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Did someone call for a Doctor? George’s Journal’s great Doctor-ranking-rundown

August 22, 2014


Top of the Docs: so just which of these oh-so familiar faces will be Time Lord Victorious?

That’s right, we’re almost there, my fellow Gallifreyan-partial peeps. Unlike The Doctor himself, we’ve had to come the long way round – we’ve patiently waited (that is, those of us who haven’t in any way checked out the ‘leaks’ on the ’Net) nine whole months and finally the moment has come. Yes, tomorrow, folks, on the goggleboxes in the corner of our lounges and in the flickatoriums across our towns and cities (indeed, how you choose to get your Who-viewing jollies is entirely up to you), Peter Capaldi will finally make his bow as The Twelfth Doctor.

But, my, just what will he be like? Will he genuinely be a much darker version? A far more alien Gallifreyan? A far less patient Time Lord? Dare one say it, a less easy to like Saturday teatime TV hero? Who knows? Indeed, ‘Who’ really knows – but certainly not us yet. What we all do know, though, is exactly what each of the previous 12 – yes, 12 – incarnations of the show’s iconic character have been like and, just as significantly, what we think of them. And, boy, haven’t they been different – and yet similar at the same time? And, golly, don’t we all tend to disagree – and hopefully agree to disagree – on just which ones we prefer and which ones we’d rather see packed up in a box under the time console never to emerge from the TARDIS ever again?

So, methinks, what better way for this blog to mark the unveiling of the next Doctor (and the beginning of the next series of Who) than for a trip down memory lane by taking a look back at all the Doc’s previous incarnations – and, while doing so, ranking them from 12th place right up to my (ahem) numero Who-no?

And lo, is that a thud I heard from outside? And hasn’t the time console stopped sliding up and down? Yes, we’ve landed, folks; time indeed then to fling open the TARDIS doors and commence our adventure…





12. Colin Baker ~

The Sixth Doctor


Aka: The curly, surly one

Era: 1984-86

Episode total: 31 (8 serials)/ most episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Big, blond curly barnet and a quite ridiculous multi-coloured outfit – in the words of Baker himself: ‘like an explosion in a rainbow factory’

Personality: Irritable, pompous, argumentative, volatile and self-aggrandising, yet also – like all the other incarnations – heroic and moralistic

Catchphrase: None

Major companion: Nicola Bryant (Peripuguilliam ‘Peri’ Brown)

Major foe: Michael Jayston (The Valeyard)

Best serial: The Trial Of A Timelord (1986)

Worst serial: The Twin Dilemma (1984)

Pros: A Doc with a difference? One who’s far from immediately likeable and thus a bit of a challenge (following his introductory-regeneration he really shows a dark side too) and that regeneration is arguably the greatest in the show’s history

Cons: The prickly personality and crap clobber takes some getting used to; perhaps the only Doctor it’s hard to actually like (the idea had been for Baker to peel back the layers of the character, ensuring he became more likeable, as time went on – only the actor was fired by the Beeb before the plan properly got underway)







11. Sylvester McCoy ~

The Seventh Doctor


Aka: The one with the question-mark umbrella

Era: 1987-89 and 1996

Episode total: 42 (12 serials)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Short and dark haired with a cream (later dark brown) raincoat, sleeveless pullover featuring question-marks, spats, a panama hat and a red question-mark-umbrella

Personality: Initially a clownish, play-the-fool sort, with a propensity to roll his ‘r’s and predilection for alliterative utterances and playing-the-spoons; eventually he takes on a darker, more sombre air, giving the impression he was manipulating events rather than reacting to them

Catchphrase: Fine

Major companion: Sophie Aldred (Dorothy Gale ‘Ace’ McShane)

Major foe: Fenric

Best serial: Remembrance Of The Daleks (1988)

Worst serial: Time And The Rani (1987)

Pros: A diminutive dynamo of a Doctor, full of energy and unexpectedness; transformation of a light-frothy incarnation into a deeper, darker, more complex one

