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article imageWatch Peter Davison, Colin Baker celebrate ‘Doctor Who’ 50th

By Mathew Wace Peck     Oct 26, 2013 in Entertainment
UKTV Watch reaches the eras of the Fifth and Sixth Doctors this weekend, with its “Doctor Who” 50th-anniversary coverage, including two new instalments of the acclaimed US documentary series, “The Doctors Revisited.”

This weekend sees The Doctors Revisited: the Fifth Doctor on Saturday, accompanied by Peter Davison’s 1982 serial, Earthshock; and, on Sunday, The Doctors Revisited: the Sixth Doctor, together with Colin Baker’s two-part serial, Vengeance on Varos.
Davison and Baker, and Sylvester McCoy, were all cast as the Doctor by the late John Nathan-Turner. As well as being Doctor Who’s longest-serving producer, JNT — as he was known — was the only producer to cast three actors as the Doctor (notwithstanding that the current showrunner, Steven Moffat, has now, effectively, equalled that following his casting of John Hurt (in The Name of the Doctor) as well as Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi).
Earthshock is the four-part serial that re-introduced the Cybermen after an eight-year absence from the series. Doctor Who’s second most famous monsters, after the Daleks, the last time they’d been seen on TV was in 1975, during Tom Baker’s first season, in Revenge of the Cybermen.
The serial also marked the first time that David Banks played the Cyberleader. Banks — who would return in that role throughout the 1980s, in every subsequent Cyberman story — actually got to play an unspecified incarnation of the Doctor, in the 1989 stage play, The Ultimate Adventure.
David Banks as the Doctor  in Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure (1989)
David Banks as the Doctor, in Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure (1989)
Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure
As well as heralding the unexpected return of the Cybermen (there was no pre-publicity, as JNT wanted to keep their appearance at the end of episode 1 a surprise), Earthshock is probably also best remembered for being the story in which the Doctor’s young companion, Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), was killed off.
At 18, Waterhouse (To Serve Them All My Days) was the youngest-ever actor to have been cast as a regular companion in Doctor Who. Interestingly, the four-part serial that introduced him — 1980’s Full Circle — was written by the show’s youngest-ever writer, Andrew Smith, also 18 at the time.
At the time of Adric’s death, a long-running companion had never been killed in Doctor Who before; although, two short-term companions did leave the series in that way: Katarina and Sara Kingdom were both killed of in 19645/6 12-part serial, The Daleks' Masterplan, the two having travelled with the First Doctor for just a few weeks, though.
Baker’s Vengeance on Varos, meanwhile, guest-starred a young Jason Connery – the son of James Bond legend, Sean Connery – and introduced the alien grub-like Sil, played by Nabil Shaban. So popular was Sil that he returned the following year, in episodes 5 to 7 of the 14-part serial, The Trial of a Time Lord, as well as audio adventures from Big Finish.
Doctor Who: the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
Doctor Who: the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
Creative Commons
But back to Peter Davison. In 1981, he had the unenviable task of taking over from the Tom Baker — still, arguably, the greatest Doctor Who of all time. Baker 1 had been in the part for a (still) record-breaking seven years. For many, he was (and still is) the Doctor.
Davison, when cast at 29 years old, was the youngest-ever person to take on the role. (That record has since been broken, of course — in 2009, a very youthful and virtually unknown Matt Smith (he was just 26) was unveiled as the Eleventh Doctor.)
Davison did look very young at the time but, unlike Smith, was already very well known to TV audiences, having played veterinary surgeon Tristan Farnon in the extremely popular drama series All Creatures Great and Small, which was based on the life of James Herriott.
Completely different to his predecessor, Davison’s Fifth Doctor soon made the part his own. Unlike, Baker, however, he remained in the role for just three seasons, his departure actually announced barely eighteen months after his first appearance in the series.
