Doctor Who – The Fifth Doctor

Played by: Peter Davison

When: 1982 – 1984

Significant contributions to the Whoniverse: It was during Davison’s time as The Doctor that the Doctor Who franchise hit its twentieth year.   As such, it was in that specific year that he led the biggest gathering of Doctors to date.   Unfortunately it was not genuinely a complete gathering, as Hartnell had passed away, and Baker did not wish to be a part of the adventure.   Regardless, it was a great special that also featured both the Daleks and The Master.

Speaking of The Master, this brings me to the next most significant contributions in the Fifth Doctor era.   Anthony Ainley became The Master at the end of Baker’s reign, but he truly became a recurring character again with Davison.   Despite many times being defeated and supposedly finished, he just kept coming back, setting up the character again for his memorable appearances in the modern series of Who.

Perhaps most significant though, and something the Fifth Doctor is best known for, is the fact that he did not use a sonic screwdriver.   In an early Davison episode, the screwdriver was destroyed by an enemy to prevent the Doctor’s escape.   No effort was made to replace it, a conscious decision made by the writers to prevent giving the Doctor an easy option out of his various scrapes.   This was so unique for The Doctor at the time, that in some respects, it eclipsed the fact the he was wearing a celery stick in his lapel.




Reflections by Film Nerd

In many ways, I left something out of my “contributions” segment of this summary.   Anyone who has seen the Doctor Who special “Time Crash” will know that Davison was Tennant’s Doctor.   Davison lost some of the grumpiness of past incarnations, and had fun roaming around the universe, even indulging in cricket.   Whereas Troughton carried a recorder, and Baker had his jellybeans, Davison had his cricket ball.   So this interpretation informed Tennant’s later performance, long before he became his son-in-law.   Though I think that particular topic is better suited for my Tenth Doctor summary.

Though I have enjoyed every incarnation of the Doctor, and my particular preferences for the Fourth and Tenth Doctor’s is obvious, there really is something fantastically enjoyable about Davison’s Doctor.   Perhaps it is because in many respects he was one of the most openly friendly and caring Doctors, even with companions that could be at times more than just a little annoying.   He was just your average guy, one whom you could really enjoy having a cup of tea with.   He had tinges of ego, but not so much as to exceed your average human, really.

He had a lot of great episodes, but the fact that he headlined the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors is perhaps the most memorable of these episodes, given the milestone that it represented and the presence of his predecessors.   It is disappointing that in many respects it was really only three Doctors involved.   Richard Hurndall stepped in to the role of First Doctor, given that Hartnell had long since passed away.   Respect should be given to the creative team though, including Hartnell footage before the opening credits in a fitting homage.   Tom Baker had opted not to be involved in the project, so footage from the unaired story Shada was used instead, with a plot device writing him out of most of the show (much like what was done with Hartnell in The Three Doctors ten years earlier.

Aside from this though, it was a great episode, with both friends and foes from the past being present.   Carole Anne Ford joined Hurndall as Susan, Nicholas Courtney joined Troughton as the Brigadier, with brief appearances from Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury as Jamie and Zoe respectively, Elisabeth Sladen reprised the role of Sarah Jane Smith and joined Pertwee in the adventure.   Lalla Ward appeared in the cut footage from Shada, and Davison’s current companions Turlough (Mark Strickson) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) were along for the ride.   With so many friends, we also had Daleks, Cybermen, The Master (Ainley), and numerous recurring Time Lords.   It was a fun tale in a feature-length episode, which was truly at its most fun seeing the different Doctor personalities bicker amongst each other.   It is due to all this, and the respect of the past, that this is the stand out Fifth Doctor episode.   There were of course many other great ones, but there were no others quite so epic.


The Companions


Adric (Matthew Waterhouse)

After the regeneration of Tom Baker, Adric stuck around for a number of adventures.   In my Fourth Doctor post, I mentioned he started to get a little annoying.   Unfortunately, he only got worse, always petulantly complaining the Doctor did not respect him or give him time, whilst always making rash decisions that got himself and others in trouble.   I am not sure if this was intentional, so that he could come good by the end of his TARDIS journeys.   He certainly did that… [SPOILER] by making the ultimate sacrifice and being only the second companion ever to sacrifice their life to help the rest of the TARDIS crew.


