The two-hearted alien known as the Doctor has worn many faces since Doctor Who premiered in 1963. Now that the long-running sci-fi series has announced who will fly the TARDIS next, EW looks back on the actors who’ve played the iconic role on screen and made it their own.
Thirteenth Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
Twelfth Doctor: Peter Capaldi
(2013 – 2017)
Capaldi’s run as the character both paid homage to his previous incarnations and explored new territory as it saw him question whether he’s been a “good man.” Over the course of his three seasons, the Scottish actor kept the character’s growing darkness very close to the surface, while slowly getting warmer, and more lighthearted, with time. This most recent season saw him attempt to reconcile with two versions of his former foe, the Master and Missy, while also serving as a teacher for his latest companion Bill. The result was one of the best season finales in years.
Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith
Often considered to be “the” Doctor of fans of the recent revival, Smith’s Doctor effortlessly charmed viewers with his love of Fezzes, odd but understandable taste in food (fish fingers and custard!), and declarations that “Bow Ties are cool.” But despite being the youngest actor to hold the role, Smith managed to play the Eleventh Doctor as both the oldest (and deadliest) version of the character yet.
Tenth Doctor: David Tennant
Credited with helping make the recent revival so popular around the globe, Tennant’s Doctor is often considered the most human version of the Time Lord, thanks to his boundless enthusiasm and childlike glee when faced with a new adventure — a slight change from his more broody predecessor. But when push came to shove, the Tenth incarnation of the character proved to be a fierce fighter and one who did not easily forgive those who crossed him — if at all.
And while Tennant himself is quite delightfully Scottish, his character was not able to keep the accent.
Ninth Doctor: Christopher Eccleston
Despite being the Doctor who reintroduced — or in many cases, simply introduced — millions of fans to the newly revived science fiction series, Eccleston only stayed on for one season. But his leather jacket-wearing version of the beloved Time Lord captured hearts (and minds) with his emphasis on saving lives (“Just this once, everybody lives!”) and his refusal to see himself as a hero (despite being one).
War Doctor: John Hurt
Hurt’s incarnation of the Time Lord appeared in the 50th-anniversary special, alongside the Tenth and Eleventh versions of himself. Unlike previous Doctors, who have always been against using violence except as a last resort, the gruff, battle-worn War Doctor fully embraced his warrior side, even going into battle unarmed on several occasions, and rejecting the title of “Doctor.” Despite his reluctance to let himself be considered a hero, Hurt’s Doctor was one as he managed to team up with every version of himself until that point and save his home planet from destruction.
Eighth Doctor: Paul McGann
The Doctor with the least time in the TARDIS, McGann played the Time Lord for a television movie that was created in the hopes of once again bringing back the show in the ’90s — something that wouldn’t happen until years later. Nonetheless, Eight showcases not only an optimistic enthusiasm that would later become a hallmark of the character in the 2005 revival, but also an almost dreamy, romantic side that is very much all his own.
Seventh Doctor: Sylvester McCoy
Yet another Scottish Doctor (and the second of three actors to play the character with the accent), McCoy’s tenure in the TARDIS brought the original series to a close. However, during his time at the helm, McCoy was able to inject the character (and the series in general) with some much-needed lightness, while also layering in a bit of mystery and some of the Doctor’s trademark cunning as he worked to prevent the rise of the villainous Fenric.
Sixth Doctor: Colin Baker
Much like Capaldi years later, Colin Baker had previously appeared as a minor character in the series, before getting cast as the lead (something he, too, didn’t think possible). His version of the Doctor was arrogant, moody, and often as melodramatic as his outfit — which is easily the most eclectic the character’s clothing has ever been. However, beneath all that were two big hearts as tSix was both morally driven and quite empathetic to those he was helping.
Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison
Before Matt Smith took on the role in 2009 at the age of 26, Peter Davison was, at 29, the youngest actor to play the Time Lord. His boyish Fifth Doctor was sensitive and well mannered — aside from his decidedly non-upper-class penchant for wearing celery.
Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Arguably the most beloved Doctor of the classic era, the Fourth Doctor cuts an iconic figure in his long striped scarf and mop of curly hair. With his wide eyes and toothy grin, Tom Baker imbued his Doctor with madcap whimsy, and although he sometimes seemed profoundly alien, he had a gift for connecting with his companions — including Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), who would later meet the Tenth Doctor and star in her own spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Pertwee’s dapper Doctor was a keen scientist with surprising physical adeptness — ask him about Venusian Aikido! — who made the most of his exile on Earth by partnering with UNIT, where he kept a lab. The smooth operator kept up a lively rivalry with Roger Delgado’s Master and befriended a host of humans, including the much-loved Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney).
Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton
Tasked with reinventing the character for the first time, Troughton played the Doctor as an eccentric schemer with a childlike streak who played up his bumbling in order to trick his opponents into underestimating him. His baggy clothes and love of the recorder only added to his flair, earning the Second Doctor a reputation as a “cosmic hobo.”
First Doctor: William Hartnell
The original Doctor was a gruff sort of fellow whose self-important, curmudgeonly exterior hid surprising warmth, especially when dealing with his granddaughter, Susan (Carole Ann Ford). The Doctor’s ability to regenerate into new forms was revealed when Hartnell’s health fell into decline and the BBC decided to forge on without him. The First Doctor has since been portrayed on screen by Richard Hurndall and David Bradley.