Doctor Who: Ranking the Doctors

After a very long break I’m back to blogging!

The Doctor, he/she is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.  Leaving home, he/she travels around through time and space in the TARDIS; a ship that’s bigger on the inside, visiting strange new worlds, saving lives and fighting monsters. Through the brilliant concept of regeneration, the Doctor can change when his/her body is “wearing a bit thin.” While still the same person, each incarnation has their own appearance and personality that makes them all unique.

For the purpose of the list I’ll be judging each Doctor based on how they were written and performed. In addition to the television series I’ll also be looking at the Big Finish audio dramas as well. Of course this is just my opinion so if you see your favorite Doctor near the bottom please don’t take it personal. This is meant to be fun.

So with that said, lets begin…

#14.

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodi Whittaker)

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It pains me to put her here, but at the bottom we have the current incarnation of our heroic Time Lord. Jodi Whittaker is a fine actress based on her work in Black Mirror, Attack the Block and Broadchurch. I thought she was a good choice and would bring something fresh to the role. Sadly, it feels like she’s doing a shallow imitation of the Doctor. She doesn’t have a presence or personality of her own. Sure she’s brave and selfless, but so were her other selves. The only thing about her that I can remember is the constant exposition dumps that go on and on throughout the season.

My problems with Thirteen have nothing to do with Jodi herself. I put the blame squarely on head writer and show-runner Chris Chibnall. He just doesn’t seem to know how to write a character like the Doctor. To him the Doctor is just really goofy with the occasional motivating speech. It really bugs me when writers make the Doctor socially awkward as a way to seem alien. To me it’s lazy and makes the character look stupid rather then the intelligent hero that’s been protecting earth for centuries. We’ve only had one season with her so there’s room for improvement.

#13.

The War Doctor (John Hurt)

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The War Doctor was the one who fought in the Time War, the backstory for the modern series. He rejected his name and principles to become a battle hardened warrior. It’s an interesting concept and getting the late Sir John Hurt to play him was nothing short of amazing. In terms of execution though, he is completely wasted and pointless. He was built up to be this dangerous and terrifying figure that future Doctors disowned. However we don’t see any of that in the 50th anniversary special. He isn’t given much to do apart from moaning at Ten and Eleven for being young and immature.

I had hoped that we’d get more of the dangerous warrior that we were promised when Big Finish announced they’d be doing new audio dramas with John Hurt reprising the role. But apart from being a bit more rude and bitter, he’s still the Doctor, and an unmemorable one at that. John Hurt is a legend and he does an excellent job with what he’s given. But like with Jodi, the problem comes down to the writing.

#12.

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)

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While there are things I like about him, I find Ten is a self pitting, hypocritical, narcissist. He loves to put himself on a high moral pedestal, judging others far more harshly then he ever does himself. Also, the constant god imagery makes him out to be some sort of Messiah.

The smugness he displayed with Rose Tyler and his treatment of Martha Jones as a rebound companion made him very hard to like. Ten was at his best with Dona Noble, primarily because of the chemistry between David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Donna had no problem calling the Tenth Doctor out on his bullshit when it was needed.

Though what really ruins my view of the Tenth Doctor was the self congratulating swansong, The End of Time. It’s hear that Ten devolves into a moaning, self indulgent ass who rants about his impending regeneration. Worse is that he never excepted it, even after he went on a twenty minute farewell tour. Less said about his final words the better.

#11.

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)

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A self proclaimed madman with a box, the Eleventh Doctor was bursting with life, energy and childlike glee. Though he was over nine centuries old, he looked and acted younger then he ever had before. Matt Smith perfectly portrayed an old soul in a young man’s body. The way he was able to shift back and forth was great and it’s what kept me engaged.

It’s difficult to describe Eleven further without thinking about his predecessor. He’s very similar to  the Tenth Doctor. Both are young, hyper, charming and romantic. The difference being the latter incarnation was more alien and far less arrogant. He’s very likable but I wish that they did more to make him different from his predecessor. I also feel that he got a little too silly in the latter part of his era and the overall quality of the writing had dropped pretty hard. That being said, Smith always gave one hundred percent with every script he was given.

#10.

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

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In terms of actors, Peter Capaldi was the best one of the modern series. It was great that we were finally getting an older and wiser incarnation. The Twelfth Doctor was stern with a cynical edge but also had a soft and occasionally humorous side. Pairing him with college student Bill Potts created a great mentor/protege relationship. I also like that he was unsure of himself from time to time. It can get dull if the Doctor always has all the answers. He’s not higher on the list because of how inconsistent his Doctor was written throughout his era.

In his first season he was moody with a tendency to monologue. I never got a chance to understand this Doctor because the season hardly focused on him. The second season was worse by trying to make him more zany like the Eleventh Doctor. The third season was by far his best and it felt like the writers finally nailed his Doctor. I know Capaldi is a busy actor but I hope he reprises his role on audio one day.

#09.

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

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Ah, now I’m really feeling nostalgic. Like Hartnell’s incarnation was for the classic series, The Ninth Doctor was the first of the modern series. Christopher Eccleston had the difficult task of carrying on role that had existed for 40 years while also attracting fans of a new age. Of course one of those new fans was yours truly. This series has become a big part of my life in terms of entertainment.

Nine was a very troubled and damaged man. As the lone survivor of the Time War, the Doctor was responsible for the destruction of his planet and species along with there enemies, the Daleks. He suffered tremendous guilt and psychological trauma. Despite possessing a lot of anger and sadness, Nine still had plenty of smiles and laughs throughout. Do to issues behind the scenes, Eccleston left after only doing one season. It really hurts that we didn’t get at least one more with him. Though it’s because of him that the modern series was a success.

#08.

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)

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The Fifth Doctor is one that I feel is very underrated in my opinion. Kind, sensitive and clever, Davison brought a human element to the Doctor that we hadn’t seen at that point. The Fifth Doctor wasn’t afraid to show his vulnerable side, especially to his friends. Gone was the authority figure present in his previous selves, replaced by a persona that was more naive but with more excitement for the wonders of the universe.

While I don’t think he fully came into his own on the show until his swansong (something Davison himself has stated), his incarnation was arguably the most heroic of the bunch. This was the incarnation that risked his life to save a person that he barely knew. Even with the knowledge that regeneration may not be possible, he never hesitated for a second to lay down his life for someone else. He continues to be great on Big Finish, with classics like Spare Parts and Creatures of Beauty.

#07.

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)

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The one who started it all. On the surface the First Doctor could be seen as a grumpy old man. He could be very cold to the people around him. This Doctor was willing to leave others behind if they slowed him down and on one occasion he considered killing a wounded caveman with a rock. The First Doctor also had trust issues, especially towards his initial companions whom he kidnapped after they discovered his ship.

That’s not to say he didn’t have a soft side. The First Doctor loved his granddaughter and was very protective of her well being. Over the course of his era the First Doctor mellowed out, enjoying his travels with his companions. It broke his hearts when they eventually left, though he would always find someone new to travel with. Through them he developed into the empathetic figure that would continue on throughout all his lives.

#06.

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

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The Third Doctor was suave, confident and a man of action. As the scientific adviser for UNIT, he spent most of his time building gadgets and conducting experiments. But that was only half his job. Driving around in fast cars and getting into fist fights was also an important aspect of this Doctor. Think James Bond with Q’s intelligence.

Like his first incarnation, Three could be very grumpy and arrogant from time to time. Though that was mostly do to being exiled on earth. He occasionally butted heads with UNIT and its leader Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart for their military methods. He especially hated politicians for their lack of intelligence and methods that favored greed and power. He did grow to enjoy his time at UNIT, even after he regained his freedom he still worked closely with them. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in particular became one of the Doctors most loyal and closest friends. It’s one of the few friendships that lasted for multiple incarnations.

#05.

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)

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The Sixth Doctor seems to end up at the bottom of most peoples lists which is a total shame. By this point the writing in the classic series was by in large poor, his multicolored outfit made him look like a joke and his bipolar persona made him very bipolar and unlikable at times. He could be brash, bombastic and theatrical, but underneath was a very passionate and empathetic person.

But for me I think there are some brilliant moments to be found from the Sixth Doctor thanks to Colin Baker who always shined through. He’s definitely one of the more alien versions of The Doctor which is always a positive for myself. Though what really puts him up near the top is his work on Big Finish.

