Shannen Doherty's breakout role came when she was cast to star as Brenda Walsh in the Aaron Spelling-produced TV series Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1990. In 1991 and 1992 her portrayal of Brenda earned her a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series. In 2004, E! placed Brenda at number ten on their list of the 50 Most Wicked Women of Prime Time. Following reported on-set friction with her co-stars as well as bad publicity generated by her off-screen behaviour, Doherty was fired from the show and left at the end of the fourth season in 1994. Doherty's character, Brenda, was written off the show as moving to London to attend school at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts.
While the character's absence was originally described as only being for a year, she never actually returned to the original series despite being mentioned from time to time during the show's remaining seasons (though she would reprise the role of Brenda later in the The CW's updated version of the show in 2008). She was replaced with former Saved by the Bell star Tiffani Thiessen, who played bad girl character Valerie Malone. Her departure from the series was reportedly acrimonious, however, and her career afterward was somewhat spotty, marked for the most part by made-for-TV movies, though she also had a lead role in Kevin Smith's 1995 film Mallrats.
In 1998, Spelling cast her in another TV series, Charmed, in which she played lead character Prue Halliwell, the oldest of three sisters who discover they are witches. Doherty also directed several episodes. At the end of the third season, Doherty left the show in 2001, resulting in her character's death, and the introduction of Rose McGowan's replacement lead character Paige Matthews. Reportedly, the reason for her departure was because of tensions between Doherty and co-star Alyssa Milano. Though she had left the show long before it ended, she continued to own five percent of the rights to the series.
Doherty was also twice nominated for the Saturn Award, Best Genre TV Actress for her portrayal of the character Prue, in 1999 and 2000 respectively. In 2007, AOL named Prue Halliwell the 10th greatest witch in television history.