back to article Who’s Who: a Reg quest to find the BEST DOCTOR

As befits a show about a Time Lord, Doctor Who straddles the generations like a colossus. Even if you weren’t there in 1963, you picked up on the Doctor as some point during his travels. That means a shared experience, regardless of whether you grew up under the influence of Harold Wilson or Maggie Thatcher, whether you …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the basis of yesterday

    On the basis of the mini episode the BBC put online yesterday, Paul McGann. Or at least the best Doctor that we never got to see.

    1.3 million views in a day and a half on Youtube + most viewed thing on iPlayer. Oh Paul how we wish we'd had more!

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: On the basis of yesterday

      Just buy a copy of Chimes of Midnight.

    2. cyborg

      Re: On the basis of yesterday

      Can only agree with that. Presumably we won't be seeing any more of him during the 50th anniversary shows either.

    3. Number6

      Re: On the basis of yesterday

      I never thought much of McGann based on the 1996 film, but having seen him in that short prequel, I now think that it's a shame that he didn't get to do more with some decent storylines because I think that given the chance he'd have turned out quite good.

  2. gerryg

    Original concept has moved on

    The original Doctor was a alien, misanthropic, and the series was set during the tensions of the cold war, reflected in the original plotting. The first three series were definitional. Even the later series with Hartnell diluted the original concept.

    The latter Doctors were allowed to redefine the role (and to this viewer, dilute it further) The current Doctor (whomever) is just an action hero.

    I'm not sure comparisons are possible, apples and oranges.

  3. RISC OS

    5th doctor

    was the best

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: 5th doctor

      You appear to have mistyped 4th.

      1. Goat Jam

        Re: 5th doctor

        Indeed. Wasn't the 5th doctor that vet chap?

        Considering that I entered double digit age in 1974, and concluded my teens in 1983 then Tom Baker is pretty much the ONLY Doctor for me.

  4. Michael Habel Silver badge

    My favorite Doctor was Jon Pertwee. Not sure that made him the best though. Peter Davidson also played this roll masterfully. And, then I really loved Colin Baker as the Doctor, and that touch of Madness that he brought to the roll...

    But, really if Tom Baker didn't win this "Award" as such, then there would be something sadly wrong with this World!

    Actually now that I'm pressed to re-think this... I'd have to say that the BEST DOCTOR was clearly NONE OF THE ABOVE, but rather that of John Nathan-Turner, Who basically was at the helm during the Time of all these Doctors!

    I for One can not think of a better "Golden-Age" of who then from this Period!

    1. Nuff Said


      John Nathan-Turner made the Doctor look like a clown and the show was cancelled under him.

      Nuff said.

    2. Marshalltown

      Pertwee defintely

      Always my favorite. Tom Baker was also excellent, but not to my mind as good as Pertwee, who had a sense of style that I liked. None of the Doctors were ever bad per se though, so its down to personal preferences.

  5. Chad H.

    Well, one wasn't in downtown abbey... but there was one in Monarch of the Glen....

  6. h3

    What I am bothered about is Dalek's / Stuff to do with time / None earth planets.

    No love interests between the Doctor and any humans. (Bestiality could be a good reason to get them to avoid it. Sad thing is the only way it would happen is if something like the Daily Mail published something on that sort of level)

  7. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Black Helicopters

    Tom Baker was the first doctor I ever saw, but I'm not a fan. I'd rate him just below Colin Baker, but above McCoy (although McCoy's main problem was that ridiculous costume). Of the modern ones, I think Ecclestone is the best, followed by Smith, then Tennant, personally. Which makes Tennant the fourth best because...

    For me Troughton was the best, and I say that having only recently seen some Troughtons. His performance as the doctor is birlliantly subversive - for example the lovely sardonic "I love to watch experts at work, don't you?" in Tomb Of The Cybermen, when the "archaeologists" are clearly about as useful as a chocolate fireguard (at being archaeologists, anyway...)

    (Black helicopter - as used in the recently recovered "Enemy Of The World", of course...)

  8. Criminny Rickets
    Thumb Up

    I started watching during the Tom Baker years, saw the Paul McGann movie, including the just posted webisode. I have also seen every episode of the newest incarnation since it returned in 2005. I will say hands down, the best Doctor has to be David Tennant. I have yet to see any other Doctor show the range and depth of true emotion that David Tennant showed in “Human Nature“/”Family of Blood“, or on his last episode of "The End of Time part 2", especially just as he was about to regenerate into Matt Smith.

    1. RussellMcIver

      Horses for Courses

      I enjoyed some of the Tennant era but largely found him annoying.

