Doctor Who: The Peter Davison Years

On Peter Davison's birthday, Christopher Morley looks back at the Fifth Doctor years...

January 4, 1982 bowled us something of a googly with the broadcast of Episode One of Castrovalva!

Gone was the Fourth Doctor, and here stood his nervy replacement- a man unsure of himself.
"Ah. You've come to help me find the Zero Room. Welcome aboard. I'm the Doctor. Or will be if this regeneration works out...."
The Fifth and newest incarnation of the Time Lord immediately set himself apart from his predecessors by injecting a little humanity into the part. He knew who he thought he should be, but wasn't sure if he could be that man any more. In shedding the iconic scarf that had so defined him before, the last vestige of the man he had been was gone.....just who stood in his place?

Where his previous self had once told Harry Sullivan "this isn't a game of cricket", in a sense the Doctor now played by its rules! Adopting a mock-Edwardian uniform, which would later come in handy as he almost single-handedly rescued Lord Cranleigh's first XI from the jaws of defeat, the values of the game as played at that time also stuck with him, particularly fair play & the importance of the collective over the few.

In perhaps the ultimate display of taking one for the team, his eventual regeneration would come about as a result of trying to save Peri, his final sole companion, but when his innings started he had quite a team around him, a hangover from the final days of the Fourth Doctor.

Adric, Nyssa & Tegan didn't initially know quite what to make of the man who could reasonably be considered their captain at first, "He's weak. It's the shock." But as he grew used to this new, more outwardly human personality of his he proved himself anything but limp. And, shock horror, he was fallible! He couldn't save everyone and he knew it. Every one of these failings hurt- and he could tell you with just a look.

There's a case for saying that the Fifth Doctor was his worst enemy. Never mind the many and varied foes he tackled! This wasn't about them. It was about him. And the first shattering blow to his already fragile grip on his confidence came with Earthshock's big turning point- the death of the Alzarian swot with whom he had many an argument over the chances of his returning home.

They'd fought like cat and dog, but there had been a certain mutual respect on an intellectual level.
DOCTOR: What's the matter?
ADRIC: I'm fed up.
ADRIC: I'm tired of being considered a joke.
DOCTOR: Oh, no one thinks that.
ADRIC: Then why am I constantly teased?
DOCTOR: Well, everyone's teased from time to time.
ADRIC: Yeah, but not as often as me.
DOCTOR: That's not true.
ADRIC: No, and I suppose neither is the fact that whenever Nyssa or Tegan ask you a question you always find time to answer it, but hardly ever with me. Oh look, Doctor, how am I to learn if you never find time to explain?
DOCTOR: Time? We have spent many hours discussing and debating endless topics.
ADRIC: I'm just fitted in when it's convenient for you.
DOCTOR: All right, I'll make more time.
ADRIC: No, you've said that too often before, Doctor. There will always be some distraction to prevent it happening.
Of course, in one sense he was right, the ''distraction'' of the Cybermen proving fatal! And though he feels he ''must save Adric!'', ultimately he cannot. Perhaps that proved too much for Tegan, who would first leave of her own free will following Time-Flight after finally making it back to Heathrow.
STAPLEY: Happy landings, Doctor.
TEGAN: Happy landings, Doctor.
STAPLEY: Hello. I thought you were going with the Doctor.
TEGAN: So did I.
Even faithful Nyssa could only last so long!

But perhaps the greatest show of the Doctor's humanity lies in his later transformation of Turlough from would-be assassin to ready companion in spite of the Black Guardian's scheming.

As the intended murderer came full circle on Sarn, the Planet Of Fire, death would rear its head. Unknowingly, Peri's introduction to the chap in the cricket whites was a harbinger of things to come-
PERI: Then where are we?
DOCTOR: Er, I'm not sure yet, but I promise I'll get you back to Earth just as soon as I can.
PERI: What does he mean, back to Earth?

DOCTOR: Bleak, isn't it.
And so metaphorically at least, death became his new companion.
PERI: It's funny, but just before I met you I was saying I wanted to travel, and I've still got three months of my vacation left.
DOCTOR: And you want to travel with me.
PERI: Is that an invitation?
DOCTOR: Actually, it was a question.
PERI: May I?
DOCTOR: Three months, you say?
PERI: That's right.
DOCTOR: All right. Why not. Welcome aboard, Peri.
To Androzani they went! And we finally got an explanation for the celery on his lapel into the bargain.

Onwards into the great unknown!
DOCTOR: I'm sorry I got you into this, Peri.
PERI: It's all right. It wasn't your fault. I mean, it's as much my fault as yours.
DOCTOR: Yes, I should never have followed those tracks. Curiosity's always been my downfall. How's your rash, by the way?
PERI: It seems to be coming out in blisters now.
DOCTOR: Me too. That fungus obviously had some very toxic properties.
PERI: Well, I don't suppose we'll die of it inside the next hour.
When it did come, well after the estimated hour, the Doctor was of course reincarnated by means of the regenerative process.

But a new body meant new rules, and it soon became apparent that gentlemanly conduct would be out of the window. For Peri, and indeed much of the viewing public, perhaps the change had come just "a moment too soon"!
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