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The Fifth Doctor: Five Favourites

Gustaff Behr and Tomas Edwards pick out five favourites from Peter Davison’s era.

fifth-doctor-Davison-cricket

Happy birthday to Peter Davison! Now that that is out of the way, let’s discuss the Fifth Doctor. His era: Back to basics. 1981-1984: Home of the gentle, vulnerable Doctor, who, after regenerating for the fourth time, took on a more responsible personality. He proved more grown up than his immediate predecessor and a lot more naive than any of his previous incarnations. He now had an orphan in his TARDIS, a stowaway and a loud Australian woman he just couldn’t get back to Heathrow no matter how hard he tried.

Peter Davison’s stories were also very much varied and widespread, covering the past, future, and numerous alien planets. While not the first Classic Doctor this author had the pleasure of seeing, Peter’s Doctor, like all the others, stood out. Not just because of the stick of celery he decided to wear on his lapel or the cricket coat he insisted to be seen in, but the fact that as impossible as it was taking over from Tom Baker, Peter Davison managed to win over a new generation of fans and it is his name you hear people like Steven Moffat and David Tennant talk about when they’re asked about what/who inspired them. That man is Peter Davison! Here’s five of his best (at least in my book):

The Caves of Androzani

The-Caves-of-Androzani-d“Is this death?” – Fifth Doctor

Surprisingly, Caves was the first Davison story I watched. Despite being the swansong, at the time I didn’t know enough about Doctor Who to care, so that did little damage to my opinion as I watched what I would soon discover, not just personally, but generally throughout the Whoverse, that The Caves of Androzani would stand as one of the best, if not the best regeneration story out there. It’s claustrophobic, it’s got an incredibly perfect pace in regards to both running, dialogue and if someone asked you to ‘condense’ this story, you’d have a tough time selecting which scenes aren’t necessary because all of them are. I’m a sucker for a political drama, plus we have arms dealers which is always a bonus. Throw in mercenaries and corrupt government officials, mix in a little sociopath in Sharaz Jek and you have all the makings of a great story. A fitting end to a fine Doctor!

Castrovalva

doctor-who-Castrovalva“Well, that’s democracy for you…” – Fifth Doctor

And now you can start laughing. Not at the story I selected, but at the fact that this was my second Peter Davison tale. I often compare new regeneration stories to this story in order to evaluate the new Doctor. So in a sense, Castrovalva for me is a perfect Doctor breakout tale. It features the companions having to step up to the plate and take care of the Doctor in his hour of need, plus we have the third Master story featuring the Anthony Ainley incarnation, which is such a dream to watch. Combine that with the odd, architecture folding in on itself (a very clever idea I admit) and I can’t find much fault with this tale. Adric is even sidelined for 90% of this tale, which is not really good or bad, but a lot of people dislike Adric, so that is appealing if you’re on the ‘good’ side of the fence. Oh and did I mention the beautiful serene landscape that encompasses the venue for part of this tale. Breathtaking! I wouldn’t mind vacationing in Castrovalva.

Black Orchid

 black-orchid-doctor-who“I sincerely hope so.” – Fifth Doctor

The actors admit that they hate this story. I admit that I love this story. This adventure – before everything goes wonky – is what I imagine the Doctor and his companions get up to when they’re not battling Daleks or Cybermen. A costume party in the roaring 20s? Sign me up. One of the endangered ‘purely-historical’ stories, Black Orchid stands out partly because the danger faced in this story isn’t as extreme as on other occasions, but also because murder mystery appeals to me and I’m often reminded of The Unicorn and the Wasp. Both these are guilty pleasures of mine and this script does wonders for Nyssa’s character and allows Sarah Sutton to prove to us twice over her acting prowess.

Earthshock

cybermen-earthshock-reveal“There isn’t a taxi service you can take back and forth.” – Fifth Doctor

Gustaff’s take: Most people consider it the best Cybermen tale there is. Do I agree with that? No. Do I like it enough to put it on this list? Obviously! I like Adric in this story from start to finish. I like his and the Doctor’s journey and I adore the send-off that Adric receives and the sacrifice he makes at the end of it all. The Cybermen don’t just stand around. They are plentiful and they are menacing. The script really emphasizes that humanity is fighting a war against the Cybermen. The claustrophobic caves and the space freighter are beautifully designed and the direction is perfect. We’ll ignore the walls breaking like cardboard once the Cybermen break in and just praise the positives of this story. This is Peter Davison fully settled into the role, taking on a fitting opponent in a story that I personally believe should’ve been the season finale instead of the penultimate tale. But that’s just me.

