Monday, June 3, 2013

The Order of Rassilon #4: Colin Baker, The Wrongfully Accused

Haters gonna hate
As I write this right now, it's about one week before I go to the Denver Comic Con to meet Colin Baker himself.  I tried 4 times to ask the Denver Comic Con when Colin Baker would be appearing.  They only responded to me the third time, and that was because I was fucking furious with them.  Finally, I emailed Colin Baker's personal website, and got a response from Baker's webmaster within  hours (which he at least claimed he got from Colin himself) and told me to introduce myself as the guy who emailed him to ask when he would be there.  This exchange confirmed something I already knew deep down:  Colin Baker had to be moved up on my list.  Where Tom Baker was the most popular Doctor of the classic series and now avoids audio productions and conventions like they're the plague, Colin Baker, who has more reason than anyone to feel completely screwed over by the franchise, is more loyal to the show and his fans than almost any Doctor in the history of the show.

You can consult my book report on The Valeyard or the Topless Robot article I cited as one of my main sources to see how much I think Colin Baker got completely fucked over by the BBC.  Colin Baker did an excellent job of portraying the Doctor.  It just happened to be a Doctor that was the exact opposite of what the fans wanted to see.  The writing can't even be blamed, as many of Colin Baker's supporters have tried to claim.  The writing was actually excellent.  Colin Baker's acting was excellent.  What was wrong was the way in which the writers and producers read their own audience.  They went darker with the stories, and made the Doctor meaner, and both turned out to be choices that the audience sternly objected to.  They weren't bad plot choices, but they were a stark contrast from the Davison era.  Virtually no Doctor in the history of the show had to steer such a drastic change in tone, and, had the public been ready for it, he would have been praised for his masterful handling of that change.

Kill it!  Kill it with fire!
Some of the criticism can also be blamed on Baker's hideous outfit.  However, as has been pointed out repeatedly, Colin Baker himself objected to it.  The Doctor's outfits had become sillier and sillier, starting with Troughton's fur coat, and then getting weirder with Pertwee's dandy outfit (which he put on as a joke that the producers did not get), Tom Baker's ludicrous scarf (an accident on the behalf of the costuming department), and Davison's decorative celery.  For some reason, Jonathan Nathan-Turner (who I honestly think was trying to commit television suicide by sabotaging the show) thought the Doctor's outfit should be wild and crazy to highlight the Doctor's alien nature, and demonstrate how he failed to understand fashion.  Even if you buy that as a logical explanation, you have to wonder why every single person who met the 6th Doctor didn't shout "What the fuck are you wearing?  And why the fuck do you have a cat pin on your lapel?"  Baker wanted to wear black to highlight the fact that he was playing a darker Doctor, but, personally, I can't imagine Colin Baker in any black outfit that wouldn't make him look like the guy on the Quaker Oats box.  In some of the expanded universe media, mercifully, a different outfit was introduced for him called the "Blue Variant."  While it's much better looking, it doesn't change the fact that the Sixth Doctor, in his timeline, must have gone back to his hideous clown suit after the blue variant, because he died in it.  But at least someone said "Hey, the Sixth Doctor deserves better than this quilt from hell" and they gave him this:

Despite its unpopularity, though, the Sixth Doctor's obnoxious costume, probably because of its uniqueness, is one of the most common Doctor costumes at conventions.  It's hard to dress up as the Ninth Doctor because his costume isn't distinctive.  Nobody can say the same of the Sixth Doctor.

Personally, I love it when Doctor Who gets really dark.  The fun of the deep, dark, terrifying moments of the show is the moment when the Doctor stands up and says "No.  Not here.  Not this time.  Not while I'm here."  The darker it gets, the better it is when the Doctor brings the light.

Had Colin Baker been allowed to continue the role as he should have, he would have been playing an arc that would see the Doctor go from a brash and pompous regeneration to a much calmer and kindly version of the Doctor after the death of his companion, Peri.  It would have been a difficult arc to carry off, and a marvelous feat if done correctly, but I think Baker probably could have handled it.  Frankly, once the show was put on 18 month hiatus after the first Colin Baker season, they would probably have been better off just going back to what they were working on with this arc.  Instead, they did "The Trial of a Timelord," which is fascinating as a metaphor for what was happening to the show, but which made very little sense in the end.  The Colin Baker era might have lasted longer had they stuck to their guns.

As it is, we saw a very complex Doctor in the Sixth incarnation.  Even though, during his regeneration crisis in his first serial he attempted to strangle his companion and also cravenly tried to give her up to save his own life, this soon proved to be a temporary problem caused by a very difficult regeneration.  Once he got adjusted again, Colin Baker portrayed a character whose pompousness and brashness didn't completely conceal the Doctor's love for all living creatures and his generous nature and spirit.  Those who see the Sixth Doctor as nothing more than a blowhard are missing the point.  He was a blowhard on the outside, but Colin Baker made sure that, underneath the surface, the Sixth Doctor was still, without a doubt, a Doctor.

Hopefully, by the time this is published, I'll have met the man and be able to tell you about that experience.  Until then, know that The Horror of Fan Blog loves Colin Baker, whether you like it or not.

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