Doctor Who Doctors, ranked worst to best

Best Doctor Who Doctors, ranked worst to best: Jon Pertwee
(Image credit: BBC)

Who was the best Doctor Who Doctor? With more than thirteen actors adopting the iconic role over nearly sixty years, everyone has a favorite Timelord. Who is yours?

In the last 60-plus years, plenty of celebs have changed their faces here and there. Some experienced a slight thinning of the nose, others their brow, butt, lips, and hairline. But nobody does a new face quite like the Doctor.

Fifteen faces so far, with a couple extra thrown in for good measure, have graced our screens and here you'll find the list that answers the question - Doctor Who's best? This is our list of the Doctor Who Doctors, ranked worst to best.

Doctor Who Doctors, ranked worst to best

13. Patrick Troughton - Second Doctor

Best Doctor Who Doctor

(Image credit: BBC)

The second incarnation of the Doctor was played by Patrick Troughton, from 1966-1969. Troughton trails on our list for the simple reason that it's hard to evaluate his tenure with so many missing episodes. 

The BBC took it upon themselves to lose several classic Doctor Who episodes, including 53 of Troughton's 119, so it's hard to fully appreciate his run these days. The cosmic hobo bumbled his way across the universe facing Daleks, and Cybermen, as well as the Great Intelligence, and Ice Warriors.  

12. Paul McGann - Eighth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: image shows Paul McGann as Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

The Doctor with the shortest time on our screen, McGann took part in a 1996 TV film which was meant to relaunch the franchise. Sadly, US audiences didn't take, though it was popular in the UK. The idea for a new series was scrapped, but it didn’t stop McGann. 

Though his screen time was minimal, the 8th Doctor has been a part of audio dramas, comics, and novels over the years. We also saw him return for the Day of the Doctor special, putting in a splendid performance as he made his transformation into the War Doctor.

11. Colin Baker - Sixth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: image shows Colin Baker

(Image credit: BBC)

The first of two Bakers on our list, Colin played the titular figure from 1984-1986. During Baker's time on the show, the BBC took an 18-month hiatus from Doctor Who, and Baker was left with just two companions and a handful of episodes. 

His sharp tongue, and often unkind personality set this new form of Doctor against the fun and flamboyant incarnations that came previously. Never to be forgotten though, his question mark collars, and bright patchwork jacket kept viewer's eyes occupied.  

10. Peter Capaldi - Twelfth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: image shows Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

From 2014-2017, a gruff and action-ready Peter Capaldi shredded an electric guitar through the TARDIS. This version of the Doctor sported sonic sunglasses instead of the traditional screwdriver, and loved a distressed chunky knit jumper. This rock 'n' roll version of the dual-hearted hero was a far departure from his predecessor (Matt Smith), and kept in check by the witty, and possibly immortal, Clara Oswald. 

Capaldi himself was a phenomenal Doctor, bringing that trademark blend of grizzled warrior and cosmic buffoon, but his episodes were a bit hit-and-miss. "Heaven Sent" is among Who's best though.

9. Christopher Eccleston - Ninth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: image shows Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

With just one series under his belt, Eccleston was the face of the 2005 Doctor Who revival. Fans enjoyed his ears, accent, and brooding leather jacket, but sadly it wasn't to last. Fans rank Doctor 9 as a favorite incarnation, and it isn't hard to see why. For many new Whovians, Eccleston was the first face we got to know at the TARDIS' helm. 

Eccleston brought frantic and wild energy to the Doctor, but when things got serious, oh boy did Eccleston get serious. Sadly, his run lasted only one season, and it really felt like he had so much more to give as The Doctor.

8. Sylvester McCoy - Seventh Doctor

Best Doctor Who: Sylvester McCoy

(Image credit: BBC)

Sylvester McCoy saw the end of classic Doctor Who, as it's cancellation directly followed on from his time in the blue box. Known as a darker version of the Doctor, McCoy’s performance has been praised for its layered and nuanced manipulation of both supporting characters and the audience. 

Despite his final appearance in the main series ending in 1987, Doctor 7 appeared in the 1996 TV film, handing over the reigns to Paul McGann.

7. Peter Davidson - Fifth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: Peter Davidson

(Image credit: BBC)

Sandwiched between Colin Baker and Tom Baker sits Peter Davidson. The fifth incarnation of the Doctor, and one of the most well known actors to take on the mantle, Davidson piloted the time machine from 1982-1984. Davidson's tenure was neither amazing, nor particularly bad - he had some great episodes and battled with iconic villains though, including the Cybermen and The Master.

Davidson's real life daughter, Georgia Moffat, joined the Doctor Who family in more ways than one: Playing the Doctor's daughter, Jenny, and also marrying the Doctor himself, David Tennant.  

