With thirteen faces across one timeline, Doctor Who has brought back previous incarnation of the Doctor on multiple occasions.
- Doctor Who has seen multiple Doctors return on-screen for various adventures, showcasing the Doctor’s long-spanning lifetimes and the complexities of time travel.
- David Tennant’s upcoming return as the fourteenth incarnation in the 60th anniversary special will be the first time a Doctor regenerates into a previous incarnation, expanding the timeline and possibilities of the show.
- While some Doctors have crossed paths with each other for the sake of the universe, these encounters are usually brief, and old faces can and will continue to return in the vast universe of Doctor Who.
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From 1963 to the present, Doctor Who has seen thirteen different incarnations of the Doctor, and due to the complications of time travel, he has returned on multiple occasions. Over the years, different Doctors have reappeared on-screen for a multitude of adventures, constantly reminding audiences of the Doctor’s long-spanning lifetimes. Even with the possibility of a paradox, several Doctors have crossed paths with one another for the sake of the universe, although these adventures don’t often last very long.
With the confirmation of David Tennant’s (the Tenth Doctor) return as the fourteenth incarnation in the 60th anniversary special, audiences will experience a Doctor regenerating back into a previous incarnation for the first time ever. It is not, however, the first time a Doctor has returned to the show outside their original era. The Doctor’s timeline is complicated, and it will only expand with Doctor Who season 14. Although the universe is a big place, old faces can, and will, return.
11 First Doctor: 4 Times
The First Doctor’s initial appearance was in An Unearthly Child, which aired in November 1963. The First Doctor was originally played by William Hartnell up until the Doctor’s first regeneration in 1966, after four seasons in the role. Hartnell then reprised the role for the special “The Three Doctors,” celebrating the 10th anniversary of the show. After his death, the character was recast, played by Richard Hurndall in the 1983 special “The Five Doctors,” and by David Bradley in the 2017 episodes “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon A Time,” as well as a cameo as one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s Guardians of the Edge in the episode “The Power of the Doctor.“
10 Second Doctor: 3 Times
Lasting three regular seasons airing from 1966 to 1969, the role of the Second Doctor was played by Patrick Troughton. Troughton’s era of Doctor Who holds the record for the most missing episodes, with 59 episodes still unfound. His last regular appearance was in the episode “The War Games” in 1969, when the Doctor was exiled to twentieth-century Earth by the Time Lords and forced to regenerate. Troughton reprised the role of the Second Doctor on three occasions: the 10th anniversary episode “The Three Doctors,” the 20th anniversary episode “The Five Doctors,” and the 1985 special “The Two Doctors.”
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9 Third Doctor: 2 Times
The Third Doctor’s era lasted across five seasons, airing from 1970 to 1974, and was played by Jon Pertwee. Pertwee was the first Doctor to be broadcast in colour, in the 1970 episode “Spearhead from Space.” Audiences at the time were surprised by Pertwee’s casting, having previously cemented his career as a dramatic performer. The Third Doctor’s era ended with the episode “Planet of the Spiders” alongside companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), who continued to travel with him into his fourth incarnation. The Third Doctor returned on-screen in two instances, the 20th anniversary episode “The Five Doctors,” and the 30th anniversary special “Dimensions in Time.”
8 Fourth Doctor: 3 Times
Lasting seven consecutive seasons, Tom Baker, played the Fourth Doctor from 1974 to 1981. As the Fourth Doctor, Baker is the longest-serving actor to play the Time Lord, across both the classic and modern eras of the show. The Fourth Doctor did appear in “The Five Doctors,” although this incarnation didn’t cross paths with any other Doctor, and the footage used had been taken from the unfinished “Shada” story. He also starred in “Dimensions in Time” special. Baker was also the only classic era Doctor to appear in the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” as the museum’s curator, making vague implications as to whether he was or was not the Doctor.
