Doctor(s) Who ranked
that I've worked my way through the
majority of the original series and all of the new Doctor Who, I can
somewhat authoritatively rank the Doctors Who in order of preference.
Note you can't look at this as an assessment of incarnations of just
the character. It's a blend of things: writing, performance,
casting, storylines, adversaries, etc. All these mesh to create
one impression. For example, I don't think Colin Baker is the
worst Doctor ever, but his character was written as unlikeable, so
those episodes are genuinely painful to watch. By contrast, I
couldn't stand Chris Eccleston in the role, but I appreciate what he
brought to the show, even though the episodes themselves weren't very
The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) -
Probably the best of the series in terms of writing, scope, character,
etc. I recently re-watched these for the first time in years, and
I was again impressed with everything about Baker's run on the show,
especially how nuanced and funny it was. The humor never seemed
shoehorned into serious scenes, and it was often subtle. Other
than the low-budget effects (which overcame their quality through sheer
ambition of story-telling), these are among the best episodes of the
Doctor (David Tennant) - The second and third seasons with this
Doctor are easily among the best of the entire series' run. Lots
of post-modern, non-linear storylines. They've started
appropriately treating setting (i.e., time and place) as flexible,
exactly the way a time travel show should. It only took
forty-something years to get it right. This was also the most
successful seasons (to date) at creating story arcs. Going back
to the Doctor himself, Tennant was the perfect age for the character
and blended all the best traits from the previous incarnations over the
years. Young enough to be sarcastic and full of energy, but old
enough to sell the premise that he comes packed with hundreds of years
of experience. He's likely going to be remembered on the level as
fans of the original talk about Tom Baker.
Doctor (Matt Smith) - My initial apprehension about his age gave
way to an appreciation for the fact that they channeled that into his
hyper-kinetic acting style and then gave the Doctor a dark side that
was known throughout the galaxy. It was something new that could
only have emerged from a generation having grown up in a world that has
never known a time when there wasn't a Doctor Who. Brilliant
stories that are more compelling than whimsical, something the series
had lacked for a time.
Doctor (Peter Davison) - Really good as well. I feel like
the Baker episodes flow nicely into these. There are a few duds
mixed into this run, but a youthful Doctor was a refreshing change,
even if they didn't fully take advantage of the casting and shift
toward more action-oriented stories.
Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) - The only saw one episode of his run
some years after it aired. It happened to be on VHS at a local
library, and I was curious to see what happened to the series after I
had left it. (This was years before the new series had gone into
production.) To my surprise, it was really, really dumb. Up
until that point I had wondered why the series was canceled.
There was my answer. Now that I've seen all his episodes, I'm
saddened by the fact that McCoy was one of the better Doctors, but he
had the misfortune to star during the series' weakest years. In
spite of the pitiful wrigin, McCoy took the playful components of
incarnations and yet could be assertive against his most threatening
adversaries. It was a squandered opportunity to put the series
back on track.
Doctor (Patrick Troughton) - I've never seen any of the 2nd
Doctor's episodes in their entirety, just his appearances in episodes
like "The Three Doctors" or "The Five Doctors." However, I've
liked his performance in what I've seen. He's playful and
intelligent. He seems scattered at times, and yet he's clever
enough to pull through in the end. This all originated with him
since Hartnell's Doctor was very stiff and stuffy. I see a lot of
carried through into the depiction of the Doctor under Matt Smith's
Doctor (Paul McGann) - I watched this made-for-tv movie when it
came out, but that's sort of a stand-alone that I wouldn't recommend to
anyone. The Doctor is played well (both in casting and
performance; he's a blend of Tom Baker and Peter Davison), but it seems
like no one involved understood what the original series was about or
how to channel that into a decent story. I've read the British
describe it as too American, and that's just the start of its failings.
Doctor (Jon Pertwee) - I liked him, but this run was based on
Earth entirely too much. Also, he was the last of the "old man"
Doctors, so there'd be a real "culture shock" if you started with these
episodes and are used to hyper young Brits in the role. You're
going to be appalled enough by the poor special effects as it is, never
mind the frilly, anachronistic dress and the jallopy he drives
around. The Brigadier and
Sarah Jane made these episodes a lot of fun, but the interaction
between these characters and the show in general didn't reach its full
potential until Tom Baker stepped into the role.
Doctor (William Hartnell) - I've only watched a half-dozen or so
stories during this run. Unfortunately, they hadn't quite found
the character's footing yet, and a lot of the action is given over
(understandably) to the much younger companions. Meanwhile the
Doctor seems to be pretending to be an expert when he (at times) really
doesn't know what he's doing. This isn't done to be clever or
humorous, so it just falls flat. Additionally, the stories are
usually about visiting obvious places right out of a history textbook
(e.g., French Revolution or ancient Mayan cities), so it feels trite.
Doctor (Chris Eccleston) - He brought an edge to the Doctor that
hadn't been seen before. Leather jacket, short hair. He was
curt with everyone and seemed to always be looking for a fight.
Some of that was in the writing, but it seemed to come out of Eccleston
himself. However, I didn't find the guy likable, and it's hard to
in a hero who seemed only interested in himself. The main thing
this brief era gave us was its influence. That sharp edge carried
over into the Tennant and Smith years, but the episodes themselves
weren't good. Add to the fact that Eccleston is himself unlikeable and rejects the
fandom, and I have little desre to ever revisit this brief chapter in the saga.
Doctor (Colin Baker) - I never saw any of these during the
original run. There was always a gap between seasons, and I just
lost interest around these time and really never returned to the series
until the reboot. Now that I have seen them, I'm glad I abandoned
the series when I did. The Doctor was written as an arrogant
ass. To this day Colin Baker is considered the worst Doctor in
the history of the show, but it's only fair to point out that he was
performing the scripts given to him. Regardless, they're among
the most difficult episodes to sit through.
next for the Doctor? We've gone as
young as is reasonable.
There have been rumors and speculation before about what a female
Doctor might be like, and I think it might just be time to explore that
And then there's the regeneration
problem. Technically, he's only supposed to go through 13
incarnations (i.e., 12 regenerations), although they have played fast
and loose with that before (e.g., Romana regenerated literally like she
was changing hats; others have said "12" is simply traditional).
I always assumed there would be some deus
machina where he'd tap into a life force energy that would
"re-charge" him or some other nonsense. They will have to address
this problem soon regardless. Time is running out, so to speak.