6. Matt Smith - Eleventh Doctor

Best Doctor Who: Matt Smith

(Image credit: BBC)

Smith's three-year term started in 2010 and his quirky, bow-tie loving version of the eponymous hero quickly rose to enormous popularity. Smith was the Doctor in residence during the 50th anniversary of the show, teaming up with David Tennant, and The 'War Doctor', John Hurt.

Smith's Doctor was more light-hearted than most the entries on either side of him, expressing the same child-like glee that any ten year old if you told them they could fly about in a space ship. He has some truly epic storylines, even if a few of them did get a bit messy and self-aggrandizing. Still, Smith takes our mid-position, for his fez, bow-tie, and an impressive three-year tenure. 

5. Jodie Whittaker - Thirteenth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker

(Image credit: BBC)

The previous Doctor on our screens, Whittaker made history as the first woman to play the character, and tackles hard hitting issues with each episode. Her tenure in the TARDIS ended in 2022, with a trio of special episodes, and we do know that Russell T Davies, the former showrunner (2005-2010), is returning to take the helm behind the scenes. 

It's tough to place Jodie on this list, because her performance has been stellar - it's just the script and episodes around her that have been something of a let down.

4. Jon Pertwee - Third Doctor

Best Doctor Who: Jon Pertwee

(Image credit: BBC)

Jon Pertwee introduced audiences to the Doctor in color TV, facing off against the Autons in his first serial. Pertwee's Doctor is known for being grounded on Earth, and is employed by UNIT as an advisor. Pertwee himself confessed that his scripts were heavy with scientific exposition, and he often replaced the long-winded explanations with a simple "reverse the polarity". 

Pertwee also introduced the world to Sarah-Jane Smith, Jo Grant, and Liz Shaw, three of the most loved companions in the show's run. One of the most well known faces in Doctor Who history, he misses out on the top three by a slim margin. 

3. William Hartnell - First Doctor

Best Doctor Who: William Hartnell

(Image credit: BBC)

The first Doctor Who, and the blueprint for the next 58 years, William Hartnell is the man that began it all. Starting out stubborn and often mistrustful of humans, Hartnell grew his Doctor into a wise and grandfatherly figure, travelling with ten companions, from 1963-1966. His take on the character was colder than most of those that came after, but he's still the face that launched the series.

As his term ended, Hartnell hand-picked his successor: "There's only one man in England who can take over, and that's Patrick Troughton." Hartnell takes the bronze medal for this Top Docs list, without him the show wouldn’t be the same. 

2. Tom Baker - Fourth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: Tom Baker

(Image credit: BBC)

One of the longest reigning actors to take the blue box’s helm, Tom Baker held the mantle from 1974-1981. His iconic scarf, hat, and easy wit made audiences love him, and of course, we all would like a jellybaby.  If you think of classic Doctor Who, Tom Baker is almost certainly the first face to pop into your mind.

He was also the first of the Doctor's to really nail that blend of whimsy, action, and horror that makes Doctor Who so great. He had his fair share of scary episodes, serious episodes, and down right silly episodes, and he nailed every it every time.

1. David Tennant - Tenth Doctor

Best Doctor Who: David Tennat

(Image credit: BBC)

Named the most popular Doctor in the show’s history, David Tennant brought a whole new fanbase to the Who-niverse. An evergreen fan of Doctor Who himself, his enthusiasm and love for the character shone through. From a one-handed Sycorax duel on Christmas Day, to saving the very fabric of reality, Tennant left his mark on Doctor Who forever. 

While every Doctor has their standout episodes, Tenant's run is just brimmed with absolute classics. From the genuinely terrifying Blink to the cosmic horror of The Impossible Planet, Tenant's Doctor was a golden age for the show.

Honorable mentions

John Hurt - The War Doctor  

Best Doctor Who: John Hurt

(Image credit: BBC)

John Hurt joined the Who family for the 50th anniversary episode, playing a version of the Doctor between series 8 & 9. Hurt's War Doctor showed the character at his most vulnerable, trying to save Gallifrey, the homeworld of the Timelords. 

Jo Martin - The Fugitive Doctor 

Best Doctor Who: Jo Martin

(Image credit: BBC)

Jo Martin was the second woman, and first person of color, to play the Doctor. As part of the Timeless Child story, Martin’s version is from an unknown moment in the seemingly infinite life of the mysterious hero 

So, there they are, each Doctor and the parts they played in making this iconic show what it is. A universe known and loved the world over, and always an fascinating icon of TV history. Will it ever end..? Only Doctor Who knows.  

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Bobby is a Freelance Copywriter who has worked with, and its sister site, Top Ten Reviews. He’s been writing since his teens, and has worked for a number of media outlets, turning his talents to education, travel, fitness, retail, and more. Bobby loves to write fiction (Fantasy, Horror, and Cosmic Fiction), woodwork, and walk his Romanian rescue dog Garnet. You can often find him and Garnet walking across the Scottish wilds, or through the New Forest in the South of England.