“Doctor Who” is a show whose strength lies in it’s ability to reinvent itself as the Doctor is an alien who can regenerate into a new form on each “death.” Each of these deaths brings with us an era and arc to the show. Making this list is one that I’ll probably have to re-do in the future as this is a show that hypothetically could go on forever, for as long as there are stories to tell with each new regeneration. This list is also incomplete as though I have watched many episodes from the Classic Era I have not seen everything and for the first two Doctors so much was lost over time so their stories remain incomplete. I’ve also not included books or audio-dramas and am only including my experience of the Doctors from the show. I don’t hate any version of the Doctor as each of them does bring something unique to their performance and explores an aspect of who this Time Lord is. I want you to know context of this list going in for that reason though you will find that I have favorite Doctors in both the Classic and Modern era and would not be surprised if the list changes in the future, especially since the 13th Doctor’s story does remain incomplete as well. This list is obviously my opinion but it is a glimpse in what appeals to me in the stories of this fascinating character of the Doctor. So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Doctors of “Doctor Who.” I’ll list episodes that highlight why I love them too.
Warning this does contain SPOILERS
5) The 9th Doctor / The Ninth Doctor
The 9th Doctor gives us the best complete Doctor story in the Davies era of “Doctor Who.” This is a Doctor reeling from all the lives he’s ended during the Time War and is haunted by survivors guilt and PTSD. His arc involves him learning to trust again through his relationship with Rose as well as facing his demons from the Time War when he confronts the Dalek Emperor and refuses to kill them again. He shows that he stands for life when at the beginning of the show he is far more willing to kill. We also get to see his pure joy when he is finally able to save lives during World War 2 and he is the Doctor who introduces us to the wonderful Jack Harkness. It is really his facing a single Dalek in “Dalek” that changes him the most and that is through Rose’s compassion that makes him the man who refuses to kill in his final episode. Christopher Eccleston gives us so much depth with this Doctor and I’m grateful we got this season with him. He truly was fantastic.
Episodes I’d recommend: “The End of the World,” “Dalek,” The Empty Child,” and “The Doctor Dances.”
4) The 4th Doctor / The Fourth Doctor
One thing I love about Doctors is how alien they are and the 4th Doctor is easily the most alien out of all my favorites. Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor is the only one to have a Time Lord companion in Romana and is comfortable being away from people. I think this is a reaction to the 3rd Doctor’s attachment to humans as often when the Doctor gets too attached his next incarnation will detach and could leave people abruptly and never show up again. This is Tom Baker’s Doctor who could do an entire episode without a companion but also had many companions over his long run, with the most popular being Sarah Jane Smith. I enjoyed the Sherlock nature of this Doctor as he was crafty and often had to make the decisions alone as in the end he is the one who could have ended the Dalek threat before it began. His choice like the 9th Doctor illustrates his compassion though. At the end the day the Doctor is the one who saves lives and that is what drives the 4th Doctor the most beyond unraveling plots and the discovery of new things. It was tough to choose between him and the next Doctor on this list but in the end the next Doctor had more episodes I enjoyed and it was the limitations placed on the next Doctor that put him higher. The 4th Doctor had full reign from the Time Lords where the next one did not.
Episodes I’d recommend: “Terror of the Zygons,” “Genesis of the Daleks,” “Revenge of the Cybermen,” “The Deadly Assassin” and “The Brain of Morbius.”
3) The 3rd Doctor / The Third Doctor
Next we have one of our more human Doctors. Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor is a Doctor exiled to Earth so the majority of his adventures are him without his TARDIS. This was as strength as limitations came to define just how excellent this Doctor is. This was a Doctor who had to count on UNIT and people and because of it revealed the flaws of humanity. This Doctor also traveled and dressed in style. When I think about the Doctor and his drive for peace 3rd is one of the first who comes to mind as he attempts to broker a peace between the Silurians and humans but UNIT destroys the Silurians anyway. He also felt strongly unlike the 4th Doctor as when his companion Jo leaves his sadness is what defines that leaving as he quietly exits the room. This is the Doctor who introduces us to Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith who would be part of this show after his regeneration. This is also the Doctor who gave us the original Master and from that, there constant playing off each other and complicated relationship.