Cons: The rolling ‘r’s, alliteration and spoon-playing grates quickly and, although interesting and admirable, the change into a darker version isn’t entirely convincing – it hardly feels like a natural evolution and McCoy isn’t the best when it comes to the sober drama and gravitas







10. William Hartnell ~

The First Doctor


Aka: The grumpy grandfather

Era: 1963-66 and 1973

Episode total: 134 (29 serials)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: A combed-back grey mane and an Edwardian gentleman’s outfit, including a long, black frock coat and sometimes checked trousers

Personality: Often authoritative, irritable, short-tempered and forgetful (owing to advanced years), but at other times caring and well-meaning – especially to his grand-daughter Susan

Catchphrase:Mm, what’s that, my boy?

Major companion: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman)

Major foe: The Daleks

Best serial: The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964)

Worst serial: The Gunfighters (1966)

Pros: The original, ‘authentic’ Doc, thus, to a large extent, the one that set the template for all the others to follow or (more often) deviate from; always engaging and, as an older man who’s restricted in the physical stakes, a somewhat off-kilter but comfortingly cosy heroic leader

Cons: That irascible personality isn’t easy to warm to, while the old-school manners and headmasterly air aren’t exactly dynamic; similar to (but to less of an extent than) the unlucky Sixth and Seventh Doctors above, he wasn’t actually blessed with the greatest stories either







9. Patrick Troughton ~

The Second Doctor


Aka: The scruffy cosmic hobo

Era: 1966-69, 1973 and 1985

Episode total: 119 (21 serials)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Short with a black Beatles-esque mop, over-sized black jacket, ill-fitting bow-tie and, like his predecessor, sometimes checked trousers – but deliberately unlike his predecessor, the overall look was like he’d thrown on bits he’d found at a jumble sale; in colder climes often sported a deep brown, very woolly coat which looked like it once belonged to a mammoth

Personality: On the surface, a mixture of kindliness, scatter-brained skittishness and even comedic buffoonery, belying an inner cunning, steeliness and bravery

Catchphrase:When I say run, run!

Major companion: Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)

Major foe: The Cybermen

Best serial: The War Games (1969)

Worst serial: The Krotons (1968)

Pros: Charismatic and amusing; a distinctive change to (even negative of) Hartnell’s original Doctor, thus the successful source for all subsequent Docs’ larking about; adept at instantly dropping the clowning and heroically taking control

Cons: Favourite of die-hard Whovians he may be, but his explain-things-to-everyone-like-they’re-a-child style is rather reminiscent of a Blue Peter presenter; that shabby outfit is sartorially rubbish; unfortunately quite a large chunk of his episodes are still missing







8. John Hurt ~

The War Doctor


Aka: The ‘retconned’ one

Era: 2013

Episode total: 2 (and 1 mini-episode)

Appearance: Post-middle-aged, grey and a bit haggard with an unruly beard yet somewhat coiffed hair, a beaten-up brown leather jacket, boots and an ammunition belt

Personality: Irascible, old-fashioned and mannered like the First Doctor – but more no-nonsense (or ‘no more’?) and world- and war-weary; a man of undisputed action, preferring to sip from a thermos lid than a teacup, for example

Catchphrase: Gallifrey stands!

Major companion: None

Major foe: The Daleks/ The Time Lords

Best episode: The Day Of The Doctor (2013)

Worst episode: N/A

Pros: He’s the War Doctor, ergo a badass; oozes awesome charisma without even trying; a fascinating eye on what the Doctor would be thrown slap-bang into a war; he’s bloody John Hurt!

Cons: Only properly appears in one episode; created via ‘retconning’; is he even ‘technically’ The Doctor?







