Peter Capaldi's tenure as The Doctor is almost over. But how will his regeneration compare the previous ones? We rank them all, from worst to best
Peter Capaldi’s stint as the renegade Time Lord on Doctor Who is coming to an end this Christmas and we’ve all seen the on-screen evidence that his regeneration is close at hand. So, with speculation rife about who might follow in his footsteps, we thought we’d cast our eye back over the Doctor’s regenerations – Top of the Pops style!
13 Colin Baker > Sylvester McCoy: Time and the Rani
The regeneration itself was OK as far as it went (basically Sylvester McCoy losing a wig), but the stuff surrounding was below par, frankly. This included the worst TARDIS landing ever, with a poorly realised colour trail which looked more like My Little Pony than Doctor Who.
12 Patrick Troughton > Jon Pertwee: The War Games
Despite suitably spooky sound, courtesy of the Radiophonic Workshop, visually this was simply too complex and the merry-go-round visual effects are distracting and, dare we say, a little bit silly.
11 David Tennant > David Tennant: The Stolen Earth
Not a regeneration as such, but rather an aborted one, in order to heal himself after being shot by a Dalek. The lack of new face may have you thinking it doesn’t count but, as the Doctor was to find out, they ALL count.
10 Peter Davison > Colin Baker: The Caves of Androzani
Once again, the effects department seemed to be all in a spin as faces of friends and foes alike came out of the Doctor’s mouth and circled him as he changed. Despite this, Anthony Ainley as the Master gave the transformation an impressive sense of menace and there was a nice visual callback to original credits for fans.
9 Jon Pertwee > Tom Baker: Planet of the Spiders
As might have seemed fitting for a Doctor who had spent his time exiled on Earth, this looked like a proper death. It was an incredibly human moment for an alien – right up until the no-fuss fade as Tom Baker’s face appears. Effects department get a C-… could do better.
8 John Hurt > Christopher Eccleston: The Day of the Doctor
This transformation finally completed the timeline so far and showed the rebirth of the Doctor. After teaming up with his future selves, John Hurt’s War Doctor returns to his TARDIS and the toll of his past life catches up with him.
7 Sylvester McCoy > Paul McGann: Doctor Who
Despite the film being rubbish (well, it was), McCoy’s facial contortions made for a comparatively seamless transition between incarnations. McGann’s performance was pretty much the film’s only saving grace. If he’d had a chance to portray the Doctor in the series proper, he could have been great (see The Night of the Doctor for proof). As it stands, we feel like contestants on Bullseye, with Jim Bowen showing us what we could have won.
6 Matt Smith > Peter Capaldi: The Time of the Doctor
The Doctor’s get-out-of-jail card gifted him a new round of regenerations, the first of which was to come after a genuinely touching last few moments for Smith’s Doctor. As he pronounced with great confidence, ‘I will always remember when the Doctor was me,’ we all thought, ‘you know what? We will too.’ Extra points for the reappearance of Amy Pond to say a final farewell to her ‘raggedy man’ too.
5 Paul McGann > John Hurt: The Night of the Doctor
Presented as a treat within the Easter Egg of this mini episode, this was just brilliant. Tasked with stopping the Time War by the Sisterhood of Karn, McGann’s Time Lord is given the chance to choose what his next regeneration will be. As he utters the line, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ we say goodbye to the Doctor and welcome a warrior as the reflection of a young John Hurt peers back at us. The War Doctor is born!
4 David Tennant > Matt Smith: The End of Time
A genuinely emotional farewell from an actor who had really made the part his own. When David Tennant says, ‘I don’t wanna go’ we really get a sense that he means it. The preamble to the change was long and drawn-out as the Doctor visited past companions, in stark contrast to the dynamic arrival of the manic and wild Matt Smith.
3 Christopher Eccleston > David Tennant: The Parting of the Ways
After helping to put Doctor Who firmly back on the map following its lengthy hiatus, Christopher Eccleston departed – for many fans too soon – with the first on-screen instance of ‘new’ regeneration sequence that has held ever since. It was certainly an explosive introduction for David Tennant.
2 William Hartnell > Patrick Troughton: The Tenth Planet
It’s almost impossible to imagine the impact of this when it was first screened. The idea of changing the lead actor in this way was revolutionary and the way that it played out on screen was simple yet very effective: the actors’ faces blending with a seamlessness (helped by a white dissolve) that later transformations would have done well to emulate.
1 Tom Baker > Peter Davison: Logopolis
Why is this the best? Well, apart from saying goodbye to Baker’s longest-ever tenure while a trio of fantastic companions gathered around as the realisation of what was happening dawned, the end of Logopolis also boasted one of the best music scores ever to grace an episode.
“The moment has been prepared for,” intoned Baker as The Watcher morphed with his body and out of a chrysalis emerged the younger model.
Who will be the next Doctor and how will their regeneration rank?