Ever since its revival in 2005, Doctor Who has seen some of its best incarnations of the madman with a box, each one inserting new life and energy into the show. It's time I let you know which one of these actors I feel did it best as I count down my Top 5 Modern Era Incarnations of the Doctor.
5th Place - The War Doctor (John Hurt)
Okay, so I know this may seem like a bit of a stretch considering the War Doctor only appeared in the 50th Anniversary episode "The Day Of The Doctor", but, boy, did he leave an impression! Hurt did a great job in bringing out the sadness and pain within the Doctor-turned-warrior. This is a man tormented with terrible decisions and unbeatable conflicts. The War Doctor is a broken man, and Hurt's commitment to the role made it work wonderfully. He even made the temporary moments of joy in The War Doctor incredibly heart-warming and joyous to watch. Had he been a recurring character, you might have seen this Doctor higher on the list, but I feel placing him any higher on the list when taking in his limited screen-time would be unfair to other actors who have portrayed the modern Doctors.
4th Place - The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
Okay, credit where it's due. It was largely thanks to Smith that Doctor Who became worldwide, as his rendition of the Doctor brought in many fans from around the world, especially from the U.S.A. Also, Smith seemed very committed to the role, even showing up at the 2010 Doctor Who Proms in character. However, I feel this is where most of his positives end, as I saw his Doctor as too goofy, too cartoon-ish, and too far from what I see the Doctor as. It wasn't entirely his fault, though, as Steven Moffat did steer him through what I think to be the worst era of modern Doctor Who. But his negatives didn't help that. No offence to Matt Smith, but I just feel like he didn't perform the role that well. He always seemed to deliver certain lines incredibly awkwardly, as if he wasn't really sure how he was supposed to be saying them. Also, a lot of his "humour" seemed incredibly drawn-out and forced, killing the mood of many-a-scene. Rarely, he would deliver a line that would get a good chuckle out of me but mostly, he just made me cringe. And don't get me started on his object obsessions. I know this is a big part of his character and every Doctor has a certain "thing" associated with them (e.g. Ninth Doctor was a banana, Tenth Doctor was 3-D glasses), but none were as lazily written in as, "I like [insert object here] now. [Insert object here] are cool." He's pretty much saying, "Here's a thing. I like it". I know this is mostly the writing team's fault but a good actor takes a bad line and makes it work. Smith didn't do that. He just went on delivering the lines awkwardly and strangely. It didn't help that he reduced the character to a 5-year-old. Don't get me wrong, I like it when the Doctor acts a little childish sometimes. It shows that he's not just some grumpy old man. But Smith overplayed this WAY too much, so much so that when he had the occasional serious moment, I found his performance much too hard to believe (With the exception of the episode "The Doctor's Wife", in which he shines from beginning to end). I know this may make me look like a complete Smith-hater, but he wasn't terrible. His performance was certainly endearing and as I mentioned earlier, the man was 100% committed to the role, even if it didn't always work sometimes. I won't deny that I ALWAYS shed a tear whenever I watch his final speech in the TARDIS before he regenerates into Peter Capaldi. No more awkward delivery, no more poorly-timed comedy, it's just 100% Doctor Who and is genuinely brilliant. He clearly showed the Doctor as a man both scared and excited for what's to come, and his soft, content delivery of the line, "I will always remember when the Doctor was me.", is one of the best final lines I've heard from an incarnation of the Doctor. It even made me temporarily forgive Smith for his negatives. What a way to go. Talk about going out with a bang (a metaphorical bang. Not like Tennant's literal "going-out-with-a-bang" regeneration!).
3rd Place - The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)
I sometimes hear people criticizing the Twelfth Doctor for being a too cynical incarnation of the Doctor. However, I think this makes the Twelfth Doctor a much more well-rounded and fleshed-out character. It makes his more mellow and kind-hearted moments feel much more genuine and touching. People say Smith's Doctor is like an old man acting like a little kid, when I feel like this is actually much more well-suited to Twelve. When he acts young and childish, Capaldi excels in making me laugh as his delivery is timed perfectly. He knows how to make a joke or quirk work. As for his more cynical moment, then perhaps I'm a lover of dark humour because I find it so refreshing when the Doctor occasionally snaps at his companions or acts ignorant towards other characters. It show that he's a character so absorbed in his thoughts that he doesn't know how to act socially, but it is not made awkward like with Smith. Instead, it is played off very cleverly and quickly, not drawn out or forced. The Doctor is not a young man. He is old and constantly has to adapt to changing environments, and Capaldi pulls this off brilliantly. One of my favourite sides of the Doctor is when he lets out full-blown anger, and unfortunately I feel this is where Capaldi suffers a little. Whenever the character is at the height of his rage, Capaldi always seems to hiss the lines quite strangely and forcibly, therefore restricting the character's anger. If he yelled a bit more, he would make this Doctor a much more intimidating man and a force to be reckoned with. Also, I found his chemistry with the abomination of a companion named Clara quite poor and forced. I didn't believe that a man like the Twelfth Doctor would be so invested in Clara to the point where he is willing to betray his own race and change a fixed point in time to save her. Again, mostly the fault of the writers but not helped by Capaldi. Overall, though, Capaldi has brought a refreshing take to the Doctor's personality and attitude and I hope he doesn't leave any time soon.
2nd Place - The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
A very underrated incarnation of the Doctor, Eccleston's reign as the Time Lord lasted only one series, but it was a brilliant one at that. This is man fresh off from conflict in the Time War and believes he has killed all his own people. Eccleston was a wonderful choice for the role as he balanced regret and quirkiness perfectly. There was genuine emotion in his performance and line delivery, and his love and excitement for adventure was a staple of his character's persona. Perfectly-timed comedy and a sympathetic performance really helps the Ninth Doctor boost his way this high onto the list. I really can't find much negative with him. He was sinister, mysterious, and downright hilarious all at the same time. Not much else to say really. I know this might seem lazy of me but that's all I really can say. Eccleston was a great Doctor. Nothing bad about him but nothing mind-blowingly amazing either. Just a committed and heartfelt performance. It's just a shame Eccleston won't be returning as the character any time soon. Originally, it was meant to be the Ninth Doctor in "The Day Of The Doctor" instead of the War Doctor, and I bet I would've loved the episode even more had my second favourite incarnation of the Time Lord made a long-awaited return. If you want to see more of what I think about the Ninth Doctor, check out my Series One Review.
First Place - The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)
Fine. Call me what you will. Call me "jumping on the bandwagon". Call me "going with the crowd". But to me, David Tennant's portrayal of the Time Lord was everything I feel the Doctor should be and more! Tennant delved into every emotional area possible during his run, and it was brilliant. HE was brilliant. He made the Doctor a much more three-dimensional character. He's not just a heartless old man. He feels love. He feels pain. He feels joy. He feels heartbreak. He feels sorrow. He was the most human of all the Doctors but not to an extent where I felt he was being too human (with the exception of Human Nature/The Family Of Blood but that's for obvious reasons). And forgive me for sound like an utter fanboy here but...David Tennant. David. Tennant. The unbelievably talented man owned the role. Had any other actor portrayed the role, it wouldn't have been the same. Tennant made the Doctor so energetic and fun to watch. Every time he was on-screen the scene was made so much more fun and interesting. His undeniable energy was present throughout his run but he wasn't goofy like Smith, or on the cynical side like Capaldi. Instead, he balanced these emotions perfectly, portraying every single one to a tee. He portrayed unbelievable happiness in "New Earth", withheld anger in "The Family Of Blood", full-on rage in "The Waters Of Mars", distraught sadness in "The End Of Time", and downright fear in "Midnight". And all of these performances were completely believable. I don't know whether it's his unbelievably emotion-filled eyes or wild facial expressions, but whatever it is, he could make the Doctor whatever he wanted and could make it work. Sure, this incarnation had a but of a shaky end in terms of context of the show, but there's no denying the power of his performance is sky-high. That final explosion of rage he has when contemplating whether or not to save Wilf is captivating and, for me, a fitting end for the Tenth Doctor's emotion-filled journey. He saw modern Doctor Who through a golden era, an era likely never to be reached again, and he did it wonderfully. The Tenth Doctor was utterly magnificent and tops this list of my favourite modern Doctors.