The Great Doctor Debate

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a bit obsessed with Doctor Who. I have well over 100 DVDs of it, Classic and NuWho, not to mention knowing slightly too much about it, seriously I’m like a living Doctor Who Encyclopaedia.

What with the latest series currently lighting uo airwaves and gaining much (deserved) acclaim, I thought I’d add my hat in the ring as to my hopes for the new inhabitant of the TARDIS and the future AND rank the Doctors by my opinion worst to best! I’m spoiling you with two columns in one!

The Bookie’s Favourites:

Phoebe Waller-Grace: I was hooked on Waller-Grace’s sitcom Fleabag, it was a refreshing change to see a female sex-obsessive in a sitcom for a change, and for what it’s worth, she is very charming and charismatic, with just the right sprinkling of kookiness, I would only like to see a female cast if it isn’t a stunt however, I’d love to see a female Doctor, but not for a female Doctors sake.

Kris Marshall: The bloke from the BT ads as the Doctor, who’d have guessed? Apparently borne of wanting a David Tennant-esque Doctor again (which strikes me as a step backwards) he does have his own merits, I can’t say personally that I’ve seen a lot of what he’s been in, but I used to like My Family, and I hadn’t watched anything of Tennant or Smith’s prior to their casting so who knows?

Richard Ayoade: Now we’re talking! Seriously, though how does this concept not intrigue you? The IT Crowd star would fit in great as an awkward yet smart Doctor, using brains rather than Braun, not to mention his own creative endeavours, he could add to the show behind the scenes too, which would be nice. Also, he’d be the first missed-race Doctor, which is also nice.

Tilda Swinton: She’s somewhat dropped off in betting odds now, but I think Ms Swinton would be the best choice of the bunch. Possessing a great range of acting talent not to mention a certain air of authority that’s very rare in actresses, she’d be able to balance The Doctor’s funnier and dramatic sides in equal measure, however, her ever increasing schedule makes her casting highly unlikely.

My Dream Doctors (My Sometimes Ridiculous Suggestions)

Benedict Cumberbatch: A serious suggestion to start us off. Benedict Cumberbatch is an actor of astounding talent, who I think would have made a great Doctor, HOWEVER, now he’s played Sherlock, it would rule out him ever been cast for me, the characters are often similar enough as it is without having the same actor, however, him playing The Master would be a different kettle of fish…

Tim Minchin: Weird and Clever. Two words that could describe both The Doctor and Tim Minchin. Seriously though he’s got the sort of image that would make an eccentric Doctor, and the charisma to back it up, the biggest drawback being his inexperience in acting. Sure, he has credits under his belt, but it’d be a risk, not the first time they’ve cast someone with inexperience though.

Sean Pertwee: Specifically, I’d like to see Sean step into the Third Doctor’s shoes, so we can include that incarnation in any future multiple Doctor specials (You can also could Reece Shearsmith as the Second Doctor). Sean not only looks like his dad (Eerily so) he has the chops too, I have no doubt it’s make a great treat to see the ‘Man of Action’ Doctor karate chop his way through a 60th anniversary special.

Paul McGann: The fact Paul McGann hasn’t had a series of his own is an absolute travesty. As a listener to the Big Finish audio dramas, I can tell you that assuredly. His work in Big Finish can often dwarf a lot of the TV Series, especially Lucie Miller/To The Death (Go and buy them, they’re great). I’m not proposing he regenerate back into McGann, just that he get a standalone series of his own, I’m sure if he did he’d rocket up people’s favourites list.

The Ranking:

I’ve thought long and hard about the criteria for this list, as previously mentioned I am a Big Finish listener, and the Doctor’s who would grace the bottom of the TV Doctor’s list would jump up the list pretty quick if Big Finish was brought into account, Colin Baker being a great example of that. But for clarity, I’m going to rank based only on TV performances, to put them all on a level playing field. Also remember this is a list of my FAVOURITE Doctors, not the best. Okay? Here we go…

13: Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor, 1984-1986)

Poor Colin Baker, not only did he get shafted by the costume department, that coat lives in my nightmares, but by this time, the series wasn’t exactly top of BBC’s priorities list, this resulted in a lack of support and a lack of budget, which in turn lead to poor stories and poor ratings. The BBC were so fed up of Doctor Who by this point they put the show on an 18-month hiatus in the middle of Colin’s run.

Had I included Big Finish stories, Colin would be much further up the list, he’s proven himself extremely capable with the right scripts and support, but his TV stories were never really above decent (Except Vengeance on Varos, that one is very good).

Recommended Story: Vengeance on Varos

12: Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor, 1981-1984)

The second doctor in that I feel sorry for, doesn’t really look good does it? Given the unenviable task of following Tom Baker in the TARDIS, Peter Davison always came across as someone very capable, yet also somewhat bland. He had good stories don’t get me wrong, Caves of Androzani frequently ranks among the best of all time, but he never felt as though he put his own stamp on the character.

Recommended Story: The Caves of Androzani

11: Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor, 1996)

Make that three in a row that have my sympathy. Given one episode in the mid-90’s to sell a series to an American audience who only really knew Tom Baker in the role, and given a mediocre script, McGann couldn’t resurrect the series for long as he was one and done. Until 2013 that is, where he reminded us what we all missed.

Having said that, I’ve seen what American producers had planned for their Doctor Who, in retrospect I’m glad we didn’t get that series.

Recommended Story: The Night of the Doctor

10: Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor, 1986-1988, 1996)

It could be argued that McCoy played two different doctors, he changed his portrayal so drastically. Going from a clowning figure in his earliest appearances he transformed into a manipulative, darker incarnation and he did so so well, the final classic series seemed to be bringing the whole thing back to it’s halcyon days in terms of quality, then the plug was pulled and that was all she wrote.

Recommended Story: Remembrance of the Daleks

9: John Hurt (War Doctor, 2013)

All it took was one episode for John Hurt to win the hearts of Whovians worldwide, such was the strength of his performance. Exploring a previously unexplored version of The Doctor, the one from The Time War, Hurt played a jaded, battle-scarred version of the Time Lord, one who didn’t even call himself The Doctor, unfortunately John Hurt passed away in January of this year, leaving a legacy as a magnificent character actor, and with this performance, always a Doctor.

Recommended Story: The Day of the Doctor

8: William Hartnell (First Doctor 1963-1966, 1973)

William Hartnell’s importance cannot be understated. Without his guidance and ability, I wouldn’t be sitting here nearly 54 years after he started playing The Doctor. In short, he made Doctor Who’s popularity, he set the stage for all his successors. Bringing with him an air of authority, he could be grumpy old man one minute and compassionate loving Grandfather the next, his speech in The Dalek Invasion of Earth is still referred to these days, and for good reason, that’s as good a testament as ever for William Hartnell.

Recommended Story: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

7: Christopher Ecclestone (2005)

I really wish I could put him higher. I wish I lived in a universe where he made three series as The Doctor. It’s no exaggeration to say that without Christopher Ecclestone, the revival of Doctor Who could have been another Crossroads. He could be comedic and still carry the regret of the war he’d just struggled through, he was wary of things, and boy could he soliloquy, Ecclestone was ‘Fantastic’ (see what I did there?) but with a lack of adventures, he can’t go any higher for me.

Recommended Story: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

6: Patrick Troughton: (1966-1969, 1983, 1985)

‘The Cosmic Hobo’ was the successful experiment that would eventually become Regeneration, he set the bar. It’s a real shame that a big chunk of his adventures are ‘missing’ because those lost episodes were said to be real classics, even given what we have available, it’s hard to argue how good he was.

Recommended Story: The Tomb of the Cybermen

5: Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor, 1969-1974, 1983)

The closes The Doctor ever came to James Bond, a real debonair man of action who spent most of his tenure trapped on Earth. Which sounds insane now, but it worked, as he got to work with Brigadier Allister Lethbridge-Stewart, an all time great Who character, I’ve always had a soft spot for Pertwee, and after recently revisiting a few episodes, I still enjoy them as much as I ever did.

Recommended Story: The Time Warrior

4: Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor, 1974-1981)

It took much uhmm-ing and ahh-ing deciding whether to put Tom fourth or third, on one hand he was one of the most popular and most watch (not to mention acclaimed) Doctors and on the other, I have much more vivid memories of later Doctors, that’s not to say I don’t absolutely love some of his stories, my favourite isn’t Genesis of the Daleks though, although that is great, there’s so much selection. But with popularity comes hype, and nostalgia, and I’m sorry to report some of his stories aren’t as good as you remember, but when he was good, he was great.

Recommended Story: The Invasion of Time

3: David Tennant (Tenth Doctor (2005-2010, 2013)

Ooh, controversy time. Many Whovians my age will swear blind that David Tennant is the best of all time, and if that’s they’re opinion great, and while I love MOST of his stuff, I do say that his Doctor was a bit too human. There was a lot of companion romance in Tennant’s era, which shouldn’t happen, The Doctor is an Alien for Christ’s sake, that’s like kissing your dog. I also think he’s a victim of overhype much like Tom Baker, some of his stories aren’t as good on a re-watch as they are at the time. Having said that, he does have my favourite Doctor monologue, the ‘It’s Not Fair’ one from The End of Time.

Recommended Story: The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End

2: Peter Capaldi (Twelfth Doctor, 2013-2017)

I remember being very excited when Capaldi was announced as the next Doctor back in 2013, a very highly rated and respected actor taking the TARDIS was tantalising. I’m pleased to say he surpassed my expectations. There may have been sub-par stories in Capaldi’s era, but there’s one constant, Capaldi’s performance. He looks like a guy living his dream and enjoying his job which is great to watch, he brings a very experienced look and a genuine charm to the character, and it’s a real shame that this series, which I think has been the best in many years, is his last.

Recommended Story: Listen

1: Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor, 2010-2013)

Words cannot describe how much I love Matt Smith’s doctor. When Tennant was around I was a fan, when Smith came along, I was a devotee, from the moment he slurped fish fingers and custard to his moving final speech, I lapped up everything he did. He was the perfect mix of relatable enough to be human yet enough eccentric to be alien. I was genuinely crushed when he left, and I still love going back and watching his series over and over again, I really hope we see him back for a special one day.

Recommended Story: Vincent and The Doctor


And the you have it, my hand is played, I could have done two separate write-up’s but I was feeling generous, and if I didn’t do it now I’d forget. Here’s to many more years of adventures in the TARDIS!

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