50th Anniversary Retrospective: The 6th Doctor
John Hussey continues his monthly retrospective, this time looking at the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker.
- Find the First Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Second Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Third Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Fourth Doctor Retrospective here
- Find the Fifth Doctor Retrospective here
The Origins of The Sixth Doctor
Peter Davison was the youngest Doctor (until Matt Smith took on the role in 2010) and made a credible name for himself and an interesting incarnation of the Doctor. Although he was never going to be as popular as Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee, he still did his best. Davison delivered the role to great standards, especially considering his young age at the time – a possibility that could’ve been a problem due to the ancient nature and wisdom the character has to deliver. After his involvement within the 20th Anniversary Special ‘The Five Doctors’, Peter Davison decided it was time for him to move on from the role at the end of his next season. This reason was mostly down to his conversations with Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, who told him three years is enough for the role. Troughton also mentioned the possibilities of the young actor being typecast. Davison left due to these reasons, but has since said he regretted it because of the brilliant stories produced within his third season. This was another of his reasons for leaving, him disliking a lot of the plots of Season Twenty, and now upon his leaving year he was being given decent plots to work with. Sadly though, John Nathan-Turner had already found his replacement and Davison wasn’t allowed to retake his job.
Colin Baker had already appeared on Doctor Who in the Season Twenty opening story ‘Arc of Infinity’ playing Commander Maxil of the Chancellors Guards on Gallifrey. John Nathan- Turner turned his attentions to him during a party where Baker was the highlight of it, entertaining the guests with his charm and humour. It had already been expressed by ‘Arc of Infinity’ director Ron Jones that Baker should be Davison’s replacement due to his warm and fun attitude both on and off set. Colin Baker also really wanted to play this dream role, a role he had watched since he was a child in the 60s, and even tried to get the part after Tom Baker left but sadly these conversations didn’t go beyond his agent. When John Nathan-Turner called him in for an interview, Baker had no idea what it was about even though he knew Davison was leaving the role as the Doctor – it just never crossed his mind even though he wanted the role badly. He probably never thought in a million years he was going to be given the part. To his surprise and excitement, he was finally given the opportunity to play the Time Lord. Little did he know of course he would be given the roughest time on the show and his opportunity would sadly be ruined and short-lived.
Character Traits, Personality and Catchphrases
The Sixth Doctor showcased one of the biggest character changes within the Doctor’s lifespan. The darkness within the Time Lord really started to show from his sixth incarnation onwards. The Sixth Doctor was very angry, moody and full of arrogance, sometimes becoming almost full of himself. His adventurous side still remained but it seemed during his earlier life he was more selfish, especially when it came to decision making. He would often decide he knew what Peri Brown wanted out of her travels and basically told her where she wanted to go instead of asking her. The Doctor’s curiosity certainly remained, added with the Sixth Doctor’s massive ego, causing him to get into a lot of trouble during his adventures. He would often wish to pursue his curiosity and discover the meanings behind events to which landed him in near death experiences. The biggest example of this being in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ when they landed on Thoros Beta and the Sixth Doctor’s curiosity landed them in the hellhole of Sil’s dark experiments resulting in a deadly ordeal for both the Time Lord and his companion Peri. In the end, the Sixth Doctor was left to believe that his own actions had caused her demise, making him really upset while at the same time giving him further determination to find out who was trying to manipulate his actions during his trial.
Like the Fifth Doctor, the Sixth Doctor continued the tradition of having post-regenerative problems. This time the symptoms were worse and caused serious mental problems which caused mood swings and psychotic outbursts. His arrogance really took shape, along with his big-headed nature, and even showcased bitter nature towards his previous incarnation and how he hated his persona. The other major side effect was him becoming temporarily paranoid, believing his companion to be an enemy and attempting to strangle her! Afterwards the Sixth Doctor realised his mistake, at first claiming he was unable to harm anyone unless under self-defence until seeing the scared expression on his companions face, and wished to become a hermit in order to repent himself. The Sixth Doctor also suffered from emotional breakdowns, with some causing him to become a coward while other times making him become selfish and uncaring. These symptoms passed after the events of ‘The Twin Dilemma’.
Also like the Fifth Doctor, the Sixth Doctor adopted his own costume. A mad brightly multi-coloured jacket sown together with different pieces of material along with yellow trousers and green shoes with red straps around the top. Along with this, he continued to have his distinct question mark symbols upon his collars. This costume certainly reflected his mad personality and bad taste.
