The Doctor Who Companion

Get your daily fix of news, reviews, and features with the Doctor Who Companion!

Fourteenth Doctor Update: Which Doctor Starred in the Most Episodes of Doctor Who?

With a new era of Doctor Who emerging (New new new new new new new new New Who), anything can happen. Old faces have been popping up as different versions of themselves, Doctors splitting into two Doctors, Doctors old and new coming out of the woodwork! But a BBC Centennial and a 60th anniversary will do that. So, we thought we might revisit The screen time of the Doctor! What follows is a little bit of background to describe the measuring of this list, ranking, whichever you want to call it. Now, with the latest eras and Doctors included. Here’s how the landscape lays out…

Doctor Who first came on the air back in 1963 and the show’s gone through a lot of lead actors, producers, script editors — you name it. It’s even changed direction more than a few times, along with the length of episodes. Of all the actors to play the Doctor over the decades, many of them had stuck around for different lengths of time but some had to deal with very different runs as far as season length went. So the number of years a person spent in the role was not exactly the most precise indicator of how much time that person was actually at the helm of the TARDIS.

For instance, First Doctor William Hartnell was in the lead role for only a little more than three seasons, departing near the beginning of Season 4, partly due to ill health. Yet back in the 1960s, both he and Patrick Troughton were filming the show almost all year ‘round. Thus, Hartnell has more episodes in the can than any other Doctor except Tom Baker, who starred in the show for seven seasons!

So, to give credit where credit is due when it comes to just how much service time these folks put into traveling through time and space, I made these lists.

First, in chronological order, the actors who played the Doctor in what years and in how many seasons:

William Hartnell: 1963 – 66, 3 seasons; 1973- The Three Doctors

Patrick Troughton: 1966 – 69, 3 seasons; ’73 Three Doctors; ’83, The Five Doctors; ’85, The Two Doctors

Jon Pertwee: 1970 – 74, 5 seasons; ’83, The Five Doctors

Tom Baker: 1974 – 81, 7 seasons

Peter Davison: 1981 – 84, 3 seasons, Time Crash, Power of the Doctor, Tales of the TARDIS

Colin Baker: 1984 – 86, 2 seasons, Tales of the TARDIS

Sylvester McCoy: 1987- 89, 3 seasons, Power of the Doctor, Tales of the TARDIS

Paul McGann: 1996 TV Movie; 2013 The Night of the Doctor

John Hurt: 2013, The Name of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor

Christopher Eccleston: 2005, 1 season

David Tennant: 2005 -10, 3 seasons, 8 specials, The Day of the Doctor, 2023—the three 60th anniversary specials 

Matt Smith: 2010 – 13, 3 seasons, 5 specials

Peter Capaldi: 2013 – 17, 3 seasons, 4 specials

Jodie Whitaker: 2017 – 22, 3 seasons, 5 specials

Side notes: to provide a more or less even playing field in the count, since the vast majority of Doctor Who was usually in half-hour instalments, really about 23 minutes or so per episode and the new era consists of 44 minutes episodes on average, I’ll be counting each new era episode as if they were two, 22 minute episodes. Fair’s fair. I’ll do the same for classic seasons like 22 with that format, since the whole point here is to see just how many episodes they appeared in, or how just how much story was packed into the era.

Also, while a Doctor doesn’t necessarily get credit for a brief cameo, when they appear in multiple scenes, such as in The Power of the Doctor, or and extended scene in Tales of the TARDIS, they do get credit.

So any classic episode of Doctor Who gets credited as one episode. Any new era, 44 minute one gets credited as two episodes. An hour-long Christmas special will get credited as three episodes. A full 90 minute or 100 minute movie gets credited as four. And in certain situations, an extra long new era episode that exceeds its 44 minutes by a substantial margin, like a series finale, etc. might get credited as three episodes. Got it? Excellent.

Also, I’m only counting the TV show, not audio. That’s a whole different list. Here we go:

  1. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor: 172 episodes
  2. William Hartnell’s First Doctor: 134
  3. Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor: 132
  4. Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor: 131
  5. David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor: 113
  6. Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor: 101
  7. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor: 89
  8. Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor: 76
  9. Jodie Whitaker’s Thirteenth Doctor: 67
  10. Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor: 45
  11. Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor: 44
  12. Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor: 26
  13. David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor: 9
  14. Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor: 5
  15. John Hurt’s War Doctor: 4

Interestingly, Tennant’s adding another 9 eps credit via the three 60th specials didn’t have any bearing on his overall screen time ranking, even though his Fourteenth Doctor is obviously one of the lowest regarding time spent for an individual incarnation.

And we can’t forget our beloved Sarah Jane Smith. Although not a Doctor, here’s someone who appeared throughout all of Pertwee’s last season, two and half more in Tom Baker’s era, The Five Doctors, in a few episodes during the Tenth Doctor era, and had her own show for several seasons. Her tally would actually be 138 and would put her in second place, below Tom Baker — which is kind of amazing.

Our new Doctor in residence, Ncuti Gatwa has only begun his reign as the Fifteenth Doctor. They’ve already begun filming his second season and Russell T Davies has commented about certain things in his fourth. So, if we were to extrapolate a potential four seasons at eight eps each, with a projected four Christmas specials… if all that came to be, Gatwa’s tally would range about 76, potentially tying Peter Davison for 8th place. But that’s years in the future and anything can happen in the meantime. 

In fact, with the new, expansive Whoniverse being rolled out, who’s to say we might not see some old, familiar faces come back once again? Possibly enough appearances to change the ranking? Who knows? WHO KNOWS?!

Rick Lundeen

Fourteenth Doctor Update: Which Doctor Starred in the Most Episodes of Doctor Who?

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 4 min
%d bloggers like this: