All 13 seasons of Doctor Who ranked from worst to best
As Russell T Davies ushers in a new era of Doctor Who with Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor, we ranked all 13 seasons of the rebooted sci-fi series so far.
If there is one thing Whovians are known for, it’s being fiercely protective of their favourite Doctor.
Since Christopher Eccleston came aboard the TARDIS as the ninth Doctor in the 2005 reboot, the coveted role has been passed on to David Tennant as the 10th (and 14th) Doctor, Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor, Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor and finally, Jodie Whittaker, who made history as the first female Doctor.
Over the past 18 years and counting, we’ve seen these five Time Lord incarnations travel through time and space defeating deadly threats and ferocious foes with the help of their ever-rotating list of human companions.
The below ranking follows the series as laid out on BBC iPlayer (including specials) and considers the most memorable episodes and moments, each respective Doctor’s impact within the breadth of the entire show, rewatchability levels, popularity among fans, and the nebulous category of vibes.
Allons-y! Or should we say Geronimo?
13. Season 10 (Peter Capaldi)
In final place is Peter Capaldi’s final season as the 12th Doctor, alongside companions Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas).
The inclusion of Little Britain’s Matt Lucas is probably the greatest factor in dragging this season down to the bottom of our ranking. Beyond that, not many of the episodes in this season have gone on to make their mark as undeniable classics or even come out as super memorable.
However, season 10 still does have its merit. There is no season of Doctor Who that is entirely not worth watching. Firstly, Bill is a fantastic companion and truly redeems this season with her gumption. And she even blessed queer Whovians with a sapphic romance that (sort of) gets a happy ending!
Despite Michelle Gomez and John Simm joining forces as different incarnations of the Master in “The Doctor Falls” and making for delightful onscreen chemistry, in the end – much like the TARDIS when it’s under attack – this season just didn’t land.
Best episode: “The Doctor Falls”
12. Season 11 (Jodie Whittaker)
Much like Capaldi, Whittaker’s first season as the Doctor has a couple of hits, but mostly consists of misses. The season struggled to weave in enough chemistry between the Doctor and her “fam”, making the relationships seem far more low stakes compared to previous duos.
There are some standout episodes such as “Demons of Punjab”, which offers rarely seen representation of the Partition on mainstream British TV, and we do get a chaotic sci-fi, and high-stakes, adventure with “Kerblam”.
On the other hand, given the lack of season arc, it is one of the lowest stakes finales in the show (a big departure from her other seasons), which adds to the troubles many fans had with this season.
Although season 11 didn’t contain Whittaker’s strongest episodes, as the first female Doctor her impact as a strong female role model for young people across the country is undeniable and deserves to be honoured for its place in TV history.
Best Episode: “Demons of Punjab”
11. Season 8 (Peter Capaldi)
Unfortunately, Peter Capaldi’s debut season opposite Clara (Jenna Coleman) is one of the more forgettable from the past 18 years.
There are definitely some solid moments throughout season eight, from Clara’s brilliant performance in “Deep Breath” as she processes the arrival of the new Doctor, and naturally Missy’s introduction is a true delight.
The season finale does a decent job at exploring themes around sudden death and existential doom after Clara’s boyfriend, Danny Pink, suddenly dies in “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”.
Otherwise, it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, with the occasional impactful moment scattered throughout episodes such as in the chilling stand-alone episode “Listen” and “Flatline” where Clara really comes into her own as she battles solo to save the Doctor.
Best Episode: “Deep Breath”
10. Season 7 (Matt Smith)
Matt Smith’s final season has major ups and downs. After the Ponds firmly cemented themselves in fans’ hearts, it was always going to be tricky handing the mantle over to a new companion (in this case, Clara).
There are some glorious moments in the season, not least the Doctor’s pathos-filled speech at the end of “The Rings of Akhaten”. Naturally, what makes this season particularly noteworthy is that the end coincided with the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”.
The multi-Doctor special, involving David Tennant, Matt Smith and fourth Doctor Tom Baker, brought in old and new audiences to celebrate the show’s mammoth legacy. And, of course, we saw the 11th Doctor regenerate in “The Time of the Doctor” which included a stunning final monologue from Smith.