The Sixth Doctor was certainly darker when it came to decision making and dealing with his foe. This was the turning point for the Doctor’s personality as a whole and each incarnation onwards would add to the pile of dark habits and the judgements they bestowed upon others. This also mixed with his bad temper which was usually directed at his companion Peri Brown, with their friendship being little more than a bickering competition. This of course mellowed out over his travels and they became friendlier with each other, and the Sixth Doctor’s personality as a whole became much lighter and gentle. The thing that certainly remained was his curiosity and urge to see justice was served. Also it was certainly shown in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ that the Sixth Doctor’s augmentative powers still remained as he argued and bickerd with the accusations placed before him by both the Valeyard and the Inquisitor. This was especially shown when the Sixth Doctor detected the evidence shown before him was being manipulated and he wished to pursue his intentions of proving his innocence and who was behind the manipulation and for what purpose.
Like with previous incarnations, the Sixth Doctor continued the trait of becoming incredibly dark when it came to facing his most dreaded enemies and threatening them beyond the norm, an example being in ‘The Mark of the Rani’ when Peri is caught within the Master and the Rani’s trap and he forced them at gun point to rescue her. The Sixth Doctor also became cold and dark towards his own race, the Time Lords, upon hearing how corrupt they’d become, speaking an inspiring speech that summed up his views about them – complaining them worse than the likes of the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans put together. It’s times like this the Doctor really does release his inner darkness and each incarnation after the Sixth Doctor would release it more and more.
The Sixth Doctor had the habit of persisting his worries or disagreements with Peri by repeating a single word she’d said over and over again, often getting louder and more serious as each repeat went on. Also, it is very fair to say that the Sixth Doctor did not like carrot juice.
Era and Stories
The Sixth Doctor era continued the traits of the Fifth Doctor era while adding its own spin upon it, i.e. creating dark tones around both the stories and the Doctor’s persona. John Nathan-Turner was still onboard as show-runner and like Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe before him, tried to make the show darker (something he had started to do in the Fifth Doctor’s era). These dark tones concentrated on experimentation to humanoids, seen clearly in ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ with the half converted Cybermen Bates and Stratton, then in ‘Vengeance on Varos’ when Peri and Areta were turned into animals for the pleasures of Sil. Then an extreme case of mutation was shown in ‘Timelash’ through the Borad and finally the victims of Davros’ experiments in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’. These dark themes created very sinister ideas around the stories and created a more mature theme around the show, something that would get Doctor Who into a lot of trouble by the likes of Michael Grade.
Other dark themes that were increased were the death count. Like with the Holmes/Hinchcliffe era, John Nathan-Turner added more violent deaths to the characters of the stories, and this also in turn got the show into trouble. A prime example would be in ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ when Lytton got his hands crushed by the Cybermen, resulting in blood being shown. There was also of lot of stabbings displayed within Season Twenty-Two firstly with Shockeye stabbing Oscar with a knife in ‘The Two Doctors’, then character Tasambeker stabbing her boss Jobel with a needle and finally Orcini stabbing a guard and his employer Kara with his blade in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’.
A few of Season Twenty-Two’s episodes explored dark ideas. For example, ‘Vengeance on Varos’ employed the idea of having live executions being broadcast, and the people of the planet being almost like cattle – choosing what happened via a voting system. In ‘The Two Doctors’ cannibalism was explored to many degrees with Shockeye, who’s desire as a Androgum was to try out new meat for his cooking recipes – seen through his ambition to cook a human on several attempts, along with him violently (almost like an animal) catching a rat, snapping its back and trying out its flesh to see if it will do well as a dish. Finally in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ Davros became almost like a god within his own rights by experimenting on humans and creating a new breed of Daleks, offering this chance of immortality and power to character Tasambeker if she proved her loyalties by killing her boss Jobel.
Another of the shocking values of this era was the increase in violence the Doctor committed against his enemies. In ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ the Sixth Doctor destroyed not only the Cyber-Leader but also the Cyber-Controller with their own weapons. Further examples of violence were shown in ‘Vengeance on Varos’ when he knocked two guards into a pool of acid, then in ‘The Two Doctors’ when he killed Shockeye with cyanide and finally his use of force against a Dalek in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’, resulting in him shooting off its eye. This change in personality was a new direction for both the character and the show, and although it led to interesting developments, it also led to the show’s downfall. With the increase in violence, many changes were made behind the scenes, starting with the show being put on hiatus and the original plans for Season Twenty-Three being scrapped. The show returned eighteen months later with a reduced episode count and a toned down attitude.
