Daleks, the TARDIS
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Who Played the Doctor Longest?
Whilst debating the relative contribution to Doctor Who by David Tennant, it suddenly became apparent that if you count The Parting of the Ways as the beginning of Tennant's tenure, then he's 2nd longest in the role. Unlike his Doctor I bloody love lists, so here are lots of them which poke around thie subject.

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  So, this page sets about the question of who was Doctor Who 'the longest'? Well, the sensible answer is of course Tom Baker. But there are various different ways that this question can be defined so, for a lark, I thought I'd answer the question in a variety of different ways.

'The Longest' on TV whilst in Production

1 Tom Baker 6 years 9 months
2 David Tennant  4 years 6 months
3 Jon Pertwee 4 years 4 months
4 Colin Baker 3 years 6 months*
5 Peter Davison 3 years 1 month
6 William Hartnell 2 years 11 months
7 Patrick Troughton 2 years 5 months
8 Sylvester McCoy 2 years 2 months
9 Matt Smith ... ongoing
10 Christopher Eccleston 3 months
11 Paul McGann One Night!

This list is probably the most technically correct answer. It shows the length of time each actor was in the role from the moment he first appeared on screen, to the broadcast of the episode in which he was replaced - therefore the length of time they were 'officially' the Doctor in the minds of the public. However, it excludes the long periods between 1989 and 2005 when the show was effectively cancelled since this wouldn't be a true reflection of an actor playing an 'ongoing' character. One thing of course which does skew the list slightly is the fact that the 6th Doctor went on hiatus, and then was not regenerated using Colin Baker himself.


'The Longest' from First Contract to Last Episode

1 Tom Baker 6 years 10 months
2 Jon Pertwee 5 years exactly
3 David Tennant 4 years 8 months
4 Peter Davison 3 years 4 months
5 William Hartnell 3 years 3 months
6 Sylvester McCoy 2 years 9 months
7 Patrick Troughton 2 years 8 months
8 Colin Baker 2 years 8 months*
9 Matt Smith ... ongoing
10 Christopher Eccleston 1 year 3 months
11 Paul McGann 4 months

This list factors-in when an actor was first signed up for the role, and ends when they last appeared on screen - therefore more accurate to the realities of their service to the programme. Once again Colin Baker complicates matters with the hiatus, but this is offset against the long gap between him leaving the show and his 'fake' regeneration. The long periods of the cancellation of the show is once again excluded, however Paul McGann's tenure starts with his official casting.


'The Longest' - First Appearance to Replacement

1 Paul McGann 8 years 10 months
2 Sylvester McCoy 8 years 8 months
3 Tom Baker 6 years 9 months
4 David Tennant  4 years 6 months
5 Jon Pertwee 4 years 4 months
6 Colin Baker 3 years 6 months
7 Peter Davison 3 years 1 month
8 William Hartnell 2 years 11 months
9 Patrick Troughton 2 years 5 months
10 Matt Smith ... ongoing
1 Christopher Eccleston 3 months

In strict terms of duration, from the moment they began until the moment they were replaced, this is the most ironic list. Those Doctors which contributed the least to the show were technically the official Doctor for the longest.


'The Longest' in Terms of Actual Duration of TV

1 Tom Baker 178 episodes
2 William Hartnell 135 episodes
3 Jon Pertwee 128 episodes
4 Patrick Troughton 119 episodes
5 David Tennant 105 episodes*
6 Peter Davison 74 episodes*
7 Colin Baker 44 episodes*
8 Sylvester McCoy 42 episodes
9 Christopher Eccleston 26 episodes*
10 Paul McGann 4 episodes*
11 Matt Smith 0 episodes

This list assumes that 'one episode' is roughly equivalent to the 24 minute format - and bearing in mind that when a standard episode has its opening titles, end credits and recap removed, they can run nearly as short as 20 minutes. The asterisked Doctors have had some equivalency conversion done on this basis.


How Long Are the Special Episodes?

The Five Doctors 90 mins 4 episodes
The TV Movie 90 mins 4 episodes
The Christmas Invasion 60 mins 3 episodes
The Runaway Bride 60 mins 3 episodes
Voyage of the Damned 72 mins 3 episodes
Journey's End 65 mins 3 episodes
The Next Doctor 60 mins 3 episodes
Planet of the Dead 60 mins 3 episodes
The Waters of Mars 60 mins 3 episodes
The End of Time Pt 1 + 2 135 mins 6 episodes

If we assume that the average Doctor Who episode with it's beginning titles, end credits, and recap removed, amounts to something in the region of 22.5 minutes, then this is how the atypical stories from the past have measured up to the traditional episode lengths. This is not an exact science, so an hour long special can just about be treated as 3 x 20 minutes (then add generous recap, titles and credits), but also the 72-minute Voyage of the Damned has to fall into this category because it more closely matches 3 x 24 minutes.