50th Anniversary Retrospective: The 5th Doctor
John Hussey continues his monthly retrospective, this time looking at the 5th Doctor, Peter Davison.
- Find the First Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Second Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Third Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Fourth Doctor Retrospective here
The Origin of The Fifth Doctor
By the time of Tom Baker’s fifth season, he had become difficult to work with. He argued with the directors in order to maintain what he believed the show and the character to be. His responsibility went to the young viewers who watched and loved the show. Upon John Nathan-Turner’s (JNT) later arrival, Tom Baker began to realise he had done enough with the role. This was backed up by the fact his companions Romana and K9 would be written out of the show, so he decided to leave Doctor Who behind. Another reason was perhaps down to his disagreements with JNT and how he wanted the show to be run. Either way, he left behind a legacy and would continue to be a well-known figure by the public and his fans.
Peter Davison was next in line for the role as the Doctor. His great performance in the BBC show ‘All Creatures Great and Small,’ playing one of the lead roles, was the sole reason he got the part. Davison was noticed by JNT (who was at the time merely a Production Unit Manager) who thought his acting abilities were something worth watching. When it came to him becoming Producer of Doctor Who and in need for a new lead actor to play the role of the iconic Time Lord, JNT turned to Davison for the part.
Davison was gobsmacked by this offer and was unsure whether he was right for the role. After much consideration, he decided to take on the part and certainly didn’t look back. It was clear at first that he didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to play the Doctor’s character (as seen in his underdeveloped character in ‘Four to Doomsday’ – his first episode to be filmed). As the shooting went on, Davison became comfortable with the part and quickly began to make the role his own. At the time, Davison was the youngest actor to play the Doctor (being 29 when he received the role), until of course Matt Smith took on the role in 2010, and he certainly gave it his all to bring a new spark of life into the Time Lord.
Character Traits, Personality and Catchphrases
The Fifth Doctor was a massive contrast to his previous selves. He was much lighter in character and even more adventurous. His younger appearance may have had a lot to do with this. The Doctor’s first four incarnations took on a very authoritative figure which gave out a trait of wisdom and authority, whereas the Fifth Doctor came across as naive and inexperienced, becoming more like a child excited to see new worlds and foreign places. But like his previous selves, he retained the elements of a hero and, of course, his darker sides which were released upon his enemies when it was necessary. Examples of the Fifth Doctor’s darkness were seen in ‘Earthshock’ when he used the Cybermen’s own weapons against them – killing the Cyber-Leader in the process, ‘Enlightenment’ when he gently manipulated Turlough to do the right thing and defeat the Black Guardian, ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ when he declared his actions to kill Davros and finally when he let the Master endure his apparent demise in ‘Planet of Fire’.
The Fifth Doctor was the first incarnation to really suffer from post-regeneration. It had been seen briefly by the Second and Fourth Doctor, with the Third Doctor suffering it the most with his exhaustion and time spent asleep in the hospital. With the Fifth Doctor, it was a case of him suffering life-threatening problems. At first he seemed quite drowsy, being dragged around by his companions at the beginning of ‘Logopolis’ and then he seemed to slowly unwind. He ripped apart his old clothes, the final elements of the Fourth Doctor being diminished, before he started having violent flashbacks to his previous selves – not knowing quite who he was yet. This mind collapse meant he needed to stay in an area of tranquillity until the regenerative process was fully completed.
The Fifth Doctor was also the first incarnation to take on a costume. All the incarnations before him had a set style of clothing they liked to wear, which defined their nature and characteristics. This was the same for the Fifth Doctor only the clothes he chose appeared more as a defining image, made custom to his persona. He wore his cricket outfit and continued his trait of wearing a question mark upon his collar, which the Fourth Doctor started doing at the end of his era. The Fifth Doctor also adopted a stick of celery which was stuck onto his jacket as an extra piece of decoration (although it is finally revealed in ‘The Caves of Androzani’ that it there to help the Doctor detect deadly gases which are poisonous to him).
Elements of the Doctor’s selfish nature resurfaced in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ when he refused to aid Mawdryn and his comrades knowing too well he would stop being a Time Lord. He also showed off a lot of his immature and childish side which can be seen in ‘Earthshock’ when he argues with Adric over going back to E-Space, due to him personally not wanting to go back and comes up with every excuse as to why they can’t go. In the end he storms out the TARDIS in need of some fresh air to cool down his ego. The Fifth Doctor demonstrated a massive childish moment when confronted with presidency in ‘The Five Doctor’ in which he passes the powers over to Chancellor Flavia until he returns to Gallifrey – simply a ploy so that he doesn’t have to return to his old boring life. This he does with great pleasure, knowing too well the Time Lords will be furious; stating to Tegan that running away in an old rackety box is exactly how it all started.