7 Fifth Doctor: 2 Times
Peter Davison’s run as the Fifth Doctor lasted three seasons, only spanning from 1982 to 1984. The Fifth Doctor’s era came to an end as he sacrificed himself to save companion Peri (Nicola Bryant), before regenerating. Davison’s first reprisal of the role was in the 2007 special “Time Crash,” opposite David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor), set moments before that year’s festive special “Voyage of the Damned.” This special was the first instance of a classic-era Doctor and a modern-era Doctor crossing paths. Following this, the Fifth Doctor then had one more on-screen cameo, as one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s Guardians of the Edge.
6 Sixth Doctor: 2 Times
From 1984 to 1986, the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor was portrayed by Colin Baker, and due to a BBC hiatus, only appeared in eight stories (each story split into four episode chunks) altogether. While traveling with Mel, the TARDIS is attacked by the Rani, leaving the Doctor injured and leading to his regeneration, although it was never explicitly explained on-screen what exactly caused it. The Sixth Doctor appeared in the “Dimensions in Time” special in 1993, and once again in the Thirteenth Doctor’s mind in the episode “The Power of the Doctor.”
Related: Doctor Who: Every Doctor & Who Played Them (In Chronological Order)
5 Seventh Doctor: 2 Times
Sylvester McCoy took over the role of the Doctor in 1987, up until the show’s cancelation in 1989, lasting for only three seasons. This incarnation was not seen on-screen again until the 1996 Doctor Who television movie while transporting the remains of the Master from Skaro back to Gallifrey. His appearance did not last long however, as the Master took control of the TARDIS and crashed, and upon stepping out of the TARDIS, the Doctor was caught in a gang shooting, causing him to regenerate. The only other appearance of the Seventh Doctor was in “The Power of the Doctor,” where an aged version of him appeared in the Thirteenth Doctor’s mind.
Related: All 8 Times Doctor Who Survived Being Canceled
4 Eighth Doctor: 2 Times
The Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann, only holds one story from his official era. The 1996 Doctor Who television movie aired seven years after Doctor Who‘s cancelation, and no regeneration was seen on-screen until 2013. The Eighth Doctor first returned to Doctor Who in the minisode “The Night of the Doctor,” a prologue to the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor,” which introduced The War Doctor (John Hurt). McGann’s Eighth Doctor made yet another return alongside several of his predecessors when appearing before Jodie Whittaker’s soon-to-regenerate Doctor as a Guardian of the Edge in “The Power of the Doctor.”
3 Ninth Doctor: None
Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor is the only Doctor to not return to the franchise on-screen. The first Doctor to be introduced in the 2005 reboot, Nine only lasted twelve episodes, before sacrificing his life to save Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), who had absorbed the time vortex into her mind. Eccleston left Doctor Who after one season, citing creative differences with the BBC as being one reason for stepping away. Eccleston still has a good relationship with Doctor Who, and frequently stars in the Big Finish audios, but has made it clear in interviews that he is unlikely to reprise the role.
2 Tenth Doctor: 2 Times
The most featured Doctor post the 2005 reboot, David Tennant’s original era spanned from 2006 to 2010, before regenerating in order to save the life of Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins). The Tenth Doctor lasted for three regular seasons and one season of specials before Tennant stepped away along with Russell T. Davies, who was replaced by Steven Moffat as Showrunner. The Tenth Doctor returned to screens in the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor,” opposite Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor) and John Hurt (The War Doctor). Tennant is set to reprise the role of the Doctor once more in the 60th anniversary special, this time as the fourteenth incarnation of the Time Lord.
1 Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Doctor: None
The three most recent incarnations of the Doctor (Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, and Jodie Whittaker, chronologically) are yet to make a reappearance in their respective roles. It could be argued that the Eleventh Doctor did return in Capaldi’s first episode, “Deep Breath” after he calls Clara (Jenna Coleman) in an attempt to convince her that the Twelfth Doctor was in fact him. Both Smith and Whittaker have spoken about being open to returning in the future, although nothing has been written as such, whereas Capaldi has ruled out a Doctor Who return, stating that despite being a long-time fan and getting the chance to play his dream role, has done his time.