7. Peter Davison ~

The Fifth Doctor


Aka: The young one with the blond mop

Era: 1981-84 and 2007

Episode total: 69 (20 stories)/ most episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Youthful and blessed with longish blond hair, dressed in beigey-cream and white cricketing togs and often sporting a stick of celery on his lapel

Personality: Amiable and often cheerful, but prone to doleful brooding and guilt; likes to collect and keep a group of companions around him if possible – given his lack of authoritativeness then, something of a team-leader of do-gooders and put-righters

Catchphrase:Brave heart, Tegan

Major companion: Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)

Major foe: Anthony Ainley (The Master)

Best serial: The Caves Of Androzani (1984)

Worst serial: Four To Doomsday (1982)

Pros: Given his agreeableness, maybe the most likeable of all the Doctors; an unquestionable success as the first ‘young’ one (ensuring McGann, Tennant and Smith’s later casting wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows); a solid, dependable and charming lead in a far from golden era

Cons: Lacks the authority, edge and combination of light and dark of many incarnations – and sometimes overly indecisive; all his companions were either average or pants; like the other two ’80s Docs, was burdened with stories more akin to kids’ TV than thought-provoking sci-fi/ mild horror (apart from his swansong, the fantastic The Caves Of Androzani)







6. Paul McGann ~

The Eighth Doctor


Aka: The ‘blink-and-you-missed-him’ one

Era: 1996 and 2013

Episode total: 1 (and *1 mini-episode)

Appearance: Initially, Byron-esque long brown locks and an Old West-style dark outfit (intended for a costume party), complete with frock coat and cravat; when we later meet him, with shorter hair but a long fringe, a long dark overcoat, waistcoat and neck-scarf

Personality: Youthful, romantic, exuberant, whimsical and filled with wonder and joy at the limitless nature of the universe – sort of like a Gallifreyan Pre-Raphaelite

Catchphrase: ‘Physician, heal thyself

Major companion: Daphne Ashbrook (Dr Grace Holloway)

Major foe: Eric Roberts (The Master)

Best episode: *The Night Of The Doctor (2013)

Worst episode: N/A

Pros: Always engaging and charming, yet with just the right touch of mystery; a finely judged take on The Doc as a modern TV (romantic) hero, thus a successful forerunner to Tennant and Smith’s versions; returned to TV 17 years later and was even better second time round

Cons: The real what-could-have-been incarnation; controversially, is apparently half-human, rather than a full Time Lord; the only one to have headlined a failed Who project; seen too little of him to form an opinion on how good he was/ his strengths and weaknesses?







5. Christopher Eccleston ~

The Ninth Doctor


Aka: The Northern one

Era: 2005

Episode total: 13/ all episodes 45-minutes-long

Appearance: Tall with cropped dark hair, a black leather jacket, variously coloured v-neck shirts and Dr Martens boots

Personality: Sprightly, spunky, mercurial, moody, unpredictable – life’s like a box of chocolates with the Ninth Doctor; you never know what you’re going to get (I thank you)


Major companion: Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

Major foe: The Daleks

Best episode: The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances (2005)

Worst episode: Father’s Day (2005)

Pros: An unusual and interesting departure for the character (modern, dynamic, fast-talking and faster moving); a successful kick-starter for ‘Nu Who’; thanks to ‘rectonning’, his personality and appearance make perfect sense as The War Doctor’s successor

Cons: Only featured in 13 episodes; audience didn’t get to see his introduction via a full regeneration; departed after only one series, leaving fans wanting more?







4. David Tennant ~

The Tenth Doctor


Aka: The ‘sexy’ one

Era: 2005-10

Episode total: 47/ most episodes 45-minutes-long

Appearance: Slim and handsome with long sideburns, spiky hair and an often upturned fringe, dressed in a dark blue or brown pin-stripe suit, tie and trainers/ sneakers; sometimes wears an ankle-length faux-suede coat and rectangular-framed glasses

Personality: Arguably the most human Doctor – exuberant, excitable, amorous, geeky yet trendy and up on the pop-culture-zeitgeist, but certainly not without his brooding moments too


Major companion: Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

Major foe: John Simm (The Master)

Best episode: The End Of Time – Parts One and Two (2009-10)

Worst episode: Fear Her (2006)

Pros: Hugely charismatic and hard to take your eyes off him; iconically heroic and easy on the eye; the first incarnation to enjoy a genuine character arc (including doomed romance and overdoing his do-gooding); a huge hit with the punters, truly cementing the success of ‘Nu Who’

Cons: The geeky-trendy shtick and accompanying catchphrases can become a bit annoying; too mainstream, or rather human a Doctor – should the character actually fall for a human being?







