Saturday, April 02, 2005

Nine Days Of The Doctor - Day 5

In honour of the new Doctor Who series, which will debut on CBC TV on April 5, I now present Day Five of Nine Days Of The Doctor (even though Chris Eccleston, the actor hired to play The Doctor in the current series has quit after the first year, meaning that there will soon be a tenth Doctor).

Peter Davison: 1981-1984

Companions: Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), Vislor Turlough (Mark Strickson), Perprigilium "Peri" Brown (Nicola Bryant).

Comments: Peter Davison, born Peter Moffett, is probably best known not for playing The Doctor but for playing the rather dissolute veterinary student Tristan Farnon in the television adaptations of Jame Herriott's All Creatures Great And Small, which made him a very popular and sought after actor. He was the first actor to play the Doctor to have been a viewer of the series from the beginning, and apperntly modelled his portrayal primarily on Jon Pertwee, although there was some suggestion that he play the part as Tristan Farnon with courage and dignity. He was definitely cast to be different than Tom Baker. It's reported that he left the series at the end of his three year contract at least in part on the advice of Patrick Troughton. It is true that liekmany actors in similar series he didn't want to get typecast as The Doctor.

Davison's Doctor is far less flamboyant than any of his predecessors including Hartnell. His normal dress was a cricketer's sweater, a beige coat with red piping and striped trousers. The one bit of eccentricity was a piece of celery pinned to the left lapel of his coat. At some point the producers decided that The Doctor needed a symbol and a question mark was embroidered on the right lapel of The Doctor's shirt. The question mark would be a recurring theme in the costumes of the next two actors in the role. Davison's Doctor is probably the most physically active of all his incarnations. He's an expert cricketer (Davison was a keen amateur player) and in one episode plays the game expertly while his survival in another episode depends on his carrying a cricket ball in his pocket. Unfortunately the scripts begin to suffer in this period so while some stories are quite good there are a number that are rather weak. Davison does participate in the last purely historical story The Black Orchid and there's a nice episode with Lethbridge Stewart.

Of all of The Doctor's companions, perhaps the most disliked by the fans is Adric. In part this is because he's a teen-ager and a bit of a know it all at that. The character was written as being abrasive and arrogant. Apparently actor Matthew Waterhouse wasn't particularly well-liked by his fellow actors. Nyssa as precisely the opposite, a gentle caring young woman who was also brilliant at just about everything. She tended to be the peace maker between Adric, Tegan and The Doctor. Sarah Sutton was also a favourite of Davison's, to the point where he urged them to retain her in the role of the Doctor's companion instead of Janet Fielding. Tegan was one of the most argumentative companions ever on the show. She was strong willed - a trait that often got her into trouble - but tremendously loyal. (There was a definite chemistry between Davison's Doctor and Fielding's Tegan which, had the show been aimed at a more adult audience, might have been interpretted as some sort of sexual tension. At least that's my perception, which may be skewed by the fact that with her later short hair and more revealing clothes, I tend to find Tegan very sexy.) Turlough is one of the more interesting companions - he was also infuriating. He was at turns traitorous, cowardly and ruthless. You could never be sur you could trust him. Finally, Peri only appeared in two serials with Davison, and was introduced primarily to set her up for the transition to Colin Baker's Doctor. She did seem to have a close relationship with the Fifth Doctor in contrast with her relations with the Sixth.

Davison's time as The Doctor saw the return of The Master. After Roger Delgado's death the character was retained durning Tom Baker's run in the series but his face was only seen occassionally and then as horribly disfigured. In this form he was played by Peter Pratt and George beevers. At the end of Baker's time as The Doctor, The Master managed to take over the body of the Keeper of Traken, Nyssa's father. The character was played by actor Anthony Ainley who, with the addition of a moustache and goatee, bore more than a passing resemblance to Roger Delgado. The Fifth Doctor was also the last to use what might be described as "Doctor Who's Magic Wand", the Sonic Screwdriver. The device had first appeard during the Troughton years and was used by Pertwee and Baker. The second Romana even had her own. It was destroyed in the episode The Visitation and not replaced. Another item of marginal interest was Kamelion. The BBC officially lists Kamelion as a companion however it only made two appearances in the series - the serial in which it joined the Doctor and the one in which it "died". In the show Kamelion was a shape shifting android. In fact it was a remote controlled robot. The problem, and the reason why it was only seen in two serials, was that the device never worked properly and the inventor, the only one who knew how to operate it, died after selling it to the BBC.

One of the highlights of Davison's time as Doctor was the 20th anniversary of the show, commemorated in the episode The Five Doctors. Actually there were only three of the original actors on screen - Davison, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee. William Hartnell had died in 1975 and William Hurndall, who bore a rather superficial resemblance to Hartnell picked up the role. Tom Baker was unwilling to appear, feeling that too little time had passed since he had played the Doctor. He was "present" through the use of scenes from an unaired episode Shada (which was not completed because of a strike at the BBC). When a publicity photo featuring the Five Doctors was needed Baker's figure from Madame Tussaud's wax museum literally stood in for him. The episode was Jon Pertwee's last appearance as the Doctor.

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