What These Doctor Who Actors Look Like Today

When "Doctor Who" first premiered more than half a century ago on November 23, 1963, no one could have predicted just how long the show would last or how beloved it would become. It's had some of the most famous actors in the world appear in its stories and has created just as many stars all on its own, many of whom have their own fantastic stories to tell. 

With nearly 40 seasons telling just about 300 stories across almost 1,000 episodes, it would be impossible to highlight the careers of every incredible actor who has starred in the series, so this will be a curated list of both recent and exceptional highlights. Many fans of "Doctor Who" know these characters' stories inside and out, but it's often just as fun and rewarding to discover the story of the person who played them before, during, and after they left the show. Here is what some of the most prominent "Doctor Who" actors look like today.

Tom Baker: The Fourth Doctor

Before Tom Baker began pursuing acting at 22, he had already performed his national services within the Royal Army Medical Corps and trained as a priest for six years before that. After studying acting in college, he worked his way from stage plays to television appearances and several key film roles. However, by the time he was cast as the Fourth Doctor, he was a crewman on a construction site due to a lack of work. 

Baker holds the record for playing the longest-running Doctor, eschewing the three-year rule that many of his fellow Doctors followed and starring for seven years across just as many seasons. Even now he remains one the most popular and famous Doctors in its history.

After Baker left "Doctor Who," he went on to a number of prestigious roles. Baker played Sherlock Holmes in a four-part 1982 BBC production of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and appeared as Puddleglum in a 1990 TV adaptation of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" novel "The Silver Chair," although he never escaped the character he is best known for. 

As he got older, Tom Baker shifted his focus to vocal performances to great success, providing voiceover and narration for many British programs and reprising his role as the Fourth Doctor in full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish Productions. He has even hopped the pond to voice characters like the enigmatic Bendu for Disney's "Star Wars: Rebels" animated series.  

Elisabeth Sladen: Sarah Jane Smith

Just like the classic series had its premiere Doctor, so too did it have a fan-favorite companion in Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith. She first appeared in the show as the final traveling companion of Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor and stayed when Tom Baker replaced him in 1974. Though she was already quite popular, Sladen's time with Baker's Fourth Doctor is what fans would remember her best for, and the pair would become known as the definitive TARDIS team. 

After Sladen left the show in 1976, she returned to stage work for a few years and then television after that until her daughter, Sadie, was born in 1985, after which she went into semi-retirement, as remembered by The Independent. She returned to acting through voice work, which included a reprisal of her "Doctor Who" role for Big Finish Productions' series of "Sarah Jane Smith" audio dramas. 

When "Doctor Who" returned in 2005, Sladen returned as Sarah Jane yet again in the Season 2 episode, "School Reunion," alongside David Tennant's Tenth Doctor. This ultimately served as a back-door pilot for a more child-friendly "Doctor Who" spin-off called "The Sarah Jane Adventures." The series was a hit and lasted for four seasons until Sladen unexpectedly passed away in 2011 due to cancer, leading the BBC to cancel all plans for its fifth season.  

Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy: The Last Classic Doctors

Though they never worked together in the show, the classic series' final three Doctors have since become a trio in their own right. Peter Davison, famous for "All Creatures Great and Small," was cast as Tom Baker's replacement at the age of 29, making him the youngest actor to play the Doctor until Matt Smith usurped him in 2011. Fearing he would be typecast if he stayed too long, Davison left the show and was replaced by Colin Baker, an unexpected choice due to his previous appearance on the show and his history of playing villains. 

Armed with a rainbow-colored costume, Baker's arrogant Sixth Doctor was unpopular and ultimately fired after his second full season due to behind-the-scenes drama at the BBC. Sylvester McCoy, a comedic entertainer, was cast as Colin's replacement and played the Seventh Doctor until the show's cancellation in 1989, though many know him better today as the wizard "Radagast the Brown" from Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" trilogy. 

