Doctor Who In Perspective 1982-1984
John Hussey continues his Classic look back, this time with the Davison era.
“They also enhance life. When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal? […]For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!”
Peter Davison had massive shoes to fill after the departure of Tom Baker. Due to Baker’s extensive time onboard the TARDIS, and his massive fan-base, it was fair to say some viewers weren’t accustomed to the idea of there being more than one Doctor. With Davison being the youngest of the lot at that point in time he certainly went about to use his youth to his advantage.
The main character trait that the Fifth Doctor enabled was the idea of the Time Lord being more vulnerable and even doubtful of his own actions. Prior to this the Doctor had always been old and wise, filled with confidence around his actions and never second-guessed himself. This stance of being the superior one in the room faded with the Fifth Doctor as his young, fresh appearance narrowed this thought and his humanoid behaviour made him feel human rather than alien. Along with this the Fifth Doctor developed a kind heart, listening to his companions and formulated a stronger bond because of his willingness to care beyond his former incarnations.
This started with his introductory serial ‘Castrovalva’ were his post-regeneration cycle made him defenceless and his companions had to carry the weight whilst the Master attempted to seize the Doctor’s vulnerability to gain his revenge for his recent defeat. For the first two parts of the serial the Fifth Doctor remained near enough inactive, besides the brief moment of adrenaline after the heat raised within the TARDIS as it plummeted, once more, towards the Big Bang. It was not until Part Three were the Fifth Doctor really started to find his feet, after a brief time of amnesia, eventually foiling the Master’s space-time trap in Part Four.
‘Four to Doomsday’ showcased how the Fifth Doctor was unable to control his companion Tegan Jovanka after her outburst upon discovering the Time Lord failed to take her home, a reoccurring gag throughout Season Nineteen. His youthfulness was put to the test very early on through his excessive running, agility and the ability to use a cricket ball to fling himself through space back to the TARDIS. The Fifth Doctor felt to be full of life, observing the universe with a fresh pair of eyes and felt trustworthy around people but steadily grew more and more weary and judgemental to those who condemned the universe with violence. But this never dampened his charm.
‘Earthshock’ proved a shocking serial for the Fifth Doctor as it showcased his ability to make massive mistakes that cost lives. He proved doubtful of himself trying to prevent the detonation of the Cybermen’s bomb and later their attack on the cargo freighter. He became helpless when the Cyber-Leader used emotion against him, placing the Fifth Doctor under his control. In the end he was powerless to prevent Adric’s fate, something that even his companions challenged him about within the following serial ‘Time-Flight’ and proved vulnerable even in his defence. You began to feel like you weren’t certain whether or not the Doctor could win and that loss could start to damage him.
‘Arc of Infinity’ showed off more of his cunning nature and for the first time acted out on his own, keeping his companion Nyssa in the dark towards his actions. This meant that she thought for a brief time that he’d been executed by the Time Lords but in reality the Fifth Doctor was fully aware that the enemy, later revealed to be Omega, wanted him alive. For the serial’s conclusion the Fifth Doctor once again proved, after previously using a weapon against the Cybermen, that the kind-hearted incarnation was capable of using violence to win the day; even if it meant shooting Omega to protect the universe from certain doom.
He then went on to face the ultimate dilemma within ‘Mawdryn Undead’ when he had to choose whether or not to give up being a Time Lord in order to save Mawdryn and his followers from an agonising immortality cycle after their failed experiments to become Time Lords. This was added by the later dilemma of also saving Nyssa and Tegan from the same fate. True to the Fifth Doctor’s kind-hearted nature he was willing to do so for his companions. There was no question that this was the reasoning and that he wasn’t willing to help Mawdryn, despite his suffering, due to his own blundering. Tegan also commented on his willingness to surrender his soul for her and Nyssa and was truly grateful, showcasing how human the Fifth Doctor was in comparison to his other incarnations prior.
I also liked the resolution of ‘Enlightenment’. Turlough had previously been trying to kill, or sabotage the Fifth Doctor in order to fulfil his end of the contract with the Black Guardian and it was this moment that really tested where his loyalty rested. In the end Turlough decided to go against the Black Guardian and instead of claiming Enlightenment he granted it to the creature of darkness and destroyed him. This scene was the few moments the Fifth Doctor acted as a manipulating figure but it served its purpose to allow Turlough to choose the right path.
One of the Fifth Doctor’s greatest moments, proving how far he’d come as a character from a moaning old man of importance to a young hero chasing after the stars, was within ‘The Five Doctors’ where he declined the position of Presidency. Like a defiant child he happily ran away in his rickety old TARDIS with his companions, misusing his powers to leave control with Chancellor Flavia, stating that was how his adventures all started. This particular scene really highlighted not only the Fifth Doctor’s character but the Doctor as a whole, giving us a true insight into his motivations.
