Ranking Every Doctor In Doctor Who

Doctor Who has had a lot of Doctors. Each version of the Time Lord has brought something unique to the role and made it their own, solidifying their own legacies. But we’re fans, and fans love to rank things.

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So, here’s our list of all the Doctors from least good to best, not including amalgamations of evil like the Dream Lord and the Valeyard. We’re also leaving out the Fugitive Doctor, as we’ve not seen enough of her to place her fairly in the rankings.

14 Thirteenth Doctor

13th Doctor, Yaz and Willa in the Witchfinders

Jodie Whittaker is a great actor and an even better pick for the Doctor, but much of her run was mired by poor writing and haphazard concepts that would often explode in her face. Her Doctor brought forward the cruel and scheming nature of past incarnations despite her friendly exterior, but she never faced the consequences.

Combined with her passive role in stories, never given time to stand tall as the Doctor, she ends at the bottom of this list. But if the Sixth Doctor is anything to go by, the expanded universe might give her a new lease on life.

13 The War Doctor

War Doctor walking past a dead Dalek on Gallifrey during the Time War

The War Doctor plays the stand-in role of a classic incarnation in the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, to contrast the New Who-style young and flippant incarnations. It was initially going to be Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, which would have fit that part better, but the BBC wouldn’t allow it, and Christopher Eccleston would not return as the Ninth.

As such, we got the incredibly talented John Hurt, but much of his Doctor leaves us wanting. He’s a facsimile of other incarnations, shoe-horned into a war that, once finally shown, felt generic and uninspired, never living up to the grandiose descriptions. Even in his audios, he never steps into his own, always falling into the shadow of others.

12 Sixth Doctor

Sixth Doctor in front of his Tardis on a rocky planet with a green sky

Colin Baker starred in the most tumultuous period in Doctor Who’s history. The BBC wanted to axe the show, he was forced into an outlandish rainbow outfit, and in his very first episode, choked his companion. The idea was to turn him from a maligned and cutthroat character into a kinder and more gentle one, much like the First and Twelfth Doctors, but he was fired and replaced before it came to fruition.

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You’d be hard-pressed to find much to grab onto in his three seasons, as much as Colin Baker tries to worm some likeability into the often mean-spirited writing. Where he truly comes into his own is the audio dramas, where he softens up and gently finds the Doctor’s voice, allowing more vulnerability to shine through.

11 First Doctor

First Doctor standing in a snowy region in front of the Tardis

Never cruel, never cowardly, William Hartnell helped birth this show, and it wouldn’t be here today without him. His performance is often reduced to a grumpy grandad, but he was one of the silliest Doctors, always running schemes and getting into trouble while giggling like a school child.

His arc of transforming from the vindictive and cold alien, willing to kill to get his way, to the kindhearted traveller just enjoying the wonders of the universe paved the way for every future incarnation, but to this day, Hartnell remains unbelievably endearing.

10 Seventh Doctor

Seventh Doctor standing on a desert planet in front of a carnival

The Seventh Doctor is the peak of the ‘imp’ persona. He’s fiendishly scheming and often manipulates people to do his bidding with a gleeful cheer about it all. The Doctor wouldn’t blow up Skaro, but Seven happily duped the Daleks into doing it themselves.

His era was, in many ways, the proto to New Who, and a return to form for the show with iconic hits like Remembrance of the Daleks. None of this would have been possible without Sylvester McCoy’s double-edged depiction, bringing a charming but sly edge to the time traveller that would help shape the darker corners of his mind we would see unravel in the revival.

9 Fourth Doctor

The Fourth Doctor with Daleks in the streets

The show wouldn’t exist without William Hartnell, but it also wouldn’t be where it is now without Tom Baker. Before David Tennant’s unbelievable popularity in New Who, the Fourth Doctor was the de facto face of the series.

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He is the longest-running Doctor with some of the best stories under his belt (hello, City of Death?). Tom Baker will always be fondly remembered as one of the funniest incarnations, with a blend of Douglas Adams and Monty Python-style humour that made him a treat to watch, even if he was a bit of an arse at times.

8 Second Doctor

The Second Doctor operating the TARDIS

I promise he isn’t this high because we share a last name (and might even be related, if my grandad wasn’t lying). Patrick Troughton played the Second Doctor and showed that the series could continue without Hartnell.

He was every bit the impish fiend of his past incarnation, but brought a human touch to the role that many would later emulate, Matt Smith especially. He was goofy but affectionate, bonding with companions in ways we’d never seen before – I will always cherish his and Jamie’s relationship.

