Doctor Who: All Doctors in order & the actors that played them

Tyler Constable
Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor and other actors in Doctor WhoBBC

Ncuti Gatwa has officially made his debut as the 15th Time Lord ahead of Doctor Who Season 14 – so, here’s all of the Doctors in order and the actors who’ve played them.

Doctor Who is the longest sci-fi series in television history having first hit the small screen in 1963, and in that time there have been many incarnations of the protagonist, The Doctor, an adventurous alien Time Lord with two hearts who travels across space and time.

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The recasting of new actors through the years has been explained within Doctor Who’s lore due to a Time Lord’s ability to regenerate – the process of entirely changing one’s physical appearance and personality but retaining all their prior memories. The concept of regeneration has allowed many actors to step into The Doctor’s shoes over the years.

Here are all of the Doctor Who Doctors featured in the series so far in order, and all the actors who have played them.

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Contents

First Doctor: William Hartnell (November 1963 – October 1966)

An image of the first Doctor, played by William Hartnell.BBC / Doctor Who
William Hartnell introduced the world to The Doctor with his portrayal of the Time Lord.

The actor who first introduced the protagonist of Doctor Who to the world back in 1963 was William Hartnell. The initial incarnation of the Time Lord helmed the TARDIS for three years and four series between 1963 – 1966.

Hartnell’s portrayal of The Doctor was at first stubborn and distrustful, however, he mellowed into a friendly character over time, who enjoyed traveling with his chosen companions. The Doctor’s first companions were his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and her teachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell), and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill).

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Other companions who joined the TARDIS included space pilot Steven (Peter Purves), sailor Ben Jackson (Michael Craze), and Polly (Anneke Wills).

Since Hartnell’s passing in 1975, the first Doctor has occasionally been portrayed by other actors.

These performances include Richard Hurndell in the 1983 special ‘The Five Doctors’ and David Bradley in the episodes ‘The Doctor Falls‘, ‘Twice Upon A Time‘, and ‘The Power of The Doctor‘.

Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton (November 1966 – June 1969)

An image of Patrick Troughton, the actor who played the second Doctor in Doctor Who.BBC / Doctor Who
Patrick Troughton’s second incarnation of The Doctor introduced ‘renewal’ to the show.

Patrick Troughton played the second version of The Doctor in Doctor Who between November 1966 – June 1969. After the first Doctor became weak while battling the Cybermen, rather than die, his body renewed itself and he transformed into a new person.

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This renewal would shape what would become known as regeneration – something that became an essential aspect of The Doctor’s character and was crucial to the show’s longevity.

The Second Doctor was noticeably scruffier and more childlike than his predecessor though he still remained fiendishly clever and at times was an expert manipulator. He would often act foolish in the presence of his enemies to trick them into underestimating his abilities.

He was joined on his travelers by the First Doctor’s companions, Ben and Polly, for a while before traveling with a handful of others, including Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) who became his most trusted confidant.

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Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee (January 1970 – June 1974)

An image of Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor in Doctor Who.BBC / Doctor Who
Jon Pertwee played the third incarnation of The Doctor.

Jon Pertwee played The Third Doctor for five series between 1970 and 1974. This Doctor was a dapper and suave man who was highly technologically orientated.

The introduction of Pertwee’s Doctor marked the first big narrative shift in the series. Production issues led to all of his early stories taking place on earth, where The Doctor had been exiled after being forced to regenerate by his fellow Time Lords, who also disabled his TARDIS – leaving him stranded on the human planet.

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During his time stuck on earth, The Third Doctor began working for the military group UNIT as a scientific advisor. He was joined at UNIT by fellow scientists Liz Shaw (Caroline John) and later Jo Grant (Katy Manning).

The use of the TARDIS was eventually regained and The Doctor was able to travel through time and space again, where journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) accompanied him as his final companion.

Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker (December 1974 – March 1981)

An image of Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor.BBC / Doctor Who
Tom Baker portrayed the Doctor for seven series which still remains the longest tenure of all the actors to play the role.

The Fourth Doctor was portrayed by Tom Baker from 1974 – 1981. Baker played the character for a total of seven series and remains the actor with the longest tenure in the role.

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This version of The Doctor was warm and whimsical and at times could be incredibly brooding and prone to righteous anger. His eccentric speech and style, which includes his signature hat and scarf, have caused this incarnation to become one of the most iconic and recognizable versions of the character across the world – as well as one of the most popular and beloved among the show’s dedicated fanbase.

During his time in the TARDIS, the Fourth Doctor was joined by many companions including Sarah Jane Smith, robotic dog K-9 (John Leeson/David Brierly), and flight attendant Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding).