Nyssa (Sarah Sutton)

Nyssa also continues with the Fifth Doctor after the regeneration, and as such this is where most of her story exists with the Doctor.   Early episodes saw her dealing with the Master, a man she has every reason to despise after he usurped her father’s body.   In many ways she is the anti-Adric… another child genius whose expertise was chemistry, and who remained level-headed and affectionate with all the TARDIS crew.   In some respects, this limited the amount of adventure she experienced, with Adric and Tegan often being the more outspoken companions, and hence the focus of greater attention.   That said, she is never forgotten, and when she does leave the TARDIS, she does so with reasons well within character… in an attempt to help a fallen society rebuild.


Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding)

Tegan is a very outspoken companion, and in many respects she is stereotypically Australian for that time period.   Whist this is initially grating, especially in a one-two punch with Adric, she remains with the Fifth Doctor for almost his entire tenure.   She softens with time, but never so far as to be out of character.   She definitely gains some wisdom along the way, and is pivotal in numerous storylines.   Her departure is quite interesting.   She leaves remembering some sage advice from a relative… to only keep going while things are fun.   It is quite a sad departure, as she feels the adventures have become to serious and dangerous, and it simply stopped being fun and was becoming depressing and frightening.   This departure even gave the Doctor pause to reflect, acknowledging that she had a point, and recalling the reasons he left Gallifrey in the first place.


Turlough (Mark Strickson)


Turlough initially confused me.   He is introduced as a school boy in a British boarding school, whom is coerced by the Black Guardian to join and double-cross the Doctor.   I must have missed something in these early chats with the Black Guardian though, as he is indeed an alien seeking to get home, trapped on Earth in this current guise as school child.   He is immensely intelligent, able to assist the Doctor in many of the more technical sides in completing tasks within their stories.   He is quite cowardly and self-interested in many stories, however he does break from the Black Guardian’s control, and opts to continue travelling with the Doctor for his own personal growth.   It is only in his final appearance that we learn his first name (Vislor), and that he was a political exile due to his father being on the losing side in a war.   In this final story, he learns that his exile is over as political dissidents are no longer persecuted, and he opts to return.


Kamelion (Gerald Flood)


Though officially considered a companion, Kamelion only appears in two stories, and both of those he is largely controlled by The Master.   I have read that he was originally intended to be a much larger part, but technical difficulties in operating the prop had him written out of all the stories between his first and last appearance.   He was a robot with the ability to mimic any human form, and he is released from The Master’s control by the Doctor, only to have him return a number of serials later and be controlled by The Master once again, spending most of this serial in the Master’s form and acting as his agent.   Kamelion opts to let himself be destroyed rather than return to the Master’s control.   Though technically sacrificing himself for the TARDIS crew, given his short storyline and his mechanical nature, the sacrifice does not have the same impact as some previous companions.


Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant)

Peri BrownPerpugilliam, or Peri, Brown, was saved from drowning by Turlough and brought back into the TARDIS.   The latter’s interest in her increases when he discovers her carrying an artifact from his home planet, which she had taken from her uncle to get cash for a trip to Morocco.   She appears in two serials with the Fifth Doctor, and is the sole companion travelling with him when he has his regeneration.



The Fifth Regeneration [SPOILERS]

This Doctor had one of the most noble deaths of any version to date.   Both he and Peri were suffering from Spectrox poisoning after being exposed to the raw form of a deadly drug.   The Doctor manages to harvest an antidote, but only enough for one dose.   He cures Peri, then collapses on the floor of the TARDIS.   As he passes, he sees visions of each former companion, each sharing a moment of good advice.   When Colin Baker springs up from this collapsed position, he proclaims it was time for a change, and from a few short sentences is clearly a very different character from his immediate predecessor.

Concluding remarks

Having seen Tennant’s performance as the Doctor before viewing these episodes, it is very clear to see the influences that Davison had on his acting choices in the role.   My clearest recollections of his episodes are that of a very caring, sympathetic Doctor, whom had fun on his adventures, but whom was concerned that his travels were leading him into darker territory.   It is with great excitement that I look forward to meeting him at the Lords of Time convention in Sydney in the April of next year!!


The First Doctor

The Second Doctor

The Third Doctor

The Fourth Doctor


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