3. Jon Pertwee ~

The Third Doctor


Aka: The dandy with the schnoz

Era: 1970-74 and 1983

Episode total: 128 (24 stories)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Tall, grey and always dressed like an Edwardian Beau Brummell – long, often dark frock coats, waste-length capes, neck-scarves and frilly collared and cuffed shirts; often too wears driving-gloves when motoring around in his beloved pseudo-vintage car Bessie

Personality: Usually mannered and courteous, if a little posh, nay even patrician, but invariably becomes indignant at cruelty and evil; a lover of all things vehicular and not averse (unlike most Doctors) to resorting to fisticuffs – especially if it means he can practice his Venusian karate (‘Aikido!’)

Catchphrase: ‘Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow

Major companion: Katy Manning (Jo Grant)

Major foe: Roger Delgado (The Master)

Best serial: The Dæmons (1971)

Worst serial: The Time Monster (1972)

Pros: One of the unforgettable ones – that voice, that face, that hair and those outfits; The Doctor as a true action hero – if there’s a chance of karate-chopping a monster or driving something funky, this Doc never passes it up; surrounded by the cosy but marvellous company of characters that’s the ‘U.N.I.T. family’ and the original (easily best) version of The Master; spearheads the show’s hugely successful transition into colour

Cons: Much of his time sees him banished to Earth, unable to pilot the TARDIS into space and away to other eras, thus somewhat limiting his adventures; the ‘U.N.I.T. family’ as a supporting cast and constancy of The Master as main villain might be a little too samey for some







2. Matt Smith ~

The Eleventh Doctor


Aka: The young one with the chin and the fringe

Era: 2010-13

Episode total: 44/ most episodes 45-minutes-long

Appearance: Always young-looking with a long, swept-to-one-side fringe and, originally, dressed in a tweed jacket, black jeans and boots; later adopts a more Victorian look, comprising colour-coordinated three-quarter-length coat, waistcoat and trousers and a pocket-watch. Oh, and a bow-tie – always a bow-tie.

Personality: Something of a mixture of the previous incarnations: brilliant, brave, eccentric, excitable, chipper, bitter, geeky, confident, socially awkward, somewhat amorous and, most significantly, young and old at the same time


Major companion: Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)

Major foe: The Silence

Best episode: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang (2010)

Worst episode: Nightmare In Silver (2013)

Pros: A beautifully realised and finely balanced interpretation of The Doctor – fitting for this supposed-to-be final incarnation, not least because he combines so many of his predecessors’ traits; fascinatingly presents the character as a sort of folk hero throughout the universe and all-of-time; high quality of this Doctor is matched by high quality of his era; enjoys a story and (character) arc that lasts his entire tenure – indeed, it could be said the conclusion of his character arc is the conclusion of the character arc of all the previous Doctors too

Cons: A ‘greatest hits’ Doctor – does he actually take the character anywhere new?; as they go along, his series’ story arcs (and episode plots) tend to get a bit timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly complicated – and might his overall arc be tied up rather too hurriedly and conveniently?







1. Tom Baker ~

The Fourth Doctor


Aka: The boho with the scarf

Era: 1974-81, 1983 and 2013(?)

