Over the course of its incredibly long run, Doctor Who has given many actors the privilege of playing the titular Time Lord. Every time the character regenerates, so too does the Doctor’s physicality and mannerisms change. Each new Doctor has their own set of personality flaws that can manifest and bubble to the surface, for the worse.
Ever since William Hartnell debuted Doctor Who as a grumpy old man, each new regeneration has produced an imperfect character that either resonated with audiences, or created a backlash. At times, these imperfections were understandable, given the nature of the Doctor’s traumatic and eventful past.
14 The First Doctor Was Quite Mean-Spirited
The first Doctor started out as a spiteful, arrogant and stubborn old man who didn’t take kindly to being questioned. Worse, he was impulsive, which directly put both he and his companions in mortal danger on more than one occasion. At one point, the Doctor sabotaged his own Tardis as an excuse to stay put and explore the Dalek City on Skaro.
Over the next few seasons, the First Doctor softened quite a bit, and became more of a jolly fellow who began resonating better with children. Actor William Hartnell was forced out of the role due to declining health, but he did leave on a high note with the first, and one of the best Doctor Who regeneration sequences.
13 The Second Doctor Was Manipulative
The second Doctor was very much a manipulator, and routinely hid it behind the guise of a non-threatening little man in a funny outfit. At every turn, the Second Doctor schemed his way through one adventure after another, without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Oftentimes, this Doctor would feign buffoonery and clumsiness as a way to get a leg up on his foes. His ability to play the ignorant fool was his greatest strength, but it was sometimes used to ill effect, particularly when it came to his companions.
12 The Third Doctor Was A Brawler
Jon Pertwee played the Third Doctor with excellence, bringing a sense of sophistication to the character, which stood in direct contrast to the Second Doctor’s unkempt appearance. Nevertheless, this Doctor was different in the fact that he was more aggressive than his predecessors.
The Doctor would routinely throw down with his adversaries, employing martial arts and weaponry to win the day. He wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty, and this, combined with his dominant personality made him somewhat belligerent and unlikeable in many respects.
11 The Fourth Doctor Had Mood Swings
The Fourth Doctor is widely regarded as the most popular in the entire series, and for good reason. His offbeat charm, quirky sensibilities and bug-eyed grin earned him the love of Doctor Who fans both young and old, alike. However, this Doctor was far from perfect, and his temperament was the main cause.
While jovial and full of childish wonder most of the time, the Fourth Doctor was also prone to fits of violent rage and anger. At times, this forced him to lash out impulsively at both companion and foe, alike. Most fans preferred the lighthearted Fourth Doctor, rather than the one that tended to fly off the handle.
10 The Fifth Doctor Was Too Serious
Peter Davison’s portrayal of the Fifth Doctor was an excellent follow-up to Tom Baker’s illustrious seven year run, but it wasn’t without flaws. Despite being the youngest Doctor at the time in terms of physicality, he was also one of the most serious, which was something of a contradiction.
The Fourth Doctor did find time to utter a lot of hilarious quotes and jokes, but the bulk of the Davison era was the Doctor floating from one danger to the other, and reacting with explosive negativity. He took himself, his companions and every situation far more seriously than his predecessors did, which was something of a letdown.
9 The Sixth Doctor Was Too Bombastic
Colin Baker bears the unfortunate fate of being the worst-received Doctor in the show’s history, but that sentiment lessened by the end of his rather short run. The fact that the character started out trying to strangle his companion Peri to death in the Tardis didn’t help matters much.
Nevertheless, the Sixth Doctor was a joker who rushed headfirst into danger, while still remaining serious enough to get the job done. Unfortunately, he did it in a rather bombastic manner, from his overly eccentric wardrobe, to his over-the-top performance at nearly every turn.
8 The Seventh Doctor Was Nefarious
It’s hard to imagine the Seventh Doctor as anything but a lovable, short little Doctor who was equal parts fun-loving and serious, but there was more to the character than that. Sylvester McCoy used his time in the role to sell the idea of a Doctor who seemed to be hiding something, even from his companion Ace.