7 Third Doctor

Third Doctor

When Jon Pertwee stepped onto the scene, Doctor Who was undergoing drastic changes. A reduced budget meant that the series was Earthbound, with him now working for Unit, but that ended up being in Pertwee’s favour.

There is no Doctor like him. He’s more James Bond than anything, but with super intelligence and futuristic, alien tech. His serials felt closer to the A-Team and old British spy thrillers, but with the camp of Doctor Who’s cheap costumed villains. Yet, despite all this change, he was still the smarmy know-it-all that we love.

6 Fifth Doctor

The Fifth Doctor beside the TARDIS

Peter Davison gets a bad rap. He had to step into the shoes of the immensely popular Tom Baker and, importantly, do something different. So, he was noticeably more human. He was respectful to his companions and far less abrasively alien.

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Unfortunately, many read this as bland, but you could imagine sitting down to have a drink with the Fifth Doctor, confiding in him as a friend. He came to define a new kind of incarnation, one much closer to us, one who could sympathise with his companions and blend into society far more convincingly.

5 Eleventh Doctor

11th Doctor comparing his Sonic Screwdriver to the 10th's

Matt Smith came hot off the heels of two freshly wounded Doctors, those still sulking after the Time War, letting their egos inflate to god-like levels. He brought a fresh perspective to the show that was direly needed, simultaneously juggling the feeling of being unknowably ancient yet juvenile while shirking the guilt and finally moving on. His unfathomable age wasn’t part of some unchecked ego, but a natural part of his mystique.

It’s a tightrope no other Doctor has perfected like Smith, but unfortunately, it all came crashing down in his final season as his character was further and further Flanderised until much of the charm stripped away, just like his holographic clothes.

4 Eighth Doctor

The Eighth Doctor inside the TARDIS

Paul McGann was the first actor to try and ‘revive’ the show. In the ’90s, Fox and BBC teamed up for a TV movie that would kickstart an American series, starring McGann’s Eighth Doctor. It didn’t take.

McGann’s more romantic performance didn’t truly come into its own until the audio dramas where he would subtly juggle the cutthroat schemer of Seven while embracing the humanity of Five. This makes the Eighth Doctor one of the most nuanced depictions, especially among Classic Who, as he is forever reckoning with his selfish acts of defiance, like saving someone destined to die and unravelling time just to be the idyllic hero he lavishes being.

3 Tenth Doctor

The Tenth Doctor showing his sonic screwdriver

David Tennant is a treasure. In his time as the Tenth Doctor, he was charming, romantic, and larger than life, bringing a newfound youthfulness to the role that was teased with McGann.

On the other hand, he bore the weight of his entire species on his shoulders and led the Doctor to darker, more unnerving places, letting anger consume him as he declared himself Time Lord Victorious. Tennant meticulously portrayed his Doctor’s descent into this chasm of ego, escalating the happy-go-lucky but careless portrayal of his first season to the lonely god of his last.

2 Ninth Doctor

The Ninth Doctor and Rose coming out of the TARDIS

The Ninth Doctor was a bold return for a series that had died a slow, painful death. Everything hinged on Russel T. Davies and Christopher Eccleston in 2005 when bringing the show back. Unlike past incarnations, he had a muted costume, adorning a black leather jacket and shirt. He was also much more blunt, reeling from the horrors of what he had just unleashed on his own people.

Yet Eccleston excelled in his short-lived run. He transformed the Doctor’s typical mischievous personality into a mask plain to see, the guilt gnawing at him as we watched the cracks spread further the more comfortable he got with Rose. His arc was tight, thanks in part to the single season he had, leading to one of the most touching final lines a Doctor has ever had. He might’ve struggled to feel like the Doctor, but as he says before he regenerates, he was fantastic.

1 Twelfth Doctor

The 12th Doctor with Bill Potts sneaking around

The Twelfth Doctor was the realisation of Classic Who arcs that never truly had the time to shine, thanks in part to their more isolated stories and the rocky behind-the-scenes. Like the Sixth, he started out as a callous and uncaring, distant man. He was rude to his companions, didn’t think before he spoke, and pushed those who cared about him away.

But over the course of his three seasons, we see him become the aloof grandfather again, harkening back to the show’s beginnings while embracing the flair of the new. He is everything great about Doctor Who, everything great about every Doctor. Peter Capaldi managed to juggle the weight of the show’s history on his shoulders while bringing his own touch, a balance that should be impossible. But that’s never stopped The Doctor.

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