From William Hartnell to Matt Smith: What the Doctors did next

Neela Debnath looks back at the careers of the Doctors after leaving the Tardis

Neela Debnath
Friday 22 November 2013 10:24

There is a myth that once a Doctor Who actor leaves the role they are forever typecast as the Time Lord and end up running their careers into the ground. But is that criticism fair? We take a look back at the careers of the men who have played the Doctor.

Click here or on 'view gallery' for more pictures of the past Doctors

William Hartnell

Time Lord tenure (1963-1966)

William Hartnell left Doctor Who due to his ailing health. After his time on the show he starred in several other things, including police drama series Softly, Softly: Taskforce and No Hiding Place. He also had a role in the thriller Tomorrow at Ten which was to be his last film appearance before his death in 1975. His deteriorating health was limiting but he did reprise his role as the Doctor for the show's 10th anniversary special in 1973. Hartnell's tenure as the first Doctor has ensured his legacy as a great actor. Most recently, archive footage featuring him as the first Doctor was used on an episode of Doctor Who.

William Hartnell (centre) as the Doctor alongside Dracula and Frankenstein's monster in 'Doctor Who' episode 'The Chase' in 1965

Patrick Troughton:

Time Lord tenure (1966-1969)

After stepping off the Tardis, Troughton had numerous film and television roles, including The Omen, Coronation Street and The Sweeney. He even appeared in the first ever episode of Inspector Morse. It seems that for Troughton, Doctor Who may have been the highlight of his career as he never reached such success in subsequent roles.

He also made an appearance in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. Alongside acting, Troughton painted and even produced a copy of Monet's 'Poppy Field'. Sadly, he died of heart attack in 1987, however his legacy does live on. The eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, has stated that the second Doctor is his favourite, and his performance has inspired his own incarnation of the Time Lord.

English actor Patrick Troughton holding one of his own paintings

Jon Pertwee:

Time Lord tenure (1970-1974)

Jon Pertwee bowed out of Doctor Who and went on to play the scarecrow Worzel Gummidge in the children's programme of the same name. To a generation of children he was known as the Doctor, and to another he was known as the friendly scarecrow, achieving success even after Doctor Who. Pertwee did reprise the role of the Doctor in the 20th anniversary special in 1983. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 76.

Jon Pertwee as scarecrow Worzel Gummedge

Tom Baker:

Time Lord tenure (1974-1981)

Possibly one of the greatest and most famous of the Doctors, Baker has said Doctor Who was one of the nicest jobs he ever did but also killed his career. He played the part for seven years - the longest that any actor has done so.

While his career never really took off or matched the popularity of Doctor Who, he had parts in television shows such as Monarch of the Glen in the noughties and the Dungeons and Dragons film flop starring Jeremy Irons.

It is Baker's voiceover work that has been keeping him going, his booming sonorous tones have been on everything from The Magic Roundabout to Little Britain. Both Matt Lucas and David Walliams were Doctor Who fans and asked Baker to be their narrator.

The actor has even written a dark children's story called The Boy Who Kicked Pigs about a nasty little boy who gets his comeuppance after causing a series of 'unfortunate accidents'. Baker's deliciously dark wit comes through. Like all Doctor Who stars, Baker is a firm fixture on the Science Fiction convention circuit.

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Tom Baker at a 'Doctor Who' audio recording session London, five-part adventure, 'Hornet's Nest'. Since 'Doctor Who' he has done a lot of voice work, most notable as the narrator on 'Little Britain'

Peter Davison:

Time Lord tenure (1981-1984)

The youngest actor to play the Doctor, Davison was already known for his work on All Creatures Great and Small and The Tomorrow People. Since leaving Doctor Who, Davison has remained a permanent fixture on British television and starring in everything from Miss Marple, Heartbeat, Jonathan Creek, Midsomer Murders and At Home with the Braithwaites.

More recently he has been a guest star on sitcom Miranda and is currently in Law and Order UK, in which he starred alongside Doctor Who actress Freema Agyeman, who played companion Martha Jones opposite David Tennant's Time Lord.

Doctor Who has never really left Davison on a personal level because his daughter Georgia Moffet starred in a recent episode of the show. While working on the show Moffet met her future husband Tennant, so Davison is now the father-in-law to another Doctor. Davison reprised the role of the Doctor several time since leaving the show, most recently in a Children in Need special called Time Crash.

Peter Davison now, the actor has gone on to star in television shows such as 'Law and Order UK' and 'Lewis'. He even made a guest appearance as the Doctor in the Children in Need special 'Time Crash' opposite David Tennant (left)

Colin Baker:

Time Lord tenure (1984-1986)

Considered by many to be the worst Doctor - which is simply not true - the actor has continued to have a strong career. Although his work does not reach the heights of his Doctor Who stardom, Baker has had roles in both television and most notably on stage. He has starred in stage roles including She Stoops To Conquer, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Woman in White.

Baker was in the first episode of television show Jonathan Creek and Dangerfield. Last year he took part in reality television show in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! and came eighth out of 12. Like all Doctor Who actors, Baker plays the Doctor in audio plays produced by Big Finish and is also on tour on the convention circuit. Baker has continued to have success which suggests that his time of Doctor Who did not spell the end of his career.

Lewis Bradley as Jack (centre) and Colin Baker as Fleshcreep (right) perform during the traditional pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk on stage at the Theatre Royal Bath.

Sylvester McCoy:

Time Lord tenure (1987-1996)

He was the last actor to play the Doctor after the show got cancelled. All was quiet for a while but in the mid-nineties McCoy took on the role of the Doctor again for the 1996 move and handed over the Doctor Who baton to Paul McGann.

There had been the Doctor Who 30th special Dimensions in Space but McCoy was step back onto the Tardis briefly for the 1996 film. The movie was a backdoor pilot which saw McCoy's Doctor meet an unfortunate end after he was shot dead in the streets of San Francisco.

McCoy then went on to do plays parts on stage, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Fool to Ian McKellan's King Lear. McCoy was Peter Jackson's second choice to play Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy but ultimately lost out to Ian Holm. However, McCoy most recently played a wizard called Radagast the Brown in Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy. He is set to reprise his role for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown in 'The Hobbit'

Paul McGann:

Time Lord tenure (1996)

Although McGann had the shortest of tenures as the Doctor, he has been associated with role ever since. In order to create cohesion between the television series and the film, McGann recently took on the mantae of the Doctor again for The Night of the Doctor, a mini-episode in the run-up to the 50th anniversary.

Following his first turn as the Time Lord in 1996, McGann has worked in several films such as The Queen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers. But he has had more success on British television, featuring in numerous programmes. Some of his most recent work has been on ITV's A Mother's Son and BBC's Ripper Street and Luther. Despite playing the Doctor, McGann has managed to avoid being typecast.

Paul McGann as the Doctor in 'Night of the Doctor'

Christopher Eccleston:

Time Lord tenure (2005)

The actor who helped bring back Doctor Who in 2005 left after one series in the role. After exiting the show, Eccleston went on to play roles in US science fiction superhero show Heroes. He also played John Lennon in the television biopic Lennon Naked and a man forced into drug dealing in the critically acclaimed The Shadow Line.

He has also had success on the big screen in Hollywood films including G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Dark is Rising and Thor: The Dark World. Time and again Eccleston continues to leave critics and audiences moved by his brilliant performances and he is having a successful career after Doctor Who.

Christopher Eccleston in 2007 Hollywood film 'The Dark Is Rising'

David Tennant:

Time Lord tenure (2005-2010)

Recently voted the nation's favourite Doctor, Tennant has had a tough time leaving behind his Time Lord past. Playing the Doctor sent his profile soaring however, he has taken on numerous roles since leaving. His biggest success to date was as the hard-bitten cop Alec Hardy in ITV's crime drama Broadchurch.

He has also taken on a number of different roles on stage, including Hamlet opposite Patrick Stewart, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and currently playing the title role in Richard II. The Scottish star will be back on our screens again in The Day of the Doctor as the tenth Doctor. It will take a long time before Tennant can fully free himself of the mantle of the Doctor but it is interesting to watch his career progress.

David Tennant's most famous role post-'Doctor Who' as surly police officer Alec Harding in 'Broadchurch'

Matt Smith:

Time Lord tenure (2010-2013)

We have two more adventures left with the eleventh Doctor but Matt Smith has already filmed them and is moving on to other things. During his time as the Time Lord, Smith did play various roles in other projects, including Christopher Isherwood in Christopher and His Kind and Bert Bushnell in Bert and Dickie. He also played a character in Ryan Gosling's directorial debut How to Catch a Monster, which required him to shave off his hair.

But Smith is not resting on his laurels, the actor recently made his own debut in the directing chair with a short film called Cargese. Smith will be taking on the role of the murderous Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman in a musical adaptation of American Psycho. It's safe to say that Smith is doing everything he can to make sure his most famous role will not be the Doctor with this raft of projects.

Matt Smith will be leaving 'Doctor Who' in December, he has been working on Ryan Gosling's directorial debut 'How to Catch a Monster' in the US

The ‘Doctor Who’ 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ will be on 23 November on BBC1

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