Tomas’ take: Tom Baker had very much been a great hero, someone who seemed indomitable, unbeatable, someone, always grinning in the face of danger. So it was a brilliant move to show Davison’s Doctor was different. This Doctor was more vulnerable, and at the end of Earthshock, he loses. Davison gives a powerful performance throughout the story, from his early arguments with Adric (who really is not as bad as people make him out to be), all the way through to Adric’s death. Davison doesn’t waste time blubbing everywhere or screaming in rage, instead he simply looks forward with a sad, resigned look of defeat. Sublime acting from a super actor. As for the rest of the story, well, the guest characters are all great, and the Cybermen do a lot of killing, which is generally very enjoyable to watch, and although the plot can be a bit patchy in places, and the music is occasionally irritating, but overall a highly watchable and engaging story.

Mawdryn Undead

Mawdryn_undead-davison“Does anyone know where I can find a Doctor?” – Tegan Jovanka

I can describe the brilliance of this story in five magnificent words: Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart. Mawdryn Undead stands as one of the few times Doctor Who tried to do ‘timey-wimey’ and also served as one of the very few occasions where they got it right! Separating the Doctor from his companions and TARDIS is an old trick, but here a new spin is put on things and that just adds to the temporal intrigue this story delivers. The plot is interesting, the villains are cunning, the Doctor is lost, there’s an assassin onboard the TARDIS and the school boys are whistling, reminding all of us just how gorgeous Janet Fielding looked in those shorts. Peter Davison plays well of off Courtney and the idea of putting a mystery and two (let’s bold that for emphasize) – yes two – Brigadiers in one tale only adds to this story. It is a jewel and not only introduces a very controversial, but interesting companion, it stands as one of the best ‘arc’ openers in the Who universe.

Honorable mentions:

five-doctors-dvd-25-anniversaryThe Five Doctors

Gustaff’s take: Length, amount of guest stars, Master, multiple Doctors and a whole menagerie of villains, both old, unique and bizarre…need I say more?

Tomas’ take: Well, we couldn’t write this article and not include this fantastic birthday party. Although at times it feels a bit mad, with a few too many ingredients, overall it is a lot of fun, with Troughton and Pertwee returning to their roles brilliantly. Meanwhile, Hurndall does a great job as the first Doctor, and of course our man of the moment, Peter Davison, leads his fellows brilliantly. He was especially good in the last scene, when he looks forward to the great adventure of once more trying to evade the Time Lords (a new start and direction after an anniversary, sound familiar?) The various companions all do a great job too, and luckily the large cast is generally juggled very well, although Turlough and Susan feel a little side-lined (But I can’t really complain about Susan being kept away from most of the action, I don’t think the sound barrier could have coped). The twist around the villain was excellent, and one I did not see coming, and the ending was similarly a great surprise. Also, how could we not include the episode that brought us those infamous words: “No, not the mind probe.”

The Visitation – Another guilty pleasure that has so many wonderful outdoor scenes, an interesting villain (even if it’s a rubber suited one) and a plot that does manage to scare viewers, especially if you don’t like rodents.

Resurrection of the Daleks – Stands as the story with the highest number of onscreen character deaths (characters actually played by actors). The total is 71. People say that there are two ways to make Daleks scary. 1) Have them winning in the end like they did in Victory of the Daleks and 2) involves showing them killing many people. Guess which one this story utilizes?

Is it any wonder why Peter Davison is so well-loved by fans? Why his name is dropped when celebrities talk about childhood good times? The Fifth Doctor is immortalized, as is Peter Davison in the legacy of Who that is still speeding forward. A very happy 63rd birthday, Peter!

Step back in time...

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42 comments
Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

 “No, not the mind probe.”

If I had a list of best Doctor Who quotes then this one would be up there with "Hello, can you help me?  I'm a spy."

The Other Scarman
The Other Scarman

For me its Enlightenment, Androzani, Vistiation, 5 Doctors and Black Orchid





Liana21
Liana21

For me

Castrovalva

The Visitation

Mawdryn Undead

Earthshock

Planet of Fire

YaelMoise
YaelMoise

No, not the mind probe!

