(Actor) Born : 8 June 1943 –
Doctor Reign – 1984 – 86
“In all my travelings throughout the universe, I have battled against evil, against power-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here. The oldest civilisation… Dedecant, degenerate, and rotten to the core… Power-mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen – they’re still in the nursery compared to us! Ten million years of absolute power – that’s what it takes to be really corrupt!” The Sixth Doctor
The “Anti-hero” Doctor
Colin Baker caught the Who Production team’s attention after his appearance as ‘mad’ Maxil in Arc Of Infinity – 1984, he also had the pleasure of shooting his Doctor predecessor; Peter Davison. This was the first time someone had became the Doctor after appearing in the show as a separate character.
Baker’s Doctor would be; eccentric, unpredictable, flamboyant, rude, arrogant – and very angry. He had a huge head of curly blonde hair and a garish Technicolour Dreamcoat. His time in the show can be best quantified by his squabbling with his companions and unpredictable emotional swings.
Baker had moments though, where he shone through. His later stories showed him to have calmed down in many ways and that he was becoming a much more thoughtful character. His early season squabbles with assistant Peri – at first seemed to take over the show. But later as they both began to mellow, he was proving himself to be an dynamic and enjoyable Doctor to watch – when Who was actually on air!
In many ways, Baker could have been an excellent Doctor given the right stories, direction and budget. He was a victim of circumstance and events surrounding the show would prove his, and ultimately Who‘s downfall. The programme was suffering behind the scene’s at this time.
Key writers and producers either left the show (or even died). Nathan-Turner himself, should have stepped aside as producer but was unable to offload Who on to another BBC producer, as nobody else wanted it. BBC Executives were also gunning for the show; citing that it had completely lost its way and was getting too violent.
The Sixth Doctor’s reign was very different in that his first full show (after his regeneration) was the final episode of Peter Davison’s season 21 tenure, rather than the first show of a “new” season. The Twin Dilemma – 1984 had the Doctor acting a little erratic in his new regeneration, even to the point of attempting to kill Peri by strangling her. This was a bad miscalculation on the writer’s part and wasn’t exactly going to endear Baker, in his first full appearance.
The Doctor would land on an asteroid to try and be alone, until his murderous rages subsided. True to Who form though, he got himself embroilled in an adventure involving a crashed spaceship, a little local trouble between the Jacondan’s – a bird like people being repressed by a race of giant slugs led by Mestor.
The Twin Dilemma – 1984 showed the Sixth Doctor at his worst in terms of his post regeneration trauma. Outgoing Doc – Davison’s post-gen Doctor, was bewildered and frail, Baker’s Doctor post-gen was a homicidal maniac given to wild fits of murderous rage.
Once this inital erratic phase settled, the Sixth Doctor showed himself to be none-the-worse for his psychotic regeneration disorder and got down to a job his predecessors should have completed a long time ago.
He successfully (and temporarily) repaired the Tardis’ chameleon circuit in Attack of the Cybermen – 1985 and returned to Trotter’s yard – where it had all begun 22 years earlier, with An Unearthly Child – 1963. Landing in the yard the Tardis changed shape into an ornate piece of furniture which was almost as out of place as a blue police box would have been! At this point, the Doctor was still pretty arrogant and conceited in his outlook and his squabbling with assistant Peri was at its worst.
The Doctor faced his stiffest test yet, when he ran into the Master and new female Timelord character – The Rani in 18th Century Killingworth in The Mark of the Rani – 1985. Using his cunning he successfully out-maneuvered both of them and sent the Rani’s Tardis in an accerelated loop. The Mark of the Rani showed with the right story and care and attention, what the Sixth Doctor’s reign could be.
This was no more realised than the highlight of season 22 – The Two Doctors – 1985. Featuring the return of Patrick Troughton (in his last Who reprise) as the Second Doctor and companion Jamie.
The Two Doctor’s time paths crossed again. Baker managed to hold his own against his great predecessor but principally the charisma of both Doctor’s shone through in the right way.
It was also funny in places – intentionally and otherwise. The Doctor then met and partnered with famous contemporary Victorian Sci-Fi writer; H.G. Wells in Timelash – 1985, who he disparagingly referred to as – “herbert”.
Revelation of the Daleks – 1985 was gaudy, horrific, unflinching and extremely violent and re-introduced Davros stealing the bodies of the dead from a kind of rest home on ice, to rebuild his Dalek army.
It did however, show a more settled Doctor and his relationship with Peri had improved. Michael Grade – BBC producer though felt the show was long past its best and was no fan of Baker – as the Doctor, he ordered the show be put on ice for the following 18 months.
When it returned, it was under threat of being axed permanently – so the decision was made to go for a different format to give the show a boost. The whole season had the overarching drama of the Doctor on trial in The Trial of a Timelord.
This was a season of flashback stories all based around the Doctor being on trial by the Timelords. The Doctor was even tried for his life by the mysterious prosecutor known as – The Valeyard.
The Valeyard: “Do you relish danger, Doctor?”
The Doctor: “Not particularly!”
The Valeyard: “Yet you seem to court it so obviously.”
The Doctor: “Well, even a nervous Time Lord must appear to act with confidence at all times!”
The Valeyard turned out to be a figment of the Doctor’s darker nature. Somewhere between his 11th and final 12th regeneration. Companion Peri left the show and the Doctor met his future new companion-to-be – Mel who would figure more in the Seventh Doctor’s tenure.
Following The Trial of a Timelord, actor Baker was then fired from the role (another first forWho). On the orders of BBC Exec Michael Grade, who was not a fan of where the show was headed. You can read more about Baker’s firing here. The show itself, was however, spared the axe and given one last throw of the dice, with a different Doctor – in the role.
Baker’s reign came to an end, almost as abruptly as it had begun. His time in the show – historically, has not been that fondly remembered but as the decades have passed and everybody has begun to get misty eyed thinking about the 1980’s. Baker’s place in Who’s history has improved considerably. In a recent Doctor Who magazine poll – in 2009, he came higher than Paul McGann (but still second last!).
It would be unfair to (as some have suggested), lay the blame soley at Baker’s door, the writing, producing and direction were also very much to blame. As for Baker himself, he had set about creating an interesting anti-hero portrayal of the Doctor, different to previous incarnations. However, in an era when audiences liked their heroes – as heroes, this made him unliked.
In hindsight, Baker stamped his unique and eccentric character all over the 6th Doctor and maybe with a little more time, might have rgotten it just right. When the story was right, as in The Mark of the Rani and The Two Doctors, Baker shone all too briefly – as the Angry Doctor.
Season Twenty-One – 1984
The Twin Dilemma🔴⚪⚪⚪⚪