in 2014 grew to include bonus episodes focusing on books, companions, monsters, and other interesting aspects of the show. Recorded before a live audience, the podcast featured door prizes and excellent sound for the discussion of Doctor Who topics including science, sex, evil, and fear, as well as for a song or performance.
In 2017 and 2018, the show resurfaced to discuss the 12th and 13th doctor and to promote spinoffs and raise funding for the science fiction comedy Night Terrors. Though the hosts do not want to commit to regular programming, they have not ruled out adding to the fascinating list of episodes. Even though it has been two years since the last episode, this podcast remains a go-to for any serious Whovian with an appreciation of comedy.
Hosts: Writer John Richards (creator/writer of ABC’s Outland, Boxcutters podcast) and comedian Ben McKenzie dubbed the “patron saint of geek comedy” by T-Squat Magazine are the main hosts, with co-host Petra Elliott adding background and biographical information. Audio engineer David Ashton contributes top-quality sound to broadcast announced as “slightly hungover but always classy.”
The fact is that Whovians are well-versed in the peculiarities of the various doctors and often have their favorites; so do these hosts. They make it clear that Doctor Who is not just science fiction but popular culture delivered in an entertaining, insightful format.
Guests: While the hosts have plenty to say (which they do in a thoroughly engaging manner), guests including writers, scientists, engineers, game designers, and more add dimension to discussions, while musicians, dancers, and singers engage at-home listeners and studio guests.
Must See Episodes:
Rating: Teen +
4. Gallactic Yo-Yo
Since both professional and armchair critics of Doctor Who are a strongly opinionated bunch, it is no surprise that there is a whole podcast dedicated to unpopular opinions about characters, storylines, timelines, and more. The name, a play on Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, references the preoccupations of all doctors with yo-yos and a comment made by the third doctors who referred to himself as a “gallactic yo-yo” who moves between earth and other planets. The Galactic Yo-Yo podcast, 98 episodes strong at this writing, comes on every week or so to discuss the series and more,
Host: Hosted by poet, playwright, and musician Dylan Marsh, the broadcast is low key as the host engages in serious conversations with his guests, Seldom negative but always discerning, he throws out his one carefully considered opinions and fields those of his interviewees with ease and grace. The broadcast will appeal most to serious Whovians, but even newbies will find insights that are useful for future viewing,
Guests: Guests include writers and critics who love Doctor Who and even more love to mine each episode, scripting, and character for motives, ambiguities, continuity errors, and more. Recent guests have included Kezia Newsome, Will Shaw, Johnny Spandrell, Luke Spillane, and Emma Reeves. The interchanges between Dylan and his guests prove that like the Doctor and his Tardis, the episodes are bigger on the inside and offer more to viewers than meets the eye.
Must Watch Episodes:
5. The Memory Cheats
The Memory Cheats is an energetic discussion of Doctor Who episodes by two knowledgeable fans-turned-podcasters who select the exact show with a Wheel of Fortune-type randomizer, which makes the discussion strictly from memory. After 286 episodes, this podcast which focused on the Steven Moffat era (2005-2017) recoded its finale in November 2019, but it is a worthwhile listen. The episode list is searchable and sortable, often with Radio Free Skaro commentaries, where applicable.
Hosts: Current hosts are Kyle Anderson (The Nerdist, Doctor Who: The Writer’s Room) and Steven Schapanky (Radio Free Skaro, Lazy Doctor Who). Even though these hosts have other Doctor Who gigs, they bring a special enthusiasm to this broadcast, which is based on decades of immersion in Doctor Who culture.
Format: There are no guests, just the chatty hosts. For some episodes, such as the 50th anniversary Day of the Doctor, their memories are rich; for others, such as The Angels Take Manhattan, they are more sketchy; however the hosts’ knowledge is so deep and their presentation so enthusiastic, that you will find yourself trying to find where to watch these episodes.
Must Watch Episodes:
6. Doctor Who: The Writer’s Room
Begun in 2013, Doctor Who: The Writer’s Room is monthly podcast that looked at Doctor Who based on the writers who shaped the show and their televised output for 26 years. After examining all classic Doctor Who episodes, the show changed direction and turned its attention to the Outer Limits, another science fiction show. While viewers of modern Who know writers such Steven Moffat, (40 episodes). Russell T. Davies (25), or Chris Chibnall (16), earlier days featured a broader cast of writers such as Eric Saward, David Whittaker, Christopher H. Bidmead, Kit Pedler, and Gerry Davis.
Most of the earlier writers penned a few episodes that introduced a character, a villain, or a storyline. For the convenience of those interested in a who set the course of the early years of Doctor Who, the index for this podcast includes the writer’s name in the title and what they contributed to the series in the summary for the program. This podcast is a must for those interested in who was responsible for plot twists and turns over the years,
Hosts: Hosts Kyle Anderson (Doctor Who blogger for Nerdist.com) and Erik Stadnik (host of the Doctor Who Book Club Podcast), pull no punches in evaluating the various writers presented and discussing the contribution they made to this series and many others.