No, not the mind probe!

No, not the mind probe!

No, not the mind probe!

No, not the mind probe!

No, not the mind probe!

No, not the mind probe!

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

Why does everyone like Kinda? Someone explain it to me, because I've watched it twice and just found it to be a bit of a confusing mess. Not horrible, but "meh".

Polyphase
Polyphase

I know at the time I wasn't very happy with this Doctor but he has grown on me over the years and there are a lot of great episodes, Warriors of the Deep and Frontios stand out to me as well :)

Christopher Brown
Christopher Brown

Kinda, Snakedance, Enlightenment, The Awakening, Frontios, and The Caves of Androzani are the only really good Davison stories in my opinion, although Mawdryn Undead, Castrovalva, and Earthshock are enjoyable as well. Resurrection of the Daleks and The Visitation are not so good and I agree with the below comment about Black Orchid being a disappointment (I'll add the stupid The-Doctor-is-framed subplot to its flaws as well.)

needcomicmoney
needcomicmoney

I have all the Fifth Doctor stories on DVD and without stepping away from the computer to have another look I think the Top 5 and Honourable Mentions in the article would probably be my eight favourites. I must watch all the Fifth Doctor stories again in order one of these days, haven't done that since the original broadcasts. 

PK-S
PK-S

A terrific article, guys. Really great stuff from you both! I agree with all your choices bar one. I'm afraidI really dislike Black Orchid (after adoring it in the past) because of the themes covered. George Cranleigh is feared by the goodies because of his physical disfigurement and not at all villainous. His death is also a complete pratfall and is dealt with swiftly and effortlessly by the writer. The aspects you highlighted are the main saving graces in Black Orchid so I do agree with you, albeit in part.

The book of spoilers
The book of spoilers

My 4 stories would be 5 doctors,earthshock ,kinda,andenlightment since the rest I have seen where not good. I do however like these stories a lot. I will watch more one day yes one day.

Antee991166
Antee991166

The Caves of Androzani is just brilliant and is definitely my favourite story of the 1980's run. Castrovalva is an okay episode, but it definitely has some interesting ideas. I don't remember enjoying Black Orchid, but is been a while so maybe I should give it another try. Earthshock is one of the best Cyberman stories ever written and Mawdryn Undead is one of the best timey wimey stories ever written. I also love the two Mara stories and Enlightenment.

Baker Street is excited for Series 8!
Baker Street is excited for Series 8!

This article has now convinced me to watch "Black Orchid" and "Mawdryn Undead", two stories that I've never really know the quality of or what they're about. Thank you, and a great article!

JackatHarbor
JackatHarbor

Kinda and Snakedance, two great thoughtful mystical episodes. If you haven't seen them already please watch them


My own 3 choices would be Castrovalva, Enlightenment and Frontios . Caves is great but I think it's the only Davison most people have seen

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

No love for Four to doomsday? Better than Kinda in my opinion. I'm not really fond of it.

TheBiPunishment
TheBiPunishment

Well Gustaff, we managed it. And well done, you've done some fantastic work, makes my contribution look a bit meagre. XD But no matter, well done again Gustaff, and a very happy birthday to our beloved Peter Davison.

Iris Wildthyme
Iris Wildthyme

Lovely article. While the Fifth Doctor's era is not my favorite (that still belongs to either the Pertwee era or 1989-2005), there were some really lovely things to come out of it. Here's hoping that Big Finish's revival of Adric lives up to their addition of Erimem to the Fifth Doctor family. My choices would be Enlightenment, The Caves of Androzani, Kinda, Frontios, and Mawdryn Undead. I'd have said The Five Doctors, but it wasn't Peter Davison that made me love that episode so much. 






Rorschach's_Journal_of_Impossible_Things
Rorschach's_Journal_of_Impossible_Things

I haven't seen too many 5th Doctor stories (Caves of Androzani included... don't kill me) but one of my all time favourite Who stories is Kinda. It's one of the darkest Classic Series stories I've seen and I hope the Mara will return to menace Capaldi. Well, just need to add five stories to my watchlist... 

Trenzalore
Trenzalore

You know what, although he is my least favourite doctor (I shouldn't have least favourites but one word: Terminus) I'm gonna re-watch my Castrovalva DVD (I may as well just watch the whole new beginnings box set instead :P Yey, really small doctor who marathon!)

Lovely article and I have to agree, The Visitation is one of my guilty pleasures too ;) And Resurrection of the Daleks is my second favourite Dalek story and my favourite 5th doctor story (I may watch that too) anyway,

Happy Birthday Peter!

tcexect
tcexect

Kinda, anyone?

Enlightenment too.

Mikeyboss182
Mikeyboss182

Caves is without doubt my favourite Regeneration story and has my favourite Fifth Doctor moment "I'm not going to let you stop me now" that scene gives me chills every time. I also have a soft spot for Black Orchid I think it's a cracking little story. 

Happy Birthday Peter hope you had a great day:)



The Mara
The Mara

No Kinda? Or Snakedance? Or Enlightenment? Still a nice list though

Moxx
Moxx

Great article folks! So charmingly written and a joy to read. If I had to add one more choice it would be Enlightenment - totally spellbinding, to the extent that I was compelled to watch the entirety of the serial in one sitting. And that's saying something!

Moxx
Moxx


♪ ♫ Happy birthday to Pete, ♪ ♫


♪ ♫ D'spite your age you look neat, ♪ ♫


♪ ♫ We love you as the Doctor ♪ ♫


♪ ♫ Who made Adric mincemeat! ♪ ♫




yoshfiction
yoshfiction

Fantastic article, especially given the amount of time you guys had to write it. =)

Pockydon
Pockydon

I need to watch more of the Davison era, so far the only one I've watched is The Caves of Androzani, which was absolutely incredible. Peter Davison was amazing in it, and I think with a few more episodes he could be one of my favourite Doctors. Happy Birthday Peter!

Gustaff
Gustaff

Phew! Made it! Good job Thomas! It looks really really good. I have to admit, fastest publish time I've had on an article lol. Hope everybody had a great day and I hope Peter had a great day. 


As for me, now I'm going to cool off, have dinner and enjoy my favorite movie: Summer Wars!


Cheers Whovians! Good night to all of you!

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

My five favorite Davison stories would have to be:

Caves of Androzani

The five doctors

Resurrection of the daleks

Earthshock

The visitation

Honorable mentions go to:

Enlightenment

Black orchid (Yes, I know you don't like it Davison, but I do)

Four to doomsday (Yes, I like Four to doomsday. Very underrated)

The Finn
The Finn

Nice to see Black Orchid listed here! It's an underappreciated classic IMHO.

krawhitham
krawhitham

Wonder what Peter Davison's personal top 5 are?

DasManiac
DasManiac

My favorites are:


1. The Visitation

2. Resurrection of the Daleks

3. Warriors of the Deep

4. The Five Doctors

5. The King's Demons

Despite it's obvious low production values, Warriors of The Deep is still a very good story. The King's Demons on the other hand is an inconsequential story with a silly plot but it's still enjoyable.

Blanchard
Blanchard

Great work, nice to see this up!

YaelMoise
YaelMoise

My top "Five for Five"... Well, in no particular order:


* The Five Doctors

* Mawdryn Undead

* Arc of Infinity

* Snakedance

* Black Orchid


Honorable mention goes to Terminus, my very first ever DW story :)


And yes, I AM aware of the qualities of Caves of Androzani. But, honestly, I can't put the story where I lost "my Doctor" in my top five, can I.

loopeedeedo
loopeedeedo

Just finished 42D aaaaand... While not being all that bad.... The only GREAT thing about that ep was the actors, so many good ones. The story itself was so middle ground as to be able to define what is middle. Liked. But in a TOP list... Nah.

Gustaff
Gustaff

I was just thinking that dwtv shouldve removed my entire part of five doctors. U do it more justice than i did

floppy_who
floppy_who

Indeed...the directors cut on the DVD is better than the original, I think...

Pockydon
Pockydon

Oh Moxx, you lyrical genius.

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

@loopeedeedo I wouldn't put it near the top list either, but I thought it was a decent story, much better than the convoluted Castrovalva. One thing I didn't like, however, was Tegan. Goddamn it, she's worse than Adric!!!

Iris Wildthyme
Iris Wildthyme

@RobertLythgoe Fair enough. I just love the books/audios/comics that were created in the Wilderness Years;Doctor Who really diversified without, well, Doctor Who.