A long, long time ago, Patrick Troughton told Peter Davison that he should do about three years as The Doctor before moving on. Davison, at the time, was playing the Fifth Doctor, and Troughton had finished up his run as the Second Doctor back a decade prior. According to the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, this is about the right amount of time.
In fact, the average length of tenure for actors playing The Doctor is just under three years. That excludes Paul McGann and Tom Baker. Technically, McGann had about 90 minutes of screen time as the Eighth Doctor, and Baker spent seven years as the Fourth Doctor.
In truth, though, the years are not so important because unlike American television, British television can see a show have two seasons a year, sometimes, or one season every two years. For instance, Jon Pertwee may have done four years as The Doctor, but he did five seasons. Tennant did five years as The Doctor, but only did three seasons and four specials.
So, as word comes down that Matt Smith is stepping down as the Eleventh Doctor, fans are not only wondering who will be the next Doctor, but turning to some who once got the chance to play the role in the past.
Charles Webb at MTV Greek got to ask Colin Baker about the departure of Smith from the role that he played for two tumultuous years back in the 1980′s. Baker said “I hadn’t realized he’d done three years, which one tends to think is about the right length of time. I imagine there’s a lot of people clamoring for his services in other stuff and I know that he wants to direct–I’ve heard that. So I understand.” Still, Baker notes that, while people are going to be sad about Smith’s departure, fans should see it as “another stepping stone in the saga of ‘Doctor Who.’”
Baker has nothing but affection for Smith’s portrayal of The Doctor “I shall miss him because he’s been a very interesting and unusual Doctor, with echoes of the old Doctors like [the second Doctor] Patrick Troughton and [the first Doctor] William Hartnell.”
Still, despite the not-so-nice way that Baker was ousted as The Doctor, he has been reflective about it “Well as an actor, one is used to just starting and ending–you just get on with it, really,” but still “You never really leave ‘Doctor Who’–it stays with you forever.”