At several points, this Doctor effected nefarious and cunning schemes that led to the destruction of many of Gallifrey’s enemies, including the stagnant and rudimentary Daleks. It was hinted that the Doctor might have been hiding a secret agenda, but the series came to a grinding halt in 1989, preventing that plotline from continuing on.
7 The Eighth Doctor Gave Up On Goodness
After a few years of silence on the Doctor Who front, Paul McGann was called up to take on the role of the Doctor in a one-off TV film. He was surprisingly brilliant, and it seemed like he was about to breathe new life into the role. Fortunately, this film would get shoehorned into overall Doctor Who lore, even if a few plot elements were quietly mothballed.
The Eighth Doctor’s biggest downfall was his transformation from an optimistic, kind-hearted Doctor into what would eventually become the War Doctor. With no other recourse in sight, this Doctor drank a special elixir that would help transform him into a weapon of mass destruction that was capable of destroying the Daleks during the Last Great Time War.
6 The War Doctor Was A Force For Destruction
When the Time War erupted between the Time Lords and the dreaded Daleks, it threatened the very fabric of creation itself. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, the Eighth Doctor decided to turn himself into an instrument of war that was capable of doing what he could not – destroy both races to save the universe.
The War Doctor brought about this cataclysm, and was forced to live with the trauma. His emphasis was on total war and destruction, rather than ingenuity and intellectualism. Thankfully, he retained enough of his former self to work with his future incarnations to go back and save Gallifrey from total annihilation.
5 The Ninth Doctor Was Traumatized
Christopher Eccleston was the first actor to play the Doctor after a long hiatus, and he ended up setting the template for the post-Time War version of the character. He was familiar to audiences, but a series of key quotes from the Ninth Doctor made it clear that something had changed for the worse.
It was revealed that the Doctor was forced to destroy both the Time Lords and the Daleks, for the sake of all creation. The trauma from this conflict caused his worst traits to bubble to the surface, prompting him to torture a Dalek, show no mercy towards his enemies, and threaten to wipe out humanity with a Delta Wave.
4 The Tenth Doctor Went From Hero To Villain
David Tennant is the second-most popular Doctor in Who fandom, and undoubtedly the most popular of the 2005 series revival. He started out as a youthful, bright and optimistic Doctor with a tough streak that compensated for his lack of physical presence.
However, this Doctor went from hero to villain throughout his run, eventually defying the very laws of time itself in an act of arrogance. He’d become too big for his britches, and began callously throwing away as many lives as he tried to save, all for the sake of his own ego. Thankfully, he returned to the light and sacrificed himself to save the life of one of the most ordinary men in existence, just because it was the right thing to do.
3 The Eleventh Doctor Was Insecure
Matt Smith became the youngest actor to portray the Doctor when he took over the role from David Tennant, and it became clear that the showrunners wanted this Doctor to be more youthful and fun-loving. It was a welcome respite in the wake of a truly dark story arc for the Tenth Doctor.
This Doctor saw the good in everyone, and became a champion for heroism, but he did have some character flaws. The largest was his own insecurity, perhaps due to his youth. He was frequently afraid of what others thought of him, whether it was his decisions, personality, his physical appearance, or his preferred choice of bowtie.
2 The Twelfth Doctor Was Aloof
Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor represented a shift back to an older and wiser character, much like Jon Pertwee during the 1970s. The biggest problem with this particular Doctor was how difficult it was to pin down exactly who he was, or what he was thinking from one moment to the next.
This Doctor carried a lot of internal baggage that made him a sad character. He had the appearance of a tired and frustrated old Doctor, yet he was still an adventurous and optimistic individual. He could be cruel and unfeeling, or full of joy and love, which was quite confusing for longtime Whovians.
1 The Thirteenth Doctor Retconned The Show’s History
The first female Doctor was played by Jodie Whittaker, and although it started off on a high note, her run began to crumble in short order. A big problem was the Doctor herself; a character devoid of much in the way of compassion, friendliness or charm, and who often ran people down for no good reason.
However, the largest criticism of the Thirteenth Doctor was her participation in the complete retconning of the series’ history, courtesy of the “Timeless Child” arc. It was met with severe and instant backlash by longtime Whovians who were less than impressed with how much damage had been done to established canon, and the character of the Doctor as a whole.
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