The Fifth Doctor continued the trait of treating the TARDIS as if it were alive along with constantly banging the console to make it work (something the Fourth Doctor started). Also he reused the Third Doctor’s famous lines of ‘reverse the polarity of the neutron flow’ (again something the Fourth Doctor did in ‘City of Death’). Through Tegan Jovanka, the Fourth Doctor created his famous phrase of ‘brave heart Tegan’, a line he used throughout his era.
Era and Stories
The Fifth Doctor era became very much a massive science-fiction adventure. John Nathan-Turner, as he started doing at the end of the Fourth Doctor’s era, continued to make the show more spacey, having the Doctor travel to alien planets and continue the trait of having alien and robotic companions. The style all evolved around this, from the way the characters and stories looked all the way down to the style of music. The Doctor was made very adventurous again, now being younger than he had ever been before and he created a new innocence to his character and the way he saw the universe. But this of course didn’t stop his dark side showing from time to time. It is fair to say that JNT’s reign was very much like the Holmes/Hinchcliffe era in which it tried adding new depths of violence and terror to the show, with some episodes taking on really dark themes that led to peril beyond the norm.
This era started to go into more detail with companion development (a habit which would become a big part of the revived series from 2005 onwards), especially with the likes of Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka and Turlough. With Season Twenty-One, each episode continued from each other and slowly developed the companion’s story. It had already been established in ‘Logopolis’ that they witnessed the Doctor’s regeneration, and throughout the first few stories it’s about them adjusting to him. With Nyssa it is about her slow growth from an innocent child of Traken, who has lost not only her father to the hands of the Master but also her planet, towards a fully mature companion who can make her own decisions and ultimately becomes independent and decides to take her own destiny. Tegan’ journey is more about her acceptance as a companion and she slowly becomes fond of the Doctor’s lifestyle and ultimately turns into a loyal friend to the Fifth Doctor.
Turlough is the most interesting by the fact he is the first companion to be bad (at least to begin with). He makes a bargain with the Black Guardian to kill the Doctor in order to escape his imprisonment from Earth and this forms the loose ‘Black Guardian Trilogy’ where he is constantly placed with a dilemma of whether or not he should kill the Doctor. In the process, he nearly commits suicide in order to escape his deal. At the end of the short arc, Turlough has come to terms with his mistake and joins the Fifth Doctor on his travels.
Kamelion was also an interesting concept, with the main reason being he was a robot. Like K9 before him, he was a super smart computer but his unique gift lies in his Kamelion abilities. The other unique thing about his character was through his storyline of being the Master’s puppet and this constantly placed him in a dilemma of who he was loyal to. Kamelion unfortunately didn’t get his spotlight as a companion after he joined in ‘The King’s Demon’ because of the complications with the robots controls on set. This meant although he was officially onboard the TARDIS, we never actually saw him in the adventures and we could only assume he was lurking around in the vast corridors of the TARDIS. He made an unscreened appearance in ‘The Awakening’ and then was finally brought back in ‘Planet of Fire’ for his final appearance. Within this story he was constantly battling for control of his mind due to the Master trying to take over him for his evil schemes. In the end he asked the Fifth Doctor to destroy him. Adric also got a close to his story via a very dark method, even for the likes of Doctor Who. Adric was killed off from the series (this mainly due to the realisation that the TARDIS crew had become too big for writers to handle); making him the third companion within the nineteen years the show had been running to meet their end by death.
This era also became very nostalgic by having the common return of popular villains such as:
- The Cybermen – ‘Earthshock’ and ‘The Five Doctors’
- The Daleks – ‘The Five Doctors’ and ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’
- The Silurians and Sea Devils – ‘Warriors of the Deep’
- Omega – ‘Arc of Infinity’
- The Black Guardian – ‘Mawdryn Undead’, ‘Terminus’ and ‘Enlightenment’
The Master, who was re-established at the end of the Fourth Doctor’s era, became very much the returning villain for the Fifth Doctor (almost like within the Third Doctor’s era). He appeared very regularly throughout the Fifth Doctor’s three seasons, making at least one appearance in each – normally being revealed at some point through the story as a surprise return via one of his many disguises.