Fans won’t be forgetting these pivotal episodes anytime soon.
Best Episode: “The Angels Take Manhattan”
9. Season 12 (Jodie Whittaker)
We’re back to Jodie Whittaker with her second season as the 13th Doctor. Quite honestly, this has one of the best season openers in a long while, with Sacha Dhawan truly standing out in his role as the Master in disguise.
The drama of his unveiling felt like a classic juicy Doctor Who reveal and the whole cast pulled together to deliver some great, thrill-inducing TV. Although the rest of the season is slightly rockier, we see the introduction of the Timeless Child arc and major discourse sparked over the “Orphan 55” episode after its controversial attempt to tackle the threat of the climate crisis.
In a refreshing change to previous seasons, Whittaker also manages to deliver her companions (Graham and Ryan) back home relatively unscathed so really, it gets points for venturing where few companion arcs have gone before.
And clearly it sparked some inspiration since the 60th anniversary followed its lead by giving Donna her happy ending.
Best Episode: “Spyfall Part 1 / Part 2”
8. Season 2 (David Tennant)
We can already hear angry fans hammering at the door for ranking Tennant’s second season so low, sorry not sorry! This season has some truly stellar episodes – for example, the existential nature of “The Impossible Planet” two-parter beautifully reflects on the place of faith and religion with in a sci-fi context.
We get werewolf Queen Victoria, the ever-iconic Cassandra, terrifying Cybermen, and “Love and Monsters” remains one of the most divisive episodes in NuWho history. No doubt, the tragic “Doomsday” finale – which sees Rose (Billie Piper) trapped in a parallel universe – will go down one of the most heartbreaking moments in the show’s history.
But it has its fair share of less impressive episodes (compared to higher ranking seasons), with a few worth a skip (I’m looking at you, “Fear Her”).
Best Episode: “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”
7. Season 6 (Matt Smith)
Forwarding the clock to season six, Matt Smith’s sophomore outing saw the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) go on some brilliant other-worldly adventures. This season thrives on the comfortable dynamic between the TARDIS team and we truly see the Doctor find his place among this unconventional little family – namely in becoming best friends with his mother-in-law and father-in-law
There’s the huge pay off for River’s (Alex Kingston) “spoilers” arc after the jaw-dropping mid-season finale and we even get Suranne Jones playing a sexy human version of the TARDIS.
Obviously we have the jump scare of yet another James Corden cameo in “Closing Time” and there are definitely more cringe (sorry, “Let’s Kill Hitler”) and forgettable moments (cough “The Curse of the Black Spot” cough) scattered throughout the season but overall, Smith continues to prove why he is so many Whovians’ favourite Doctor.
Best Episode: “A Good Man Goes to War”
6. Season 9 (Peter Capaldi)
Our highest ranking Peter Capaldi season has to be season nine. Clara and the Doctor have finally settled into a goregous dynamic that devles into romantic tension, processes the grief of last season’s finale and interplays fascinating power dynamics between the two.
There are some seriously excellent moments throughout, including Michelle Gomez continuing her devilishly chaotic turn as Missy. It also showcases Capaldi’s impressive acting talents, not least in what many tout as his magnum opus episode “Heaven Sent”, where his devotion to Clara is seen at its greatest height.
Meanwhile, Clara brings her all as she faces her death in “Face the Raven”, we get the return of fan-favourite Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) in “The Zygon Invasion”, a guest appearance from Maisie Williams and the highly anticipated ending to River and the Doctor’s time-bending love story in “The Husbands of River Song”.
Seaon nine includes plenty of rewatch material and marks the end of an era in many ways for the show, as we leave the one-companion life behind and say goodbye to River Song.
Best Episode: “Heaven Sent”
5. Season 13 (Jodie Whittaker)
Coming in strong at number five is Jodie Whittaker’s final season which centred around The Flux. Although a controversial inclusion so high up in the list, there is good reason for it (we promise)!
