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Fifty years from the start, who is your best Doctor?

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Memo: Fifty years ago, teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright visited a junkyard over concerns for pupil Susan Foreman. Inside, they discovered a time machine disguised as a police box and Susan's crotchety grandfather, known only as The Doctor. Since that first flickery black-and-white episode, Doctor Who has become a British institution. As thousands of fans celebrate 50 years of his adventures with a special episode this evening, we asked 11 fans to tell us why their Doctor was the best

WILLIAM HARTNELL (Tenure in the Tardis: November 23, 1963 - October 29, 1966)

THE laws of the Who-niverse dictate William Hartnell is the best Doctor Who because he was the first. Without him, none of the others would exist. If he had not made his mark on the character, there would have been no regeneration.

His performance provided the template for those who have followed in his footsteps in Tardis time-tripping.

A serious actor was needed to make sense of an old man who piloted a time machine disguised as a police box parked in a junkyard, and fought large tin cans on wheels.

Producer Verity Lambert saw that in Hartnell, although he was not the first choice.

Cast against type - he was best known for playing a bullying sergeant major in TV comedy The Army Game - his Doctor was a grumpy old grandfather with an eccentric dress sense. His trademark long dress coat, wing-collared shirt, waistcoat with fob watch, tweed trousers and cossack hat was hardly Swinging Sixties. He could be short-tempered and off-hand.

Every Doctor since, both young and old, has offered a variation on the manner and dress of this absent-minded professor. Hartnell is not the one and only, but he was the first and foremost.

Steve Pratt

PATRICK TROUGHTON (October 29, 1966 - June 21, 1969)

HOW can Troughton be my Doctor when all I saw of his run was the final scene of his final episode? Simple.

That was all it took.

I was eight, standing in a friend's living room waiting for him to finish watching TV so we could go out to play... and my life changed. As the Time Lords tore the Doctor from his companions, changed his face and exiled him to Earth, I felt an inexplicable loss for something I'd never known.

I had to see him again. So, while I grew up with Pertwee and Baker, Troughton made me the sci-fi geek I am today. Thank you, Patrick.

Martin Feekins

JON PERTWEE (January 3, 1970 - June 8, 1974)

MAYBE it was the sight of dummies coming to life in a shop window and gunning down bystanders. Or a phalanx of Sea Devils rising out the surf, their deadly lasers at the ready. Or the Master laughing as he called forth a demon in a cavern beneath a church.

Whatever it was, the third Doctor became my Doctor.

The show came of age during the Pertwee era. No other Doctor introduced so many classic monsters (Silurians, Autons, Sea Devils, The Master, The Daemons, Sontarans and giant maggots and spiders) to send the nation's children scuttling behind the sofa.

Many of the stories had an environmental message that still resonates today (in Inferno, a drilling project to tap a new source of energy unleashes disaster; eco-warriors try to shut down the mine that is the source of The Green Death).

Pertwee's Doctor was a man of action, an expert in Venusian karate, as likely to be seen riding a motor bike, or flying the Whomobile as tinkering with the Tardis.

When he left, I was bereft. Doctor Who would go on to do great stories - The Genesis of the Daleks, the Seeds of Doom and the Caves of Androzani to name only three - but it always seems to me that they would have been even better had they starred Jon Pertwee.

Nigel Burton

TOM BAKER (June 8, 1974 - March 21, 1981)

THE Fedora perched at a slightly jaunty angle, the multicoloured scarf and that expression which suggested a hint of madness - Tom Baker tome was, and still is, Doctor Who.

It obviously helps that Baker, with that distinctive baritone voice, is still in the public eye, with appearances on the likes of Blackadder and voiceovers for Little Britain, and that he preceded three rather weak incumbents of the role in Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, but, to me, he epitomised what the character should represent.

At times irascible, at others gentle, knowledgeable and yet still fallible, and possessing a dark side that gave him added depth, I admit his love of jelly babies appealed to me as well.

We were also introduced to robotic dog K-9 during Baker's tenure in the role.

The longest-running Doctor, his confrontations with the Daleks and their leader Davros led to several unscheduled visits to the back of the sofa and probably, if you were to ask my late mum, some appearances at her bedside in the middle of the night.

Matt Westcott

PETER DAVISON (March 21, 1981 - March 16, 1984)

THE cricket-loving fifth doctor had a sense of fallibility after the Time Lord's nearly super-human fourth incarnation.

Peter Davison, who had already made his name in TV's All Creatures Great and Small, brought a boyish charm to the role.

He was the youngest person to play the Doctor when he took over in 1981, until present Time Lord Matt Smith was appointed.

Davison infused the role with a youthful innocence which meant he did not always seem to be in control.

At times, he failed spectacularly, such as in Earthshock, his Cybermen story, which saw the death of companion Adric (the first companion to die since Sara Kingdom and Katarina were killed in 1965- 66 during The Daleks' Masterplan).

Davison's reign also included the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors, in 1983. Fans voted Davison's final story, The Caves of Androzani, as the greatest Doctor Who story ever in a Doctor Who magazine poll.