      I have yet to see any other Doctor show the range of preposterous gurning that David Tennant showed throughout his time in the blue box.

  9. Shonko Kid
    Thumb Up

    The best one?

    Can I vote all of them? I don't think it's a question you can actually answer, as the article shows, everyone has their particular favourite. But I think the strength of the show, and to the credit of the writers and actors, is that each has added a fresh facet to the character in a believable way,

    Perhaps easier questions such as; which one have you seen enough of? and which would you have liked to have seen more? are the ones to ask, certainly for the purpose of trying to put them into some sort of popularity order.

    Certainly the latest vignette has firmly put McGann into the 'would like to have seen more of' category. I remember after seeing the TV movie that I was a bit disappointed, probably due to _that_ kiss and they'd killed off my then 2nd fav, McCoy - not generally liked, but I enjoyed his dark, casual, genocide ;-)

    That said, I think Tom Baker just _was_ The Doctor.

    1. John Gamble

      Re: The best one?

      Yes, the problem with judging the best is that one has to also consider the quality of the scripts. I think Peter Davidson could easily have ranked higher in viewers' estimations if the script quality hadn't started dropping around that time.

      (Is it my imagination or did Davidson get saddled with a large number of scripts with downer endings, including Tegan's departure?)

      I came in with Tom Baker, and still rank him highly, but I really like Smith, who seems to have incorporated much of what I like about Baker and Troughton in his performance.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      I hesitate to say to that,

      There was the phrase but I don't think it is public property - "Splendid chap - all of them."

      Five rounds rapid in honour of the dear memory of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: The best one?

      Yes, Tom Baker just _was_ The Doctor. And much to his chagrin he had trouble finding work afterward for just that reason.

      Really, I like them all each in his own way. I'd say Colin Baker was my least favorite followed be Eccleston. Oddly enough in Eccleston's case I think if he'd stayed another season he might have become my favorite. At the front end he was working too hard to create a new doctor. Toward the end of his run, the part was working its way into him and he was becoming The Doctor.

      If there was anything I hated about the show it tended to be either the writers or the production values. Frankly, by the time you get to McCoy I couldn't help feeling there was someone in the bowels of the BCC who hated the show as much as The Master hated the Doctor, and like him was trying to destroy the show. I don't think I've seen a home made You-Tube video with worse production values than they put in some of the McCoy episodes.

  10. cheveron

    John Hurt

    Because he's John Hurt.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1 Troughton

    2 Tennent

    3 T Baker

    4 Pertwee

    5 Smith

    6 Hartnell

    7 C Baker

    8 McCoy

    9 Davidson

    10 Eccelston

    I've left McGann off as I've still not watched the flaming movie or listened to any of his audio episodes. I would say that I'm rating performances here and not scripts. Davidson and Eccleston never seemed to me to even know what it was they were playing; which of course could be a script problem too. Of the list, I would say I actually positively liked everyone above Davidson. My first doctor was Pertwee.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tricky

      Who is this Davidson Doctor you speak of?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tricky

        Davison/Davidson. If he wanted me to remember how to spell his name then he should have done more than stand around alternating between looking concerned, constipated, and offended for four bloody years.

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: Tricky

          Actually Davison/Davidson isn't even his real name: IRL he goes by the moniker of Peter Moffett.

          Not sure if he was the only One to have a Screen Name before he got to "Who", but interestingly enough Mr. Tennant's real name is David McDonald.

          The more you know....

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Tricky

      My rankings:

      1 - Tom Baker

      1.01 - Pertwee

      1.02 - Smith

      1.03 - Troughton

      1.04 - Hartnell

      1.05 - Tennet

      1.06 - Davidson

      1.07 - McCoy

      2 - Eccleston

      2.1 - C Baker

  12. Stuart Halliday

    PATRICK Troughton, then JON Pertwee. I'm 50. :)

    P.S. isn't it about time we got a Doctor Icon. It is 50 years after all?

    1. T. Woods

      Doctor icon

      I like the idea of a Doctor icon for marking comments by time travelers (or travelers in other relative dimensions in space). Really a TARDIS icon would serve best. Probably trademarked though, isn't it?

      On an unrelated note, I'd love to see a plain blue police box icon. You know, to indicate that the commenter is intending to call the bobbies.

  13. Zot

    Being in my mid forties, it'll be Baker for me.

    Baker did have some great SciFi moments like that light house mass murder by strange sea creatures. And giant space wasps that killed the sleeping crew of a space ship. Also I seem to remember him walking down many levels of the Tardis looking for something, as it was the first time I really understood how big it was inside, my eight year old brain thought that was very exciting!

  14. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    I only ever got to see Tom Baker as a kid in the Netherlands. That is probably why he is my favourite. For the same reason, the original Star Trek is my favourite. Mr Spock was my favourite character, but that is of course logical.

  15. Vociferous

    Your first doctor is YOUR doctor

    So, Tom Baker is The Doctor for me. Although I do also like Matt Smith.

    A perhaps more interesting question is who your LEAST favorite doctor is. Personally I have a very hard time with John Pertwee, he's just too... swinging 70's groovy.

    1. Petrea Mitchell

      Re: Your first doctor is YOUR doctor

      Yeah, you're always going to have a special place in your heart for whichever Doctor got you to keep watching.

      I was 5 when the local PBS station started airing it, and the very first episode I saw was the start of "Robot". I didn't fully understand what was going on, but it looked like fun...

      Least favorite classic doctor: I don't like the McCoy era as much as the rest, but I don't have any problems with McCoy's portrayal, more with the writing during that time.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Your first doctor is YOUR doctor

        Same for me except I was in my teens. I think I caught the end of the episode and then I began to search for it.

        The local station only ever showed Tom Baker episodes and I thought he was the only one. I discovered the others when I got to college. Later I managed to record all of the episodes on VHS tapes, which I still jealously guard. Still waiting for the BBC to come to their senses and release fairly priced collections on DVD. At least a full season of classic Doctors per set although I'd really rather it were by Doctor.

  16. Mike Ozanne

    Peter Cushing surely ........

    /* DARFC

    1. veti Silver badge

      The Forgotten Doctor

      Somehow, Peter Cushing never makes it into these lists. Even people who think of themselves as hardcore fans forget about him. But he brought a hammy intensity to the role that wasn't really surpassed until David Tennant (when it was promptly spoiled by the soppy romantic crap).

      1. Thecowking

        Re: The Forgotten Doctor

        Probably because Cushing played a human called Doctor Who, but not The Doctor, a Gallifreyan Time Lord.

        He's not the same character, but is a character _based_ on the character of The Doctor.

        I only learnt that reading the comments in this series of articles.

        1. Petrea Mitchell

          Forgotten Doctors

          Indeed, there's no way to reconcile those movies with the series...

          OTOH, when I say I like "all the classic Doctors", I do include Richard Hurndall and Michael Jayston.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: The Forgotten Doctor

        Somehow, Peter Cushing never makes it into these lists

        Somehow, in the comments section for every single one of these Dr Who articles in the Reg, someone makes exactly this comment, despite the fact that it's been asked and answered in the comments section of every single one of...

        We seem to be trapped in some sort of comments chronic hysteresis. Does Meglos have an account here?

  17. GSV Slightly Perturbed

    [Broadcast Eclear, sent 1384703839.0]

    xGSV Slightly Perturbed

    oBOFH Reg Readers

    My favourite is probably the silly old Eccentric that always seems to keep a couple of interesting companions around with it, one of whom constantly lives under the quaint notion that by pulling levers and pushing buttons he can exert some sort of control.

    But then I suppose I would think that.

  18. Duffy Moon

    There can be only one

    Tom of course. No other actor has inhabited and personified his role quite to the same degree. No other Doctor could be as funny, as scary, as convincing or as downright maniacal.

    Also an interesting character IRL and was very nice to me on the two occasions that I met him.

    Sherlock Holmes - in tribute to The Talons of Weng Chiang.

    1. Fogcat

      Re: There can be only one

      Mr Baker is the one for me, Saturday tea times at university the TV room in hall (we didn't have computers or even TVs in our rooms in those does youngsters) were a fun communal time (and of course there was Leela!)

      In answer to "which would you have liked to have seen more?" I'd would have like Christopher Eccelston to have done more, he brought a darker, angry tone which I liked and I thought he was just hitting his stride when he left.

  19. Oh Homer

    Tom Baker

    The End.

    (Actually, for me it was, because I never watched another episode after that.)

  20. Magnus_Pym

    Relaunch Doctor

    +1 for Eccleston. The relaunch Doctor. Many actors saw it as a poison chalice to relaunch a concept that had essentially died. All later Dr's owe him a debt.

  21. d3rrial


    I don't know any of the doctors before the 2005 reboot, and I didn't enjoy eccelstons performance that much, so its gotta be Tennant for me. Very good performance in my opinion, better than Smith every day, altough Smith isn't bad either.