Episode total: 172 (41 stories)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Tall and a bit lanky with unruly, curly dark brown hair, boggling eyes and a crazy grin, accompanied by a ludicrously long, multi-coloured scarf, a dark brown (sometimes red) coat and occasionally a cravat (the overall look was based on that of ultimate boho Aristide Bruant); later sports a burgundy version of this general outfit

Personality: The most protean Doctor of all, the Fourth is wonderfully unpredictable – wildly happy or angry one moment, contentedly or morosely quiet the next; all wise and knowing or filled with childlike wonder and amazement; silly and stubborn or overflowing with common sense; yet rarely is he wrong or confounded and always brave, resourceful, moralistic and heroic

Catchphrase:Would you care for a jellybaby?

Major companion: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)

Major foe: Michael Wisher and David Gooderson (Davros)

Best serial: Take your pick… The Ark In Space (1975),
Genesis Of The Daleks (1975), Pyramids Of Mars (1975), The Deadly
(1976), The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (1977) or City Of Death (1979)

Worst serial: Underworld (1978)

Pros: Before (and maybe still after) Tennant’s stint, he’s seen as the definitive take on the Doc by millions of fans – after all, who is it that’s the curator at the end of The Day Of The Doctor?; easily the longest lasting incarnation and never lets up the pace or quality as the years pass; boasts the largest number of quality stories (see ‘Best Serial’ above); early part of his era arguably sees the ‘Classic Series’ at its best as the stories homage and pastiche gothic horror and classic literature; forms an exquisite partnership with surely the show’s greatest companion Sarah Jane Smith

Cons: Truly hard pressed to come up with one… actually, while I’m thinking and you’re waiting, would you like a jellybaby…?







Peter Capaldi ~

The Twelfth Doctor







Peter Capaldi makes his debut as the Twelfth Doctor in Deep Breath tomorrow at 7.50pm on BBC1, at 8.15pm (Central Time) on BBC America, at 8pm on Space (Canada) and at 4.5oam on ABC1 in Australia. Oh, and at more or less the same time in cinemas across the world…





4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2014 2:13 pm

    Come now the 1st Doctor is too far down on the list, his position is unacceptable. He trted Doctor Who, we wouldn’t have it without him- so it’s a far stretch to say that Tennant and Smith are better than him, which they really weren’t. Wiliam Hartnell’s acting is magnificent and he does lighten up so one cannot say he truly is a grumpy old man because that is simply not true.

    • August 27, 2014 6:18 pm

      Yes, I knew this list had the potential to set the cat among the pigeons! But, methinks, it’s pointless doing this sort of thing unless you’re going to be honest – no point towing the line. I hear what you say, but don’t agree that Hartnell (for whom I hold the utmost respect and adored Mark Gatiss’s recent rightfully whimsical love-letter to his and Verity Lambert’s efforts) deserves to be placed higher for the reason he was the first; he originated the role, was very good in what he did, but feel there have been better interpretations since. Having said that, in most cases there isn’t much between many of the different Doctors for me, but the point of list-making is that you put them in different positions – ahead of or behind others – so, there you go. What can you do? 😉

      Thanks for your comment, though, Reece… 🙂

  2. September 15, 2014 6:50 pm

    Great list. I’d personally bump Matt down a couple pegs (personal choice) but otherwise I think I’d agree almost point for point. So glad to have stumbled across your blog today – Doctor Who, Bond, Beatles and Star Wars – how could I have gone so long without finding you?

    And what are your thoughts on Capaldi so far…?

    • September 15, 2014 9:56 pm


      Thank you for such a nice reply – it’s always good to get a reply to a post; it’s always marvellous to get get such an agreeable, approving reply. 😉 Capaldi, so far? Feel he’s yet to settle down (but that’s probably because of quite different stories and different writers thus far), yet exciting, interesting, fun and bags and bags of potential. And you?

      If I may, as you said, this blog’s certainly full of Bond-, Who- and Beatles-related stuff, but many more things too. Anglo-Americana of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s is its focus and, hopefully, there’s much to find for any retro enthusiast within. Right, sales pitch over; welcome aboard…! 🙂

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