The Doctors
(Timeline: 2005 to Present)

“You know, Doctor, I can't tell if you're a genius or just incredibly arrogant."
"Well, on a good day, I'm both.”

The Ninth Doctor
Played by Chris Eccleston
2005 (Season 1)


    Christopher Eccleston had the unenviable task of being the face of the "New" Doctor Who series in 2005. While the show had many things going for it, including humor, thrills, action and a beautiful new companion, had Eccleston's take on The Doctor not been appealing to long time fans and new viewers, the show might have lasted only one season. But Christopher was not only successful, he was "fantastic".

     Eccleston's "Nine" was a different kind of Doctor from the old days. Gone were the Beatle haircuts and groovy colorful duds of the sixties and seventies. No rock star hair like The Doctor in the 1996 movie, no Tom Baker scarves, no silly hats or celery worn on the lapel. Instead, this Doctor was a man with a plain leather jacket that, according to soon-to-be ally Jack Harkness, made him look like a U-Boat captain. He also had a Northern accent and a bushel full of repressed guilt and goofy faces. Aided by a wonderful cast consisting of Billie Piper as young shop girl Rose Tyler, Camille Coduri as her mum Jackie, and Noel Clarke as Mickey, Rose's boyfriend, Eccleston made it feel like The Doctor had never been away.

     Unfortunately, Eccleston only stayed the one season. After only thirteen episodes, it felt like he was only getting started, yet he was done. As such, as good as Eccleston was, he had the fewest iconic moment of all the new Doctors, the kind of things that stick with viewers such as David Tennant's long-delayed emergence from the TARDIS ("Miss me?") in "The Christmas Invasion" or Matt Smith's feast of fish fingers and custard in "The Eleventh Hour". If Eccleston did have one iconic moment, it would have to be his ecstatic "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once - everybody lives!" near the end of the two-part classic "The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances". Also memorable were his final words to Rose before regenerating into his next body: "You were fantastic, absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I!" And he was.

     As to why he left the series, he explained in several different interviews over the years. His most basic response was“Myself and three individuals at the very top of the pyramid clashed, so off I went. But they’re not here to say their side of it, so I’m not going to go into detail.”

Pictured above: Billie Piper as Rose Tyler with The Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor
Played by David Tennant
2006 to 2009, 2013 (Seasons 2, 3, 4 , 5 and 50th Anniversary Special)


     While Christopher Eccleston played a huge part in making the the new Doctor Who series popular, David Tennant kicked it into high gear. While there are fans who do not like his hyperactive Doctor, many more believe that he was equal or better than even the great Tom Baker. During Tennant's tenure, his Doctor had three separate traveling companions: shop girl Rose Tyler, Physician-in-Training Martha Jones, and temp office worker Donna Noble, each of whom brought a different dynamic to the Doctor - Companion relationship, thanks to some of the smartest scripts of the entire series and the superb performances of Billie Piper, Freema Agyemen and Catherine Tate respectively. Through it all, Tennant was brilliantly manic and hilariously funny, while also keeping much of Christopher Eccleston's dark moodiness. He also often had a hair style that would put Stan Laurel to shame.

     Season Two featured the ongoing love story growing between The Doctor and Rose, a tale destined to end sadly. Season Three centered on The Doctor and the love-struck Martha Jones saving the world several times. After the excellent Christmas episode "Voyage of the Damned" co-starring pop singer Kylie Minogue, Season Four, with The Doctor and Donna Noble, eventually grew into a celebration of Tennant's run as the Doctor, with companions Rose and Martha returning, as well as time-traveler Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Slayden)  and other various cast members of the spinoff series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, all helping to fight the good fight with The Doctor. (Yes, that was one looong timey-wimey sentence!)

    After Season Four, Tennant performed in a quartet of specials sans the usual companions. The first was one of the best: "The Next Doctor", a fun romp in the past featuring David Morrissey (later to be The Governor in "The Walking Dead") in which The Doctor essentially became a companion to a man who believed he was The Doctor. This was followed by the "Planet of the Dead" which featured actress Michelle Ryan as an almost companion (and judging from her performance in this special she would have made a great one), "The Waters of Mars", an excellent, creepy episode set on a space station, and the often fun but ultimately disappointing two-part "The End of Time", in which The Doctor finally runs out of luck and is forced to regenerate.

     In 2017, Tennant summed up what it was like to be The Doctor in an interview on The Andrew Marr Show:  "“It’s part of the national conversation. It’s part of our cultural furniture. That’s a huge honour to be in the middle of, but it’s quite a responsibility… It changes your life… It’s an undertaking.”

Pictured above: (1) Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones with The Doctor and (2) Catherine Tate as Donna Noble with The Doctor.

The Eleventh Doctor
Played by Matt Lewis
2010 to 2013 (Seasons 5, 6 and 7)


     If Christopher Eccleston had the daunting task of being the first "new" Doctor since 1996, Matt Smith had the equally daunting task of being the Doctor who replaced David Tennant. Adding to the pressure, Smith would not be helped out by any companions and/or friendly characters from the first four seasons - no Martha, Donna or Captain Jack returning to aid the Doctor in his adventures. For the first time since "Rose", both the Doctor and his companion(s) were brand new to viewers, but if you were a fan from the start, at this point, you didn't need hand-holding.

