Time is abstract. In Doctor Who doubly so.
We've had over a dozen actors play the role over 55 years, though the Time Lord's age far exceeds that – and by some stretch.
So we got to thinking: which Doctor is actually the longest-lived within the show, ie which one stayed as he was for the most amount of time?
We're not taking into account any ages given in the numerous comics, books and audios – life's complicated enough, and they often contradict the show itself.
Speaking of which, the show even manages to get it wrong, but, as former showrunner Steven Moffat has said, even the Doctor doesn't know how old he is. So let's not get too caught up.
We've not counted Jodie Whittaker's era yet because it's not over.
13. Christopher Eccleston, The Ninth Doctor – one year
During the Slitheen invasion, Eccleston's Time Lord tells companion Rose (played by Billie Piper) that he's 900 years old.
Already this is problematic, mainly because he already passed that milestone in his sixth incarnation (see below). Reverse engineering by studying the chap that followed him, David Tennant, would tell us that Eccles was around for pretty much the length of time we saw him on screen.
12. Peter Davison, The Fifth Doctor – three years
Using some guesstimation work now.
During the Fifth Doctor's era, he never actually gives his age, so this immediately causes a headache.
But we can get all Sherlock and deduce some things: Davison played out three years as the Time Lord and he's never on his own (and there are no onscreen references to him hopping off for solo adventures).
Human companion Tegan stays with him for most of his time in the TARDIS and she doesn't age noticeably. There is the possibility that at the end of his first year (when Tegan takes a cliffhanger break) that he travels with the alien Nyssa for many years (as we don't know her physiognomy we can't say how she ages) or similarly with boy from Trion, Turlough – but we think this is highly unlikely and implausible.
So let's just go for three years.
11. Patrick Troughton, The Second Doctor – three years
Troughton spends almost all his time with Scottish highlander Jamie McCrimmon and, like Tegan, there's no visible ageing. Again it's possible, however unlikely, that he popped off alone for dozens of years between adventures but as it's never mentioned we have to assume it didn't happen.
Also, it could be that at the end of his finale, 'The War Games' (where his appearance was to be changed by the Time Lords), he didn't regenerate straight away and spent years travelling. It is possible, but unlikely.
As on screen, the Second Doctor spent about three years in the TARDIS.
10. David Tennant, The Tenth Doctor – five years
David Tennant's Doctor stated categorically that he was 903 years old (whilst on board the Starship Titanic in 'Voyage of the Damned'). This was after two full seasons on the show including a finale where he spent a year imprisoned by his nemesis, The Master (played by John Simm).
Which suggests that Ten started at the 901 mark. Come his finale, 'The End of Time', and we're given another specific age, this time 906. Categorical fact.
9. Sylvester McCoy, The Seventh Doctor – nine years
Here's some timey-wimey shenanigans for you.
When number seven rolled up in 1987, he claimed he was 953 years old. Can you see a problem here?
Yes. He appears to lose years over the course of the show. This one is tricky but let's plump for nine years, as this was actually how long McCoy portrayed the Doctor on screen (granted, for most of it, Doctor Who wasn't on telly).
8. Paul McGann, The Eighth Doctor – 17 years
Again, more spurious pinning the tail on the donkey.
We just don't know how old he was when he started or left. But, given the change in appearance between his 1996 debut in the TV movie and the 2013 mini-ep 'The Night of the Doctor' in 2013, let's just go for 17.
He may have only had one official adventure (and the mini-ep), but that doesn't mean he didn't get up to loads of capers off camera between them.
7. John Hurt, The War Doctor – 34 years
With no real markers to gauge his age this is another toughie. We would have assumed the Time War went on for millennia but as his successor, the Ninth Doctor, states he is 900 there's not much leeway.
If we judge him on how he looked when Eight regenerated into him in 'The Night of the Doctor' and his reappearance in the 'The Name of the Doctor' then we can make the Earthly assumption that it's 34 years.
Why? The image of actor John Hurt in the former is from a 1979 production of Crime and Punishment. Tenuous? Maybe. But that's all we've got.
6. Colin Baker, The Sixth Doctor – 53 years
This one we can be fairly sure of.
During his time in a garishly-coloured coat, he stated his age was 900 on a number of occasions (thus making the Ninth Doctor's claim confusing and annoying). Upon regenerating into number seven, in 1987's 'Time and the Rani', the Gallifreyan claims he is 953.
There you go, nice and simple. 53 years in that coat... *Shudders*.
5. Tom Baker, The Fourth Doctor – 148 years
Into his second year of travelling with Sarah Jane, the renegade Time Lord tells her he's 749. A few years later we then get the claim from Romana that he's 759.
As the Fifth Doctor doesn't reveal his age, this makes some more supposition vital. As previously stated, we know the Sixth is 900 and we've calculated that Peter Davison's Doc was only about a three-year deal, hence the figure we've come to here.
During his time, the Fourth Doctor travelled alone twice – allowing for many unseen adventures – and could have also had even more further adventures with fellow Gallifreyan Romana for multiple years.
4. Jon Pertwee, The Third Doctor – 295 years
OK, some absolute guesswork here.
Despite claiming he was "several thousand years" old at this point, we have to look to years we know to be fact: the First Doctor was around 449 when he regenerated and the Fourth was around 750.
That leaves about 300 years for the Second and Third Doctors. You'll have read what we allocated to the former, leaving the rest for the latter.
3. William Hartnell, The First Doctor – 449 years
The original had been kicking around for some time before the BBC caught up with him when he landed in London, Earth back in 1963.
Although Hartnell's Doc never reveals his actual age, his successor did reveal that he was "about" 450 in 'The Tomb of the Cybermen'. This was a year or so into his travels so we've decided 449-ish for the First Doctor.
2. Matt Smith, The Eleventh Doctor – 1,100 years
Shortly into his tenure, Matt Smith's youngest ever Doctor revealed he was 907.
By the time he's done with his "farewell tour" in series 6 and spent hundreds of years on Trenzalore (and visibly aged too) he's around 2,000.
Not bad for a young lad.
1. Peter Capaldi, The Twelfth Doctor – 4.5 billion years
There are two schools of thought here. Either:
1) Twelve spent four and a half billion years in the Confession Dial trying to break out, as seen at the end of Capaldi's second season in charge of the TARDIS.
2) Given that they might be fairly termed "virtual years", and given that the Doctor technically died and was copied many, many times in the Confession Dial, that might be a cheat (though he does state that he remembers each one, so...)
We do know, however, that he hid for 139 years in a stasis chamber in the 2015 two-parter 'Under the Lake' / 'Before the Flood'. He spent a night on Darillium with River Song, which equated to 24 years, and he taught for 50 years at St Luke's University. This makes the Twelfth Doctor's time around 214 years, placing him ahead of the Fourth Doctor.
We've gone for number one as, frankly, 4.5 billion years is much more impressive.
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