DOCTOR WHO: A Retrospective – Part Two

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A Retrospective: Part Two

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Last time around we took a look at DOCTOR WHO the long-running British science fiction series produced by the BBC. Known as The Doctor within the show he is an alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space in a blue box having wild adventures. As an alien his people have the ability to regenerate themselves when they die. This has enabled The Doctor to be portrayed by no less than 14 actors during its 57 years run. Last time we examined Doctor’s one – three. This time we’re going to meet Doctors four – six. Lets get to it, or in the words of The Doctor – RUN!

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The fourth Doctor, as portrayed by Tom Baker, was very different from his predecessor. He had curly brown hair, piercing blue eyes, and a smile that made you want to smile back. Dressed in a long coat, a slouch hat, and the longest scarf anyone had ever seen, at first you didn’t know what to make of him. Apparently the producers weren’t sure what to make of him either. The first two Doctors were not men of action and so they were always given younger companions who could handle the rough stuff. The third doctor was a man of action so he took care of himself. It seems that the producers were not sure of Tom Baker and so they gave him a male companion just in case he couldn’t handle the action. But the fourth Doctor proved to be a man of action and his male companion became unnecessary.

The fourth Doctor was funny, and charming, and a bit of a comedian. But he did have a negative side and could at times be arrogant and impatient. He continued his association with U.N.I.T. but began spending less and less time on Earth and more and more time in space until finally he stopped going back altogether.

The fourth Doctor’s adventures in time and space had a more gothic beat to them – often thrillers and sometimes happily crossing the line into horror. Most of his companions were female but there was the occasional male such as Adric who tragically became one of his companions who died. But that was with the next Doctor.

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Tom Baker had the longest run as The Doctor and played him for seven years before calling it quits. I suspect that he might have stayed longer if circumstances had been different. One of The Doctor’s companions was a female Time Lord named Lady Romana first played by Mary Tamm. Since the character was a Time Lord when Mary Tamm left the show they simply had her character regenerate into a new Romana played by Lalla Ward. Well, Tom Baker happened to fall in love with Lalla Ward and eventually married her. You can see the chemistry in their episodes together. Although there was no romance between The Doctor and Romana the way the two actors looked at each other spoke volumes. Shortly after Lalla Ward left the show Tom Baker quit as well. I suspect if she had stuck around so would have he. And so we bid a fond farewell to the longest running Doctor.

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Enter Peter Davison the youngest actor to play The Doctor up to that point. The producers wanted someone who contrasted Tom Baker and they sure got it with Peter Davison. The fifth Doctor was youthful, energetic, and more prone to mistakes. He was also sometimes indecisive and frightened. In some ways he was similar to the second Doctor. He also tended to travel with an entourage having three or four companions at the same time. His relationships with his companions were for the most part good with occasional blow-ups from the more volatile of his compatriots.

The tone of the stories changed. Humor was played down and horror for the most part abandoned. This fifth Doctor’s adventures were a return to basics dealing more with space travel, aliens, and sci-fi concepts. And for the first time in years we got an episode that was pure time travel and nothing sci-fi. And of course there was the death of Adric.

The fifth Doctor dressed in a cricketer’s uniform and even carried a cricket ball in his pocket. This was because the producers wanted to suggest a sense of action as well as eccentricity. They got the eccentricity all right because the fifth Doctor wore a piece of celery pinned to his lapel the way some men pin a carnation. For the most part we all thought it was an affectation until towards the end of his run the fifth Doctor explains that his incarnation is allergic to certain gases and that in the presence of those gases the celery will turn purple. So the celery was an early warning system. Only in DOCTOR WHO could that be the case.

During the fifth Doctor’s run the show hit its 20th anniversary and celebrated with a teaming up of all five Doctors in a special episode titled appropriately enough THE FIVE DOCTORS. Only it wasn’t really the five Doctors. The first Doctor, William Hartnell had passed away and for this story he was replaced by Richard Hurndall. The fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, declined to participate and footage from an episode titled SHADA was used and publicity photos with a Tom Baker wax figure were taken. Like I said before, only in DOCTOR WHO.

Unfortunately, after three seasons Peter Davison left the show. He says that when he was offered the part he asked the second Doctor Patrick Troughton for advice and he said to do it for three years and then quit. Apparently, that is just what he did.

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The sixth Doctor was played by Colin Baker – no relation to Tom Baker – and he is arguably the most controversial Doctor. A bit chunkier than the previous Doctors, the sixth Doctor had curly blonde hair and a winning smile that contrasted with his often caustic personality. The Doctor has always had an eccentric way of dressing but in the case of the sixth Doctor it was taken to new heights. He wore a red plaid frock coat, with green patchwork, and yellow and pink lapels over a white shirt with red question marks embroidered in the collar, a waistcoat and large Victorian style necktie, and yellow trousers with black stripes and a pair of green ankle boots with red spats. Oh my Lord! I got dizzy just writing it. His clothes looked like someone ate a paint factory and then vomited on Colin Baker. Do you get the impression that I didn’t like his clothes? Good! Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. On the covers of the audio books about the sixth Doctor all those myriad colors were replaced by blue. Again I say good! The sixth Doctor’s personality was arrogant, flamboyant, conceited; bossy, rude, unlikable, and thought he was right all the time. And this was on a good day. In short he was a wanker!

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During the sixth Doctor’s run we were treated to a special episode THE TWO DOCTORS in which the sixth Doctor meets the second Doctor. Previously these things would happen when there is an anniversary. Perhaps it was an attempt to boost flagging ratings. The novelization of this episode was the 100th DOCTOR WHO book so I guess that justifies a special episode.

To be fair Colin Baker never really got the chance to show what he could do or where he could go as The Doctor. His abrasive personality could have led to interesting stories as we watched him mellow. Remember the first Doctor? But aside from the final episode of the previous season he played The Doctor for two seasons only. And there was an eighteen-month hiatus between the two seasons ordered by the BBC. On top of that they made a change in the programs format. Altogether this ruined the show’s ratings – which the BBC promptly blamed on Colin Baker and he was replaced. Goodbye to Joseph and his amazing Technicolor dream coat.

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Well that’s all folks, as my favorite cartoons would say. We have looked at the Doctors four – six this time around. Stick with me and we’ll examine Doctors seven – nine. In the meantime I leave you with the following Doctor quote.

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