Fifty Years of Doctor Who, Part 7: The Sixth Doctor – Colin Baker
The series was entering its dark ages, a grave from which it may not have escaped. This was not Colin Baker’s fault; he was a victim of circumstance. Baker would have been excellent, and at moments, he was, but the stories were wrong. The budget was abysmal, and a BBC executive, harboring a vengeful hatred for the show, would see its death. This grudge would ultimately lead to Colin Baker being unceremoniously dismissed, leaving the show without its title character. Fortunately, we all know it worked out, eventually, so we can skip that part of the story.
Colin Baker’s Doctor seemed doomed from the start. Each Doctor has some difficulty finding themselves after they regenerate. This typically manifests in a weakened state, full of confusion, and erratic behavior. The Sixth Doctor awoke a homicidal maniac given to wild fits of murderous rage. It was very unlike the Doctor, and immediately turned a large portion of the audience off the show. To introduce the new incarnation of the Doctor by having him attempt to murder his companion by strangling her in the TARDIS was a risky decision that failed its execution. It could have been a fantastic arc in the character’s story, but they simply wrote it off and pretended it didn’t happen. Although the relationship between the Doctor and his companion was frequently rocky, it had no telltale signs of starting with an attempted strangulation.
Once the tumultuous mood swings mellowed out the Doctor started to find his stride. He was rude and arrogant, traits his predecessors did posses but not nearly in this ferocious quantity. Baker’s Doctor was also very angry, seemingly without provocation. I wish they had allowed these traits to develop and provided explanations or insight into the back-story. They had presented an extremely complex character we ultimately had no chance to understand.
I never had a chance to watch much more than an episode or two from Colin Baker’s time. I have revisited them recently, what I could find anyway. I honestly feel Colin Baker was never given a fair chance to be a great Doctor. You can see hints of greatness in his performance, and if you search around you can find video of Colin Baker reading speeches from the 11th Doctor. It serves as a harsh reminder; the Doctor is only as good as the writers behind him.
Colin Baker was The Doctor only briefly, wrought with poor scripts, no budget, atrocious wardrobe, and spiteful executives. He grew the seed of darkness we knew to be deep inside The Doctor, and we were allowed a glimpse of what this character could become.