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Doctor Who: How many Doctors have there been?

Jodie Whittaker is the current Doctor Who, but who came before her? (Picture: BBC)

Cult sci-fi show Doctor Who is back for series 13 with Jodie Whittaker in the titular role.

The Time Lord, with companions played by Mandip Gill and comedian John Bishop, once again sets off into multiple worlds of mystery, alien adventure and time travel in the ever-blue TARDIS.

Jodie, also known as The Thirteenth Doctor, is the first woman to play the role – which was considered a history-making move at the time.

But how many Doctors came before her? And how can the show explain away so many iconic casting changes?

Here’s what you need to know.

How many actors have played Doctor Who?

In total, there have been 13 Doctor Whos – with Jodie Whittaker still portraying The Thirteenth Doctor.

She’s currently starring in series 13 – called Flux – and is scheduled to continue on as Doctor Who until 2022.

But before Jodie became the first female Doctor, the previous 12 Doctors were all men.

Jodie took over for Peter Capaldi, who played The Twelfth Doctor from 2014 to 2017.

Peter replaced Matt Smith, who shot to fame in his role as The Eleventh Doctor from 2010 to 2013.

Matt’s since gone on to find Hollywood game as Prince Philip in Netflix’s The Crown and is set to star in HBO’s Game Of Thrones prequel, The Last Dragon.

The other Doctors, in order, are:

  • William Hartnell, The First Doctor (1963 to 1966).
  • Patrick Troughton, The Second Doctor (1966 to 1969).
  • Jon Pertwee, The Third Doctor (1970 to 1974).
  • Tom Baker, The Fourth Doctor (1974 to 1981, making him the longest-serving Doctor in the show’s history).
  • Peter Davidson, The Fifth Doctor (1981 to 1984).
  • Colin Baker, The Sixth Doctor (1984 to 1986).
  • Sylvester McCoy, The Seventh Doctor (1987 to 1989).
  • Paul McGann, The Eighth Doctor (1996).
  • Christopher Eccleston, The Ninth Doctor (2005).
  • David Tennant, The Tenth Doctor (2005 to 2010).

Other ‘unofficial’ Doctors have popped up from time to time (it’s time travel, it gets complicated).

The late John Hurt played a version known as The War Doctor in a series of 2013 specials while Jo Martin played a previously unknown version of The Doctor in series 12 known as the Fugitive Doctor.

Peter Cushing also played the part – also he was actually called Dr. Who – in two films produced in the 1960s: Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966).

The show has been on air since 1963, with 26 original series airing from then until 1989.

It had a TV movie in 1996 before it was rebooted in 2005, and 13 further series have aired since… so with 38 seasons total, it makes sense there have been so many different Doctor actors.

Fortunately, the switch-up in cast is explained away in the plots by a concept called ‘regeneration’.

When everybody’s favourite alien Time Lord is gravely injured, they can be sort-of reborn and appear as a new human body, almost like a reincarnation.

Doctor Who Flux begins on BBC One tonight at 6.25pm

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