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Ranking all the the Doctor Whos

Since my last article, the trailer for “Doctor Who”’s 60th anniversary special has dropped! I for one am not well. However, I am going to save all my thoughts on the anniversary special for when it actually comes out, so for today, I am sticking with my original plan and ranking all the Doctors.


Well, the Doctors, or the Doctor Whos. Because, fun fact, the character of the Doctor was credited as “Dr. Who”/”Doctor Who” from 1963-1978. However, for ease, Doctors are generally referred to by number (the first Doctor is One, the most recent Doctor is Thirteen). The question of which Doctor is the best is a question that constantly plagues fans. Nobody agrees, but as the Hoot’s only resident Whovian, my opinion goes for this publication.


Now, I am only counting the main numbered Doctors. No War Doctor, Fugitive Doctor, Metacrisis Doctor, Shalka Doctor, etc. Just the main ones. I am also giving the TV show proper a lot more weight than Big Finish and the spin-offs. If you are a “Doctor Who” fan and you disagree with this list (which I’m sure you will), feel free to write your own response.


Here we go!


#13: The Sixth Doctor

Coming in last place is Colin Baker’s Doctor. He is lovingly known as “Sixie” to his fans, but alas, I cannot count myself among that number. The main problem with the Sixth Doctor is the fact that the show seemed determined to make him into a jerk. He’s mean to pretty much everyone he meets, including his companions. His outfit is also truly atrocious (think “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” gone very wrong). Colin Baker also had the misfortune of two of the worst seasons in Doctor Who’s history, plus a BBC director who hated the show. He has his moments, most notably when he condemns the Time Lords for their corruption, but it’s not enough to make up for how bad a lot of his tenure is.


#12: The Eighth Doctor

Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor is the Doctor from the 1996 TV movie. If you’ve never heard of the TV movie, do not worry, you are not alone. Eight returned in a mini-episode for the show’s 50th anniversary, and had a cameo in the most recent special, “The Power of the Doctor.” However, he just has far less screen time than any other Doctor, making it difficult to rank him high. Eight’s fans are usually also big fans of the Big Finish audio series, where Eight gets a lot more to do. Alas, I still find him insufferable in those, as he has a big ‘holier-than-thou’ complex that really irritates me. But in terms of televised content, we really just don’t get to know Eight very well, and what we do see is only meh. Paul McGann is, however, very hot.


#11: The Ninth Doctor

If you’re a casual viewer of “Doctor Who,” Nine is probably the first Doctor you saw. Played by Christopher Eccleston, he’s the first Doctor in the revived series. However, he’s only around for one season. Eccleston left the show due to creative differences (re: a massive falling out) with the show’s leadership, and because of that, his Doctor never reaches its full potential. Nine is most known for some sassy quips and his “fantastic!” catchphrase. His character arc revolves around recovering from PTSD by falling in love with a 19-year old girl, which is, shall we say, a little bit creepy. Eccleston’s performance is strong and Nine has good moments, but his character arc is both rough and truncated. Like Eight, we just don’t get to know Nine enough for me to justify giving him a higher ranking.


#10: The Fifth Doctor

Of all the people to play the Doctor, Peter Davison is probably the one who was most famous at the time he was cast due to playing Tristan in “All Creatures Great and Small.” He then went from playing this irresponsible character to a Doctor who truly epitomizes the idea of “nice.” The Fifth Doctor goes around in a cricket uniform, says things like “it’s absolutely splendid,” and is insufferably noble. The problem is being nice doesn’t equal being interesting. Five has a couple truly stunning moments, especially in his final story when he sacrifices himself to save the companion he met just one story ago, but Davison is just never really given enough interesting material to chew on. Plus the celery on the lapel is really unfortunate. 


#9: The Seventh Doctor

During Sylvester McCoy’s time as the Doctor, the show was cancelled. This wasn’t necessarily McCoy’s fault though—he did the best with what he was given. During its final seasons, the show was following what is known as the “Cartmel Masterplan,” named for then-script editor Andrew Cartmel. Part of this masterplan was making the Doctor into a much darker, almost Machiavellian, figure. McCoy pulls this off with great aplomb (after a goofy debut season that is best ignored), but because of the show’s cancellation his character arc is never finished. Additionally, a lot of what makes Seven’s final season great is his companion Ace, rather than the character of Seven himself.


#8: The Tenth Doctor

This is where I may start to get in trouble (scratch that, I know I’m in trouble because my fellow editors have already given me a piece of their mind), because David Tennant’s version of the Doctor is much beloved by fans, so much that he’s coming back for the 60th anniversary. However, I’ve never resonated with Ten. To be frank, Ten is my least favorite of all the roles I’ve seen David Tennant in (that being said, his Hamlet lives rent-free in my brain). Ten really shines in Series 4 when he’s paired with the absolutely iconic companion Donna Noble. However, before that, I really find him too melodramatic. Ten’s character is also very inconsistently written, meaning that his morals are all over the place. His “the laws of time are mine” speech is just far too much. Plus his romance with Rose continues the ickiness begun with Nine. All this being said, Ten is so superb with Donna, and I do love plenty of his moments, so I can’t rank him that low. Tennant’s acting is always amazing, he’s just not always well-served by the writing.


