Peter Davison

5thAfter seven years in the role, becoming the most popular television Doctor, Tom Baker’s departure was a major TV event in Britain. Producer John Nathan-Turner sought long and hard to find a suitable replacement and found his man in the form of Peter Davison, a well-respected actor known for his role as Tristan Farnon in the popular BBC series “All Creatures Great and Small” and currently starring in the comedy series “Sink or Swim”. Davison joined the cast in late 1980 in a cameo role in Tom Baker’s final story “Logopolis,” joining series regular Matthew Waterhouse and new stars Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding in the crucial regeneration scene.

For three years, Davison took the role and made it his own… an altogether different sort of Doctor from his predecessor. More apt to solve problems with diplomacy than running headstrong into the action, the “younger” Doctor blended the scientific mind of the Jon Pertwee incarnation with the youthful enthusiasm of Patrick Troughton. Indeed, at the onset of his run he was quite the “youngster” while by his final story, “The Caves of Androzani” he wore spectacles… proof positive that Davison’s acting range ran the gamut.

Joining him on his adventures were the aforementioned Waterhouse (as artful dodger Adric, the first companion to exit the show by death since the first Doctor’s era), Sutton (the calculating but sincere scientist Nyssa of Traken) and Fielding (the “mouth on legs” Australian air hostess Tegan Jovanka), and later Mark Strickson (as the enigmatic alien schoolboy Turlough) and Nicola Bryant (as the waifish American botany student Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown). Also tried during this three-year era was a new type of companion, a fully roboticized creation called Kamelion, who because of technical problems only appeared in two stories. Meanwhile, the era introduced several new creations: the vicious Mara, whose path crossed the Doctor’s twice; the hostile Terileptils (who became responsible for the Great Fire of London); and the dreaded Malus, operating in the walls of an English church. The Master made several well-timed returns to the program during this era, having regenerated into the form of actor Anthony Ainley in the penultimate story of Davison’s predecessor, and the Doctor’s party was accosted by a variety of old nemeses: Omega (“The Three Doctors”), the Silurians and Sea Devils (“Doctor Who and the Silurians” and “The Sea Devils”), and of course, both the Cybermen and the Daleks. The Doctor’s path also crossed with the Black and White Guardians, nemeses during the 16th season “Key to Time” series, with Valentine Dyall and Cyril Luckham reprising their roles of five years hence for the three-story mini-series. Two visits to the Doctor’s homeworld of Gallifrey also took place, including in the 20th anniversary special “The Five Doctors” which celebrated the programme’s history with a multitude of guest appearances.

Peter Davison left the programme in 1984 after a three-year run in the hands of his successor Colin Baker (who had himself appeared as a guest star in “Arc of Infinity”). Davison, who stayed a popular figure in the Doctor Who fan and convention milieu, returned for the Children in Need adventure “Dimensions in Time” in 1993 and again in Time Crash with David Tennant in 2008. He is currently starring along with Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann in Big Finish Productions’ very successful line of Doctor Who audio adventures, which has reunited him with companions Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and Nicola Bryant (Peri), as well as introduced a new companion (Erimem) played by Caroline Morris.

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