Doctor Who returned last month for the first of three 60th anniversary specials with David Tennant returning in the lead role.
The 52 year old actor is arguably the most popular Doctor Who ever – having played the tenth incarnation of the beloved character from 2005 to 2010 before coming back to star as the Fourteenth Doctor in November.
The Doctor Who character has become iconic since the hit BBC sci-fi show first aired in 1963 and more than a dozen actors have played the part over the years.
Ncuti Gatwa, star ofNetflixshow Sex Education, is to take on the role at Christmas becoming the Fifteenth Doctor. The part can define an actor’s career but it has not always been plain-sailing for those who decided to take it on.
We take a look at where the stars of Doctor Who are now…
William Hartnell was the first ever incarnation of the Doctor, taking the part in November 1963. The film and TV star was initially uncertain about appearing in what was pitched as a children's series but he was eventually convinced and it would become the most high-profile role of his career.
William, who described his character as "a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas", was 55 when he took on the role but he left the show in 1966 as his health deteriorated and he struggled to learn his lines. He did reprise the role in 1972 for the 10th anniversary special, The Three Doctors, shooting his scenes while sitting down and reading from cue cards.
It was his final work as an actor, as his worsening health led him to be permanently admitted to hospital in December 1974. He suffered from cerebrovascular disease – a group of conditions that affect blood flow and the blood vessels in the brain – and he died in his sleep from heart failure in April 1975 aged 67.
Sadly, many of his Dr Who episodes are missing from the BBC archives after a purge of old shows in the early 70s.
The First Doctor regenerated into Patrick Troughton in October 1966. His predecessor, William Hartnell, said he was the "only man in England" who could take over the role.
Patrick’s portrayal of the part was very different from William’s and the actor was much-loved by the cast and crew but after three years he decided to move on to avoid being typecast. He went on to star in films including Scars of Dracula and The Omen but also returned to the Doctor Who role in 1973, 1983 and 1985.
Tragically, Patrick died from a heart attack in March 1987 while in the US appearing as a guest at a sci-fi convention, where he was set to watch screenings of his old episodes. A couple of his children went on to act, while his grandson, Harry Melling, played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films.
With his era being increasingly influenced by the James Bond films, Jon Pertwee made drastic changes to the Doctor, turning him into an action hero. Jon, who was 50 when he took the part and already famous for starring in multiple Carry On films, played the Time Lord from 1970 to 1974 before stepping down to avoid being typecast.
However, he later admitted his decision was also influenced by the death of his friend and co-star Roger Delgado, who played The Master, and died in a car crash while shooting a TV show in Turkey in 1973. Jon did reprise the role for the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors, and the 1993 Children In Need crossover with EastEnders.
He went on to star as another iconic TV character, scarecrow Worzel Gummidge, from 1987 to 1989. Jon died from a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 76 and, as per a request in his will, he had a toy Worzel Gummidge fixed to his coffin.
His son Sean Pertwee became a very successful actor too, starring in the films such as Event Horizon and Dog Soldiers, while also playing Batman's butler Alfred in Fox’s Gotham series.
Tom Baker is considered by many to be the best Doctor ever – frequently topping fan polls. He was also the longest-serving Doctor of all time, taking over the role in June 1974 and staying until March 1981.
His colourful scarf and love of jelly babies were well-received by viewers and he was said to have made a lot of ad-libbed changes to the script.
However, Tom was critical of his final series and his relationship with the show’s producers became strained towards the end. After leaving the role, he starred as Sherlock Holmes in a BBC miniseries and appeared in much-loved comedy Blackadder II as Redbeard Rum.
With his much-loved and distinctive voice, he also went into voice acting, eventually becoming the narrator for comedy series Little Britain. Tom appeared in 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, and is now 89 years old.
At the time, Peter Davison was the youngest actor to take on the role of Doctor Who, aged 29. He was the fifth incarnation of the character – first appearing in 1981 – but under the advice of his predecessor Patrick Troughton, he left after three years to avoid being typecast.
After quitting in March 1984, Peter later expressed regret at not filming a fourth series as the scripts had improved in his final season. He reprised the role for a 2007 Children In Need special, where the Fifth Doctor met the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.
Peter went on to appear in Magnum, P.I., Heartbeat and Midsomer Murders. He did cause controversy in 2017 as Jodie Whittaker was cast as the Time Lord, when he said that a female Doctor would cause "a loss of a role model for boys". The backlash forced him off Twitter.
Recently, Peter appeared as Mr. Percival in Call the Midwife Christmas special 2021. He is now 72 years old.
Colin Baker’s time as the Doctor, from 1984 to 1986, was marred in controversy – with fans hating that he tried to strangle his companion in his first appearance. The first series he appeared in was slammed for being too violent and was taken off air for 18 months half-way through.