Guests: While a few episodes included guest interviews, the format is mostly discussion between Kyle and Erik.
Must Watch Episodes:
Presented by six avid female Whovians, the Verity podcast proves that Doctor Who is just not the purvey of male nerds, as each contributor is a podcaster active in other Doctor Who podcasts and/ or an active essayist, blogger, fan fiction contributor, columnist, or other writer about the Doctor and other science fiction characters. Their mission is to present a women’s perspective on Doctor Who, but the podcast is worth listening to not just because it is presented by women but because the passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm of this group run deep.
While each show has a theme, the group routinely veers off on Who-related events, conventions, and appearances by the hosts on other programs.
Hosts: The robust group of hostesses include:
Deborah Stanish of Philadelphia. regular columnist for Enlightenment, the official ‘zine of the Doctor Who Information Network and co-editor of Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who (2012) with Liz Myles
Erika Ensign of Edmonton, podcast guru who works with Uncanny Magazine, Earp Chip, Beginners Puck, as well as cohosting Lazy Doctor Who with her husband Steven Schapansky and running a media company with him.
Katrina Griffiths of Edmonton, fan fiction writer and podcaster for the Doctor Who Improv Podcast and her solo podcast Start the Music!
L.M. Myles of Kirkcudbrightshire, writer, podcaster, and gamer who co-edited the anthology Chicks Unravel Time (with Deborah Stanish) and Companion Piece (with Liz Barr).
Lynne M. Thomas of Urbana is the Co-Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Uncanny Magazine with her husband Michael Damian Thomas and co-editor of Chicks Dig Time Lords, as well as Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics.
Tansy Ryner Roberts of Tasmania, one of three generations of Doctor Who fangirls, is a fiction writer and one of the co-hosts of Galactic Suburbia, the all-female science fiction podcast full of publishing gossip, pop culture reviews, and the feminist perspective.
Format: With six hosts, this podcast is lively and informative without guests. The group crowdsources ideas and questions from listeners which they answer during their time on the air.
Must Watch Episodes:
8. New To Who
Whovians who got hooked on the show since its revival in 2005 may find themselves curious about former doctors and old storylines that occasionally bubble up from the classic era from 1963 to 1986. New To Who is a sometimes irreverent, always interesting way to get up to speed about the early years.
With 24 episodes done to date, the hosts focus on a group of episodes in each broadcast. Their concern is not to offer a chronological trip through time but to tell viewers what they like and what they didn’t. The flavor of the show is clear in the most recent episode A New To Who Twelfth Day Of Christmas Special: Bah Humbug! Worst. Episode Ever, where the crew spends five minutes each discussing the best and worse of select episodes in each decade. Nothing is off-limits as they are quick to point out what is silly, racist, inconsistent, misogynistic, dull, or poorly written or executed and what is noteworthy and worth watching. Even listeners unfamiliar with Classic Doctor Who come away with unexpected insights. “Classic” does not equate with “classy” or “quality”; those who seek out classic episodes can so with a more discerning eye.
The show’s website offers a downloadable Doctor Who Ratings Matrix, in an enabled “MS Excel file that allows listeners to rate, rank, and visualize your preferences for over 300 Doctor Who stories in the one place.”
Hosts: Hosted by a trio known only as Colin, Daniel, and Steven, the show is fast-moving and punctuated with sound effects and costume props such as eye masks that appear in the graphics and are referenced throughout the show, as if the hosts were time-traveling themselves.
Guests: While the show is often just a fast-paced conversation among the three hosts, guests are occasionally pulled in, such as writer Christopher H. Bidmead, writer of major storylines in the early ’80s, script editor Andrew Cartmel, and fellow podcasts such as Erik Stadnik from the Doctor Who: The Writers’ Room.
Must Watch Episodes :
9. Unspoiled Doctor Who
With its name a play on the concepts of spoilers, comments that can reveal important plot elements, UNspoiled! Doctor Who explores new Doctor Who episodes through the eyes of a new watcher and an experienced Whovian. The host who thoroughly knows the show deliberately tries to put herself in the place of a newbie as they discuss elements of the show. Those savvy listeners who want to have in-depth discussions with other seasoned listeners of the Doctor and a variety of other shows (Stranger Things, Orphan Black, The Leftovers, The Wire, and several more) are encouraged to become show patrons through Patreon.
The coverage on this podcast is limited to series 501-505 (with limited episodes from the last two years), but every episode in the first three years is considered. Even though this podcast has not been updated since 2018, the reviews of these shows from the David Tennant era are invaluable.
Hosts: Experienced Whovian Jaime Smith chats with newbie Natasha Winters as they break down each installment of the show. Because the hosts also work with other shoes, the conversation is filled with comparisons top other series.
Format: The two hosts carry the show without guests.
Must Watch Episodes:
While the Doctor Who podcasts we have covered here represent only a fraction of the available material, we have presented many of the best. Whether you are a universal Whovian who loves both the classic and new series or you prefer on or the other, there are plenty of podcasters ready to discuss your favorite storylines, characters, and theories.
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