Today: February 25, 2024

Doctor Who

Arguably the most iconic role in British television, Doctor Who has been one of the BBC’s flagship programmes for almost 50 years.

By – Erykah

Arguably the most
iconic role in British television, Doctor
Who has been one of the BBC’s flagship programmes for almost 50 years.

Despite the lengthy hiatus in the ‘90s, Who never left the public
consciousness, with Daleks at one point even advertising Kit Kats. With current
Doctor Matt Smith‘s film Clone (Main Picture) now available on DVD, Erykah
Brackenbury takes a look at what befell his predecessors upon leaving the best
job in television.

William Hartnell
The irascible first Doctor was one of Hartnell’s final
roles, as health problems and failing memory forced him to all-but retire from
acting. Always older than his years, Hartnell’s notable earlier film work
includes the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant and Brighton Rock.
Hartnell’s unexpected health issues prompted the production team to
desperately seek a solution to the loss of their lead man – and the concept of
regeneration was born.

Peter Cushing
With ‘Dalekmania’ at its height in the mid-60s, Dalek
creator Terry Nation saw a golden
opportunity in the British film industry. The series’ first two Dalek stories,
penned by Nation, were adapted into glossy Technicolor films; the first time
the villains had been seen in colour. Though the two films never quite reached
the heights that Nation wished for, they remain a gloriously camp curio of
British cinema. Veteran film actor Peter
was drafted in for the lead role and continued his career for
decades after, continuing his association with Hammer in films including The
Vampire Lovers
, and is perhaps most well-known as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star

Patrick Troughton
Another Hammer veteran, Troughton had a lengthy career in
television after leaving Doctor Who in 1969. Despite his reputation as the
mirthful second Doctor, his background in horror also stuck with him. Appearing
opposite Christopher Lee in Hammer’s Scars of Dracula, he also met a
somewhat sticky end as Father Brennan in The Omen, helping to
conclusively prove the point that small children are evil.

Jon Pertwee
Another Carry On stalwart, Pertwee focused mostly on
television after Doctor Who; famous to anyone of a certain age as Worzel
, in addition to providing the voice of Super Ted‘s loyal
companion Spotty Man. In an uncanny echo of William Hartnell’s career, he
starred in the unpopular final Carry On, Carry on Columbus in 1992, plus
Bank Holiday favourite One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.

Tom Baker
Identifiable by voice alone, Tom Baker boasts the longest
on-screen tenure of any Doctor to date. Another actor to favour television, he
attracted a legion of new fans through his irreverent narration to Little
. His boggle-eyed, jelly baby loving incarnation of the role is
consistently voted the most popular of all eleven Who actors.

Peter Davison
Shunning film in favour of television and stage roles,
including At Home with the Braithwaites and Legally Blonde: The
, Peter Davison’s only cinema release to date is the 1994 tearjerker
Black Beauty. Prior to Doctor Who, Davison shot to fame in All
Creatures Great and Small
and is to date the only actor to take on the
Doctor Who role as an established household name.

Colin Baker
Baker’s era was troubled, most notably due to some massive
fall-outs within the production team. He left the role after three years – his
brash Doctor epitomising the excesses of the mid-80s. Whilst not taking on any
long-term roles, Baker continues to appear on television, semi-regularly
popping up in Doctors and Casualty.

Sylvester McCoy
Known pre-Who for putting ferrets down his trousers, McCoy
was, for a long time, the final Doctor. Defying po-faced science fiction fans,
he has gone on to have a varied career, including several plays with the RSC,
and will be seen this Christmas playing Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit
alongside his King Lear co-star Ian McKellen.

Paul McGann
Doctor Who for about an hour in 1996, McGann nevertheless
has kept an association with the show, reprising his role in audio dramas. Yet
another to focus mostly on television, he appears to have an affinity for
bloodsuckers, appearing in Lesbian Vampire Killers and 2002’s Anne Rice
adaptation Queen of the Damned. His abbreviated time in the role was the
result of a US network’s attempts to relaunch Doctor Who and although the
90-minute pilot gained strong ratings in the UK, the show was canned. Despite
outrage from fans at the time, the decision left BBC Wales free to take a huge
gamble on the format almost a decade later.

Christopher Eccleston
Eccleston played Doctor number nine for thirteen brief weeks
in 2005. Yet the success of the show’s relaunch means it is still going strong
seven years down the line, with plaudits rightly being given to Eccleston for
his vulnerable yet alien portrayal of the Time Lord from Gallifrey. Post-Who,
his choices haven’t been quite so wise, starring in the already-forgotten
bandwagon-hopping The Dark is Rising and the wish-we-could-all-forget G.I.

David Tennant
The longest-serving Doctor since Tom Baker hung up his scarf
in 1980, David Tennant was the face of the relaunched show when hype was at its
peak. His affable portrayal of the role made him a hit with the all-important
triumvirate of kids, mums and gay men and suddenly he was everywhere –
culminating in an alleged 75 TV appearances over Christmas 2009. With TV, film
and theatre roles under his belt, he can currently be heard as the hapless
Charles Darwin in Aardman’s The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!
Immediately prior to Doctor Who, he was in a brief but scene-stealing role as
Barty Crouch Jr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, making him,
curiously, the only incarnation of the Doctor to have appeared in both the UK’s
largest franchises.

Notable others…

Noel Clarke
Playing Rose’s hapless boyfriend Mickey in the 2005
relaunch, Clarke soon graduated to the role of companion for series two. Winner
of BAFTA’s Rising Star Award in 2009, the multi-talented actor wrote 2006’s
gritty urban drama Kiduldhood and wrote/directed its sequel, Adulthood
in 2008. Clarke will next be seen the latest Star Trek, scheduled for
release next year.

Steven Moffat
A veteran television writer, Moffat quickly became popular
amongst Doctor Who fans for his dark and unsettling stories (‘are you my
mummy?’) In 2007 it was announced he would collaborate with Steven Speilberg
and Peter Jackson on Tintin. After completing the script for The
Secret of the Unicorn
, Moffat left the project to take over the Doctor Who
executive producer role from Russell T Davies.

Douglas Adams
Adams wrote three stories for Tom Baker’s Doctor, all noted
for their coupling of humour with more-traditional science fiction elements.
Though Adams sadly died in 2001, his infamous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
has existed in almost every format of media storytelling, most
recently adapted as a 2005 film starring Martin Freeman.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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