  22. Neil B

    I grew up with Baker and so, of course, love him as the Doctor.

    But, my favourite Doctor will always be the one that operates in my favourite series, and right now, my favourite series was Matt Smith's first. So by that reckoning, he wins.

  23. Ian Tunnacliffe

    Hartnell as Number 2 but Eccleston wins. Hands down. No contest.

    I saw all the early series but lost contact during and after University in the late 70s when telly in general played a very small part in my life.

    I watched the first episode of the reboot with curiosity but not expecting all that much. He snagged me at

    "Lots of planets have a North".

    And in the classical star manner he left us wanting more. Lots more.

  24. Chz

    It obviously depends on what you expect the Doctor to be.

    A few years ago, I'd have said Baker (Tom, naturally) and been done with it. But that's just a side effect of my age, and his long tenure in the role. I've gone back and watched a lot of old Who as well as the new in recent years and it has changed my perception a bit.

    Based on that, Patrick Troughton has ended up my favourite. Followed by Matt Smith, who's essentially emulating a younger version of him. It's a pity so much of Troughton's work is still missing, but the recently uncovered episodes were *excellent*.

    I wouldn't go so far as to rate the rest of them. They've all been good in their own ways (even if for Colin Baker, it's been off-screen in the Big Finish plays). Certainly Tom can beat them all for presence and sheer pomposity, but having re-watched all of his stuff in the past few years it's really quite astonishing how bad it is in places and how often Tom just phoned it in. Out of the two most maligned actors in the role, Syl was starting to get into a very good groove just as the series was canned, and Colin proved beyond a doubt in later work that it really was just abominable writing and directing that made his years so shit.

    All of that is because I like the idea of the Doctor as a playful alien with a heart of gold. If you think he's better suited as an imperious guardian of good then Pertwee or Tennant will be more your thing.

    1. Havelock

      heart*s* of gold surely?

  25. Matthew 3

    It's those 'Where were you when....?" moments

    Tom Baker was my first Doctor, so he's the best. I can still remember, with startling clarity, where I was at the shocking moment when he turned into Peter Davison. Until 2001 that was my equivalent of what my parents called 'a JFK moment'.

    I didn't think much of the next couple, as the series wound down, but Eccleston wasn't bad, Tennant was better and Matt Smith was somewhere between the two. I'm just glad it's back.

    Have a jelly baby...

  26. Ironclad

    Ecclestone for me too

    Grew up with John Pertwee and Tom Baker and enjoyed them both but for I'd give it to Eccleston for his successful re-potrayal.

    The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is still my favourite of all the 'new episodes'. One of the few that reminded me of the touch of fear the old programs used to conjur up.

    'Are you my Mummy?'.

  27. Rogue Jedi

    As has already been said, the first doctor you remember naturally holds fond memories.

    I remember great antisipation when finding out Doctor Who was to return with the new 7th Doctor, as a child I enjoyed the adventures of Silvester McCoy's Doctor and Ace (I was 10 when it finished). I have seen episodes from each Doctor but still prefer McCoy.

    second place goes to Tennant, but all of them were good

  28. Bob Brenchley

    Been in from the start

    1) Hartnell - you can never beat an original.

    2) Pertwee

    3) Tennent

    4) Eccelston

    5) McGann

    6) Troughton

    7) Tom Baker

    8) Davison

    9) Colin Baker

    10) Smith - would have been in last place but he has had VERY good assistants.

    11) McCoy - the pits.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a silly question but a fun discussion

    As folks above have pretty much said - all of them / your first Doctor Who - appropriately enough for a Time Lord really - the best defined as being the one who most encapsulates / epitomises the culture (values, fears, powers, wisdom, identities) of the Time which they [first] appeared in ... given the BBC's necessary commitment to make something (sorry, someone) who appeals most at that Time - commenters who mention their age at first meeting the Character show this very sharply.

    After all, it's right there in his name, isn't it ? Doctor Who [ever you all want / need him to be] ?

    And they [the BBC] sometimes misjudged the moods of the Time, as shown by a very few which really didn't fit what people wanted at all, and [presumably] failed to add to the fan-base of this very [necessarily] generic character. Let us know when someone writes a PhD thesis on this - we'd all enjoy that !

  30. Delbert

    Wrong question?