Season Twenty-Three had one single story lasting for the fourteen episode run showcasing the Sixth Doctor on trial, a mirroring act to showcase the fact the show was on trial itself to determine its future. The story consisted of four segments, based along the lines of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, with an adventure being picked out from the Doctor’s past, present and future as a form of evidence to express his bad behaviour when it came to meddling with the affairs of others. The Sixth Doctor’s character was mellowed out, as was his friendship with Peri Brown which had them constantly bickering in their prior adventures. The tone was lowered as well, with the exception of the death count still remaining as it had done throughout the shows history. Parts Five – Eight (commonly referred to as ‘Mindwarp’) was the darkest of the four segments, with having the return of Sil and the idea of experimentation with humanoids. Within this segment it had the Sixth Doctor going psychotic again as well as showcasing the apparent death of Peri Brown in a disturbing manor. This of course for obvious reasons was changed, explained to be an illusion created by the Valeyard to make the Doctor’s actions seem worse and in fact she was still alive. This season also delved into furthering the ideas of the Doctor’s dark side through the manifestation of the Valeyard, a creature created via the Doctor’s dark thoughts and ambitions – essentially becoming an alter-ego to the Time Lord.
The turbulence behind the scenes didn’t improve and the show went into further changes, causing the Sixth Doctor’s era to end without a complete conclusion. For the first time ever the show was entering a spiral which it unfortunately couldn’t escape from, causing the Seventh Doctor’s era to be forced into action in order to keep the show running…
Peri adjusted to the new Doctor with a rough start after his mighty ego showed off constantly, along with her nearly been throttled by the man who had just sacrificed himself to save her. She soon got used to the Sixth Doctor after he mellowed out after his post-regenerative problems. Although they constantly bickered with each other, they showed a lot of respect for one another. As time went on, their friendship mellowed out and they became closer friends, with their bickering sessions coming to an end. In ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ it was indicated that Peri fell to a sticky end after her body was taken over by Kiv during a horrific experiment. Peri was then destroyed by King Yrcanos after the Time Lords took control of him to clear up the Sixth Doctor’s meddling. At the end of the story, it was revealed Peri survived and left with Yrcanos to live a new life, making the Sixth Doctor happy.
Melanie’s first appeared in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ where she aided the Sixth Doctor in his future during his investigation of Hyperion III, ultimately helping him bring an end to the dreaded Vervoids; experimental plants that tried destroying humanity. She was then brought to the Sixth Doctor’s trial by the Master to aid in his evidence. Melanie helped the Sixth Doctor defeat his alter-ego the Valeyard and left with him once his name was cleared and the trial ended. Melanie Bush to date is the only companion who doesn’t have an introduction story onscreen.
Encountered Villains and Monsters
The cybernetic creatures returned in ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ where they attempted to change their history by averting the destruction of their home-world Mondas. In the process they nearly took control of the TARDIS, their second attempt at hijacking the time-space capsule after their first attempt failed in ‘Earthshock’. The Cyber-Controller was revealed to be still alive after its apparent death in ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’. In the end, the Sixth Doctor finished the job and killed the Cyber-Controller and ultimately prevented their time meddling.
In ‘Vengeance on Varos’ Sil was the Mentor representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation who used his power of authority to rob the planet of Varos profit by buying their rare mineral Zeiton-7 ore for far less than it was really worth. The sick creature also delighted in watching and selling the execution and torture videos from Varos’ reality television programmes. The Sixth Doctor managed to put an end to his control over the planet and allowed the people to get the full profit over Zeiton-7 ore.
Sil returned in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ during the second evidence sequence where the Sixth Doctor was investigating his activities on his home-world Thoros Beta. The Sixth Doctor had to pretend to be helping the creature while Sil’s boss Kiv was undergoing a special brain transplant. The scenario got out of hand and the Time Lords ended up dragging him out of time and they dealt with the situation themselves. It was unclear what happened to Sil and what punishment he received from the Time Lords.
The Doctor’s nemesis returned in ‘The Mark of the Rani’ to claim his never ending revenge against the Doctor. He brought the Sixth Doctor into a trap during the industrial revolution were he attempted to team up with the Rani. This plan failed and was then trapped within the Rani’s TARDIS as punishment.