The Fifth Doctor faced a dark moment during ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ where he confronted his past mistakes in which he failed to bring about the Daleks destruction at their genesis. This led him to confront Davros as an executioner in an attempt to prevent him from saving the diabolical creatures from extinction. In the end though Davros proved the Doctor right with the fact that he is simply too kind and doesn’t stray towards violence as a means of results, meaning he wouldn’t commit cold-blooded murder. The Fifth Doctor later on used the Movellan virus to destroy a group of Daleks but he proved that he didn’t do this gladly, given there was no other choice. Tegan pointed out the violence that follows him and grew tired of this and so decided to leave which in many ways made the Fifth Doctor angry at himself.
Without a doubt the Fifth Doctor had a grand send-off as he showcased everything that made his character great in his final hour. His childish and fun-loving nature shone as with his strong determination to protect his companion Peri Brown from danger. The journey was truly dark as he got caught in the middle of a drugs war between two insane forces whilst also confronting a virus that slowly killed him. In the end he chose to sacrifice himself to save Peri, something that was a saddening but heroic sequence that showcased how far he would go to do the right thing at the cost of his own life.
“Brave heart, Tegan.”
Like with the Fourth Doctor’s era, the Fifth Doctor gathered a wide range of companions who came from different backgrounds and species, allowing for a more diverse TARDIS crew. Tegan certainly became the Fifth Doctor’s companion, after her debut appearance within ‘Logopolis’ during the Fourth Doctor’s final hour. Her character was interesting because she didn’t actually want to be aboard the TARDIS and wished for the Fifth Doctor to take her home, becoming further annoyed upon his bad piloting. This became annoying during her first season because she was aggressive towards the Fifth Doctor and extremely ungrateful. By the end of the season she was actually disappointed to be accidentally left behind and became a different character upon her return in ‘Arc of Infinity’. Her greatest ability was being able to confront the Fifth Doctor and ultimately became a good friend for him.
Nyssa was the sweet innocent girl who didn’t have a whole lot of confidence and so it was nice to see her slowly develop her own voice. It was incredibly sad to see so much pain come her way during the beginning of her adventures. Over the course of two serials the Master had pulled her world apart, but the Fifth Doctor was always there for her and by ‘Arc of Infinity’ became a dominant companion who could tell the Fifth Doctor what to do, also leading her to become very caring towards him and serving as his protector.
I loved how Turlough was made to be the villain during his introduction, creating a naïve boy who was desperate to achieve his own needs by any means necessary. What made his character good was that he quickly learnt from his mistakes and understood he was trying to kill an innocent man who served as a hero for the universe rather than the evil man of destruction the Black Guardian described. It was all the more severe when the Black Guardian threatened him, driving Turlough to attempt suicide. He certainly wasn’t my favourite companion due to his cowardly ways but without a doubt had some of the best story development which granted him a very well rounded departure in ‘Planet of Fire’, returning to his roots and explaining why he was in the predicament of exile during his first serial.
Kamelion, unlike K9, proved to be a failed attempt at a robotic companion. Due to behind the scenes problems Kamelion was pushed into the depths of the TARDIS, despite the fact he was supposed to be a companion. In the end the poor creature only appeared twice, three if you count his deleted scene in ‘The Awakening’, which was a massive shame because he had so much personality and torture to his soul due to the Master’s manipulation.
The most shocking companion moment during this era was the death of Adric. Adric, in my eyes, is more associated with the Fourth Doctor especially since his time with the Fifth Doctor was pushed aside by the presence of Tegan and Nyssa. Adric even called him out on the fact that he was being made to feel like an outsider and calculated the route back into E- Space to prove a point. This was a massive shame for his character, as despite his sometimes foolish behaviour, he was an intelligent character full of questions and a keen sense of helping out his friend. At least his departure proved heroic, sending a shiver throughout the TARDIS as everyone, including the Fifth Doctor, looked on in shock and sadness.
“Killing you once was never enough for me, Doctor. How, how gratifying to do it three times over.”
The Fifth Doctor’s era was good at creating foes who confronted the Doctor in a way that made him vulnerable, often pinning him down at gun-point or even causing him harm. This new direction, as emphasised above, created a fresh approach to the Doctor’s character and made us feel more concerned and frightened as to whether the Doctor would win.
In many instances the Fifth Doctor’s foes caused severe harm to those around him, breaking down the Doctor’s power as the tall overseeing wise-man we’d seen before. The Mara was a great example of a new kind of evil that manipulated its victims through fear. In ‘Snakedance’ Tegan underwent torment as the Mara possessed her throughout the majority of the narrative with the Fifth Doctor unable to prevent this until the creature attempted manifestation during the resolution.