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Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison (January 1982 – March 1984)

An image of Peter Davison.BBC / Doctor Who
The Fifth Doctor was portrayed by actor Peter Davison.

Peter Davison played the Fifth version of The Doctor for three series between 1982 and 1984. Similar to Baker before him, Davison’s Doctor donned an iconic wardrobe – the character opted to wear an Edwardian cricketer outfit due to his fascination with the Edwardian and Victorian eras.

The Fifth Doctor was well-mannered and was always willing to help others, often stopping to help solve mundane problems while in the midst of dealing with great threats. He saw the good qualities in people and helped to bring out their potential – something that was perhaps most impactful when he invited Vislor Turlough (Mark Strickson) to travel in the TARDIS despite the boy having originally been a threat.

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Alongside Tegan and Vislor, the Fifth Doctor was joined by various companions including Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse).

Sixth Doctor: Colin Baker (March 1984 – December 1986)

An image of Colin Baker in Doctor Who.BBC / Doctor Who
The Sixth Doctor was played by Colin Baker.

Colin Baker was the actor who took on the role of the protagonist’s sixth incarnation in Doctor Who. He played the character for three series between 1984 – 1986.

The Sixth Doctor wears an eccentric outfit of mismatched vibrant clothes and had a personality that was extremely brash compared to his predecessor’s. This Doctor was stubborn, melodramatic, and arrogant – believing himself to be superior to almost everybody he met.

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Something else that set this Doctor apart from his past regenerations was that he only traveled with two companions during the entirety of his adventure. He was joined by the college student Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) and computer expert Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford).

Valeyard: Michael Jayston (1986)

An image of The Valeyard in Doctor Who.BBC / Doctor Who
The Valeyard is a darker side of The Doctor.

The Valeyard is played by Michael Jayston and is an incarnation of The Doctor featured in the 1986 serialThe Trial of a Time Lord.’ Rather than a typical regeneration, Valeyard is described as an embodiment of The Doctor’s darker side which existed sometime after his twelfth transformation.

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Valeyard’s exact origins and place in the timeline have always been heavily speculated due to the fact he falsified multiple accounts of his own existence. We do know that Valeyard’s primary goal was to steal The Sixth Doctor’s regenerations as he didn’t have any of his own left.

This version of the character hasn’t appeared in the show since 1986 but has since been referenced in the 2013 episode ‘The Name of The Doctor‘ and 2017s ‘Twice Upon a Time.’

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Seventh Doctor: Sylvester McCoy (September 1987 – December 1989)

Sylvester McCoy in Doctor Who.BBC / Doctor Who
The Seventh Doctor was played by Sylvester McCoy.

Sylvester McCoy played the Seventh Doctor between 1987 and 1989 for three series. This version of the Time Lord was a thoughtful and whimsical man who was a fairly comedic character, to begin with. Over time, however, he developed a darker nature and became much more secretive.

Despite his initial light-hearted behavior, his true nature was that of a master manipulator who could bend any situation to his preferred outcome.

Like the man before him, the Seventh Doctor was joined by only two companions. Mel Bush stayed with The Doctor for a while after his regeneration before she was succeeded by Ace (Sophie Aldred) – a troubled teenager with an affinity for explosives who became his protégé.

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Eighth Doctor: Paul McGann (May 1996)

An image of Paul McGann.BBC / Doctor Who
The Eighth Doctor was featured in the 1996 Doctor Who TV film.

Paul McGann played the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV film, Doctor Who, which was produced in an attempt to reignite interest after the series was canceled in 1989.

The Eighth Doctor is a charming, romantic, and enthusiastic man who is joined on his adventure by medical doctor Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook).

While the film, unfortunately, wasn’t able to attract the attention needed to relaunch the show, Paul McGann has reprised his role multiple times over the years – including starring in over 70 audio dramas, and the mini-episode ‘Night of the Doctor’. He also made his first regular episode appearance in 2022s ‘Power of the Doctor.’

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Ninth Doctor: Christopher Eccleston (March 2005 – June 2005)

An image of Christopher Eccleston.BBC / Doctor Who
Christopher Eccleston played the Ninth Doctor who reintroduced Doctor Who to a new generation.

In 2005, Doctor Who was revived for the modern era with Christopher Eccleston taking the lead as the Ninth Doctor. Although the actor would only appear for one series, and a total of 13 episodes, his version of the character was instrumental in introducing the franchise to a brand new generation.

