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 held it solidly and redefined it – in the previous seven years.
Many fans – in 1981, favoured a return to the elderly Hartnell Doctor-type. So it was with much surprise, when the BBC announced that an even younger actor – Peter Davison, than Tom Baker; 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 (JNT); who was to take the programme in a new more youthful and progressive direction – in the 1980’s.
Davison was thrown (pretty much) head first, into his first season outing – in – Castrovalva – 1982. It was fitting perhaps, that the Fifth Doctor was suffering – from the worst post-regeneration stress – to date. After Baker’s turn in the role, everybody was suffering from a post-regeneration hangover; as we all adjusted to life withiut Tom Baker, as the Doctor.
The Fifth Doctor, suffering wild bouts of personality change; was bought to tranquil 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 collapsed – in on itself.
When the early regeneration blues began to subside, the Fifth Doctor’s character began to take shape. In Castrovalva, whilst searching for a new outfit – in the labyrinth of Tardis corridors; Davison 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 empathic, thoughtful and youthfully envigoured. More importantly for this regeneration, Davison brought the most ‘humanisitic take’ to the role yet. The Fifth Doctor’s trademark – aside from the celery, carried round in the lapel of a cricket jacket. Was that the Fifth Doctor, was the most accessible – to his human companions.
He would frequently stutter and stumble – over words. Seemingly, ten steps ahead of everybody else but sometimes unable to cope or intimate – the sheer amount of information, within.
Davison’s first season, was so-so – in many respects. The Visitation – 1982 was a reasonable period piece (with an alirn angle). About how, the ‘great fire of London’ was caused; apparently involving the lizardy alien ‘Tereliptils’.
The Black orchid, was also notable – as being a non-alien story and the shortest story of the season – at just two episodes. 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 this – to any serious skill level, anyway.
Earthshock, saw the return of the Cybermen – intent on eradicating humans for good and proved a rollicking good story. As armies of Cybermen battled humans, with the Doctor and his three companions Nyssa, Tegan and Adric; stuck in the middle. This was the stand-out episode of Davison’s first season and an exchange with the Cyberleader, brought out – the humanistic quality of the Fifth Doctor :
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!”
This exchange with the Cyberleader, finally provided Davison’s Doctor with a era defining moment.
This serial was also notable, for the death of Adric; a moment which was marked by the silent credits – at the end of the last episode.
Time Flight saw the return of the Master, as the Doctor attempted to return Tegan – back to 1981; where she had departed from. Only to wind-up on prehistoric Earth and meet the Master again. The master was 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. This episode was notable, for the re-appearance of Time Lord Omega; last seen, in The Three Doctors. Notable aswell, for a supporting appearance by Colin Baker aswell – (future 6th Doctor). Baker played an overly zealous Gallifrey-ian Captain of the Guard. Baker’s main contribution, was to shoot Davison, with a stun gun. As if staking his claim on the Doctor role; somewhat.
Mawdryn Undead, Terminus and Enlightenment, was a three-part story-arc (also known as the Black Guardian trilogy). It also marked the return of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. Who had retired from UNIT and was now teaching Mathematics – at a Private School.
One of Lethbridge-Stewart’s students – called Turlough. Was an odd-looking ginger-haired teenager, 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 left the Doctor, at the end of Terminus. An episode, set aboard a giant medical space-station; which was healing patients with a plague-style virus. After contracting and curing the disease – herself, Nyssa decided to stay and help the medical efforts.
Turlough’s mission to sabotage the Tardis (and kill the Doctor), continued throughout the three adventures but Turlough 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. Turlough couldn’t go through with it and renounced all links, with the Black Guardian.
The King’s Demons, was a standard Who-medieval period piece; 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. An excellently complicated story, involving all of the previous 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 Time Lord.
“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 cameos, throughout the story. 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; using the timescoop device.
Season 21 – began in earnest, with the okay-ish Warriors Of The Deep. Most notable, for the return of the Silurians 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 reintroduced Davros. This time – a human prisoner and being hunted by Daleks – no longer loyal to him. Davros managed to persuade some Daleks and humans, to fight his cause and one bloody war later; Tegan left for good.
Planet of Fire reintroduced the Master – in an enjoyable, story shot on location – in Lanzarote. This episode brought Kamelion back, as the Master managed to establish a remote connection with the Robot. Making Kamelion divert the Tardis, which makes it land in Lanzarote. Here, the Doctor met future companion; Peri.
The Doctor, also got to grips again with the Master, in what seemed like a final battle – as the Master accidently got incinerated; whilst the Fifth 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 and we finally learned; that the celery that the Doctor carries in the lapel of his jacket, was to identify deadly gasses, by it turning purple. It didn’t help the Doctor or Peri – though, as having landed on Androzani Minor. The Doctor and Peri – accidentally contract Spectrox poisoning; from a cave they were exploring.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Doctor has to negotiate local gun m-running thugs and the underground dwelling; Sharaz Jek.
Jek was an interesting antagonist, for the Doctor. A gimp-suit cladded, half masked, underground dwelling, denizen; with a brilliant mind. The cause of their friction, was Jek’s unwanted attention – on Peri.
This story 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 (of sorts); similar to the triangle between 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 of the story and turned out to be hideously scarred. He also partially redeemed himself (like the Phantom) by helping the Doctor – in locating antidote to the Spectrox posioning, for Peri.
It didn’t help though, that the Doctor dropped the vial of antidote, on his way back to the Tardis; leaving just enough to save one person’s live; the Doctor gave it to Peri.
The Fifth Doctor collapsed in the Tardis, after administering the antidote to Peri. Holding back the next regeneration, until Peri had been rescued. As a consequence, the Fifth Doctor started to die.
Memories and flashbacks of previous companions and enemies snapped the Doctor back to conciousness. Before, finally summoning up enough energy, to begin the next regeneration. The Fifth Doctor’s last words, strangely enough, “Adric!”.
As if the Fifth Doctor harboured some deepseated guilt, for Adric’s death; so far from his home-universe.
And that was that, for the Fifth Doctor. A slightly downbeat final story 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 – at best. Bar the odd stand-out serial, 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 Docotr Who.
Indeed, JNT asked Davison to stay on for a fourth season and Davison refused. Publicaly citing the reason that he did not want to be typecast. However, probably secretly feeling like his run may not get retrace or improve on – such a high points, as Earthshock or The Caves Of Androzani.
Also, his companions were a very odd unrelatable 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 screen-time.
The stories could sometimes be muddled and hard to follow, from a plot – point of view. The budgets had taken a very noticable cut, after Tom Baker had left. Worst of all, the SFX – at times, seemed lazy and wouldn’t contribute much – to the story.
That said, the one beacon throughout this, was Davison himself. He was faultless in his breathless integrity, which shone through in spades and he made the best, of what he had.
He had some really good moments, in 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. With better writers, producers and a bigger budget. Davison’s era may have been one, to remember.
Davison’s time in the role, would be the last great mini-peak. Before a slump, which would last for 4 years and signal the cancellation of the show. More of that to come.