#7: The Thirteenth Doctor

Yep, I’m putting Thirteen above Ten. Live with it. Jodie Whittaker is the show’s first female Doctor, she’s the most recent Doctor, and her Doctor is just a ton of fun. She doesn’t have the deep relationship with her companions or the satisfying character arcs of the Doctors I’ve ranked above her, but I’m always smiling when she’s on screen. Whittaker also really makes the Doctor feel like an alien, something that I love. Like Ten, Thirteen can be quite inconsistent in her characterization. And like Seven, she starts off a bit too goofy and ends on quite a serious note. Thirteen can fall flat at times, but she can also be, as her catchphrase says, “brilliant”! Thirteen also really brough back the wanderlust and love of travel that the revived series is sometimes missing, and I truly love her for that.

#6: The Third Doctor

If you like James Bond, you’ll love Three. Jon Pertwee, who plays Three, was a spy during World War II alongside Ian Fleming and served as a partial inspiration for James Bond. Pertwee’s iteration of the Doctor was then inspired by James Bond. Fun times! The Third Doctor is a man with great style. He wears velvet jackets, drives a yellow car named Bessie, and kicks serious ass with a fictional martial arts style called Venusian Akido. What makes Three truly great, however, is his character arc. He starts out exiled to Earth and forced to work for a government agency called UNIT. Over his five seasons, he becomes compassionate, funny and develops a wonderful bond with his companions, especially Jo Grant. He also has amazing chemistry with Roger Delgado as the Master. Three is a bit of a slow burn Doctor, but if you stick with him, it’s hard not to fall in love.


#5: The First Doctor

This may be a controversial placement, but I just really love One. I have so much nostalgia for his era, which I mostly saw during the first few months of the pandemic. It’s old, sure, but it’s also so incredibly fun and endearing. One’s character arc is essentially “becoming the Doctor.” William Hartnell’s acting also brings a real grandpa/wizard vibe to the character, and starts off fairly malicious before growing into the hero we all know and love. He is aided in this quest by original companions Ian and Barbara, and together this is one of the show’s greatest trios. What makes One really great is his wicked sense of humor, his smarts and watching him grow alongside his companions. Sure, there are some flubbed lines and dated moments along the way, but it’s all part of the charm.


#4: The Fourth Doctor

Four at number four! It’s almost like I planned this (I didn’t). Tom Baker’s Doctor is arguably the most iconic in the show’s history. Known for his long scarf, jelly babies and monstrous tenure (seven seasons!), Four is consistent and reliable. He’s fun, often sarcastic, has strong morals and great enthusiasm. He doesn’t really have a character arc, but he doesn’t need one. Four is another Doctor who really reminds you that the Doctor is an alien. Plus, his rapport with his companions is second to none (even more impressive when you learn that most of Tom Baker’s co-stars hated him). For many people, Four will always be the definitive Doctor. And even though I don’t have the same nostalgia for him, I can absolutely understand why.


#3: The Eleventh Doctor

If you ask me who “my Doctor” is, I’ll say that it’s Eleven. Matt Smith’s Doctor is what made me really fall in love with “Doctor Who” as a show. However, being ‘my Doctor’ doesn’t make Eleven the best Doctor. From Series 5-7A, Eleven is stunningly good. He has a fabulous character arc, a great dynamic with his companions, an actual good romance plot with River Song and the perfect mix of fun and dark. Had his time as the Doctor ended with the Ponds’ departure, he would be my absolute favorite. Unfortunately, Eleven’s character arc does take a bit of a dip in Series 7B, and he doesn’t have a ton of chemistry with his new companion. Therefore, I can’t justify ranking him first, even though he’s my Doctor. But still, I do love him and Eleven will always have a special place in my heart. 


#2: The Twelfth Doctor

Peter Capaldi is quite possibly the best actor to ever play the Doctor. He delivers the performance of a lifetime, managing to deliver stand-up comedy, heartbreak, rage and several dramatic speeches along the way. Some of these aforementioned speeches are a little bit much, but Capldi delivers them with such confidence I can’t help but buy it. When Capaldi is paired with Jenna Coleman as companion Clara Oswald, Doctor Who’s acting quality is at its absolute peak. Twelve has the same grandpa/wizard energy as One, with a healthy dose of revived-series angst. Capaldi represented a change for the revived series, making the Doctor an older, sillier and scarier figure. But it was exactly what the series needed to stay fresh. And I absolutely love Twelve for it.


#1: The Second Doctor

Here he is, the greatest Doctor of them all. And it is Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. Two really is the blueprint, and every Doctor after him has been influenced by Troughton’s performance in some way. You can’t not love Two. He’s hilariously funny, with serious chaotic gremlin energy while still having a lot of heart. Two’s dynamic with his companion Jamie McCrimmon is one of the greatest Doctor/companion dynamics in the whole show. If you love anything about any Doctor, it’s highly likely that Troughton did it first. Two is the type of Doctor that you want to wrap up in a blanket and never let go. I never cried more watching Doctor Who than when Two regenerated. It’s been 54 years since Troughton left the show, and we have yet to have a Doctor as great as him.

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