The Ninth Doctor was far less eccentric than previous incarnations – a lonely survivor who was still deeply traumatized from the events of the Time War. Though saddled with constant guilt and anger, he often masked these feelings behind a quick-witted sense of humor.

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His core companion was Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) though they were occasionally aided by others including former time agent Captain Jack Harkness (John Borrowman), and Rose’s ex-boyfriend Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke).

Tenth Doctor: David Tennant (December 2005 – January 2010)

An image of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who.BBC / Doctor Who
David Tennant’s portrayal of the Tenth Doctor is one of the most iconic versions of the Time Lord.

The Tenth version of The Doctor was played by David Tennant for three series between 2005 – 2010.

In sharp contrast to Nine, this Doctor appeared far less burdened by the events of the Time War and was a charming, friendly, and charismatic individual. Despite his easygoing attitude, however, he never shied away from expressing disapproval or anger and was furiously protective of his companions.

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The Tenth Doctor did develop a darker nature, which was exasperated by the loss of his companions and a desperate desire to avoid his inevitable death. He reaches his lowest point during the 2009 episode ‘The Waters of Mars‘ where he declares himself ‘the Time Lord victorious’ after attempting to bend the strict rules of time to his will.

Rose Tyler, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) acted as the Tenth Doctor’s primary companions. The 2006 episode ‘School Reunion‘ also marked the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.

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Meta-Crisis Doctor: David Tennant (July 2008)

An image of the Meta crisis Doctor.BBC / Doctor Who
The Meta Crisis Doctor was a human Time Lord hybrid.

During the events of ‘The Stolen Earth‘ and ‘Journey’s End‘ the Tenth Doctor enters a regenerative state after being shot by a Dalek – having just reunited with Rose and not wanting to change however, he diverted the regeneration energy into his severed hand (which was found and returned to him in a jar by Captain Jack).

When the Daleks later attempt to destroy the TARDIS, Donna, who is still inside the ship, touches the jar which causes a biological meta-crisis, creating another version of The Doctor.

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Unlike his counterpart, the Meta-Crisis Doctor shares half of Donna’s DNA making him a human Time Lord hybrid with one heart and a human life span. He’s also shown to share some of Donna’s mannerisms.

When The Tenth Doctor eventually returns Rose and her family to their parallel world, he entrusts her to look after the Meta-Crisis Doctor – explaining that being born in battle makes him too dangerous to be left alone, representing who he was before he and Rose met.

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Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith (April 2010 – December 2013)

An image of Matt Smith.BBC / Doctor Who
Matt Smith is the youngest actor to have played The Doctor.

Matt Smith played the Eleventh Doctor in order for three series between 2010 and 2013. He was cast as The Doctor at age 26 – making him the youngest actor to have ever taken on the role.

Extremely adventurous and oftentimes a thrill seeker, the Eleventh Doctor is more of a childlike figure who has an explosive and unpredictable personality. His youthful attitude and appearance usually come to odds with his world-weary temperament, resulting in the character typically being described as ‘an old man in a young man’s body.’

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Matt Smith’s Doctor was accompanied by several companions, including Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), her husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), and the mysterious Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).

The War Doctor: John Hurt (November 2013)

An image of John Hurt in Day of the Doctor.BBC / Doctor Who
John Hurt played the War Doctor for the show’s 50th-anniversary special.

John Hurt played the War Doctor for Doctor Who’s 50th-anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor‘ which aired in 2013.

This Doctor chronologically existed between the Eighth and Ninth incarnations and played a crucial role in the Time War.

During the ‘Day of the Doctor‘, an aging War Doctor steals a superweapon known as ‘The Moment’ from Gallifrey with the intention of using it to end the war by eradicating all of its combatants – including every innocent life on his home planet. Unbeknownst to him, however, ‘The Moment’ is a sentient being that will only work if somebody justifies their moral reasons for using it.

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After taking on the form of Rose Tyler, she sends the War Doctor into the future to unite with his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations in an attempt to divert the destruction of Gallifrey.

Twelfth Doctor: Peter Capaldi (August 2014 – December 2017)

An image of Peter Capaldi.BBC / Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi played the Twelfth Doctor.

The Twelfth Doctor was portrayed by Peter Capaldi for three series between 2014 – 2017.

A pragmatic character, this Doctor initially concealed his emotions, especially in the midst of tough situations which would result in ruthless decisions. He’s much less empathetic than his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations, not particularly understanding or caring for the human race – though still defining himself as a man who saves people.

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His experiences and friendship with his traveling companions caused him to soften over time, and he became a kinder, more selfless, and compassionate man.

Clara remained with the Twelfth Doctor after Eleven’s regeneration, and he was later joined by student Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and alien Nardole (Matt Lucas).

