Fifty Years of Doctor Who, Part 6: The Fifth Doctor – Peter Davison
The popular Fourth fell, and the Fifth rose, Peter Davison took the reigns and wrestles the Doctor into submission.
Davison’s incarnation of the doctor was marked for his mild-mannered approach. He left behind the extreme mood swings, the outrageous personality quarks, and the unusual habits. The most unusual quarks of this doctor were his wearing of celery on his jacket lapel, and his affinity for playing cricket. The celery was even functional rather than ornamental. You see his has an allergy to certain gasses in the Praxis range and when exposed to those gasses the celery turns purple, and then he eats it. The affinity for cricket is completely inexplicable.
The Fifth Doctor may be the most even-tempered and pleasant of his incarnations, fanatically peaceful, sickeningly polite, and unrelentingly compassionate. Unless he happens to be standing in the way of destruction, which has always been the limit to the compassion of The Doctor, the Fifth was no exception. Peter Davison brought a zeal for life that his predecessors didn’t quite have. Sure they all enjoyed moments, or elements of life. Sometimes they even had fun. This Doctor liked to stop to smell the flowers (or whatever was worth smelling on whichever planet he happened to be visiting) and, as each Doctor before him, found himself in the midst of a crisis quite unrelated to the flowers. All he wanted was to return his companion, Tegan, to Heathrow airport in 1981, but they always seem to land in some trap set by The Master. He wouldn’t be the Doctor if he were able to take a proper vacation.
I liked Peter Davison’s Doctor, I couldn’t understand why Tom Baker was always more popular. However, it wasn’t until I grew up that I was able to really watch and appreciate the Fifth. I’m not sure how I would have taken to him as a juvenile. I suspect I would have become immensely fond of him, seeing much of myself in him, or at least seeing what I wanted from myself. For as fond as I am now, this doctor is mostly unremarkable. He was steadfast, reliable, everything The Doctor should be, but he lacked something. He was not reckless. He tried to stay away from the fights. He didn’t rebuild his Sonic Screwdriver when it was destroyed, and was haunted by the death of one of his companions. His previous incarnations certainly regretted, and felt bad about the death of friends and companions, but Five was haunted to the end.
His substance ran deep, and his style was subdued. Peter Davison brought a quiet dignity to the role that we would all do well to remember. He may not be the most fun, but his hearts were strong and good.