Doctor Who: a guide to the first 11 Doctors

From William Hartnell to Matt Smith, some key facts and figures about the first 11 incarnations of the Doctor - and the actors who played him

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WILLIAM HARTNELL

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Years 1963—66

Episodes 134 (also in The Three Doctors, 1972—73)

Who was he? Born in St Pancras, London, 1908, Hartnell was brought up by his mother alone before steadily making his name as a second-division character actor, with key roles in classic British movies such as Brighton Rock (1947) and This Sporting Life (1963), and ITV sitcom The Army Game.

Doctor profile Grandfatherly, often grouchy but soft-centred, he had a thirst for exploration. The early, educational thrust of the show meant that outer-space trips alternated with adventures in Earth’s past.

Key companion Susan (Carole Ann Ford). The Doctor’s granddaughter was the central mystery of episode one and remains the only member of his family seen in 50 years.

Ultimate foe The Daleks


PATRICK TROUGHTON

Years 1966—69

Episodes 119 (also in The Three Doctors 1972—73, The Five Doctors 1983 and The Two Doctors 1985)

Who was he? Born in Mill Hill, London, 1920, Patrick Troughton was a popular actor in the early days of BBC television, playing one of the first Robin Hoods (in 1953). TV was his favourite medium; he couldn’t abide theatre work, saying, “I can’t stand all that shouting in the evening.” He enjoyed a colourful private life, balancing two families, before embarking on a third relationship.

Doctor profile A scruffy bumbler, given to playing the recorder, he could switch between comedy and gravity in a heartbeat. His era ditched romps in history in favour of “base under siege” thrillers, fending off Yeti, Ice Warriors — even ferocious seaweed.

Key companion Jamie (Frazer Hines) was a refugee from the Battle of Culloden. The kilt-wearing Highlander became the Doctor’s right-hand man, with Hines and Troughton gradually developing a double act.

Ultimate foe The Cybermen usurped the Daleks as the key menace in the late 60s.


JON PERTWEE

Years 1970—1974

Episodes 128 (also in The Five Doctors 1983)

Who was he? Born in Chelsea, 1919. Pertwee’s naval background and vocal range primed him for a long stint in radio comedy The Navy Lark. Post-Doctor Who, he had a hit with Worzel Gummidge.

Doctor profile A dandified adventurer with a penchant for cloaks and ruffled shirts, this incarnation oozed gravitas and charisma. The Time Lords exiled him to Earth, where he became scientific adviser to Unit (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce).

Key companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning), an intrepid but bungling youth assigned as the Doctor’s assistant at Unit. She became his first long-running female companion.

Ultimate alien The Master arrived in 1971, played by Roger Delgado, who told RT that the sinister Time Lord would be “more than a Moriarty” to Pertwee’s Holmesian Doctor.


TOM BAKER 

Years 1974—81

Episodes 172 (also briefly in The Five Doctors, 1983)

Who is he? Born 1934. Belying his rich, actorly timbre, Tom Baker had a working-class upbringing in Liverpool. After six years as a monk, he joined the National Theatre in the 60s. He was often out of work before Doctor Who came along.

Doctor profile With a look inspired by a portrait by Toulouse-Lautrec, this Doctor was a bohemian alien, who liked to thwart his enemies with wit and jelly babies.

Key companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). After a year with Pertwee, the roving journalist blossomed with Baker’s Doctor: “She’s my best friend.”

Ultimate foe Davros, the Hitler-like creator of the Daleks, played electrifyingly in 1975 by Michael Wisher. A rematch in 1979 (with actor David Gooderson) was less successful.


PETER DAVISON

Years 1982—1984

Episodes 69

Who is he? Born in south London, 1951, Peter Moffett changed his surname to Davison when he began his acting career. He was well known to BBC1 viewers as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small, when he was cast as the Time Lord. Always in steady work, he recently starred in ITV’s Law & Order: UK.

Doctor profile The first youthful Doctor had a love of cricket. Mild-mannered, he often acted like a big brother to his scrapping junior companions.

Key companion Tegan (Janet Fielding). The strident air hostess kept the Doctor on his toes and was in all but his final adventure.