    So far as I am aware I have not missed any episodes or movies of the good Doctor an advantage of being almost as old as a Timelord. I've warmed to all of them,I agree Mcgann should have been given more tenure Hartnell and Troughton were authoritarian figures Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee the two best Doctors in my mind they added depth to the role with their portrayals, Davidson was lighter more flippant a sea change in the role, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy were more idiosyncratic Doctors, which you prefer depends as observed when you came to the series of the reborn series Tennant would be my choice a blend of those who came before , not taking anything away from the others who carried the mantle with equal aplomb. but what of the companions that were the conscence, assistance and occasional voice of reason? I can tell you who was the worst but who was the best? they were the other side of the coin you could not have one without the other!

  31. tmcd35

    Don't know if I can actually agree with myself on an order. Each Doctor had their qualities. I'd say this though, Colin Baker was much underated as The Doctor. His second season show some of the best performanced of The Doctor from any of the actors.

    Patrick Troughton has to be number one though. The lovable rogue. Glint of Michief in his eye. Jouvial but can turn on a dime and out wit everyone in the room.

    So this list starts...


    2.C Baker

    God knows where it goes from there. Tom Baker should be quiet high. So should Matt Smith. I recon Paul McGann could have been great given half a chance.

    Too many choices. And I have a feeling Peter Capaldi is going to make it even harder to settle on a definitive order.

  32. Stevie Silver badge


    I have given this more thought in the last few hours than in all the time the original series was on and I was watching it. I think the difficulty is in separating the Doctor character (and the actor portraying him) from the stories he appeared in.

    For example, I always cite Davidson's doctor as the one that killed interest in the show for me, but when I thought about it, it wasn't so much the actor as what he had to work with. Insipid plots, stupid costume, tedious banging on about cricket when there was a lull in the action and surely the least memorable companions.

    I never got to see Colin Baker other than once, and I saw that they had just taken the Davidson version and turned the "Stupid" knob up to 11.

    I liked McCoy as an actor, but never really wanted to watch his doctor doing what they had him doing with the dreadful selection of people he was dragging in his wake.

    I usually cite Hartnell as my favourite, but that is because I remember "An Unearthly Child" and the fact that they had to repeat it the next week before the second episode because so many people wrote in and complained they had missed it, and because William Hartnell looked like my grandfather . The episodes with Hartnell haven't aged well, unfortunately, and his acting was not stellar much of the time, probably due to his illness. I wonder what he could have done with the part if he'd been ten years younger.

    Ecclestone stands out for me as light years ahead of the pack. The lone Dalek episode is probably the best Dr Who story I've ever seen (at least until the soppy ending). I'll never forget Ecclestone's terrified "Not possible!"

    But I think, against my own expectations, having just watched a Dr Who special on BBC America and done a bit of thinking, Tom Baker takes the cup for me. The plots weren't great much of the time. Some of the companions were asking for a shovel in the snoot. But the actor brought the character alive in a way I don't think anyone else has managed.

    If you'd asked me a few days ago this would not have been my choice.

    But El Reg and the BBC America Who Hysteria of late have me thinking about it again.

  33. Rufusstan

    all of the above

    As many others, its who you grew up with. While I caught the end of Pertwee's era, Tom Baker was always My Doctor,

    The 5th-7th Doctors fell short because I was too young to understand the need to change. In hindsight I underrated Davison because of it. Colin Baker and McCoy were in the series as people were trying to kill it and neither was given enough time -- Although sadly, the 7th Doctor was just getting interesting when they pulled the plug.

    Its hard to to compare the B+W Doctors and the 3 (so far) reboot regenerations as I have only seen them as an adult. They all stand out in some way, but I think Patrick Troughton leads the pack slightly.

    By the way, thinking back to the 70s stories, could you imagine pitching Genesis of the Daleks today?

    OK, this 6 part Saturday family show, The main themes are: Racism and Genocide, Nuclear war, Bio-Engineering, Torture and has lots of morally gray decisions. It has a race of Psychotic aliens and an villain that seems to be a mix of Hitler and Dr Strangelove. -- The kids will love it :)

  34. Lamont Cranston

    I agree that it depends when you first encountered the show.

    Being the age I am, Davidson, Baker (Colin), and McCoy are my Doctors - I have a particular fondness for McCoy, but that might have more to do with Ace and my hormone levels at the time. Regardless, I always enjoyed watching repeats of earlier series and it was always The Doctor, no matter which actor was playing him - I don't think they've ever miscast.

    It's a crying shame that McGann never got to do any TV episodes, as he's a fantastic actor, and an excellent Doctor Who (judging by his audio work, and the recent mini episode). Thanks to the extend hiatus, the new Doctors just aren't my Doctors - my kids are just getting into it, now, so I'm hoping that will change.

    Is there an icon for terminal fence sitting?

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