     Smith's version of The Doctor was goofy, funny, lovable, awkward, self-admittedly OCD, and great fun to watch. He believed bow ties were cool and could never pass a fez without trying it out on his head. He invented nicknames for his companions - Amy was "The Girl Who Waited", Rory was "Rory the Roman",  later companion Clara Oswald was "Soufflé Girl" and "The Impossible Girl". The Eleventh Doctor's mind worked so fast that his theories on matters often came halfway out of his mouth before they completely reversed themselves and vanished into thin air. He seemed to always want to do ten things at once, and the one thing that really irritated him was sitting around doing nothing. He was the most otherworldly doctor, one who didn't quite get social norms and customs. Steven Moffat called him "an elegant shambles."

     In short, Matt Smith followed David Tennant brilliantly and became an extremely popular Doctor.

     The Matt Smith years were filled with Steven Moffat's typically "timey wimey" storylines threaded throughout nearly every episode. Where Russel T Davies would move his stories from A to B to C, Moffat often started his stories on F, jumped back to B, went forward to Q, back to C, and so on. There is no doubt that Moffat is a talented writer, and his best stuff can blow you away. However, he can also be as annoying as hell when all you want is a decent story and he's reminding you constantly that "the Pandorica will open" and "silence will fall" long before either of these things really come into play. Through it all, however, Matt Smith shined in his role as The Eleventh Doctor, as did Karen Gillan as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams as his two main companions. In his final episodes, he traveled with a new companion, Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman. And even if everybody knew it was coming, his regeneration into Peter Capaldi was still a semi-shocker.

     When Matt Smith announced he would be leaving the show in 2013, he had nothing but nice things to say about the fans: "The fans of Doctor Who around the world are unlike any other; they dress up, shout louder, know more about the history of the show (and speculate more about the future of the show) in a way that I’ve never seen before... Thank you so very much for supporting my incarnation of the Time Lord..."

Pictured above: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond with The Doctor.

The Twelfth Doctor
Played by Peter Capaldi
2014 to 2017 (Season 8, 9 and 10)

"Shut up!"

     Clara Oswald witnessed what must have been the quickest regeneration in history. In one split second, the youngest looking doctor Doctor of the new series, the Doctor she "fancied", became the oldest looking one. The Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, was almost the exact opposite of Matt Smith's. The Eleventh Doctor had nothing but hope for humanity; The Twelfth barely tolerated humans. Eleven showed endless affection for his companions; Twelve looked at the beautiful Clara and saw nothing but a round head and untrustworthy eyes. Eleven enjoyed talking to humans he didn't even know; Twelve deleted people from his brain as soon as they were no longer useful to him.

     Although Steven Moffat was still running the show and contributing scripts, the first two Capaldi years  had more pure stand-alone stories, or simple two-parters, and fewer wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey annoyances (though there are some). Jenna Coleman's Clara fit in with The Twelfth Doctor much better than with The Eleventh, as, instead of The Doctor trying to figure her out (see our "Companions" page for more explanation on the mystery that was Clara), it was she who attempted to get to the heart (or two hearts) of The Doctor and help him integrate more with humanity.

    When Clara's time with The Doctor was up, he spent 24 years with his wife River Song, returning to Earth after her death. After some undetermined time, he settled down as a professor at St. Luke's University, where he met Bill Potts, a cafeteria worker at the school who nevertheless attended his lectures. Impressed with her curiosity and positive attitude, he took Bill under his wing and let her travel in the TARDIS with him and his other companion, Nardole.    

     Humor has always been one of the show's strongest points, and Capaldi's Doctor was more serious than the previous three Doctors of the new series. Yet, he can be very funny. Capaldi's version of The Doctor - cranky, easily annoyed, dismissive, sarcastic - had inherent humor in it that often played out when you least expect it. (The Woody Allen-ish "on a good day, I'm both" line listed at the top of this page is a Twelfth Doctor classic). Still, If your favorite Doctor was the lovably goofy Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi's Doctor could take some time to warm up to. My experience as a huge fan of Smith's work: by the end of Capaldi's first episode, "Deep Breath", I knew The Doctor was in excellent hands. Like all three men before him, he was "fantastic".
     Peter Capaldi thought he had achieved his life long dream of being on Doctor Who when he was cast in the fourth season episode "The Fires of Pompeii", never dreaming that only a few years later, he would be The Doctor". Still, after three seasons, Capaldi has decided to leave the show at the end of the tenth season. "I feel sad," he said in an interview with BBC Radio. "I love Doctor Who, it's a fantastic program to work on. It's been a huge pleasure to work with a family. I can't praise the people I've worked with more highly, but I've always been somebody that did a lot of different things. But I've never done one job for three years. This is the first time I've done this, and I feel it's sort of time for me to move on to different challenges."

     Flying Fish-Finger Factoid: A few years before taking over the role of Doctor Who from Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi appeared in the zombie film World War Z.  His character, a World Health Organization Doctor, wasn't given a name in the film.  He was credited as "WHO Doctor".

Pictured above: (1) Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald with The Doctor and (2) Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts with The Doctor.

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