December’s Doctor Who Christmas special introduced a brand-new Time Lord to the world, with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor appearing in the final moments of the episode ahead of her first full series later this year.
And in the long wait until then, it seems like the perfect time to look back at the Doctors who came before her. We asked readers to rank the Time Lords (voting up their own preferences and voting down their least favourites), and after thousands joined in we have a definitive list of each and every incarnation of that mad man with a box.
So here’s the Who’s who of Who, ranked from least to most popular, as decided by RadioTimes.com readers. Only time (and space) will tell just how Jodie will fit in amongst them.
13. Sixth Doctor – Colin Baker (1984-1986)
Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor (BBC)
Colin Baker’s incarnation of the Time Lord has always proven divisive, with his flamboyant outfit, brash behaviour and occasional cruelty rubbing many Whovians up the wrong way. In that respect, it’s not too surprising to see him so far down the list –though in later years, many fans have re-evaluated the character and come away with a more positive impression.
12. Seventh Doctor – Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996)
Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor (BBC)
Considering that McCoy’s tenure on the series was the last before Doctor Who was unceremoniously cancelled in 1989, his low position in our ranking is to be expected. Still, his surprisingly layered and intelligent take on the Time Lord has its fans, who point to the character’s development from a bumbling hero to a manipulative, secretive master of tactics as an intriguing development for the Doctor.
11. Fifth Doctor – Peter Davison (1982-1984)
Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor (BBC)
Taking over from iconic Doctor Tom Baker was never going to be an easy task, so Davison’s successful time on the series has to be applauded. Dashing, younger than ever before (Davison was 29 when he took the role, a record only beaten by the 26-year-old Matt Smith in 2010) and with a vulnerable, slightly indecisive nature, the Fifth Doctor was a hit with viewers – even if other incarnations do remain a little more popular.
10. Second Doctor – Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor (BBC)
Many of Troughton’s Doctor Who episodes have been lost in the years since his Doctor took over, so his enduring popularity is a testament to the actor’s performance and role in revitalising the franchise as the very first new incarnation of the Doctor. Playful, scruffy and childlike while maintaining a genius wit, Troughton’s Doctor informed many of the series’ modern incarnations, particularly Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.
9. Eighth Doctor – Paul McGann (1996, 2013)
Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor in The Night of the Doctor
His one-off turn in the 1996 Doctor Who movie wasn’t enough to bring the series back from the wilderness, but McGann’s time as the romantic and eccentric Doctor (and as the de facto face of the franchise for nearly a decade) remains popular with fans, aided by his future appearances in Big Finish audio plays and 2013 mini-episode The Night of the Doctor, which saw him regenerate into John Hurt’s War Doctor.
8. First Doctor – William Hartnell (1963-1966)
William Hartnell, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills as the Doctor, Ben and Polly
The man who started it all, William Hartnell’s role in shaping the character of the Doctor cannot be overstated. While later actors made the role their own Hartnell helped create the Time Lord as we know him, and his occasionally irascible but generally twinkly Doctor casts a very long shadow over the series to this day. Why else would longtime series fan and now ex-showrunner Steven Moffat bring the character back (now played by David Bradley) for his final episode last December?
7. Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor (BBC)
Compared to his more cerebral predecessors Pertwee’s rather dapper Doctor was a man of action, unleashing Venusian Aikido on his foes nearly as often as he survived on his wits (and impressive scientific know-how) alone. And given that he spent much of his tenure on the series stranded on Earth (due to production reasons), it’s a testament to Pertwee that his Doctor’s more lo-fi adventures can still capture the imagination.
6. War Doctor – John Hurt (2013)
John Hurt as The War Doctor
One of ex-showrunner Steven Moffat’s greatest creations, the War Doctor was invented to fill the gap between Doctor Who’s classic and modern series and was perfectly embodied by the late John Hurt. Appearing in 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor (as well as briefly in 2013 episode The Name of the Doctor and some spin-off Big Finish audio adventures), Hurt’s wry, grave but ultimately warm incarnation was a brilliant addition to the Doctor Who canon.
5. Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston (2005)
Billie Piper, Christopher Eccleston and John Barrowman in Doctor Who (BBC)
While he only lasted one series, Eccleston’s sometimes-tormented (but usually cheerful) Time War survivor the Ninth Doctor has to be credited with the revitalisation of Doctor Who, with his run of episodes reintroducing the character and concept to a whole new generation. It was, to put it simply, Fantastic!
4. Fourth Doctor – Tom Baker (1974-1981)
To most of the world, when you say “Doctor Who” the man they picture is Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. Truly alien and eccentric and still the longest-serving actor in the role, Baker’s Doctor remains the quintessential Time Lord for many viewers – making his brief return to the role in a special DVD release last year all the sweeter for many fans.
3. Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith (2010-2013)
Matt Smith in Doctor Who (BBC)
An old soul trapped in a young body, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor faced a similar task to Davison’s Fifth – following an immensely popular Doctor with a more offbeat performance – but carried it off with aplomb, re-centring the show around his slightly geekier and less cool Doctor and leading the series through some of its most significant episodes to date.
2. Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi (2013-2017)
Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who (BBC Pictures)
The most recent incarnation of the Doctor got off to a rough start, but Capaldi’s talents as an actor and some brilliant episodes eventually smoothed down his rough edges. Intensely moral, occasionally curt and always kind, his rockstar Doctor will be remembered as one of the greats.
1. Tenth Doctor – David Tennant (2005-2010)
Could it be anyone else? From 2005 to 2010 David Tennant led Doctor Who through what may have been its most popular, mainstream success since its early days in the 1960s and 70s. Funny, heroic and handsome with a hidden dark side, his Tenth Doctor was a hugely admired take on the character that brought Doctor Who to the centre of popular culture and made headlines around the world.
It seems fair to say that Doctor Who has keenly felt the Tenth Doctor’s loss since his regeneration in 2010, and while his successors have their fans none have attracted the same love and enthusiasm as Tennant did.
He may just be one in fourteen, but it’s clear that in fans’ eyes the Tenth Doctor is still the one to beat. Over to you, Jodie!
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn