Dr. Moo procrastinates.
Mention to someone that you like Doctor Who. Go do that now. It doesn’t matter who you tell, just tell the first person you see. I’ll wait.
Done that? Good. I’m willing to bet they asked you this question or one like it: ”Which one’s the best?”
Obviously the only correct answer is all of them (because they’re all the same man) but that doesn’t mean we can’t have favourites. I’ve used the word ‘favourite’ in the title instead of ‘best’ deliberately.
So I’ve decided to do my own personal ranking order of all the canon incarnations of the character from my least-to-most-favourite just for the sheer heck of it. Over the next three days we'll count them down. Let me know if you agree, shout at me if you don't and give us your own Doctor rankings in the comments below.
Only canon incarnations are in contention here – sorry but no spoofs, alternates, stand-ins or soundalikes.
13 – The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant (2005-10)
Let me just say that I love David Tennant and think he was great as the Doctor. His take on the character had it all: charm, energy, fun and just the right amount of darkness. The problems I have with his Doctor lie in other areas. Specifically that this incarnation is a self-absorbed, reckless, egomaniacal, stuck-up, self-righteous git. He’s constantly falling in love with humans – even the Master calls him up on this – which just feels out of place with the other Doctors. These issues are enough for me to declare that, as indisputably good as Tennant’s Doctor is, he comes bottom of the list for me. It is however worth noting that the many issues I have with this incarnation are what makes him such a fascinating and intriguing character for others.
Finest moment: Lots to choose from here. Do we go with his brief stint as a human, defying the military might of the entire Earth, his transformation into the Time Lord Victorious or the heartbreaking parting from Rose? All would be contenders for this title but I have to go with his chilling message “don’t blink” to Sally Sparrow about the Weeping Angels.
Best stories: The Girl in the Fireplace, Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Blink, Midnight, The Waters of Mars.
12 – The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison (1981-84)
Peter Davison has gone on record as wanting to restore some humanity to the character with his incarnation, and he certainly did that. The Fifth Doctor is a much more accessible individual than his predecessors. On the downside he was much more hesitant to act than his other selves, possibly due to his strong moral compass, not that that stopped him from resolving a crisis's when it arose, as they did often for him. The reason he earns a low spot on this list is that far too often he would just kind of be there but not really do anything, letting the story sweep him along with it until he decides to do something.
Finest moment: There can only be one winner for this title and that’s crashing the spaceship into Androzani Minor. He even holds back his impending regeneration in order to do this. He’s prepared to risk everything to save his accidentally-scene-stealing best friend Peri and has the most heroic final bow of any Doctor to date.
Best stories: Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Resurrection of the Daleks, The Caves of Androzani, Time Crash.
11 – The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann (1996, 2013)
It’s easy to overlook just how good Paul McGann was in his extremely short tenure as the Doctor. Forced to play the lone Brit in a vast sea of Americans, he comes across on first viewing as an eccentric mad man that’s best left as the footnote on history that his tenure as the Doctor is. Look beyond that and you’ll see that actually the performance he gives is a thing of beauty. McGann masters the eccentricities he’s forced to deliver surprisingly well and slips gradually into the role of the Doctor with ease, so that by the time the credits roll you wish we’d had more with him. Thankfully Big Finish took the reins and proved that he’s fantastic when the writing supports him and their range is ongoing to this day. Go check it out. The only reason he’s this low is that with such a short and forgettable reign I can’t justify putting him any higher.
Finest moments: My favourite Eighth Doctor moment – since we’re sticking exclusively with TV there’s not much choice! – is the moment when he recovers from his *sigh* amnesia. With ecstatic joy he declares “I AM THE DOCTOR!” and comments that his shoes fit him perfectly. It’s a triumphant moment and one of those Good Scenes In Bad Movies. Then he kisses someone starting a trend I’m not fond of but it’s purely platonic so I can look past it here.
Best stories: Strictly sticking only with TV there’s only two available. Doctor Who The Movie is fundamentally flawed in so many ways but Paul McGann is fantastic in it. The Night of the Doctor is extremely short, running at under 10 minutes, but his performance is phenomenal as a Doctor who refuses to fight the Time War, instead helping out where he can but is finally forced into the conflict… and the War Doctor is born.
10 – The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton (1966-69)
Troughton may be described as “the Doctor’s Doctor” with many of his successors to the part citing him as their favourite. With perhaps the trickiest job of all, Troughton had to prove that the Doctor could become someone else. Would the audience accept anyone other than Bill Hartnell as the Doctor? Since we’re here I assume you know the answer to that! The Second Doctor is the portrayal most of his successors have drawn from, with his childlike enthusiasm and catchphrases (“Oh my giddy aunt!”) throwing his enemies off and allowing him to strike – and if this Doctor takes you down then you’re staying down. This Doctor’s defining trait is his refusal to let oppression and evil go unchecked, and if that sounds a lot like the Doctors we know today then that says it all. Ultimately it proved to be his downfall when he ran afoul of the Time Lords for it. It’s easy to forget how radical a change this was from the original incarnation. Troughton redefined everything and is the reason the show goes on today. Also worth noting is that he wore a bow tie before it was cool.
Finest moment: His final moment defying the Time Lords? Reunion with the Brigadier? Tricking the Cybermen so he can electrocute them? Defeating Salamander? All of these are good moments but I have to go with a much more understated moment for his finest and that’s his chat with then-new companion Victoria Waterfield in The Tomb of the Cybermen when he tells her “Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we're doing.” It’s beautifully delivered and something the revived series couldn’t do with only 45 minutes to tell a story.
Best stories: The Evil of the Daleks, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, The Mind Robber, The Invasion, The War Games.
9 – The First Doctor, William Hartnell (1963-66)
The First Doctor was a much older-looking individual and is occasionally likened to a crotchety old man. That’s not untrue but there’s much more to him than that. This man is the most kind-hearted person you could ever hope to meet, he’s prepared to do anything for the people he calls friends, he won’t let evil go unpunished, he has a snappy sense of humour and he’s someone kids can’t get enough of watching even to this day… he’s the Doctor. He’s the one and only Time Lord we know and love who’s adventures we still follow now, even though he looks different it’s all there, ready to begin more than 50 years of time and space.
Finest moment: His farewell speech to Susan often gets a mention here – and rightly so – but I think his speech at the end of The Massacre of St Bartholemew’s Eve after Steven (temporarily) departs from him is even better as he recalls all his companions and how difficult it is for him when they leave. Hartnell’s delivery is an acting masterclass.
Best stories: An Unearthly Child and The Daleks make for essential viewing and have held up really well to this day. If you prefer something more fun then try The Romans. If you prefer an epic space adventure then there’s 12-parter The Daleks’ Master Plan but that’s not for the faint of heart and definitely not for newbies.
Continue to Doctors 8 to 5.
that’s the start of my countdown of favourite Doctors. Tomorrow it's the middle section, with Doctors 8 to 5. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let us know
YOUR ranking order in the comments below!
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The
Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the
latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.