Colin did return to the role but in 1986, BBC executive Michael Gade only agreed to commission another series if the actor was replaced. His contract was terminated but he was still asked to return to film four episodes as part of the regeneration story.
He refused however, believing he had been treated ‘shabbily’, but later admitted he did regret being "brutally selfish" and not thinking about the fans. Colin did reprise the role once – for a Children In Need special in 1993 – and also voiced the character in audio adventures.
He went on to star in TV dramas including Casualty, Doctors and Hollyoaks – while also appearing on the 12th series of I'm A Celebrity.
Sylvester McCoy was another actor who did not stay around too long in the role of Doctor Who. He started in September 1987 but was also gone in two years.
Sylvester had a peculiar start having to play Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor in a wig after his predecessor refused to return for the regeneration scenes. After receiving criticism for initially playing the part in a comedic fashion, Sylvester made the role into a darker figure.
The original run of Doctor Who ended in 1989 with Sylvester in the role. He didn't properly leave the role and last appeared in the 1996 TV movie before going on to reprise the role in a series of audio plays.
Since his time on Doctor Who, Sylvester has starred in Casualty, Hollyoaks, The Bill, Doctors and Holby City. He also appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company in King Lear opposite Ian McKellen.
Recently, he played the wizard Radagast in The Hobbit trilogy, also alongside Ian McKellen as Gandalf. Sylvester is now 80 years old.
Paul McGann became the eighth Doctor in 1996 but only got one proper outing in the role. He starred in an ill-fated TV movie – a collaboration between the BBC in the UK and Universal Studios and the Fox Broadcasting Network in the US – that was supposed to lead to a new series.
While ratings were good in Britain, they were low in America, so Universal and Fox decided not to make the series. Paul claimed he would have come back as the Doctor but when the contractual rights returned to the BBC in 2005, he was not re-cast.
He did however reprise the role in audio versions and a 2013 mini episode, The Night of the Doctor.
After the 1996 TV movie, Paul went on to star in Alien 3, Gypo and Lesbian Vampire Killers. He also played John Gaskell in 40 episodes of Holby City and is now 64 years old.
Christopher Eccleston was cast as the ninth Doctor as the iconic series made its glorious return for its second run in 2005. The comeback proved to be a massive success, so there was shock when it was announced he was leaving at the end of the series after just two months in the role.
His exit was shrouded in mystery and Christopher later claimed his relationship with showrunner Russel T. Davies and some of the producers had broken down during the first block of filming.
"They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them," he said. Christopher went on to appear in TV dramas The Leftovers, Blackout and The A Word and also played villain Malekith in Thor sequel The Dark World. He is currently 59 years old.
After first playing the role fully in the 2005 Christmas special, David Tennant went on to become one of the most popular Doctors of all time. His wife Georgia is the daughter of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and they met when she played his genetically engineered daughter in a 2008 episode.
But, after four successful years, David decided to step down as he didn't want to "outstay" his welcome. He did return for the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor in 2013 and has also played the role in a number of audio dramas.
David went on to star in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger and played DI Alec Hardy in all three series of crime drama Broadchurch. He also played the villain Kilgrave in Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones and Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
And now he has returned to Doctor Who as the fourteenth incarnation of the character for the 60th anniversary specials in November and December.
“Doctor Who?” were the headlines that met Matt Smith’s casting as the iconic character in 2009 – such was his status as a relatively unknown actor. He was also the youngest star to take on the part aged just 26.
But Matt went on to shine in the role becoming the first Doctor to be nominated for a Best Actor BAFTA. He decided to leave after four years in the role, saying it felt like the right time to go.
Matt, 41, has gone on to big things appearing as Prince Philip for the first two series of The Crown and starring in the role of Hunger in the 2021 Marvel movie Morbius alongside Jared Leto.
Peter Capaldi had become known for his role as foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It before he was cast as the Twelfth Doctor. He had actually previously appeared in the show as a different character during 2008 episode The Fires of Pompeii. After four years in the main role, Peter announced he was leaving and later admitted he feared he would not be able to give his best to the part if he stayed on longer.
Since leaving the show, Peter has appeared in the Paddington films and voiced Rabbit in the Christopher Robin movie. He also starred as The Thinker in DC movie The Suicide Squad.
In 2017, Jodie Whittaker made waves when she was cast as the Thirteenth Doctor, becoming the first female Time Lord. However, fans soon got used to it and she was celebrated for it.
Jodie, who was best known for playing bereaved mum Beth Latimer in ITV's crime drama Broadchurch, left the role in 2022 after three series. The 41 year old went on to star in prison drama Time and Netflix's Toxic Town.
According to reports, she is currently filming for Australian series One Night for Paramount+.
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