“Doctor Who” is a British sci-fi TV show that has been on the air since 1963. Over the years, there have been many actors who have played the iconic role of the Doctor. Here is a look at some of the most notable Doctor Who stars:
William Hartnell (1963-1966)
William Hartnell was the first actor to play the role of the Doctor. He played the character from 1963 to 1966, and his portrayal set the standard for all the Doctors that followed. Hartnell’s Doctor was a grumpy and cantankerous character, but he also had a softer side that endeared him to audiences.
Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
Patrick Troughton took over the role of the Doctor in 1966, and he played the character until 1969. His Doctor was more of a clownish figure than his predecessor, but he was also more adventurous and daring.
Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
Jon Pertwee played the Doctor from 1970 to 1974, and his portrayal was marked by his dapper dress sense and his love of gadgets. He was also a more action-oriented Doctor, often getting into physical confrontations with the show’s villains.
Tom Baker (1974-1981)
Tom Baker is perhaps the most iconic Doctor Who star of them all. He played the character from 1974 to 1981, and his portrayal is still beloved by fans today. Baker’s Doctor was a bohemian figure, with his signature scarf and floppy hat, and he had a whimsical and eccentric personality.
Peter Davison (1982-1984)
Peter Davison took over the role of the Doctor in 1982, and he played the character until 1984. His Doctor was more reserved and introspective than some of his predecessors, but he was also fiercely intelligent and resourceful.
Colin Baker (1984-1986)
Colin Baker played the Doctor from 1984 to 1986, and his portrayal was marked by his flamboyant dress sense and his larger-than-life personality. He was also more confrontational than some of the other Doctors, often engaging in verbal battles with his enemies.
Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996)
Sylvester McCoy played the Doctor from 1987 to 1989, and then again in the 1996 TV movie. His Doctor was a more comedic character, with a mischievous sense of humor and a penchant for pratfalls.
Paul McGann (1996)
Paul McGann played the Doctor in the 1996 TV movie, and his portrayal was marked by his youthful energy and his romantic sensibility. Although the movie was not a success, McGann’s performance was widely praised.
Christopher Eccleston (2005)
Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor in the show’s revival in 2005. His portrayal was marked by his brooding intensity and his dark sense of humor. He only played the role for one season, but he made a lasting impact on the show and its fans.
David Tennant (2005-2010)
David Tennant is one of the most beloved Doctor Who stars of all time. He played the character from 2005 to 2010, and his portrayal was marked by his boundless energy and his infectious enthusiasm. Tennant’s Doctor was both whimsical and serious, and he had a deep emotional connection with his companions.
Matt Smith (2010-2013)
Matt Smith became the youngest actor to take on the role of the Doctor at just 26 years old. He brought a unique energy and quirkiness to the role, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Smith’s Doctor was known for his iconic bowtie, fez, and catchphrases like “Bowties are cool” and “Geronimo!”
During Smith’s time as the Doctor, the show’s popularity continued to grow, especially in the United States. He starred alongside Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, who became one of the most popular companions in the show’s history.
Smith’s run as the Doctor also introduced several new elements to the show’s mythology, including the concept of the Silence and the introduction of Clara Oswald, who would become a recurring character in the show.
After three seasons as the Doctor, Smith made the decision to step down from the role. His final episode, “The Time of the Doctor,” saw him regenerate into the Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.
Peter Capaldi (August 2014 – December 2017)
The Twelfth Doctor was portrayed by Peter Capaldi for three series between 2014 – 2017.
A pragmatic character, this Doctor initially concealed his emotions, especially in the midst of tough situations which would result in ruthless decisions. He’s much less empathetic than his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations, not particularly understanding or caring for the human race – though still defining himself as a man who saves people.
His experiences and friendship with his traveling companions caused him to soften over time, and he became a kinder, more selfless, and compassionate man.
Clara remained with the Twelfth Doctor after Eleven’s regeneration, and he was later joined by student Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and alien Nardole (Matt Lucas).
Jodie Whittaker (October 2018 – October 2022)
Jodie Whittaker portrayed the Thirteenth Doctor in the order of their incarnations for three series between 2018 – 2022. She made history by being the first woman to play the character
Whittaker’s version of the Time Lord is a light-hearted, warm person who highly values her friendships, and has a knack and passion for building things. That lively personality often resulted in her speaking at a hundred miles a minute, and the frantic energy she expresses is similar to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.
The Thirteenth Doctor first traveled with a trio of companions – who she lovingly referred to as her ‘fam’. The group consisted of warehouse worker Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), his retired bus driver grandad, Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), and young police officer Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill).
The Future of Doctor Who
David Tennant, previously known as the 10th Doctor, is now also known as the 14th Doctor.
There have been rumors of a possible first female Doctor of color, which would be a groundbreaking move for the show. Many fans are also hoping for a return of some of the classic Doctors in future episodes.
The following actors have portrayed incarnations of The Doctor across the entire life of Doctor Who, here presented in the order in which they played the character in the real-life production.
- William Hartnell as The First Doctor
- Patrick Troughton as The Second Doctor
- Jon Pertwee as The Third Doctor
- Tom Baker as The Fourth Doctor
- Various as The Morbius Doctors
- Adrian Gibbs as The Watcher
- Peter Davison as The Fifth Doctor
- Richard Hurndall as The First Doctor
- Colin Baker as The Sixth Doctor
- Michael Jayston as The Valeyard
- Sylvester McCoy as The Seventh Doctor
- Paul McGann as The Eighth Doctor
- Christopher Eccleston as The Ninth Doctor
- David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor
- David Tennant as The Meta-Crisis Doctor
- Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor
- Toby Jones as The Dream Lord
- John Hurt as The War Doctor
- Tom Baker as The Curator
- Peter Capaldi as The Twelfth Doctor
- Michael Jones as child First Doctor
- David Bradley as The First Doctor
- Jodie Whittaker as The Thirteenth Doctor
- Jo Martin as The Fugitive Doctor
- Evan McCabe as Brendan
- Various as The Timeless Children
- Sacha Dhawan as The Master Doctor
- David Tennant as The Fourteenth Doctor
- Ncuti Gatwa as The Fifteenth Doctor
Doctor Who has been a beloved British institution for nearly 60 years, and the actors who have played the Doctor have all brought something unique to the role. As the show continues to evolve, fans eagerly await the announcement of the next Doctor, and the adventures that await in the TARDIS.
- Mark Boardman is an established showbiz journalist and freelance copywriter whose work has been published in Business Insider, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, MTV, Buzzfeed and The New York Post amongst other press. Often spotted on the red carpet at celebrity events and film screenings, Mark is a regular guest on BBC Radio London and in-demand for his opinions for media outlets including Newsweek. His TV credits include This Morning, The One Show and T4. Email Mark@MarkMeets.com
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