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The Many Lives of 'Doctor Who'

Now that Matt Smith has taken over the venerable British sci-fi series, we look back at the previous actors who held the prestigious title

By Kurt Geltz
Parallel Universe/MSN TV

At the beginning of 2010, the world watched "Doctor Who" fall while saving the world from his long-running nemesis, the Master, and the evil manipulations of the Time Lords. His injuries were fatal but he was allowed to say his goodbyes to former companions and friends before meeting his end, leaving fans of the long running sci-fi series to exclaim, "Long live the Doctor!"

Ever since its creation in 1963, "Doctor Who" has found a way to extend the longevity of the program and to deal with what other shows might call the "staffing issue." Producers decided that the Doctor, being a 900-plus-year-old, time-traveling alien, could regenerate anytime he's near death. So far, there have been 11 actors who have played the esteemed Time Lord over the years. David Tennant, an avowed fan himself, announced he was leaving in 2008 and made a series of specials in 2010 to help close out his character's run in the Doctor's time-traveling spaceship, the TARDIS. Viewers who tuned into Tennant's swan song in the holiday special "The End of Time" saw the 10th Doctor regenerate into the 11th, played by a relatively unknown Matt Smith. At the time fans were wondering: Will Smith be a capable replacement for the popular Tennant? Will he be able to live up to the legacy that came before him? Smith had big shoes to fill, not mention the overcoat, the occasional hat and the ridiculously long scarf. The answer, as fans found out, was a resounding "YES" as Matt Smith charmed and delighted with his version of the Doctor. But to fully understand the Doctor and his place in the hallowed halls of sci-fi, we wish to revisit the men who have had "Doctor" in front of their "Who."

('Doctor Who'/BBC America/Everett Collection)

 
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