Big Finish was a revelation for Colin Baker. The writers really understood what made the Sixth Doctor work while toning down the jerk factor. The best place to start would be The Marion Conspiracy because it introduces companion Evelyn Smyth. An elderly historian, she played a huge role in taming the Sixth Doctor. He’s arguably become one of the sweetest Doctors which shows how far he’s developed over time.

#04.

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

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In a lot of ways Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor defined who the Doctor is now more than William Hartnell did. Known as the “Cosmic Hobo,” the Second Doctor was a warmer, friendlier and funnier man. Gone was the grumpy grandfather figure, replaced by a lighthearted uncle. He was much smarter then his previous self as well; acting like a fool in front of his enemies in order to trick them into a false sense of security.

What’s important to note is that this was the Doctor that introduced the concept of regeneration. Patrick Troughton had the difficult task to convince the audience that the Doctor could change into a different person but still be the same. Actors being replaced isn’t anything new, but to make it apart of the show was a stroke of genius. This incarnation is what solidified the Doctor as the empathetic guardian of the universe. If it wasn’t for his excellent performance we wouldn’t have Doctor Who today.

#03.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)

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The most dangerous of the Doctors. A master schemer who viewed situations like games of chess. He had no trouble using people through deceit and manipulation in order to achieve his goals. Though still the hero we all know and love, Seven was more concerned with the bigger picture, doing what he believed was best for the greater good. This did have a negative effect on some of his relationships, especially with his companions.

The Seventh Doctor and Ace have the most interesting and complicated Doctor/companion relationship within the series. It was reminiscent of the First Doctors relationship with his granddaughter Susan. Though he cared for her very much, he was very deceitful; bringing her to a bad place from her past to  get her to confront her fears. His reasons behind these setups was that he was trying to test Ace to see if she had what it took to become a Time Lord. He’s unpredictable which is how the Doctor, in my opinion, should be.

#02.

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

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To most people this IS the Doctor. Tom Bakers incarnation is a cultural icon. When asked to describe the Doctor, usually people think of his fourth incarnation. He played the part for seven years on the classic series, a length that has yet to be surpassed. The Fourth Doctor perfectly embodies the cosmic wanderer that he is. He’s by far the most alien in personality, often reacting to situations in ways that others wouldn’t. In addition to his personality, the Fourth Doctor’s outfit is also iconic, especially that mile long scarf.

His era is full of classic stories that every Doctor Who fan should experience. The first three seasons of the Fourth Doctor’s era was considered to be the golden age of the classic series. This period include stories like The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Pyramids of Mars, The Brains of Morbius, The Seeds of Doom and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. It’s been debated on whether he stayed around for too long. It’s true that his latter seasons didn’t match the quality of the earlier period. That being said, I do enjoy his last season, including his swansong.

#01.

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)

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Yes, the Eighth Doctor is my all time favorite incarnation. Despite only being onscreen for one TV movie and seven minute minisode, the Eighth Doctor has primarily existed on audio. Eight is a passionate, enthusiastic and eccentric character. He’s arguably the most idealist incarnation, always hoping for the best even when things are crumbling around. While Eight did start off as the hopeless romantic sort, he has over the years developed a bitter, melancholy, and war born rage underneath. This has come directly from the personal tragedies he’s suffered. In fact, the Eighth Doctor has suffered far more tragedies then any other. At least four companions have been killed that sent him into a spiraling depression. Things only got worse when the Time War broke out and he realized that being a Doctor was no longer needed.

The Eighth Doctors audio series began with the monthly range, which also does stories with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. During this period he traveled with Edwardian adventurous Charlotte “Charley” Pollard. Big Finish eventually created a new series called the Eighth Doctor Adventures. We were introduced to a new companion, Lucie Miller who is a very popular companion in any Doctor Who medium. This is arguably the most popular period of the Eighth Doctors era. Half of that is because of the chemistry between Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith.

It’s frustrating that we never got to see more of McGanns Doctor on screen. All of the aspects that I love about other Doctors is present in the Eighth Doctor. Maybe one day we’ll get another onscreen appearance by him on the show or get a spin-off series. That last suggestion is highly unlikely but hey, I fan can dream.

We’ve reached the end of the list. I hope you enjoyed it and leave a comment below. Also, I’d love to see your rankings as well.

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