Which incarnation of the doctor had the longest reign?

To measure this we are counting movies as being 2 episodes (equivalent to a two part episode).

  • 1
    This is easily answered by checking IMDB.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 23:04
  • 1
    "To measure this we are counting movies as being 2 episodes." I'm not sure this is the best metric. Why not corridors run down? Times the TARDIS landed in an unexpected place? Planets saved from certain doom? Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 23:12
  • @dmckee = without knowing anything about Dr. Who, the usual rule of thumb is movie (~1.5-2hrs) is 2x longer than an episode (~45-60mm), so counts for 2 episodes. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 23:59
  • @DVK-in-exile Dr Who is more complicated than the average show: 263 serials over 35 seasons in 826 episodes, most of which were 25 minutes long.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


Tom Baker

173 episodes, 1974-1981


The next closest was William Hartnell at 137 episodes.

While David Tennant was in 48 episodes and Matt Smith is closing in at 31.

  • You get the check for providing the numbers :D
    – Ashterothi
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 22:25

I believe that would be the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker from 1974 to 1981.

He shows up, uncredited, in Planet of the Spiders(Season 11) and remains the Doctor until Logopolis (season 18.)

Ignoring any return appearances during later Doctor's times, I believe he was the Doctor for 42 full serials, or 172 episodes. (1 more if you include his appearance in Planet of Spiders, and 1 serial/5 episodes if you count 'Shada', which never aired.)

  • How are you counting footage from Shada that appears in The Five Doctors (in the first and last episodes, if I recall).
    – supercat
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 22:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.