How Many Doctors Are There In Doctor Who?

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How many actors have played The Doctor in Doctor Who? It seems like a simple enough question – 14. We have that many numbered time-travelling sweettalkers, so there must be that many actors. If you want to include The War Doctor and Jo Martin, it only goes up by two. Oh, if only it were that simple.


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There are recasts, younger versions of The Doctor, audio drama what-ifs?, alternate universes, future versions, and past versions we meet out of time, manifestations, unofficial and non-canon skits, self-insert easter eggs, and so many more. Let’s break down every actor who played The Doctor and answer that question in detail.


Who Has Played The Doctor In The Show?

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While there will soon have been 15 numbered Doctors, the number of actors to have played The Doctor on screen (as in, in a BBC production) is over double that figure.

It all started with William Hartnell in the ’60s, who was replaced by Patrick Troughton due to his worsening health, leading to the idea of regeneration as an in-universe explanation behind the revolving door of different lead actors.

We then had Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann, capping off the ‘Classic Who’ era. Then ‘NuWho’ continued the show with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Jodie Whittaker, Tennant (again), and, as of late 2023, the fifteenth Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa. That totals out 14 actors playing 15 ‘official’ Doctors.

The Morbius Doctors, Christopher Barry, Robert Banks Stewart, Christopher Baker, Philip Hinchcliffe, Douglas Camfield, Graeme Harper, Robert Holmes, and George Gallaccio.

However, a much higher number of 31 actors have played The Doctor during the show’s 60 years on air.

In the Fourth Doctor serial The Brain of Morbius, eight crew members lent their likeness to pre-Hartnell incarnations in a brief slideshow. Those eight were Christopher Barry, Robert Banks Stewart, Christopher Baker, Philip Hinchcliffe, Douglas Camfield, Graeme Harper, Robert Holmes, and George Gallaccio.

In the Fourth Doctor’s final episode, we also had The Watcher, a manifestation of The Doctor’s impending death. He was played by Adrian Gibbs. The First Doctor would also be recast for The Five Doctors due to William Hartnell’s passing, and Richard Hurndall took the role.

We then had Michael Jayston as the Valeyard in the Sixth Doctor’s last season, a villainous version of The Doctor set between his Twelfth and final incarnation. Toby Jones later appeared in Amy’s Choice as the Dream Lord, a manifestation of The Doctor’s darkness created by psychic pollen.

John Hurt played The War Doctor, a hidden incarnation between Eight and Nine; Michael Jones played a younger First Doctor during the episode ‘Listen’; David Bradley was the fourth actor to play the First Doctor in Twice Upon a Time and The Power of The Doctor. Jo Martin was cast as a pre-Hartnell incarnation dubbed by fans as the ‘Fugitive Doctor’, and Sacha Dhawan took over The Doctor’s body to become ‘The Master Doctor’, bringing us to 31.

Who Has Played The Doctor Outside Of The Show?

Richard E Grant animated as the Shalka Doctor Who

Before the idea of regeneration and other Doctors, we would see Peter Cushing play a human version of the character in two Doctor Who movies based on the show. But he’s not the only actor to have played the character outside the officially recognised canon.

Prior to the 2005 revival, Doctor Who was nearly brought back as an animated webshow with Richard E. Grant as the Ninth Doctor, now more commonly known as the Shalka Doctor. Interestingly, David Tennant appeared in this limited series, as well as Derek Jacobi who played an android version of The Master prior to his debut as The War Master in Utopia. The Shalka revival series was short-lived as only two years later, NuWho began.

There were also several skits. In the Wilderness Years, which was when the show had been canceled following Paul McGann’s TV movie, there was a Comic Relief special The Curse Of Fatal Death, written by future showrunner Steven Moffat, with several Doctors as they regenerated time and time again in a battle with The Master and the Daleks.

Here, we saw Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Joanna Lumley play the role.

Then we have Mark Gatiss. He has not only written for Doctor Who and appeared as Professor Lazarus, Gantok (in an uncredited role), and The Captain in the series, but he once did a fan-made skit where he played The Doctor. Lenny Henry also played The Doctor in two separate skits, one as recent as March 2023.

The Audio Doctors

Big Finish Doctor Who cover showing the Eighth Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, and The Master, River Song, and others.

Outside of the show, Doctor Who has thrived in the world of audio dramas. These let Paul McGann blossom into a fan-favourite Doctor after his short-lived stint with the infamous TV Movie, while also giving older actors a chance to come back to the role for even more stories.

However, the first three Doctors and The War Doctor are no longer with us, and several of the newer Doctors are simply too busy to record new episodes, so Big Finish has recast the role several times over the years.

Geoffrey Bayldon, Peter Purves, William Russel, and Stephen Noonan all played the First Doctor; Joe Bassett played a child version of the First; Frazer Hines (who played Jamie McCrimmon), David Troughton, and Michael Troughton played their own versions of the Second Doctor; David Warner, Nicholas Briggs, and Tim Reloar played the Third Doctor; Jon Culshaw and Trevor Martin played the Fourth Doctor; Jacob Dudman played the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors, and Jonathon Carley played The War Doctor.

Finally, David Collings, Ian Brooker, Arabella Weir, and Derek Jacobi have all played Unbound Doctors. That brings us to a total of 27 Doctors outside of the show.

How Many Actors Have Played The Doctor In Total?

Doctor Who cover showing, from left to right, the First to Eleventh Doctors including The War Doctor.

In total, at least 58 actors have played the role of The Doctor in one way or another, a much higher figure than the 15 numbered incarnations would have you believe.

So, when someone asks you who your favourite Doctor is, why not throw out a complete curveball and say Lenny Henry?

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