Over the course of the last 53 years, thirteen different actors have played the role of The Doctor – or, if you decide to factor in some of the non-canon stars as well (like Peter Cushing, Rowan Atkinson, and Richard E. Grant), you’re left with an even more extensive list of names. However, not every Doctor is created quite as equally, with some naturally hitting home more successfully than others, but that’s the beauty of this show and this character – because each incarnation is a different facet of The Doctor’s personality, there will always be someone who loves them the most, as well as someone who loathes them. But who are my favourites?
Why, I do believe it’s time to find out…
5. John Hurt (The War Doctor, 2013)
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m sort of cheating with this one. The number five spot could just as easily have gone to one of the classic Doctors, but the truth is I just haven’t seen enough of most of them to fully rank them in comparison to their peers. The other candidate for this spot would have been Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston, who did a fantastic job in the role (pun fully intended), but I can’t say I ever felt the same amount of warmth or admiration for his version as I have for some of the others. And yet, rather ironically, I’ve instead plumped for an incarnation that we’ve barely seen on screen, only appearing in three television stories to date – once as a cliffhanger in The Name of The Doctor, once as a mute flashback in Listen, and once in the 50th anniversary special The Day of The Doctor (and also once as a blurry reflection in The Night of The Doctor too, if we’re counting that). And yet, from what’s probably less than an hour of total screen time so far, John Hurt’s battle-torn War Doctor is easily one of the most interesting. In short, he’s a Doctor with a difference, and one with a history – the one who broke the promise and wiped out all of his own kind (except, y’know, he didn’t really). But that’s not what makes him stand out – it’s Hurt’s affectionate, beautifully damaged performance, and in contrast to the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors bubbling youth, he’s the very embodiment of classic Who and a reminder why older Doctors are often some of the best.
4. Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor, 2010-2013)
Speaking of The Eleventh Doctor, he drunk-giraffe-dances into the number four spot on this list with a crash, bang, and a wallop! Matt Smith is the man who single-handedly boosted the fortunes of the bow tie industry (bow ties are, after all, cool) as well as reinvigorated this blogger’s need for tweed. An old head on young shoulders, his Doctor was truly one that captured the alien nature of the Time Lord (most obviously seen in episodes like The Lodger) and for a relatively unknown actor, his performances (particularly during his debut year) were astonishingly good stuff. Admittedly, Matt’s Doctor became a bit of a caricature of himself later down the road, let down by some rubbish scripts in Series 6 and 7, with many of his quirks played up a bit too much at times – and lest we forget his mind-bogglingly nonsensical swansong, The Time of The Doctor, complete with cringe-inducing nudity and wig jokes – but he was still infinitely watchable and remains one of the best Doctors from the modern era.
3. David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor, 2005-2010)
I can hear the torches being lit and the pitchforks being sharpened already. David Tennant, only number three?! I’m going to get it in the neck for that, aren’t I! But getting the bronze medal in a hotly contested competition of amazing actors is by no means a knock (knock, knock, knock…) against his talent. I think we’re all very aware that without David Tennant’s phenomenal performances, Doctor Who would not be the global smash hit sensation that it is today – and rightly so. His Doctor was full of fire, ice, and passion – able to switch from light to dark at the drop of a hat, the life and soul one minute and the Oncoming Storm the next. What’s more, he enjoyed some of the best modern Doctor Who stories – The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Blink, The Fires of Pompeii, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, The Waters of Mars… heck, I’m even going to say it, The End of Time was bloomin’ brilliant too. The only real knock I can make against The Tenth Doctor is his over-reliance on getting smoochy smoochy with his companions (even the ones who didn’t fancy him!) – it all got a little too soap opera-y at points, at least for my liking. Although, if I looked that good at the age of 900-and-something, I’d want to take advantage of it too!
2. Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor, 1974-1981)
Well, if the angry mob weren’t already after me for my last pick, they’re certainly out for me now. Tom Baker – The Doctor, the definite article! – only number two?! I know, I’m terrible aren’t I? But my point remains – this race is so tight, these top picks are all pretty much on par as it is. There’s absolutely no denying it though, Tom Baker is for all intents and purposes the definitive Doctor Who, with his long scarf and Cheshire cat smile the most iconic imagery since the TARDIS itself. I don’t know how else to describe him but brilliant, the finest of all the classic Doctors, and the most extraordinary character the series has likely ever seen. Strong-willed and powerful, yet forever playing the fool, The Fourth Doctor was pretty much perfect at portraying the Time Lord’s alien-ness compared to his predecessors (and indeed, compared to many of his successors as well). He’s also the star of what are hands down some of my favourite classic era serials: Genesis of the Daleks, The Deadly Assassin, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, City of Death… all masterpieces, not least in part because of Tom’s amazing performances. He even showed up again to steal the show as The Curator at the end of The Day of The Doctor – and if that appearance was anything to go by, it sounds like Four was one of The Doctor’s own personal favourite regenerations, too.
1. Peter Capaldi (The Twelfth Doctor, 2013-)
Maybe it’s because he’s a name I already knew. Maybe it’s because he plays the guitar and acts a bit like a cosmic rocker. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been lucky enough to meet the guy on two occasions. But for me, Peter Capaldi is my Doctor. Which is weird, when you think about it, because my first truly memorable Doctor Who experience was watching Christopher Eccleston turning into David Tennant, followed by 5 years of The Tenth Doctor and 4 years of The Eleventh Doctor. If anything, one of those guys should be my number one. But when I sit back and genuinely think about the portrayal of the characters themselves… well, I just keep coming back to Twelve. Not only is Peter Capaldi one of the most astounding actors to have ever played the part, full of gravitas and wit, he’s also a total Doctor Who nut and it totally shows in just how passionate he is about the show both on and off camera – plus, ultimately, I think I prefer The Doctor being older. He has lived for over 2000 years now, after all! Oh, and I can’t possibly forget that, despite only having been around for two series so far, The Twelfth Doctor has hands down starred in some of my favourite modern Who stories – Deep Breath, Listen, Flatline, Last Christmas, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion, Heaven Sent… particularly the last one on that list: wow, just wow! Sure, there’s every chance that Series 10 won’t do him as much justice as his first two seasons, but for the time being at least, Doctor Twelve can stand tall as my number one pick from the pantheon.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a sudden urge to go back and watch some of these episodes on DVD… just thinking about all these great Doctors makes me want to relive their adventures all over again!