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How many times has "Doctor Who" been said in Doctor Who?

It's the greatest study in the history of time and space

Published: Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 2:29 pm

How many times has the phrase “Doctor Who” been said (both deliberately and unintentionally) in 53 years of Doctor Who? It’s the question that you’ve almost certainly never asked yourself.


But now you have opened your mind to such an important issue, other questions must now be presenting themselves. Which Doctor’s tenure had the most mentions of “Doctor Who”? Which character has said “Doctor Who” the most? And who was the first person to say “Doctor Who”?

If any of the above questions have piqued your interest, read on. Otherwise, it’s probably time to close the page. Although I don’t know why you clicked on this in the first place, if I’m honest – it’s called 'How many times has "Doctor Who" been said in Doctor Who?'

So, how many times has “Doctor Who” been said? The answer is simple, it’s 63 times in 53 years. By my maths that’s a pedestrian 1.19 mentions of the show title per year over the sci-fi behemoth’s entire history. However, if you remove years the show wasn’t on TV, that figure creeps up to 1.66 times per active year.

The first time “Doctor Who” was said on Doctor Who was, as you might expect, in the very first story, An Unearthly Child, in 1963. And the person who said it? The Doctor himself…

Ian Chesterton: “Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman”

The Doctor: “Eh? Doctor who? What’s he talking about?”

Hartnell is one of only three Doctors to say the show’s title, the others being Peter Capaldi (who is the most recent of any character to use the phrase, he said it in Dark Water) and Matt Smith, who said “Doctor Who” twice during his tenure.

Indeed, Matt Smith’s time in the Tardis has by far the most mentions of the series name of any of the Doctor’s incarnations – a whopping 42 “Doctor Whos” in just five years (an average of 8.4 “Doctor Whos” per year, a 400% increase on the average Doctor Whos per year).

The ten mentions during the Hartnell era puts him firmly second, ahead of three mentions during Eccleston’s time in the Tardis, two for Tennant and then one mention per every other Doctor… except two.

Paul McGann was only in the Tardis for one and a bit episodes, so it's not surprising that there were no Doctor Who mentions during his tenure. However, shockingly, although Tom Baker played the Doctor for the longest time in the show’s history (nearly seven years) there was not one “Doctor Who” during his era. For keen students of the subject who wish to leave no stone unturned, it is worth noting that there were two very close calls with Baker (“Doctor whose” and “Doctor whoever”) but for the purposes of this analysis such instances are stricken from the record.

The numbers reveal just 15 mentions of the show in the Classic Who era compared with a huge 48 mentions since the show's reboot in 2005. In other words 76 per cent of "Doctor Who" mentions have taken place during the most recent 38 per cent of Doctor Who's active years on British television.

“That’s all very well,” I hear you cry, “but you said you’d tell me which character has said ‘Doctor Who’ the most.”

And I will. It’s Handles. Yep, the Cyberman head that stands in for the Doctor's companion while Clara is taking a break. He says it seven times. What's more, every one of those mentions was in 2013 Christmas special The Time of the Doctor… and each mention of the show title was consecutive.

Other top offenders are Wotan, who says “Doctor Who” six times in the 1966 William Hartnell story The War Machines, Clara Oswald herself who has said it five times (twice in The Snowmen and three times in The Bells of Saint John) and Simeon, who says “Doctor Who” three times in the appropriately titled The Name of the Doctor.

To conclude, I don’t think the Daleks would mind me mentioning that as an evil collective they have uttered the show’s title five times in 53 years. How many times they have said “exterminate,” well, that’s a project for another day.

So there we have it. What a journey. Thanks for your patience.


I owe a great debt to this invaluable Doctor Who script resource.


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