Davison’s era is straddled by those of the two Bakers, his immediate successor, Colin Baker, taking over the role in 1984. Prior to becoming the Sixth Doctor, Baker 2 had been best known for playing Paul Merroney in the 1970s drama series The Brothers, a part that at one time earned him the moniker of the most hated man in Britain! One of his Brothers co-stars, Kate O’Mara, would later join Baker in the two-part serial The Mark of the Rani, as the Doctor’s Time Lord adversary, the Rani — a part she would like to revisit, she recently revealed.
New beginnings
When the Fourth Doctor had regenerated into the Fifth, back in 1981’s Logopolis, all the new Doctor managed was a smile before the closing credits rolled, viewers left a full nine months before hearing him utter his first words. When the Sixth Doctor emerged, however, he had plenty to say.
By the time it came for the handover from Davison to Baker 2 — in one of the show’s greatest-ever serials, The Caves of Androzani — viewers, if not his current companion, were well familiar with the concept of the show’s leading character completely changing his appearance. Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor was bigger and brasher than his predecessor in every way, and poor Peri was in for more than just the shock the young man she’d only just recently met changing in appearance.
The Fifth Doctor’s last words to his companion, Peri (Nicola Bryant), after telling her he was dying from spectrox toxaemia, were, “I might regenerate. I don’t know, it feels different this time.” It was evident right from the get-go that this new Doctor was going to be very different! And therein lied a problem.
As Radio Times puts it, “In 1984, after three years of Peter Davison’s breathless and bouncy Time Lord, Doctor Who went the only way it could to keep the show fresh – against the grain.”
Indeed, the Sixth Doctor’s first words to Peri included, “Change, my dear. And not a moment too soon.” Not exactly an auspicious start.
Doctor Who: Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor
Doctor Who: Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor
BBC / Doctor Who
Usually with Doctor Who, once a regeneration has taken place, viewers are left waiting months before they see the new Doctor in full swing. Not so this time. Colin Baker’s first serial, The Twin Dilemma, began the very next week. The idea, presumably, was for the audience to get used to a new Doctor.
Unfortunately, for the viewer and for Baker himself, the Sixth Doctor is pretty unlikeable to start with, which would have been OK if a whole season of stories was to follow his first few episodes, in which the viewer could come to understand his new persona. However, after just one four-part serial over two weeks, the traditional break between seasons kicked in, viewers left waiting another nine months before seeing him again.
Arguably, Baker never really recovered and, for years, his Doctor suffered for it. Fortunately, time (no pun intended) heals and, although his Doctor Who tenure was one of the shortest – nothing to do with Baker, who had said he wanted to play the part for ten years; but entirely to do with then BBC One Controller Michael Grade’s meddlesome interference with a show he loathed and clearly did not understand – the Sixth Doctor has gone on to win a whole new legion of fans through his Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.
The Day of the Doctor(s)
The Doctors Revisited has already well received in America, where it’s been running monthly since January. The 11-part series, premiered on British television two weeks ago when the eras of William Hartnell (First Doctor) and Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor) were covered. The Third and Fourth Doctors – Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker – were the subjects of last weekend’s instalments.
Next weekend, the spotlight will be turned on the Seventh and Eighth Doctors, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor) and David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) will be the subjects of The Doctors Revisited on 9 and 10 November, respectively, before the whole series culminates in a profile of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor on Saturday, 16 November — one week before the BBC broadcasts The Day of the Doctor, a 75-minute feature to celebrate the actual 50th anniversary of the world’s longest-running television science-fiction drama.
The Day of the Doctor will see three Doctors — played by Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt – join forces against the Daleks and the Zygons; and is scheduled to be broadcast in at least 75 countries, all on the same day — Saturday, 23 November 2013 — exactly 50 years to the day that Doctor Who began, on Saturday 23, November 1963.
At Christmas, a brand-new Doctor Who era starts, when the Eleventh Doctor regenerates into the Twelfth Doctor — to be played by Peter Capaldi (World War Z).
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