Doctor Who: Old time lords grow younger
Have you noticed that Doctor Who keeps getting younger and younger with every regeneration?  Well, until Peter Capaldi took over.  This page was created during Matt Smith's run, thus most of the information here addresses the series only up to his tenure.

This is an ongoing trend that occurred throughout the first run of the series (although it bottomed out with Peter Davison), and now they're doing it with the new run (although again, they're probably going as young as they can with Matt Smith, which I believe is perhaps younger than they should).

The graph below demonstrates the overall downward trend in age.  You could perhaps apply a trend line, but as I just said, I think we are reaching a floor effect, just as William Hartnell probably represented a ceiling effect.  (He looked older than his actual age when he was cast, and didn't live long after his tenure was over.)

This table lays out the data from the graph:

The Doctor
First Doctor
Second Doctor
Third Doctor
Fourth Doctor
Fifth Doctor
Sixth Doctor
Seventh Doctor
Eighth Doctor
Ninth Doctor
Tenth Doctor
Eleventh Doctor
Twelfth Doctor
Played by
William Hartnell
Pat Troughton
Jon Pertwee
Tom Baker
Peter Davison
Colin Baker
Sylvester McCoy
Paul McGann
Chris Eccleston
David Tennant
Matt Smith
Peter Capaldi
Years portraying
1963 - 1966
1966 - 1969
1970 - 1974
1974 - 1981
1981 - 1984
1984 - 1986
1987 - 1989
1996 - 1996
2005 - 2005
2005 - 2010
2010 - 2013
2013 - present
Age during run
55 - 58
46 - 49
51 - 55
40 - 47
30 - 33
41 - 43
44 - 46
34 - 39
28 - 30
55 - ?

*The Stories/Episodes metric is imperfect in that it regards multi-part episodes as a single story, however long those episodes were.  Wikipedia (from whence these data came) makes no disctintion between 30 episodes or 60 minutes or 75 minutes or mini-episodes.  I went ahead and refered to the McGann mini-episode with the 0.1, which would otherwise be treated as a full episode.

CONCLUSIONS: In my opinion, David Tennant was the perfect age for the character and blended all the best traits from the previous incarnations over the years.  Someone too old wouldn't seem right being sarcastic the way the last couple Doctors were; they'd just come across as cranky.  Someone too young would seem arrogant, even if you can suspend disbelief and buy the premise that he's hundreds of years old.  Tennant was old enough to appear worldly and experienced, but young enough to be believable in an action - oriented role where he'd occasionally pick up a sword.

Peter Capaldi just assumed the role as of this writing.  Interestingly, this makes him very nearly the oldest Doctor, a complete reversal of the trend.  He is the same age as William Hartnell was when he premiered the character, and is the same age as Jon Pertwee was when he left the part.  It will be interesting to see if Capaldi continues on for long enough to become the oldest Doctor ever... which, technically, the character is at this point.

UPDATE #2: There is also the War Doctor to consider: John Hurt (b.1940) who was age 73 when he made his first appearance.  However, he was given a digital facelift in his first appearance to make him appear much younger at the end of the mini-episode "Night of the Doctor."

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: Many Doctors have made follow-up appearances long after their tenure ended.  This was usually for continuity's sake in filming regeneration scenes.  I'm not including those, but here is a list of noteable follow-up appearances.  These include:
*Sylvester McCoy returning to regenerate into Paul McGann in the 1996 Doctor Who tv movie.
*Paul McGann returning to regenerate into John Hurt in the aforementioned "Night of the Doctor."
*Tom Baker returning for a cameo in "The Day of the Doctor," though he is not actually playing the Doctor, at least not if you assume time to be linear, which the show makes a point of saying it isn't.

At the time of mini-episode, it occurred to me that two of the longest-serving Doctors were also the least-successful.  (That is, the series was cancelled at the end of McCoy's run, and McGann's movie wasn't picked up as series, even though he was contracted for six seasons.)  John Hurt is a special case, written from the outset as having been around many, many years during the Last Great Time War.  And who knows what to make of Tom Baker's return?!

Copyright 2012 Ale[x]plorer.  Updated 2013 (for obvious reasons).
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