Origin : Gallifrey
13 April 1951 –
Doctor Reign – 1982 – 84
“That’s the trouble with regeneration. You never quite know what you’re going to get.”
It was always going to be a tricky task following Tom Baker in the role of the Doctor. Baker had pretty much redefined it in the previous 7 years.
Many fans favoured a return to the elderly gent Doctor-type (similar to Hartnell). So it was with much surprise, when the BBC announced that an even younger actor – Peter Davison, was to be cast as the fifth Doctor.
Surprise – pretty much, as Peter Davison was already well known on British TV for the drama All Creatures Great And Small.
He was only 30 years old at the time and this pretty much signalled the intent by new producer John Nathan-Turner, who was to take the programme in a new more youthful and dynamic way – in the 1980’s.
Davison was thrown pretty much head first into his first season outing in – Castrovalva – 1982. It was fitting perhaps, that he was suffering from his worst post regeneration trauma to date. After Baker’s turn in the role, everybody was suffering from a post regeneration hangover.
The Doctor, suffering wild bouts of personality change; was bought to Castrovalva to recover from his ills. Soon, the Doctor learned it was all another trap by the Master. Having created the entire situation as an illusion to attempt to finish off the Doctor. Both the Master and the Doctor were both lucky to escape as Castrovalva collapse in on itself.
When the early regeneration blues began to subside, the fifth Doctor began to shape his new character. In Castrovalva, whilst searching for a new outfit in the labyrinth of Tardis corridors; unwound Baker’s scarf – to use the fibres to find his way back to the console room. This was symbolic in as much as deciding to unpick the character and start all over again.
Davison’s Doctor was intelligent, thoughtful, youthfully envigoured and more importantly for this regeneration, brought the most human edge to the role yet. The Fifth Doctor’s trademark aside from the celery he carried round in his lapel was that he was the most accessible to his human companions.
He would frequently stutter and stumble over his words, seemingly ten steps ahead of everybody else but sometimes unable to cope with the sheer amount of information buzzing around in his head.
Davison’s first season was so-so in many respects. The Visitation – 1982 was a reasonable period piece about how the great fire of London happened, involving the lizardy alein Tereliptil’s.
The Black orchid – 1982 was also notable as being a non-alien story and the shortest story of the season at just two parts. Also, it involved some totally improvised footage of the Doctor, bowling someone out in cricket with his first throw. More impressive, as Davison had never played cricket much before to any serious skill level.
Earthshock – 1982 saw the return of the Cybermen, intent on eradicating humans and proved a rollicking good trip as armies of Cybermen battled humans with the Doctor and his three companions Nyssa, Tegan and Adric, stuck in the middle. This was the standout episode of Davison’s first season and an exchange with the Cyberleader brought out the human side of Davison :
The Doctor: “Emotions have their uses!”
Cyber Leader: “They restrict and curtail the intellect and logic of the mind!”
The Doctor: “They also enhance life! When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal? “
Cyber Leader: “These things are irrelevant!” The Doctor: “For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!”
Another brilliant moment had the Doctor cut off in the control room of a vast space freighter. The Cybermen were cutting through the door and just before the door gave way, the Doctor uses the bridge computer to tap into the antimatter storage and recreate the door. This leaves a hapless Cyberman stuck half in and out of the door, which reforms around them.
The episode was also notable for the death of Adric, a moment which was marked by the silent credits at the end of the episode.
Time Flight – 1982 saw the return of the Master as the Doctor attempted to return Teegan back to 1981 where she had departed, only to wind up on prehistoric Earth and meet the Master again, stuck in the past with a broken Tardis – after their previous skirmish.
“You know how it is; you put things off for a day and next thing you know, it’s a hundred years later…..!” Fifth Doctor – Arc Of Infinity
Season 20 began in earnest with Arc Infinity – 1983. This episode was notable for the reappearance of Timelord turned god Omega from The Three Doctors – 1973 and an appearance by Colin Baker – (future 6th Doctor), as an overly zealous Gallifreyian – Captain of the Guard. Baker’s main contribution was to shoot Davison with a stun gun, as if to be staking his claim on the role – somewhat.
Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Enlightenment – all 1983was a three parter also known as the Black Guardian trilogy. It also marked the return of the Brigadier; having retired from unit and now teaching Mathematics.
One of the students he was teaching, called Turlough, was an odd-looking ginger haired kid, who was really an alien under the control of the Black Guardian. Turlough was to join the Doctor, along with regulars Nyssa and Tegan. The Tardis was again busting with three companions and something had to give.
Nyssa was to leave the Doctor at the end of Terminus an episode set aboard a giant medi-spaceship which was healing patients with a plague style virus. After contracting the disease herself, Nyssa deicded to stay on and help the efforts.
Turlough’s mission to sabotage the Tardis and kill the Doctor continued throughout the three adventures but he couldn’t ever quite bring himself to do it – even though the Black Guardian mentally tortured him.
