Choosing your favourite Doctor isn’t easy.
They say that you never forget your first Doctor, but your first isn’t always your favourite.
So what criteria do we use? The Doctor’s personality? His appearance? The stories? The production values?
It is all very subjective. We see Doctor Who through the prism of our own lives. Memories and emotion come into play.
Without further ado, let’s consider the splendid chaps. All of them!
We often describe William Hartnell’s Doctor as “irascible” and “crotchety”. The First Doctor mellows over his tenure, but his basic grumpiness makes it difficult for me to warm to him. His stories are imaginative and varied, from space opera to pure historical, but they are slow compared to modern television. Hartnell’s fluffing of his lines is off-putting and detracts from the enjoyment of some episodes.
Many consider Patrick Troughton to be the finest actor to have ever played the Doctor. Number Two is – on the surface – a loveable and impish clown. He has a dark and mysterious side, however, and isn’t short of cunning and guile. His adventures are monster-fests and, aside from a few clunkers, are generally more fun to watch than Hartnell’s.
Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is without doubt the perfect gentleman. He has an unquestionable air of authority and commands immediate respect.
The Third Doctor’s adventures are action-packed whirlwinds. Colour TV adds to their watchability. The Earth-based stories make the threat seem real. Characters are more realistic and are easier to identify with.
Pertwee’s first season is gritty, tense and atmospheric. However, the UNIT family becomes a little too cosy in later years. The Third’s era provides us with consistently high quality stories, practically all an enjoyable watch.
Tom Baker’s Doctor has acquired an almost mythical status. With floppy hat and trailing scarf, he is the definitive Doctor. His irresistible charm, his other-worldliness, eccentricity and sheer presence are utterly enthralling.
The Fourth’s early “Gothic” adventures are dark, violent and scary classics. His later ones, unfortunately, look cheap. Baker often gives a silly performance. There is a massive change of tone, however, in his sombre, science-based and altogether glossier final season.
Peter Davison’s youthful Doctor seems more human and vulnerable than his predecessor. He is a likeable Doctor, but certainly not a humorous or quirky one.
Doctor Who feels reinvorated and confident under Davison’s run, however the quality of the scripts is sadly lacking. Some episodes are slow-paced, dull even, providing fewer behind the sofa moments.
Like the First Doctor, Colin Baker’s Sixth suffers from being distinctly unlikeable. This Doctor grabs your attention right from the start. Sometimes enthralling, sometimes embarrassing, he is loud, brash and melodramatic.
Baker’s first season is pacy and enjoyable. It is also dark and violent at times. His second “Trial” season is bogged down by the lengthy court scenes, with increased humour which seems obvious and forced.
Behind the scenes shenanigans, the hiatus and reduced episode count now make being a Doctor Who fan difficult. We start to obsess about ratings and lose faith in the show’s production team. We worry about the show’s tarnished image.
Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor has an uphill climb right from the outset. Michael Grade’s unceremoniously sacking of Baker makes me resent the silly Seventh. Spoon-playing, funny faces, shouting and pratfalls are sometimes painful to watch, but it is difficult not to be infected by the confidence, fun and joie de vivre of McCoy’s earlier stories with their bold and imaginative scripts. As his Doctor then turns darker, some of his later tales are stone-cold classics.
Paul McGann’s Doctor is a young, dashing and witty hero, oozing charm and self-confidence. The flash and over-complex TV movie might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is undeniably an entertaining romp.
“The Night of Doctor” is a modern day classic, which sends unsuspecting fans into a frenzy as the Eighth, quite out of the blue, makes his dramatic long-awaited return. We also meet “The War Doctor” who I don’t include here for purely “numerical” reasons.
Though very much troubled, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor is also a fun character. With his infectious grin, he whisks us away in the Tardis and reminds fans of what we have been missing. The quality of production values have increased enormously and the scripts are works of art, the centre of everything. Doctor Who is scary again, but also appeals to a more female audience with love, relationships and emotion pushed firmly to the fore.
David Tennant’s heart throb Doctor turns the show into a massive hit. His cheeky Doctor sets hearts racing across the universe. His Doctor shines when it comes to humour but lacks the gravitas and presence of his predecessor. Some of his later scripts are weak.
Matt Smith’s child-friendly Doctor echoes Troughton. Comedic, but not to be trifled with. His first series feels quite bold and experimental. Occasionally the SFX don’t quite hit the mark. Both the show and actor grow in confidence as Doctor Who becomes a worldwide hit. Being a fan has never felt so good.
In stark contrast to Smith’s puppy-like Doctor, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is mean and moody. Initially abrupt and rude, like the First and the Sixth, he is impossible to like. With the arrival of the sonic shades and rock guitar, he too mellows and becomes almost loveable. Regenerations are famously traumatic and so this is how we explain his massive personality change.
Who is the winner?
No Doctor excites me like Paul McGann’s Eighth. When Doctor Number Eight is around, the Whoniverse shakes.
Firstly Doctor Who gloriously returns to our screens with the TV Movie – when we all think the show is dead and buried.
Won over by his charm, we accept this new Doctor straight away. With flowing locks and elegant attire he looks how we have always imagined the Doctor.
The story acts as a bridge between Classic and NuWho, introducing elements to the old format which would reoccur in the new.
Then in “Human Nature” we see a sketch of him in John Smith’s notepad and we jump for joy as NuWho recognises his Doctor as canon.
Finally the minisode “The Night of the Doctor” appears out of nowhere and the Internet explodes. Whovians goggle at screens worldwide in joyous disbelief. The older, wiser version of the Eighth this time in scruffier and more swashbuckling attire has fans punching the air. As a Whovian, my fan-gene has never felt more alive than on that momentous day!
My dream would be for the Eighth Doctor to return to the series. After all, if the Curator can revisit old faces, then why can’t the Doctor do the same and regenerate back into his Eighth incarnation, even for just one story.
It might be a dream, but then again – as Grace Holloway can testify – when it comes to Doctor Number Eight, dreams do actually come true.