There have been eleven — er, twelve — Doctors in Doctor Who. Or have there? What if we told you we found twelve more Doctors?
Everybody knows the Doctor. He’s had twelve different faces, played by twelve different actors. But the twelve you know are not the only actors to play the character. Aside from various voice actors who’ve lent their talents to audio productions, twelve more actors have stood before cameras and audiences to play the world’s most famous Time Lord.
When the time came to film the 20th anniversary Doctor Who special in 1983, the show’s producers really wanted to unite all of the actors who had starred as the Doctor up to that time into an epic episode called “The Five Doctors.” There was just one problem: William Hartnell, the 1st Doctor, had died eight years prior. (Tom Baker also declined to reprise his role as the 4th Doctor, but they worked around it with unused footage from his seven-year run.) There was really no other choice than to hire someone new to take over as the 1st Doctor, and their choice for the job was character actor Richard Hurndall. Sadly, Hurndall passed away less than five months after the first broadcast of his one and only performance as the Doctor, in “The Five Doctors.”
Edmund Warwick stood in for William Hartnell in “The End of Tomorrow,” part 4 (of 6) of the 1st Doctor serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. A head injury Hartnell sustained while filming the previous episode kept him from working on this one, so Warwick was used to film a brief scene where the 1st Doctor is shot from behind and keels over. I wouldn’t have considered this important enough to warrant inclusion, except that Warwick later returned to the series to appear as a robotic copy of the Doctor – despite the fact that Warwick bore little resemblance to Hartnell — in the 1st Doctor serial The Chase. Specifically, he guest starred in parts 4 and 5, “Journey Into Terror” and “The Death of Doctor Who.”
Just two years after the show’s launch in 1963, Doctor Who made the leap to the big screen in a pair of movies called Doctor Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD. But these two films, which are not considered canon by the TV show, distanced themselves from the series in several ways. Chief among them: the Doctor was no longer an alien with an assumed name. He was a human inventor who’s name literally was “Doctor Who.” William Hartnell was considered for the movies since he was still going strong on the TV show, but ultimately the filmmakers at Amicus Productions cast the legendary Peter Cushing because they reportedly believed he was better known to cinema audiences. Also rather fascinating: the movies were both filmed in color while the TV series remained black & white for another five years.
You wouldn’t recognize Adrian Gibbs for his contribution to Doctor Who, as he worked under heavy makeup for his appearances. But his character was still very much a real version of the Doctor. Gibbs played a glowing white character dubbed “the Watcher” in the 4th Doctor’s final storyline, which aired in early 1981. Near the end of this Tom Baker serial, titled Logopolis, it was revealed that the Watcher was actually an early manifestation of the Doctor’s next incarnation — aka, 5th Doctor Peter Davison. It’s never been properly explained why the 5th Doctor appeared prematurely this way, as a kind of omen of the 4th Doctor’s demise, and the show has never used this plot device again.
Trevor Martin starred as an “alternate 4th Doctor” in a BBC-authorized stage play called Seven Keys to Doomsday. It ran for four weeks starting mid-December 1974 at Adelphi Theatre in London. In October 2008, the play was adapted and released as an audio production; Martin reprised his role for the audio drama.
Ten years after the original run of Seven Keys to Doomsday, another BBC-authorized stage production ran in New Zealand. It used the same script and title as the original, but in this version, the alternate 4th Doctor was played by Michael Sagar.
“The Valeyard” was an incarnation of the Doctor’s dark side that appeared in Colin Baker’s 1986 6th Doctor serial The Trial of a Time Lord. Played by Michael Jayston, the Valeyard claimed to be the Doctor’s 12th regeneration, though some interpretations suggest he was a potential/alternate regeneration placed somewhere between the Doctor’s 12th and 13th personae. Whatever his origins, he was a villainous Time Lord who tried to kill the Doctor. (Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make much sense. If the Doctor was the Valeyard’s past self, wouldn’t the Valeyard have also killed himself?) He was unsuccessful, of course, but he survived his final fight against the Doctor. What became of the Valeyard after that has never been disclosed.
Beloved actor Geoffrey Hughes, who passed away just last year, also appeared in The Trial of a Time Lord. He guest starred as a character named “Mr. Popplewick,” but this prickly man was soon revealed to be the Valeyard in disguise.
Another stage play called Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure ran from March through August of 1989, and starred both Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor and Colin Baker’s 6th Doctor. (The script was modified when Baker took over the show’s second leg, to accommodate his version of the character.) Pertwee fell ill briefly during his stint, so for two performances of the show his understudy stepped up to the plate. This man’s name was David Banks, and rather than fill in for Pertwee, he created his own version of the Doctor, complete with a different wardrobe than any of the TV Doctors have ever worn.
The man today’s Whovians know as Doctor Simeon, aka the Great Intelligence, starred as a proposed 9th Doctor in an animated revival of the series that was planned and produced not long before the modern Russell T. Davies show was greenlit. Although it never went to series, a pilot episode titled “Scream of the Shalka” was produced and released online in 2003. It was promoted by the BBC as the continuation of the Doctor Who franchise, and that this Doctor was the official 9th Doctor. Of course that changed when Davies’ show cast Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor and production on the animated series was halted. Official continuity has never addressed this discrepancy, leading most fans to assume that Richard Grant’s Doctor is now apocryphal. It’s worth noting that Grant lent not only his voice but his likeness to the animated character, as well.
Like the Valeyard, the Dream Lord was a manifestation of the Doctor’s dark side. But the Dream Lord was no future or past regeneration; he was more like an offshoot. He was even made more distinct by his unique ability to control people’s dreams. Toby Jones played the character in the episode “Amy’s Choice,” from near the end of Matt Smith’s first season as the 11th Doctor.
The upcoming BBC telefilm, An Adventure in Space and Time, tells the story of the TV show‘s origins, and was filmed in honor of Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary. In it, David Bradley stars as the first man to appear as the Doctor, Mr. William Hartnell. While not an official part of the show’s in-universe canon, Bradley does perform on camera as the 1st Doctor. (Actor Reece Shearsmith is mentioned on the cast list as portraying 2nd Doctor Patrick Troughton, but I’m not including him on this list without knowing if he truly depicts Troughton’s Doctor on screen.)