by Ian Samuels (@IanDJ75)
(Editor’s Note: Noted Whovian and member of the Post-Geek Singularity, Ian Samuels, provides his fellow Imagination Connoisseurs with a comprehensive run-down of who’s played Dr. Who in the iconic BBC series over the past 50+ years.
This list includes actors who have played The Doctor on the BBC television series, in films and in documentaries/docu-dramas about the making of the television show. Special thanks to Ian for assembling this history for those of us who are not as familiar with the show. – Editor)
The first Doctor in 1963 was played by classically trained actor, William Hartnell.
But during his tenure as The Doctor, Hammer Film Productions – the studio famous for its Horror films as well as its Comedy films (including the On The Buses films) – released the film DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965) and DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH 2150 (1966), starring Peter Cushing. Many people over the years have asked why Peter Cushing was not mentioned in any list of The Doctor. The reason was that Peter Cushing’s Doctor is a film version of the William Hartnell Doctor and therefore is also the 1st Doctor.
In the same year of the 2nd Hammer Doctor Who film with Peter Cushing the tv series introduced Regeneration and William Hartnell gave way to Patrick Troughton. The 2nd Doctor ended in 1969.
In 1970 we got our 3rd Doctor played by Jon Pertwee, a more action Doctor.
3rd gave way to 4th in 1974 and the favourite of the Classic period Tom Baker who played the Doctor for 6 wonderful years until 1981.
5th Doctor Peter Davidson, was not so well received and was The Doctor during a difficult period for the series. Still viewed as a ‘kid’s program’ by the BBC who were not happy with the ‘Man in a Suit’ monsters of the 1970s they wanted more special effects, but the series wasn’t given much budget for this and the effects did not look good even for the 1980s. Peter Davidson’s tenure was just 3 years.
William Hartnell (the first doctor on TV) passed away in 1975, but in 1983 as a 20th Anniversary special, they chose to do THE FIVE DOCTORS. The part of Hartnell’s 1st Doctor was played by Richard Hundall.
(The Doctor Who theme – extended for THE FIVE DOCTORS 20th Anniversary Special)
1984 6th Doctor Colin Baker, no relation to 4th Doctor Tom Baker. Often considered as a rude, brash Doctor, suffered even more at the hands of the BBC, only having 2 years before Colin Baker and the BBC parting ways.
After a short hiatus Doctor Who returned in 1987 but with Colin Baker refusing to return for the regeneration scene 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy was left lying on the floor of the TARDIS in Colin Baker’s outfit and wearing an ill-fitting ‘Colin Baker’ wig. The 7th Doctor also only got 2 years before the long running juggernaut was axed by the BBC.
It took 7 years before an attempted reboot with the made for TV Movie in 1996. 7th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy returns to regenerate into the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann. The reboot failed.
A later edition that would fit in between McGann’s 8th and the 9th Doctor would be John Hurt’s War Doctor who the Doctor change into in order to fight in the Time War and to end it.
The reboot that did work was in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the 9th
But Eccleston only signed on for 1 season before regenerating into the 10th David Tennant in 2006. Tennant held on for 5 years.
2010 11th Doctor Matt Smith. Just 3 years. Suffered from poor writing under new showrunner Steven Moffatt.
In 2013 Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary the BBC presented a Docudrama named AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME, where actor David Bradley who played Argus Finch in the Harry Potter films and Cohen the Barbarian in the Colour of Magic Sky Miniseries, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones, played William Hartnell. The Docudrama was about how Doctor Who came to the screen.
So in 2017 the First Doctor was to return with the 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi in a Christmas Special and so David Bradley, again, was bought on to play the First Doctor.
2013 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi. Another actor to suffer under Moffatt’s tenure for 4 years.
2017 our present Doctor, the 13th Jodie Whittaker.