The three went on to successful careers in plays, television, and film, but they cemented their status as a trio by being the first actors to reprise their roles as the Doctor for Big Finish Productions in 1999. They premiered in a multi-doctor story and have appeared many times together since in audio dramas, on stage at conventions, and most notably on screen in 2013's "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot," their hilarious parody of the BBC's 50th-anniversary celebrations. 

Christopher Eccleston: The Ninth Doctor

Born into a working-class family, Christopher Eccleston attended drama school while working odd jobs and performing on stage wherever he could. He struggled to get his foot in the door until the 1991 film "Let Him Have It," which helped him become a household name when he secured a recurring role in "Our Friends in the North." 

By the time he became the Ninth Doctor in the 2005 "Doctor Who" revival, he was well known for a variety of successful roles on stage, film, and television. Unfortunately, though his time as the Doctor cemented the new series' ultimate success, behind-the-scenes drama led to his departure from the show after only one season. 

Though it's unknown exactly what happened behind the scenes, it led to Christopher Eccleston's blacklisting from the BBC. These circumstances led him to focus more on stage plays and to take on roles in Hollywood blockbusters like 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," an experience that Eccleston described to The Guardian as "horrendous."

After starring roles across three seasons of HBO's hit series "The Leftovers," tensions at the BBC seemed to cool, and he returned to the UK and gained great acclaim for his role as Maurice Scott in the BBC drama "The A Word" from 2017 through 2020. He also starred in a number of productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company and has even reprised his role as the Ninth Doctor in Big Finish Productions audio dramas. 

Billie Piper: Rose Tyler, the Bad Wolf

Offered a record deal at the age of 15, Billie Piper's first two singles, "Because We Want To" and "Girlfriend," both debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart, leading to a music career that spanned two albums and multiple tours until she left the stage in 2001. Because of this, when the BBC announced in 2004 that Piper would play Rose Tyler, the first companion of the revived "Doctor Who" series, some were skeptical of the former pop idol's acting chops.

However, Piper received broad acclaim for her role across the show's first two seasons and has returned to it several times in subsequent years. After she left, she was cast as Hannah Baxter, the lead role of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," a series based on the memoir, "The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl," whose identity was still secret when the series began. 

Perhaps her most celebrated achievement, however, was her lead role in the 2016 production of "Yerma." Her appearance was so devastatingly good that she won all six of the significant British theatrical best actress awards for that one performance, including the famed Olivier Award, as noted by The Independent. Since then, she has also co-created and starred in the first season of the critically acclaimed Sky Atlantic television series titled "I Hate Suzie."

David Tennant: The Tenth Doctor

Inspired by his intense childhood love of "Doctor Who," David Tennant aggressively pursued a career in acting until, after appearing in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" as Barty Crouch Jr, he was cast as the Tenth Doctor in 2005. He played the character for three seasons and is one of the most popular Doctors the series has ever had. 

Since leaving the show, David Tennant has capitalized on that newfound fame and crafted one of the most impressive acting careers on this list. He starred in the critically acclaimed ITV crime drama "Broadchurch" from 2013 to 2017, appeared in "Good Omens" in 2019, scared viewers as the demented Killgrave in Netflix's "Jessica Jones" and as the Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen in "Des." He has also worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, receiving praise for his various turns as "Hamlet" and "Richard II." 

He's also worked extensively as a voice actor, playing the ancient Jedi droid Huyang in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," Scrooge McDuck in the 2017 "DuckTales" reboot, and Loki in Audible's audio drama production of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman." Tennant used his free time during the pandemic to create an original series with Michael Sheen titled "Staged" while also starting a podcast titled "David Tennant Does a Podcast With..." which has featured the likes of Ian McKellen, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jodie Whittaker. 

