Doctor Who: Ranking The Doctor’s Incarnations

Who are they now?

[The Fifth Doctor has Regenerated]
Peri: “Doctor?”
Sixth Doctor:” …You were expecting someone else?”
Sixth Doctor:That’s three “I’s” in one breath. Makes you sound a rather egotistical young lady.”
Peri:What’s happened?”
Sixth Doctor:Change, m’dear. And not a moment too soon.

Doctor Who “The Caves of Androzani” (Season 21, Episode 6)

The Doctor is one of science fiction’s greatest heroes. They can travel anywhere in space and time to save the day but rarely physically fight enemies. The Time Lord relies on their temporal spaceship called a TARDIS, a magic wandesque Sonic Screwdriver, and human Companions to prevent The Doctor from going too far.

The Doctor’s most useful power is Regeneration, which allows them to change their appearance, personality, and actor whenever killed. These incarnations have included a cheery cricket enthusiast, a venerable super spy, and a rabble rouser in Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Of the incarnations, Who is the best? Let’s find out.

#5: The Seventh Doctor

Played By: Sylvester McCoy
Signature Items: Straw Hat, Question-mark Umbrella

Morgan le Fey:I always could defeat you at chess, Merlin.
Seventh Doctor:Who said anything about chess? I’m playing poker, and I always have an Ace up my sleeve.

“Battlefield” (Season 26, Episode 1)

Sylvester McCoy was the final actor to play The Doctor in the original series.

Seven is a jaded chessmaster. They will do anything to win, including manipulating enemies into suicide or verbally abusing a Companion to save her life. The darker personality drove everyone away until a regretful Doctor was left alone.

The Seventh Doctor masks their ruthlessness by acting like a clown, and that’s no hyperbole. Jokes, impressions, sleight of hand, singing, playing the spoons, there’s little that this incarnation can’t do. The Doctor’s antics make it easier for them to manipulate each episode’s villain.

#4 The Thirteenth Doctor

Played By: Jodie Whittaker
Signature Items: Sheffield steel Sonic Screwdriver

Thirteenth Doctor:No matter how many times you try, no matter how long you wait… I will always be in your way, backed up by the best of humanity. Now… final, final, final warning, because I’m nice. I really do try my best. Stop the signal, get off this planet.”

“Revolution of the Daleks” (Season 38, Episode 0)

You may be wondering why we’ve referred to The Doctor with gender neutral terms. This incarnation, played masterfully by Jodie Whittaker, proved that Regeneration can also change biological sex. It also earned the character a spot on our list of 5 more LGBT+ superheroes.

Thirteen is the first to present as female. There is an adjustment period as The Doctor adapts to new pronouns and perceptions from people in the past. They are a cheery engineer who loves mentioning tidbits of encounters with famous people. Thirteen is merciful, always giving foes one last chance to stop.

Thirteen builds a found family of Companions, but always keeps them at arm’s length. This incarnation is self-righteous, occasionally becoming harsh when called out by friends. Thirteen can be the cruelest incarnation, from showing people how they will die to sending Nazis after arch nemesis The Master.

#3 Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor

Played By: Tom Baker
Signature Items: 24 foot scarf, A bottomless bag of Jelly Babies

[The Doctor has made a breakthrough on an artifact that a scientist missed for years]
Fourth Doctor:Well, to be fair I did have a couple of gadgets which he probably didn’t, like a teaspoon and an open mind.

“The Creature From the Pit” (Season 17, Episode 3)

When you say the words Doctor Who, this is one of two incarnations that likely comes to mind. Tom Baker played The Doctor for 172 episodes over seven years.

Four is a bohemian prankster. They hate authority figures, likely because of the Time Lords and human allies constantly using Four as a catspaw. Four is moralistic and tries to win over foes, but is willing to kill in a pinch.

The Fourth Doctor uses an extremely long scarf as an improvised grappling hook that can also trip enemies. They are an energetic goofball, but use that to mask a manipulative and alien mind. Four plays the clown so they won’t play the butcher.

Fun Fact: The famous scarf wasn’t meant to be that long. A costume designer outsourced it to his friend and gave her a lot of wool to use. She misunderstood and used it all to knit a twenty-four foot scarf.

#2 The Eleventh Doctor

Played by: Matt Smith
Signature Items: Bow Tie, Fez

[a parasite is absorbing the Doctor’s memories]
Eleventh Doctor: I’ve walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by a madman. I’ve seen universes freeze and creations burn! I have seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you will never understand! And I know things, secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods BLAZE!

“The Rings of Akhaten” (Season 33, Episode 7)

Matt Smith is the youngest actor to take the Doctor’s mantle. Much of his wild energy slips into the role compared to Tennant’s melodrama.

Eleven is a hyperactive child on Pixy Stixs in a grown-up’s body. They are always moving, talking, gesturing, and launching into grandiloquent speeches. This incarnation also adores hats, even if their Companions always destroy them.

The Eleventh Doctor’s mask occasionally cracks, showing the exhausted demigod trying to fit in with humanity by making themself seem fun. This incarnation is very protective of their Companions, raising (and sometimes razing) armies to protect friends.

#1: The Tenth Doctor

Played By: David Tennant
Signature Items: Duster, 3D glasses

Son of Mine: “He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing… the fury of the Time Lord. And then we learned why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he had run away from us and hidden. He was being kind.

“The Family of Blood” (Season 29, Episode 9)

If Tom Baker isn’t the face of Doctor Who, then David Tennant is. He jumped off the springboard that Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor built after a long hiatus and brought the show to new popularity.

Ten is the most human incarnation. They drop enough pop culture references to make Ready Player One blush and have many love interests, which is surprising since the character spent 40 years largely celibate. 

The Tenth Doctor struggled with PTSD from their role in the Last Great Time War. They slowly became ruthless, willing to watch villains die and not caring about endangered people. Only a friend’s sacrifice stopped the Tenth Doctor from becoming the evil Time Lord Victorious.

This incarnation’s darker nature and “will they, won’t they” dynamic with their companions was just what The Doctor ordered. It allowed Doctor Who to catch on with a new generation of fans after a mixed first season. David Tennant was impressive enough that the BBC has him reprising the role as the Fourteenth Doctor.

Who is your favorite Doctor? Tell us in the comments.

Image: The Doctor (David Tenant). Copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

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