When he got his best chance yet aboard a space fairing boat in Enlightenment, he couldn’t go through with it and renounced his links with the Black Guardian.
The King’s Demons – 1983 was a standard Who-medieval period piece fare; where the Doctor picked up a shape changing robot called Kamelion, the first truly robotic companion of sorts since K9. Kamelion didn’t figure much though until later in the season.
The season ended with the excellent 25th anniversary celebration, reuniting all previous incarnations of the Doctor for The Five Doctors – 1983. An excellent complicated story involving all of the versions of the Doctor brought back together to play in the Time Lord’s deadly gamezone, by the reactivation of the timescoop device by a mysterious deviant Timelord.
“A man is the sum of his memories, a Timelord even more so!” – Peter Davison, Five Doctor’s.
All Doctor’s were present (apart from two notable exceptions!) and previous companions made various cameo’s throughout the episode. William Hartnell was dead, so Richard Hurndell stepped quite ably into his shoes. Tom Baker refused to take part, a decision he said he regretted many years later. So his part was written out, with the forth Doctor becoming stuck in a time vortex due to a bungled attempted snatch.
Season 21 began in earnest with the okay-ish Warriors Of The Deep – 1984. Most notable for the return of the Silurian’s and Sea Devils, who were working together to invade an underwater human Nuclear seabase by calling forth the deadly Myrrka. When the Myrrka finally appeared on screen, any tension which had been built was unhelpfully lost as it resembled a big green pantomine cow.
Resurrection of the Daleks – 1984 reintroduced Davros, this time – a human prisoner and being hunted by Dalek’s no longer loyal to him. Davros manages to persuade some Daleks and humans to fight his cause and one bloody war later, Teegan left for good.
Planet of Fire – 1984 reintroduced the Master in an enjoyable, episode shot on location in Lanzarote. This episode brought Kamelion back in, as the Master managed to establish a remote connection with the Robot and make it divert the Tardis. Landing in Lanzarote, the Doctor met future companion – Peri, the Who page three pinup girl.
The Doctor also got to grips again with the Master, in what seemed like a final battle as the Master accidently incinerated himself, whilst the Doctor stood by and watched. At the end of this, Turlough left the Doctor to return to his own planet.
The Fifth Doctor’s Final adventure was The Caves Of Androzani – 1984 and we finally learned that the celery the Doctor carries in his lapel was to identify deadly gasses, by turning purple. It didn’t help him though, as having landed on Androzani Minor Peri he and Peri contracted Spectrox poisoning, from a cave they were exploring.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Doctor had to negotiate local gun running thugs and the underground dwelling Sharaz Jek.
Jek was an interesting foil for the Doctor; a Gimp suit cladded, half masked, underground dwelling, denzein – with a brilliant mind. The cause of their friction was Jek’s reciprocated attention on Peri.
This episode borrowed heavily from Phantom Of The Opera in many respects – Jek was very “Phantom” like. It featured a “love triangle” between Jek, Peri, and the Doctor; similar to The Phantom triangle with the Phantom – Christine and Raoul (Obviously the Doctor wasn’t romantically involved with Peri but acted to protect her in much the same way!).
Jek wasn’t unmasked till the end and turned out to be scarred hideously. He also partially redeemed himself (like the Phantom) by helping the Doctor in locating antidote to the Spectrox posioning.
It didn’t help the Doctor though, who dropped the vial of antidote on his way back to the Tardis, leaving just enough to save one person’ Peri.
The Doctor then collapsed in the Tardis after administering the antidote to Peri. He had been holding back his next regeneration, until he had rescued Peri – and as a consequence he started to die.
Memories and flashbacks of his previous companions snapped him around and he finally summoned up enough energy to begin his regeneration. His last word strangely enough was……”Adric!”.
As if he harboured the guilt for Adric’s death, so far from his home universe.
And that was that for the Fifth Doctor. A slightly downbeat episode but brilliantly played and a fitting send off the Human Doctor; sacrificing himself to save his human companion.
Davison’s time as the Doctor was a mixed affair, bar the odd stand out episode he was given a very mixed bag of material. At times, the stories seemed lacklustre, the acting was sometimes terrible and the Master character was way overused in the three seasons of Fifth Who.
Also, his companions were a very odd bunch and there were too many of them; they weren’t particularly endearing or very deep in terms of characterisation – as they all fought and bickered for their own screentime.
The stories could sometimes be muddled and hard to follow, from a plot point of view. the budgets had taken a very noticable cut. Worst of all, the SFX at times seemed very lazy and wouldn’t contribute much to the story.
That said, the one beacon throughout this was Davison himself. He was faultless in his integrity which shone through in spades – and he made the best of what he had.
He had some really good moments : Earthshock, Arc of Infinity and Caves of Androzani amongst others.
In retrospect, Davison was a great choice for the role of the Doctor and he had a really hard act to follow in Tom Baker.
His time in the role would be the last great Who peak, before a slump which would last for 4 years and signal the cancellation of the show. More of that to come.