The era granted the Master plenty of character development after his return at the end of the Fourth Doctor’s era. His carnage increased tremendously and you became worried as to how far he would go to gain his victory. He manipulated Nyssa’s step-mother, stole her father’s body to remain alive, killed Tegan’s aunty, caused the breakdown of the universe, tried blackmailing the universe, caused the Fourth Doctor’s death, used Adric’s mind in his attempts to kill the Fifth Doctor in his first serial, tried controlling a race to gain further power, attempted to claim immortality and on multiple occasions controlled Kamelion’s mind.
Without a doubt Anthony Ainley’s version of the Master was a twisted soul who had no problem with destroying lives. This added greatly to his connection with the Fifth Doctor as well as his companions, with the majority of them losing something dear to them at the hands of the villainous Time Lord. What I did enjoy was his return to admiring the Doctor as his equal, even admitting in ‘The King’s Demons’ that the Fifth Doctor inspired him.
Lots of deaths occurred in this era with some serials becoming a bloodbath, especially towards the end of the era during the likes of ‘Warriors of the Deep’, Resurrection of the Daleks’ and ‘The Caves of Androzani’, and you felt the Fifth Doctor wasn’t in control and many lives were lost because of this. This added to the Fifth Doctor’s own personal doubt and this reflected his new persona of being more judgemental and honest with himself, he wasn’t an all seeing force that could solve every problem; his actions had consequence.
This era had a lot of returning villains such as the Black Guardian, Omega and the Silurians. With the exception of the Silurians each of these returning creatures had an amazing set of story developments beyond their original appearances. The Master I have spoken about in great depth above. The Cybermen were granted their finest hour through their outstanding surprise return in ‘Earthshock’, a fan favourite even to this day. Even the Daleks got given a sinister tale. ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ has one of the largest body-counts. The opening scene had Dalek-Duplicates disguised as police-officers shooting down escaping prisoners and an innocent old man.
“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people in a rackety old TARDIS?”
“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”
The Fifth Doctor’s era certainly took on a story-arc approach to storytelling, weaving serials in and out of one another. This started back when John Nathan-Turner first took over at the end of the Fourth Doctor’s reign. This was done with ‘The E-Space Trilogy’ and the connection of the Fourth Doctor’s penultimate and final serial and the Fifth Doctor’s first. I liked this idea and find it helps within the modern era of the show to allow a progression of events through a well formatted narrative.
The era worked well at dividing between story-arcs and stand-alone stories with most serials having some form of reference to indicate to one another, with even the simple notion of the Fifth Doctor showing the book he received at the end of ‘Black Orchid’ to Adric in ‘Earthshock’.
In a couple of instances the serials continued from one another, either carrying on an existing story or utilising the original format of concluding with a cliff-hanger that led to new events. The latter was done at the end of ‘Four to Doomsday’ when Nyssa fell unconscious, leading into ‘Kinda’, and again at the end of ‘Frontios’ when the TARDIS got caught in a Time Corridor, leading into ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’.
Continuing stories were used in two different ways, story arcs and character arcs. There was ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’ during Season Twenty which showcased the dark creature’s attempts at destroying the Fifth Doctor through Turlough. There was also the conclusion of ‘The Master Trilogy’ within ‘Castrovalva’ which brought about the Master’s defeat after his three attempted schemes and the beginning of a new Doctor after his slow path to regeneration during the previous serials.
Adric, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough all received a massive amount of character development through additional arcs, something that was new to the show at the time. This approach made the progression of the stories all the more in-depth and gripping because you saw the character’s progress from their original states, often than not in very emotional circumstances. A brave move was made by showing the dangers of the Doctor’s travels through the death of family members, something I found made the companions journey onboard the TARDIS all the more serious.
The greatest accomplishment, as stated many times above, was the new take on the Doctor’s personality, forging him into a vulnerable character filled with human traits. This worked well throughout this era as he was confronted with challenges that made us all fill up with anticipation because the Doctor wasn’t a strong, leading character anymore. He had flaws, weaknesses and enemies could actually pull the carpet from under him in order to cause him harm and endanger those around him. This made the Fifth Doctor unique, especially for engaging factors because he was more relatable as a hero. Sometimes the audience craves a hero that can produce failures because it makes them less indestructible and more susceptible to defeat, making the outcome less obvious.
A huge round of applause for John Nathan-Turner, Eric Saward and Peter Davison for bringing this new styled Doctor, an incarnation that presented arrogance on the highest level whilst also showcasing such charm and warmth to every situation. He was a true hero and a gentle soul all the way to the end. Above all he admitted to his flaws, sometimes after some much needed nudges, and for just a short time stopped being an alien who stood above us and decided to be amongst us. His final moments in ‘The Caves of Androzani’ showcased his character perfectly and how loved he was and how much he would be missed.