Thirteenth Doctor: Jodie Whittaker (October 2018 – October 2022)

An image of Jodie Whittaker.BBC / Doctor Who
Jodie Whittaker made history as the first woman to play The Doctor.

Jodie Whittaker portrayed the Thirteenth Doctor in the order of their incarnations for three series between 2018 – 2022. She made history by being the first woman to play the character

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Whittaker’s version of the Time Lord is a light-hearted, warm person who highly values her friendships, and has a knack and passion for building things. That lively personality often resulted in her speaking at a hundred miles a minute, and the frantic energy she expresses is similar to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.

The Thirteenth Doctor first traveled with a trio of companions – who she lovingly referred to as her ‘fam’. The group consisted of warehouse worker Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), his retired bus driver grandad, Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), and young police officer Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill).

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She was later joined by food bank worker Dan Lewis (John Bishop) and also reunited with several previous companions including Ace and Tegan.

The Fugitive Doctor: Jo Martin (January 2020 – October 2022)

An image of Jo Martin as the Fugitive Doctor.BBC / Doctor Who
The Fugitive Doctor is a mysterious incarnation who had been erased from The Doctor’s memory.

Jo Martin played the Fugitive Doctor in multiple episodes during Jodie Whittaker’s era between 2020 and 2022.

This mysterious incarnation is eventually revealed to be a past version of The Doctor that was wiped from the Time Lord’s memory – however, where she fits chronologically with the other regenerations remains unknown. In the series, the Thirteenth Doctor first meets this Doctor in the 2020 episode ‘Fugitive of the Judoon‘ where it’s discovered she was hiding on earth as a human and is ignorant of her true nature.

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Her identity as The Doctor is eventually restored, and she aids Thirteen against the Judoon threat before they part ways.

Jo Martin reprised her role several times in the years that followed, specifically in the episodes ‘The Timeless Children‘, ‘Once, Upon Time‘, ‘The Vanquishers, and ‘The Power of the Doctor‘.

Fourteenth Doctor: David Tennant (October 2022 – December 2023)

An image of David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor.BBC / Doctor Who
David Tennant returned to Doctor Who for the show’s 60th-anniversary.

David Tennant returned to Doctor Who as the Fourteenth Doctor for the show’s 60th-anniversary specials, where he was joined by Catherine Tate who reprised her role as Donna Noble.

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In the final moments of 2022’s ‘The Power of the Doctor,’ Jodie Whittaker regenerated into a familiar face and Russell T. Davies quickly confirmed that David Tennant would be playing the Fourteenth Doctor for the anniversary celebrations.

Aside from sharing a face with the Tenth Doctor, the Fourteenth incarnation of the Time Lord comes across as much more vulnerable than his predecessor and has clearly been heavily affected by the recent events of both The Flux and the Timeless Child revelations.

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The Fourteenth Doctor was joined by Donna Noble during his on-screen adventures, and he was also reunited with Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford) in the events of ‘The Giggle‘.

Fifteenth Doctor: Ncuti Gatwa (December 2023 -)

An image of Ncuti Gatwa.BBC
The Fifteenth Doctor will be played by Ncuti Gatwa.

Ncuti Gatwa is the latest actor to take on the role of the Time Lord. He was introduced as the Fifteenth Doctor in the final 60th-anniversary special ‘The Giggle‘ which aired on December 9, 2023.

His first full adventure was the Christmas special ‘The Church on Ruby Road’ which broadcast on December 25, 2023, where he met his new companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) who will be joining him in the TARDIS for Season 14.

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From what we’ve seen of this Doctor so far, he’s energetic, fun, has a very adventurous spirit, and is also very caring and in touch with his emotions.

Prior to his casting, Ncuti was best known for his performance as Eric Effiong in the hit Netflix series Sex Education.

How many actors have played The Doctor?

19 actors have played the role of The Doctor so far.

While there are officially 15 numbered Doctors, due to alternative versions of the character as mentioned in the list above, there have actually been 19 different incarnations of the Time Lord over the years.

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This list is specific to the TV show however and doesn’t take into account spin-off material, such as the 1965/66 films where actor Peter Cushing played the protagonist.

So, there you have it – that’s every Doctor Who Doctor in order and each of the actors that played them. You can find more content about the show here.

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About The Author

Tyler is Dexerto's Gaming Evergreen Specialist. He loves many games but is particularly fond of JRPGs and The Last of Us. When he's not writing about or playing video games, he can be found watching Doctor Who or reading a fantasy book. You can contact him at tyler.constable@dexerto.com