The Fifth Doctor’s era also continued the trait of having stories set on Gallifrey. This time we were shown just how dark the Time Lords can be with their decisions as they attempted to have the Fifth Doctor executed in ‘Arc of Infinity’ in an attempt to stop Omega from making a body transfer. It also concluded the long story-arc of Borusa. In ‘The Deadly Assassin’ he was shown as a Cardinal who was then promoted to Chancellor in ‘The Invasion of Time’ before finally becoming Lord President in ‘Arc of Infinity’. Within the events of ‘The Five Doctors’ Borusa became completely corrupt in order to remain Lord President for all eternity, due to his belief that he has earned this right due to all his hard work done from in front and behind the scenes. This in turn led to his downfall at the hands of Rassilon who granted his wish of immortality, which ultimately turned out to be a trap to seal him away for all eternity as a stone statue on his tomb.
The Fifth Doctor’s era also re-established U.N.I.T. by mentioning them in ‘Time-Flight’, which was used as a scapegoat so the Fifth Doctor could explain his presence in Heathrow Airport and be allowed to investigate the disappearance of the Concorde. U.N.I.T. HQ then appeared in ‘The Five Doctors’ for a brief scene. The final mentioning was with the reappearance of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘The Five Doctors’. It was also explained by the Brigadier that RSM Benton had retired from U.N.I.T. and became a used-car salesman. Along with the brief reappearance of U.N.I.T., the concept of stories set in the past that don’t have any appearances from extraterrestrial activities was brought back for the first time since ‘The Highlanders’ and used within ‘Black Orchid’. This was the last time this concept was used.
Like with the end of the Third and Fourth Doctor era, the Fifth Doctor’s elements were slowly diminished towards the end of his time. First his long time friend Tegan Jovanka departed in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ followed by the departure of Turlough in the following story ‘Planet of Fire’ along with the death of Kamelion. It also put in place elements for the next Doctor with the introduction of Peri Brown in ‘Planet of Fire’ with darker tones and elements being put in place for the Fifth Doctor’s final outing ‘The Caves of Androzani’, a foreshadowing of the style which would take place in the Sixth Doctor’s era.
The mathematical genius still remained loyal to the Doctor, even after his regeneration, and continued to travel with him along with new friends Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka. Slowly though, he felt left out by the Doctor’s new childish persona and so threatens the Time Lord with the idea of returning to E-Space, but this is simply to make a point. In ‘Earthshock’ Adric has his final adventure with the Doctor and ultimately sacrifices himself to save the Earth from the Cybermen’s threat.
At first she wishes to aid the newly regenerated Doctor in ‘Castrovalva’ but then decides to return to her Earth to continue her normal everyday life. After a while, she begins to grow fond of the Doctor’s lifestyle and decides to stay. She becomes emotional towards her life onboard the TARDIS and even becomes upset upon the death of Adric and the departure of Nyssa. In ‘Time-Flight’ she is accidentally left behind on Earth but within a matter of months, she returns to her old life in ‘Arc of Infinity’ and continued her travels with the Doctor. In ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ it becomes apparent that Tegan has grown tired of her travels, believing the Doctor’s lifestyle to no longer be fun and is now twisted with death, and so decides to leave.
Nyssa decided to become a companion to the Doctor after her home-world of Traken was destroyed in ‘Logopolis’ and slowly makes the progression from her innocent child state towards an independent companion. She became good friends with Tegan and a loyal friend to the Doctor’s. In ‘Terminus’ she decides to take her own destiny and help out at Terminus in order to try and run the medical facility properly.
Turlough was exiled on Earth for his crimes during a civil war on his home-planet Trion (although this is unknown until the events of ‘Planet of Fire’). In ‘Mawdryn Undead’ he makes a deal with the Black Guardian; kill the Doctor in return for his freedom. Throughout the events of ‘Mawdryn Undead’, ‘Terminus’ and ‘Enlightenment’ he is under the Black Guardian’s influence and constantly tries to either kill or sabotage the Fifth Doctor’s movements. In ‘Enlightenment’ he finally sees the truth behind the Doctor and finally ends his contract by defeating the Black Guardian with the light of Enlightenment. Turlough then becomes a loyal companion to the Doctor and remains with him until the events of ‘Planet of Fire’ where the truth of his past is revealed. After defeating the Master, Turlough decides to return to Trion and says goodbye to the Fifth Doctor, thanking him for all he has learned during his travels with the Time Lord.