Ultimate foe The Mara, a malign force that lay dormant in Tegan’s mind and manifested itself (quite poorly) as a giant serpent.


COLIN BAKER 

Years 1984—86

Episodes 31

Who is he? Born in London’s Waterloo in 1943 during an air raid. Colin Baker made his name in 1970s BBC1 hit The Brothers. Last year, he was a popular contestant in I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

Doctor profile Pompous, volatile, garish.

Key companion Peri (Nicola Bryant). A whiny American botany student who endured for most of this Doctor’s run.

Ultimate foe The Valeyard (classy actor Michael Jayston), a prosecutor at the Doctor’s Time Lord trial, was revealed to be a dark, future version of our hero.


SYLVESTER McCOY

Years 1987—89, 1996

Episodes 43

Who is he? Born Percy Kent-Smith in Dunoon, Argyll, in 1943. He adopted the name Sylvester McCoy while developing a stuntman comedy act. He broke into acting and children’s TV (Vision On), before landing Doctor Who. In 2007 he played the Fool to Ian McKellen’s King Lear. Now in The Hobbit film trilogy.

Doctor profile Clowning, fun-loving showman with a dark secret.

Key companion Ace (Sophie Aldred). An endearing tomboy with a troubled past who called him “Professor”.

Ultimate foe The Rani, a ruthless, amoral Time Lady scientist, played with fabulous archness by Kate O’Mara.


PAUL McGANN

Years 1996

Episodes 1 (also The Night of the Doctor on BBC red button, 2013)

Who is he? Born in Surrey, 1959, but raised in Liverpool, Paul McGann shot to fame in 1986 as the star of BBC1’s controversial First World War drama, The Monocled Mutineer. A year later he and Richard E Grant became cult figures with Withnail & I. In recent times, he’s appeared in Luther and Ripper Street.

Doctor profile Short-lived, charismatic Doctor who approached life with joy and passion.

Key companion Grace (Daphne Ashbrook), a San Franciscan cardiologist with a love of opera.

Ultimate foe The Master (Eric Roberts) — this Doctor’s only opponent.


CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON

Years 2005

Episodes 13

Who is he? Born in Salford, 1964. Eccleston clocked up an impressive CV in the 90s with Cracker and Hillsborough (ITV), Danny Boyle’s film Shallow Grave and Our Friends in the North (BBC). As well as the Doctor, he’s played John Lennon, and the Son of God in Russell T Davies’s The Second Coming. He’s currently in cinemas in Thor: the Dark World.

Doctor profile The last of the Time Lords was cool and swaggering in his leather jacket and the first to speak with a northern accent.

Key companion Rose (Billie Piper), a shop assistant who blossomed in the Doctor’s company. “He loves her, simple as that. And she loves him,” Eccleston told RT in 2005.

Ultimate foe The eerie “empty child” and gas-mask zombies who roamed war-torn London, asking, “Are you my mummy?”


DAVID TENNANT 

Years 2005—10

Episodes 46 (also in The Day of the Doctor 2013)

Who is he? Born in Bathgate, West Lothian, 1971, David McDonald took his stage name Tennant from Pet Shop Boy Neil. His star potential was spotted in BBC’s Blackpool and Casanova. Now he’s one of the most popular actors on TV and the stage.

Doctor profile Dazzling, dishy Doctor in a suit and long coat who fell for Rose and took the series to new heights of popularity.

Key companion Rose (Billie Piper)

Ultimate foe The Daleks, whose actions parted him from both Rose and Donna.


MATT SMITH

Years 2010—13

Episodes 44

Who is he? Born in Northampton, 1982. In 2007 Smith won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for outstanding newcomer. After BBC2’s Party Animals, aged 26, he became the youngest actor cast as the Doctor. He’s soon to star in a musical version of American Psycho, opening in December at London’s Almeida Theatre.

Doctor profile Geeky persona and elastic limbs hide an ancient spirit.

Key companion Amy (Karen Gillan), the little girl who waited.

Ultimate foe The Weeping Angels who separated him from Amy and Rory.


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