Unfortunately, Davison only spent three years as the Time Lord, leaving a sense of loss at his brief tenure.

Ian Noble

COLIN BAKER March 16, 1984 - December 6, 1986)

THE sixth incarnation of the Doctor is remembered for his flamboyant panto-style attire - multi-coloured frock coat teamed with striped yellow trousers and orange spats.

Or perhaps it is Colin Baker's portrayal of the Time Lord as an arrogant, egotistical, maniac prone to bursts of rage. This, combined with flimsy scripts and even flimsier sets, put him at a distinct disadvantage.

The producers wanted to shake-up Doctor Who and deliberately created a Doctor who would alienate viewers.

The intention was for him to become more sympathetic over time, and eventually the costume was toned down, there were better scripts and Colin Baker brought greater depth to the character. However, Colin Baker was sacked by a BBC hierarchy fed up with the show's direction. He unfairly became a scapegoat.

He was a fine actor who brought a distinct energy to the role and cannot be held responsible for poor scripts and production decisions - or the introduction of Bonnie Langford as his assistant. Talk about kicking a man when he's down.

Andrew Douglas

SYLVESTER MCCOY (September 7, 1987 - December 6, 1989, May 27, 1996)

TECHNICALLY speaking - and which Doctor Who fan doesn't like to talk technical - Sylvester McCoy was the longest-serving Doctor. McCoy replaced Colin Baker as the seventh doctor in 1987 and, although the series finished in 1989, he returned for one-off specials in 1993 and 1996.

Some people, believe McCoy - a former busker and comic actor - was too lightweight to be remembered as one of the best, but these people forget he took on the job at a time when the show was considered by many at the BBC to be dead wood.

After initially portraying a comedic, hero saving the world through luck rather than good judgement, McCoy slowly helped the Doctor regenerate into a darker, almost Machiavellian, character thatwe still see today, particularly in Matt Smith's version.

It is unarguable that this change helped the show survive and become more palatable formodern audiences.

Joe Willis

PAUL MCGANN (May 27, 1996)

THE eighth doctor bridged the gap between the classic and modern incarnations of the series.

Paul McGann's outing in the one off 1996TransatlanticTVmovie/ pilot saw the much-discussed kiss between the Doctor and Grace Holloway.

Some grumbled about the hitherto strictly platonic Time Lord suddenly showing a more human interest in his companions, but it set a trend. All of McGann's successors have enjoyed a screen snog or two, although admittedly some of those were for purely universe saving reasons.

The 1996 outing, which came seven years after the cancellation of the classic series, received what could be charitably described as mixed reviews. Nevertheless, McGann's poised performance as the Byronesque eighth Doctor whetted the appetite for a series that never came.

Fans have enjoyed further eighth doctor adventures in the form of books, comics and audio adventures.

McGann returned to give his Doctor a fan-friendly live action send-off in a curtain-raiser for the 50th anniversary special, which saw his incarnation regenerate into the mysterious sWar Doctor.

Andy Walker

CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON (March 26 - June 18, 2005)

AFTER years drifting in deep-space anonymity, Doctor Who rocketed back onto our screens in March 2005, with Christopher Eccleston at the Tardis' helm. Gruff and manic, mostly seen racing around in a heavy black leather jacket, Eccleston was a man's Doctor - all gadgets, no girls - or, at least, as little as possible, leaving sidekick Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) to chase after John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness instead.

The Empty Child, with a great cameo from One Foot In The Grave's Richard Wilson, must be counted as an all-time classic episode and Eccleston's response to human surprise at his Northern accent - "Lots of planets have a North" - made me laugh.

He was in time travel for the ride - never convinced he had the science right, never sure his plan would work.

That was what made it so exciting.

Eccleston quit after only one series, for fear of becoming typecast. His successors have been good, but all a bit soft for my liking.

Mark Tallentire

DAVID TENNANT (June 18, 2005 - January 1, 2010) I AM a relative Doctor Who newbie.

New Who is my Who, and my Doctor is undoubtedly Ten.

Tennant's Doctor is accessible. He's affable, talks a lot and is endearingly cheeky. But there is a darker side to him, and he's pretty angst-ridden and lonely. It's a devastating combination.

The Ten era has also given us one of the scariest episodes ever - Blink, with the Weeping Angels.

It is no wonder he was recently voted the nation's favourite Doctor.

Ten is my number one.

Sandra Moore

MATT SMITH (January 1, 2010 - present)

MATT SMITH is a very energetic Doctor. David Tennant was the cool Doctor - Matt Smith is the Doctor that thinks he's cool, but clearly is not.

I love his childish charms and his obsessions with bow ties and fezzes.

Some people say Matt Smith's Doctor is like a geography teacher travelling through time and space.

What I like about his Doctor is that he's not afraid to get caught up in time and meddle about a bit.

I am really excited about Peter Capaldi coming in as the Doctor - he will be amazing and will bring a new dimension to the show. It is nice that they have put an older actor in the role this time - I am hoping it will bring a slightly darker side out.

Rob Baines


Caption: THE DOCTORS: From left, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith

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