Doctor(s) Who ranked
Now 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.



My rankings

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 good yet.

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 series.

The 10th 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.

The 11th 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.

The 5th 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.

The 7th 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 earlier incarnations and yet could be assertive against his most threatening adversaries.  It was a squandered opportunity to put the series back on track.

The 2nd 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 Troughton carried through into the depiction of the Doctor under Matt Smith's tenure today.

The 8th 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.

The 3rd 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.

The 1st 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.

The 9th 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 believe 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.

The 6th 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.


The Future

So what's 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 territory.

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 ex 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.





Copyright 2012 Ale[x]plorer
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