The Case for… The Colin Baker Era

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Guest contributor John Hussey makes the case for the most controversial era in Doctor Who’s history.

From the title some of you will already know what I mean, and for you who haven’t seen this era or the Classic Series in general; allow me to explain.

The Colin Baker-era started on shaky grounds with his debut story ‘The Twin Dilemma’ which depicted the new Doctor as paranoid and with slight emotional problems, especially in the anger and smug department. I personally like this story as it shows the new Doctor suffering very badly from Post-Regeneration, even to the point he has many breakdowns and almost strangles his companion, Peri Brown. With many already judging Colin in the wrong way after his first episode (which was placed at the end of Peter Davison’s last season by John Nathan Turner), viewers would have to wait with tension for the following season in order to see how Colin would progress.

Season 22 started off with a bang by bringing back the popular Cybermen along with a story that paid many respecting references to past Cyber-stories such as ‘The Tenth Planet’ and ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’. We also saw the return of familiar faces from the past such as Commander Lytton who was last seen in the previous season as a Dalek duplicate and this time he helps the Doctor battle the Cybermen. As well as Lytton we saw the return of the Cyber-Controller whose last appearance was in 1967.

The series continued to run very smoothly with very good ratings as new villains were introduced in the next two stories (i.e. Sil and the Rani) and would both make one more appearance on the show in the near future. For the fourth story we had yet another multi-Doctor-story which saw the return of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor along with Frazer Hines as his companion Jamie McCrimmon. ‘The Two Doctors’ also brought back popular villains the Sontarans whose last appearance was in 1978.

The final episode of the season had the return of Davros and the Daleks under very sinister and dark tones. I watched this story when I was a kid and loved it. The story really makes Davros a more insane and sinister character as he experiments with Human tissue and transforms them into Daleks. At one point in the story he offers character Tasambeker the opportunity of becoming a Dalek if she proved her loyalty by killing her boss Jobel. In some ways ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ was the first “Doctor-lite” story as it didn’t feature him as much, with the Doctor not properly joining the story till Part 2. Instead it concentrated on the characters around Necros, where the story is set, and the experiments Davros is cooking up under the persona of ‘the Great Healer’.

Season 22 was a success in many ways, especially in progressing Colin Baker’s character from his fearful opener, but unfortunately this would be the start to the Classic Series’ downfall. Due to the content of Season 22 which mostly depicted violence, dark tones, experimentation on Humanoids and even the Doctor committing acts of violence himself, Doctor Who was placed on an 18-month-hiatus. All plans for the original Season 23 had to be put on hold with the final scene of ‘Revelation of the Daleks’, which was suppose to have the Doctor say he would take Peri to Blackpool (the setting for the planned Episode 1 of Season 23 ‘The Nightmare Fair’) was cut due to the uncertainty of Doctor Who’s future.

After the hiatus the original Season 23 was scraped and ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ was created instead which had the Doctor being place on trial by the Time Lords once again for his constant interferences in time. It was supposed to reflect the current state of the production as Doctor Who itself was on a sort of trial to see if it could continue. The series was cut back with the number of episodes reduced and the 45-minute episode format of Season 22 scraped and the remainder of the Classic Series would broadcast 14 episodes a year, 25-minutes in length, showcasing 4 stories. ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ was made into one massive long story with four segments and at the end of it the Doctor defeats the Valeyard, who turns out to be the Doctor’s evil self from the future, and clears his name and the Time Lords once again forgive and thank him. He leaves in the TARDIS with new companion Melanie Bush which marked the then unknown ending of Colin Baker’s tenure.

The then Controller of BBC One, Michael Grade, had Colin Baker fired and wanted a new Doctor to be brought in. Colin Baker tried desperately to return for one more Season but his requests were never answered and so he decided not to return for the Regeneration scene.

In many ways Colin Baker had the hardest time on Doctor Who and a lot of bad decisions were made around his Doctor and stories. His crazy coloured outfit for one was a poor decision by John Nathan Turner. It was harsh that just as his story was progressing the series was put on hold and began his and Doctor Who’s downfall.

I for one love Colin Baker’s tenure, I love his Doctor and especially like his stories but unfortunately Colin didn’t get the time on the show he deserved and I wish I could go back and change that. It would have been interesting to see the Season 23 that was intended and to see how long he would’ve stayed on for.

Needless to say Doctor Who never did make the comeback it needed after Season 22.