Firstly, it highlighted the best companion-Doctor relationship throughout Jodie’s entire run between the Doctor and Yaz. Although their story ended in heartbreak (to the disappointment of many), their yearning truly tugged at the heartstrings of viewers.
The season also had some standout episodes including the return of the Weeping Angels with “Village of the Angels”, a brilliant New Years special – “Eve of the Daleks” – starring the iconic Aisling Bea and the return of Sacha Dhawan as the Master in the fast-paced and cameo-filled season finale “The Power of the Doctor”.
Finally, love it or hate it, this season also properly fleshed out the Timeless Child arc which will remain a vital aspect in Russell T Davies’ new era, making it a pivotal arc within the Whoniverse.
Best Episode: “Eve of the Daleks”
4. Season 3 (David Tennant)
We are back with more David Tennant, this time his season with Martha Jones (Freema Ageyman). Not only did Martha make history as the first full-time Black companion (and facing vitriol from racist fans) but she proved all the bigots wrong by having a completely magnificent run.
We got Shakespeare, a platoon of Judoon on the moon and a guest appearance from Andrew Garfield, but what truly set this season apart was its second half, which has the most rewatchable run of episodes in a row.
Kicking off with the “Human Nature” two-parter, we hit NuWho’s most name-dropped episode “Blink”, capped off with an epic finale (starring John Simm as the deliciously mad Master) and some Kylie Minogue just in time for Christmas in “Voyage of the Damned”. What a time to be alive.
Best Episode: “Blink”
3. Season 1 (Christopher Eccleston)
It’s a no-brainer to include Christopher Eccleston’s first season as the Doctor in the top three. He magnificently helmed the reboot of the show in 2005, bringing an unparalleled grittiness to the Doctor that has rarely been seen again in the Whoniverse.
From the moment he grabbed Rose Tyler’s (Billie Piper) hand in the opening episode “Rose”, said “run” audiences everywhere knew Doctor Who was officially back.
Eccleston’s chemistry with Piper emanated from the screen and together they created arguably the best episode of NuWho – “Dalek” – which reintroduced the Doctor’s most notorious villain in an achingly human and layered episode.
We could go on forever about the spine-tingling moments in season one, from the psychological trauma of “Father’s Day” to the hilarity of the slitheens – it had something for everyone. Eccleston’s iteration was poignantly paid homage to in the stunning two-part finale that contained a tear-filled regeneration.
Best Episode: “Dalek”
2. Season 5 (Matt Smith)
We do not envy Matt Smith’s task of winning over the nation’s heart straight after David Tennant’s departure. It could have been all too easy for him to fall on his face and spell the death of Doctor Who.
Instead, not only did Smith entrance the vast majority of Whovians, but he delivered one of the best speeches in modern-Who history at the end of his debut episode “The Eleventh Hour”, perfectly set to Murray Gold’s theme tune “I am the Doctor”.
While Smith’s later episodes were more touch and go, season five contains back-to-back gems, tied together with a whimsical fairytale plotline.
And honestly, the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” entrance in the finale episode had 12-year-olds everywhere absolutely gagged.
This season also contains one of the most viral clips from the show, in which Vincent Van Gogh tears up hearing Bill Nighy wax lyrical about his legacy as one of the greatest painters of all time during “Vincent and the Doctor”. If you’re already going for a rewatch, make sure you have tissues at the ready!
Best Episode: “The Eleventh Hour”
1. Season 4 (David Tennant)
This is by far the most predictable season to top the list and with good reason. David Tennant’s final season as the 10th Doctor alongside companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) made for some of the most memorable episodes in the show’s history and incredible levels of rewatchability.
From the introduction of River Song in the heart-pounding “Silence in the Library” two-parter to magnificent stand-alone episodes such as “Midnight” and “Turn Left”, this is an almost no skips season (aside from “The Next Doctor”, sorry!).
To cap it all off, season four includes one of the most twisted (and creepy) episodes from the whole show, “The Waters of Mars”, plus Martha’s swan song and John Simm as the Master once again. 10/10, no notes.
No wonder fans were clamouring to see Tate and Tennant take over the screen again for the 60th anniversary specials!
Best Episode: “Midnight”
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