Freema Agyeman: Dr. Martha Jones

Born and raised in London, Freema Agyeman began her acting career after studying drama at Middlesex University, as noted by The Guardian. Her first major television role was as Lola Wise in a revival of the "Crossroads" soap opera in 2001. Agyeman appeared in several other minor television roles, one of which was a small role in the "Doctor Who" second season finale in 2006 as a technician named Adeola Oshodi

Agyeman got this role after going for several different parts in both "Doctor Who" and Season 1 of "Torchwood." Her auditions were so impressive that they made her the lead candidate for Rose Tyler's replacement after Billie Piper left the series. In 2006, she was announced as medical student Martha Jones, the Doctor's next companion for the revived series' third season. Agyeman was the primary companion for only that season, but she returned multiple times, guest-starring across episodes of both "Torchwood" and the fourth season of "Doctor Who" alongside Catherine Tate's Donna Noble. 

Her first significant role after leaving "Doctor Who" was as Tattycoram in "Little Dorrit" on the BBC, and her next was as Crown Prosecutor Alesha Phillips in "Law and Order: UK." Agyeman starred in this series for its first three seasons before going on to great acclaim on "Sense8" as Amanita Caplan and "New Amsterdam" as Dr. Helen Sharpe. 

Catherine Tate: Donna Noble

Interested in acting from a young age, Catherine Tate studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama before beginning a career in comedy. As her stand-up comedy career grew, she had appearances on several dramas, comedies, and late-night sketch shows. She eventually expanded her focus with some astounding appearances at the Edinburgh Film Festival and worked on several productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

These helped Tate get noticed by the then BBC controller of comedy, Geoffrey Perkins, as remembered by The Guardian, who cleared the way for the actress to get her own comedy series titled "The Catherine Tate Show." As a popular figure, "Doctor Who" fans were thrilled to see her as a celebrity guest star in the 2006 Christmas Special, "The Runaway Bride." When a new companion was needed for the new show's fourth series, they brought her character, Donna Noble, back to play the role. 

After Tate left the show alongside David Tennant in 2010, she appeared in several roles both onscreen and onstage, including the role of Nellie Bertram in the final few seasons of the US version of "The Office." Since then, she's been seen in several TV shows, revived the "The Catherine Tate Show Live" as a live performance series, and voiced the villainous Magica De Spell in the DuckTales reboot. 

Matt Smith: The Eleventh Doctor

Though Matt Smith is now a beloved actor and Doctor, he almost never went into acting at all. An astounding footballer, Smith eschewed acting in hopes of going pro and only stopped after a serious back injury ended his career prematurely. Still relatively uninterested in acting, his drama teacher began signing him up for plays and drama festivals until he finally fell in love with the profession. 

After several of his plays in college earned him an agent, Smith landed a variety of television roles before catching the new "Doctor Who" showrunner Steven Moffat's eye during auditions. Only 26 at the time, Smith was the youngest actor to ever play or be cast as the Doctor. Due to his relative inexperience and obscurity, many were unconvinced that he could adequately handle the role of the ancient Time Lord, but after several seasons and multiple specials, Matt Smith is now one of the most celebrated Doctors to ever star in the series. 

Since leaving "Doctor Who," Smith's most acclaimed role was his time as Prince Philip in Netflix's "The Crown, though he also appeared in a number of other plays, series, and films, including "Last Night in Soho," "Terminator Genisys," and "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." He is currently set to play major roles in several heavily anticipated projects, including the Game of Thrones prequel series "House of the Dragon" and "Morbius," a film about the Spider-Man villain of the same name. 

Karen Gillan: Amy Pond

Scottish actress Karen Gillan left a short-lived modeling career to pursue a career that led her to several minor supporting and ensemble roles across television. These included her appearance as a Roman priestess in "The Fires of Pompeii" during the fourth season of "Doctor Who" with David Tennant, Catherine Tate, and future Doctor Peter Capaldi. Gilian was cast as the new companion, Amy Pond, alongside Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill, and played the character for two-and-a-half seasons of the beloved series. 

Of all the people on this list, Gillan has had one of the most lucrative careers after leaving "Doctor Who." One of the first roles she landed was Nebula, the daughter of Thanos, in James Gunn's hit "Guardians of the Galaxy," a role that led to her nomination for several awards across the character's many film appearances. She also scored a leading role in the "Jumanji" reboot series of films alongside Dwayne Johnson and recently starred as the main lead of Netflix's action film "Gunpowder Milkshake." 

Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams

After attending drama school and achieving some critical success in the theater, Arthur Darvill got his first big break playing a nurse named Rory Williams across the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons of "Doctor Who" alongside his former stage co-star, Matt Smith. Though his character only met one version of the Doctor onscreen, Darvill himself has worked with a surprising number of them. 

Once he left the show, his next major role was as Paul Coates in "Broadchurch," a drama series created by future "Doctor Who" showrunner Chris Chibnall that starred both the former Tenth Doctor, David Tennant and the future Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. After this, he starred as DC Comic's famous time traveler, Rip Hunter, across the first three seasons of "DC's Legends of Tomorrow." 

Darvill has also maintained a music career as a composer alongside his various acting roles, creating the score for a 2008 play called "The Frontline" and writing a musical version of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" alongside playwright Sam Holcroft in 2016, among other projects. Darvill has since returned to record "Doctor Who" audio dramas with Big Finish Productions

Jenna Coleman: Clara Oswald

Jenna Coleman's career started strong when she was nominated for multiple awards for her performance as Jasmine Thomas in "Emmerdale Farm." She then appeared in shows such as "Waterloo Road," a four-part "Titanic" miniseries, and even landed a minor role in "Captain America: The First Avenger." Following those parts, Coleman was cast as the new companion, Clara Oswald, after the fan-favorite Amy and Rory Pond left the show in 2012. Clara was the primary companion to Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor for half of Season 7 and the 50th anniversary special before joining Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor for Season 8 and 9. 

The BBC announcement that she was leaving the show in 2015 was followed two days later (via The Hollywood Reporter) by the news that she was cast as Queen Victoria herself in a new prestige drama from ITV titled "Victoria." Coleman played this role for every season of the show, and, in 2019, she was cast in a Netflix drama titled "The Serpent" that was released at the beginning of 2021 following pandemic-related delays. During that time, she also participated in "The Remote Read," a digital project designed to raise funds for theater workers impacted by the various lockdowns. 

Peter Capaldi: The Twelfth Doctor

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Peter Capaldi grew up watching the original seasons of the "Doctor Who" classic series. His childhood love of the program inspired him to pursue acting at the Glasgow School of Art, where he also helped create a small punk rock band called "The Dreamboys" alongside famous Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson. One of Capaldi's first achievements, a short film titled "Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life," netted him both an Oscar and a BAFTA in 1994. 

Though he has acted in a multitude of productions since 1983, Capaldi became a household name in the U.K. largely through his award-winning performance as the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in the BBC series, "The Thick of It." A long-time fan of "Doctor Who," Capaldi had already played two different characters in the show's universe before he was cast as the Twelfth Doctor. He played a Roman man in a David Tennant episode from Season 4 as well as a tortured civil servant named John Frobisher in the show's adult-oriented spin-off, "Torchwood." 

After playing the Twelfth Doctor for several years, Capaldi left the show in 2017 and went on to star in a number of prominent minor roles. He was Mr. Curry in both "Paddington" films, the Rabbit in "Christopher Robin, and the Thinker in James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad." His lead role in his latest project, however, "The Devil's Hour," has reunited him with former "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock" showrunner Steven Moffatt. 

Pearl Mackie: Bill Potts

After graduating from the University of Bristol with a drama degree in 2010, Pearl Mackie went on to perform in a number of stage plays and television series, including the role of Anne-Marie Frasier in the show "Doctors." While working as an acting tutor for children and young adults with a company called "Troupers," Pearl Mackie was cast as Bill Potts, the new traveling companion of Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor. Bill made history as the show's first LGBTQ+ companion, and Mackie's performance earned her a nomination for the TV Times' favorite newcomer award. 

Most of Mackie's career has taken place in the theater, and this has held true both before and after her time on "Doctor Who." After leaving the show in 2017, Mackie has continued to appear in roles on stage, film, and television, including a production of Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party" alongside Stephen Mangan, Toby Jones, and Zoë Wanamaker.