The Master returned in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ where he tried aiding the Sixth Doctor against his alter-ego the Valeyard, attempting to kill the Doctor’s evil side before he could steal the Master’s greatest ambition – i.e. kill the Doctor.
The Rani was another renegade Time Lord who was exiled from Gallifrey due to her mind experiments in chemistry. She based herself within the industrial revolution and sole a vital component to the human brain (the part that allows the mind to rest) in order to aid her experimental creatures. After encountering the Master, she was pulled into a ploy to try and kill the Sixth Doctor. The Master’s ambitions gave her further ideas but in the end her instincts were correct and the Master’s attempts at revenge brought their downfall. The Sixth Doctor sabotaged her TARDIS and the partners in crime became trapped in an out of control space/time capsule with a Tyrannosaurs-Rex.
The clone warriors attempted once again to claim the power of time travel. In ‘The Two Doctors’ they made an alliance with scientist Dastari and his augmented Androgum Chessene and kidnapped the Second Doctor in order to find out how the Time Lords time travel via dissection of his molecular structure. The Sixth Doctor soon became involved which lead to Chessene’s downfall, with the Sontarans being killed after the augmented Androgum turned on them.
Under the name of the Great Healer, Davros took control of Necros in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and used the facility of Tranquil Repose to experiment on Humanoids in order to create a new breed of Daleks; ones that were superior killing machines with the usage of emotions and the ability to reproduce. He lured the Sixth Doctor into a trap and explained he used the nobles’ bodies from the cryogenic freezers to create his new Daleks while the rest of the bodies were turned into protein in order to keep the nearby galaxies living until he took over their worlds. Davros suffered damage during this confrontation after the Sixth Doctor aided Orcini, a well trained assassin, to shoot off Davros’ hand. Before Davros could make the Sixth Doctor suffer for his continuous humiliations, the Supreme Daleks’ troopers arrived to arrest Davros for his crimes. Davros’ new breed of Daleks were later destroyed by Orcini.
The Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek were brought to Necros in order to put an end to Davros’ plans. They destroyed his guards and gave Davros an ultimatum; surrender or die. Davros had no choice but to accompany them back to Skaro in order to face trial.
The Valeyard was at first perceived to be the judge overseeing the Sixth Doctor’s trial in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. Throughout the story it was hinted that he had his own agenda as he desperately tried to make out the Sixth Doctor was guilty for his crimes of time meddling, even to the point of using the Sixth Doctor’s evidence against him and sentencing him to death due to his further crimes of genocide – a crime committed to save humanity from the Vervoids. It was revealed by the Master that the Valeyard was in fact the Doctor’s alter-ego, a creature formed from all of his darkness which manifested somewhere between the Doctor’s twelfth and thirteenth incarnation. The Valeyard made a deal with the High Council to which end would grant him the Doctor’s remaining regenerations. A massive fight broke out within the Matrix, with the Valeyard trying desperately to humiliate the Sixth Doctor through mind games. In the end, the Sixth Doctor prevented the Valeyard assassinating the High Council members within the trial room and saved himself from death at the hands of his dark side. The Sixth Doctor believed his dark self was destroyed but at the end of the story it was revealed he was still alive.
The Three Must See Episodes
- 3. ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’
- 2. ‘The Two Doctors’
- 1. ‘Revelation of the Daleks’
Special Mentions to: ‘The Twin Dilemma’ and ‘Vengeance on Varos’
To Begin With
The Sixth Doctor: You were expecting someone else?
The Incarnation Speech
The Sixth Doctor: In all my travelling throughout the universe I have battled against evil, against power mad conspirators. I should have stayed here. The oldest civilization: decadent, degenerate, and rotten to the core. Power mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans… Cybermen, they’re still in the nursery compared to us. Ten million years of absolute power. That’s what it takes to be really corrupt.
Famous Last Words
The Sixth Doctor: Ohh… Carrot juice? Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice!
The Sixth Doctor regenerated in ‘Time and the Rani’ due to the TARDIS crash landing on the planet Lakertya. The Rani wanted to capture the Sixth Doctor, in an attempt to lure him into a trap to aid her evil plans, by attacking his TARDIS. This in turn caused the ship to lose control and crash land on the planet Lakertya where her base lied. The Sixth Doctor was badly injured due to this attack and crash. The Rani boarded the TARDIS to find an unconscious Melanie Bush as well as the Sixth Doctor being forced to regenerate, morphing into his seventh incarnation before the renegades eyes…