It is learnt in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ that the Brigadier had retired from his job at U.N.I.T. and was now working as a maths teacher at Turlough’s school. It is also learned that he has no memories of the Doctor due to a traumatising experience within the past. After recollecting his memories, the Brigadier joined the Doctor on his adventure and helped him to unearth the dark secrets behind Mawdryn, who is an alien who attempted to become a Time Lord along with his comrades and ultimately caught a never ending disease cursed with their ability to never die. The Fifth Doctor is faced with a dilemma of helping them die, at the cost of giving up his remaining regenerations and therefore giving up being a Time Lord. The Brigadier’s past self arrives just in time and the paradox of the two Brigadier’s meeting causes the creatures to die and finally reveals why the Brigadier lost his memories.
Peri was a young loud-mouthed American student on her summer vacation and wished to do some exploring with a group of British lads, but was forbidden by her step-father Howard. In an attempt to get to shore in order to reach her plane on time, she nearly drowned and was rescued by Turlough. This in turn dragged her into the Doctor’s life. She aided the Fifth Doctor to defeat the Master, showing strong pity towards Kamelion throughout the adventure. At the end of ‘Planet of Fire’ Peri asked if she could join the Doctor on his travels with him hesitantly saying yes. She had one more adventure with the Fifth Doctor before his untimely end at the hands of Spectrox Toxaemia, to which she nearly fell victim to.
Encountered Monsters and Villains
The Doctor’s nemesis straight away attempted revenge after his defeat in ‘Logopolis’ and tried using Adric in ‘Castrovalva’ to trap the newly regenerated Doctor into a space-time-trap. He was thought to be trapped within his own trap and destroyed. In ‘Time-Flight’ he had himself disguised as a wizard called Kalid, before revealing his true-self and intentions; i.e. trying to use the Plasmatons as fuel for his TARDIS, which has become stranded in Prehistoric Earth after the events of ‘Castrovalva’. The Fifth Doctor ultimately sent him to the Plasmatons home-world, thought again to be defeated. He returned in ‘The King’s Demons’ in order to use his new tool Kamelion as a means to change history but the Fifth Doctor manages to convince Kamelion to join him and the Master plans are defeated. Against his will, he is summoned by the High Council in ‘The Five Doctors’ to aid the Doctor during his quest in the Dead Zone, but naturally tried to use them for his own gains along the way. His final appearance alongside the Fifth Doctor was in ‘Planet of Fire’ where he once again tried to control Kamelion, this time to help him use the mystical flames of Sarn to become whole again after one of his experiments shrank him. The Fifth Doctor was once again left with the idea that his nemesis was at last destroyed.
This deadly entity was a snake-like-being that thrived on the fear and darkness within its victims. The deadly creature tried to use Tegan Jovanka on two occasions (‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’) in order to return to our universe and release chaos. After the second battle, the Fifth Doctor finally managed to destroy the Mara during its manifestation.
The cybernetic creatures attempted to destroy the members of an intergalactic conference on Earth in ‘Earthshock’ via a massive Cyber-bomb. After their android-guards were defeated and their bomb was deactivated by the Fifth Doctor, they resorted to plan B and attempted to crash a space freighter into the Earth. This in turn would’ve prevented an alliance being formed which would have opposed their power within the Cyber-Wars. In the end Adric sacrificed himself to divert the freighter back into Prehistoric Times in order to prevent Humanities destruction within the future (killing the Dinosaurs instead).
The Cybermen became the main obstacle in ‘The Five Doctors’ as part of the deadly Game of Rassilon. They took the Master hostage and attempted to use his knowledge to take their revenge on the Time Lords for time- scooping them into the Death Zone. In the end they were tricked by the Master and sent into a deadly trap which destroyed their party.
In ‘Arc of Infinity’ Omega attempted to use the Fifth Doctor as the basis for a body transfer so he could finally return to our universe and escape his imprisonment from the world of anti-matter. The transfer failed because of the interference from the Fifth Doctor and Omega attempted to will his own destruction in a bid to gain one final piece of revenge by ripping apart the universe via the clashing of matter and anti-matter. The Fifth Doctor killed him before he was able to complete this plan, ultimately feeling sorry for the Time Lord due to his unfair punishment after his brilliant deeds.
