The controller of BBC One is, according to Doctor Who Magazine staff writer Benjamin Cook, "the channel's creative leader, responsible for its editorial vision and its commissioning and scheduling strategies, controlling its overall direction and content." (DWM 356) They are therefore the practical head of the network. The post was eventually abolished, and the posts of Director of Content was established in its place.
Amongst the controllers most significant to the history of Doctor Who have been:
- Donald Baverstock, controller between 1963 and 1965, the person who ordered Sydney Newman to create a Saturday evening programme — one that eventually became Doctor Who.
- Bryan Cowgill, the BBC One controller from 1973-1977, who would have been ultimately responsible for the hiring of Philip Hinchcliffe and other key personnel who together produced the most consistently highest-rated period of classic Doctor Who.
- Alan Hart, the controller during the twentieth anniversary year, who worked with John Nathan-Turner to find ways to have a twentieth anniversary special in November 1983 without removing Peter Davison from the very popular Sink or Swim cast.
- Michael Grade, who "rested" the programme in 1985.
- Jonathan Powell, the controller who effectively cancelled the programme by not re-commissioning the show in 1990, 1991 or 1992. He was also, as Head of Drama and later Controller of BBC One in 1986 and 1987, involved in the firing of Colin Baker.
- Alan Yentob, who commissioned the 1996 television movie for BBC One — as well as The Dark Dimension, a thirtieth anniversary project that eventually became Dimensions in Time
- Peter Salmon, who attempted in 1999 to resurrect Doctor Who with Russell T Davies, but was prevented by rights issues.
- Lorraine Heggessey, who eventually restored the rights to BBC One and commissioned series 1.