Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Order of Rassilon #5: Peter Davison, The Young Doctor

No reason was ever given as to why the Fifth Doctor was wearing a cricket uniform.
He only played cricket once. 
When Tom Baker was ready to leave, the producers of the show were scared shitless.  How on Earth do you replace such an iconic actor as Tom Baker?  In addition to completely redefining the role, Tom Baker had been the first Doctor whose episodes had been broadcast in the US, so Americans thought Tom Baker was the Doctor.  So they came up with a pretty brilliant idea:  find someone that the public already knew and loved to play the Doctor.  So they gave a call to Peter Davison, who was already a household name for his role as Tristan Farnon on All Creatures Great and Small.

I tried to find this video from the "Castrovalva" DVD (Davison's first episode) which had this great video featurette called "The Crowded TARDIS" which showed one of Peter Davison's first interviews after being cast as the Doctor and you wouldn't believe how unimpressed he looked at the prospect of being the Doctor.  I couldn't believe it!  How could you not be excited about being the Doctor?

But his performance didn't reflect the same apathy.

The Fifth Doctor era was meant to be more of a back to basics era.  The sonic screwdriver was retired as part of the show's attempt to get away from both horror and humor in favor of more scientifically based stories.

Science and realism.  That's what the 5th Doctor era was really about.
Peter Davison was the youngest Doctor of the classic series era, but he still pulled off the ancient wisdom of the Doctor.  Despite Steven Moffat's insistence that the Doctor should always be an old man, he cites Davison as his favorite Doctor (and also cast the first Doctor younger than Davison, so, Rule 1).  Moffat once pointed out, quite correctly, that Davison set the model for all of the young Doctors we would see in the revived series.  He was dashing, handsome, and charming.  He made the Doctor look young and sexy for the very first time in the history of the series.

"I'm the Doctor, I can save the universe using a kettle and some string, and look at me, I'm wearing a vegetable"
Yet, Davison's Doctor was much more serious than his predecessor.  Tom Baker's Doctor very rarely stopped joking around.  He was always quick with a quip, no matter how seemingly dire the situation.  Davison's Doctor could see the severity of dangerous situations, and could mourn for the first (and, thus far, only) companion to actually die on the Doctor's watch.  It was a truly sad and dark moment that couldn't have been handled with the appropriate weight even by Tom Baker (even though, as you've probably already realized, he's higher on my list than Davison).

In 2007, Moffat wrote the brilliant mini-episode, "Time Crash," which, despite being only a few minutes long, was the first multi-Doctor episode of the revived series, and made Peter Davison into the first (and, it looks like, only) classic series Doctor to appear in the new series.  Let's use the words of Moffat, the master writer himself, to explain why Peter Davison was so utterly awesome:

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