The Black Guardian
The Black Guardian returned for his revenge in ‘Mawdryn Undead’, after finally locating the Doctor after his removal of the Randomiser, and planned to use Turlough as a tool to kill the Fifth Doctor. Over the cause of ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Terminus’ he had Turlough try and kill the Time Lord but he ultimately failed to complete his task and agreement. In ‘Enlightenment’ the Black Guardian treated Turlough with exile onboard the Eternals spacecrafts, ultimately leading to Turlough trying to commit suicide. The Black Guardian tried using the Eternals to gain access to Enlightenment so that they could wish for what they wanted most – which would ultimately cause destruction across the cosmos. The Fifth Doctor and Turlough win the race and were offered Enlightenment. The Black Guardian was defeated once more when Turlough threw the light of Enlightenment upon him, with the light destroying his darkness. The White Guardian informed the Fifth Doctor that he would one day return for their final confrontation in an attempt to complete his revenge.
Borusa slowly worked his way up the ranks throughout his time on the show, being a Cardinal during the events of ‘The Deadly Assassin’ before becoming Chancellor in ‘The Invasion of Time’. He finally received Presidency in ‘Arc of Infinity’. Lord President Borusa then became corrupt in ‘The Five Doctors’ and craved more power, wishing only to rule Gallifrey forever because of his long hard work put into the society throughout his many years. In the end, after using the Doctor to complete the Game of Rassilon, Borusa was granted immortality by Rassilon only to suffer the punishment of imprisonment for all eternity.
The Doctor’s great enemy made a small cameo return in ‘The Five Doctors’ where one terrorised the First Doctor and Susan Foreman before being destroyed by the original Doctor.
They made a full return in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ when they made a desperate attack on a prison-ship to retrieve their creator, Davros. This was due to the fact they had lost their war with the Movellans due to them escaping their mindset of logic and building a new weapon to defeat their enemy – a deadly virus. The Daleks wished to manipulate their creator into making them a cure. They also caught the Fifth Doctor a Time Corridor in an attempt to capture and clone him, using his clone to infiltrate Gallifrey and assassinate the members of the High Council. These plans failed after a civil war broke out between Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek and ones under the control of Davros. The Daleks fighting were all killed by the Fifth Doctor via the Movellans virus while the rest of them were destroyed by a rogue Dalek duplicate called upon who activated the prison- ships self-destruct device – destroying both the prison-ship and the Dalek ship.
The Abominable Snowmen returned one last time during a cameo in ‘The Five Doctors’ where a lone Yeti, left over from the Games of Rassilon during the Dark Ages, chased after the Second Doctor and the Brigadier through the caves below Rassilon’s Tower.
The insane Dalek creator was revived from his ninety year frozen imprisonment when his creations wished to use him in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ to find a cure to the Movellan virus which was slowly killing them. Davros was wary of the Daleks and attempted to gain his own goals by taking control of two Daleks and destroying the rogue Daleks who refused to serve him. After a civil war broke out, Davros attempted to flee the prison-ship in an escape pod after surviving an attempted execution. This didn’t go according to plan and was apparently killed after the Movellan virus started to infect him.
The Three Must See Episodes
- 3. ‘Snakedance’
- 2. ‘Mawdryn Undead/Terminus/Enlightenment’
- 1. ‘The Caves of Androzani’
Special Mentions to:
- ‘The Visitation’
- ‘Arc of Infinity’
- ‘The Five Doctors’
- ‘Planet of Fire’
The Fifth Doctor: 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 Incarnation Speech
The Fifth Doctor: Not a very persuasive argument actually Stotz because I’m gonna die soon anyway unless of course… Unless of course I can find the antidote! I owe it to my friend to try because I got her into this. So you see, I’m not gonna let you stop me now!
Famous Last Words
The Fifth Doctor: I might regenerate. I don’t know. Feels different this time… Adric?
The Fifth Doctor regenerated in ‘The Caves of Androzani’ due to being infected by unprocessed Spectrox. This all started after his curiosity led him to enter the caves of Androzani Minor, resulting in Peri Brown falling into a nest of unprocessed Spectrox. The Fifth Doctor touches the substance as well and they are later told that the unprocessed drug is lethal to anyone who touches it. They are infected with a life-threatening virus called Spectrox Toxaemia and slowly fall victim to its deadly affect. The Fifth Doctor is unable to get himself and Peri back to the TARDIS and they are separated, with the Fifth Doctor being captured by Stotz while Peri is eventually recaptured by the insane Sharaz Jek. The Fifth Doctor then battles to return to Peri in order to save his new young friend. After finally reuniting, the Fifth Doctor makes another sacrifice by entering the lower caves to retrieve the antidote (milk from a Queen Bat) where there is no oxygen. He then carried Peri’ near dead body back to the TARDIS where he gives her the antidote, sacrificing any chance of him surviving the deadly disease. The Fifth Doctor then begins to regenerate, encouraged by all of his companions while given hate by his nemesis the Master…