Episodes I’d recommend: “Spearhead from Space,” “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” and “The Dæmons.”
2) The 10th Doctor / The Tenth Doctor
One of the most common things you hear when you enter the “Doctor Who” fandom is who is your Doctor. Which Doctor introduced you to the show and is the reason you are a fan? For me that is David Tennant’s 10th Doctor. “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” was the story that introduced me to “Doctor Who” and I was hooked after that. What defines this Doctor is his facing of the impossible and compassion for humanity but also his extreme arrogance. Like the 9th Doctor he was defined as “Last of the Time Lords” and that survivors guilt is really what is behind his arrogance and compassion. This is a Doctor who believes he is always right and can be almost villainous as “The Doctor Triumphant” when he is willing to change time because he can. David Tennant brought so much depth and nuance to this role and gives us not only an arrogant Doctor but when who full of loss and vulnerability. He loses his companion Rose who was his friend and love and hurts the companions who come after in his selfishness. He is also running from his mortality and death as when he is forced to regenerate for the first time he stays himself until he is finally forced to move on. This Doctor gave us one of my favorite companions Martha, who he was unfair too as she was his way to get over Rose and also introduced us to Torchwood, Harriet Jones, Donna Noble, Mickey Smith and one of my favorite character, River Song. The 10th Doctor also faced off against the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Davros, Rasselon and the Master for classic enemies and further explored the complicated relationship with the Master. Tennant truly owned this role and I appreciated how defining he is of the Davies era of “Doctor Who.” He was many peoples’ first Doctor and I’m glad he was mine.
Episodes I’d recommend: “Blink,” “Army of Ghosts,” “Doomsday,” “Human Nature,” “Family of Blood,” “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” “Last of the Time Lords,” “Midnight,” and “The Waters of Mars.”
1) The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor
First place was the most difficult for me to choose as really the top 4 Doctors listed (3, 4, 10 and 12) are extremely close together for me. Each of them has their pros and cons but I really consider the top 4 to really be the perfect examples of the Doctor for myself. So, why did I choose Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor as number 1 if David Tennant’s 10th Doctor was my first Doctor? The reason behind it is because the 12th Doctor has the better story and changes over the course of his time on Moffat’s run. Capaldi’s Doctor has much of the detachment of Baker’s 4th to the point that Clara is the one who he uses to care because initially he cares mostly for puzzles and the big picture of saving the world. He had Nardole and Bill as original companions. This Doctor was the professor and even taught at University and would open many episodes like lectures. For some famous enemies he faced off against there was the Master, Davros, Rasselon, Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Zygons. To this Doctor humans matter but all life in the galaxy matters so like the 3rd Doctor he is able to shine a light on the selfishness of humans and call it out where he sees it. He is also defined by his time during the Time War and because of this will always seek peace and the saving of others. He does with the Zygons and humans. His arc also goes from him not wanting to connect with his companions to having many and even having Missy (the current incarnation of the Master) as one. For how much he tries not to care he cares the deepest and unlike his past incarnations he isn’t running from what he did during the Time War. He instead uses the lessons from the Time War to save lives wherever he can and seek peace wherever possible. This is the Doctor who is the thinker, the one who can monologue can carry an entire episode on his own with his own inner monologue. No Doctor was able to do that before or has done it since. For these reasons, Capaldi is my favorite Doctor.
Episodes I’d recommend: “Listen,” “Into the Dalek,” “Mummy on the Orient Express,” “Dark Water,” “Death in Heaven,” “Last Christmas,” “The Zygon Invasion,” “The Zygon Inversion,” “Heaven Sent,” “The Husbands of River Song,” “The Empress of Mars,” “World Enough and Time,” and “The Doctor Falls.”
I’m curious to hear who your favorite are. These were mine and I can’t wait to see what other stories are told in this amazing universe.