Imagine what it must have been like to be Peter Davidson when he took this role. You walk onto set, terrified at the prospect of following up the most beloved iteration of the Doctor to date, and what’s the first thing the producer says? “Here, wear this vegetable.”
That’s exactly what happened, don’t fact check that.
Of the many versions of the character in the Classic series, the fifth Doctor is one of the more interesting to me. His was an era where they really started to experiment with the character’s core moral principles. They never break any of them; the Doctor is still the Doctor. Rather, they challenge the character’s principles in consistently interesting ways that are frequently surprising.
The fifth Doctor is one of the more vulnerable iterations of the character. Whereas the first through fourth Doctors all had an unfaltering confidence and faced all danger without fear, the fifth was very frequently affected by fear. He never lost the confidence core to the character, yet he would often struggle against intense fear, sorrow, or rage.
All of this made his heroism all the more striking. The fifth Doctor would often leap headlong into danger without hesitation if it meant saving someone else. It was this very principle that led to his end in his final story; when faced with the option of saving himself or his companion, leaving the other to die, after an entire episode of struggling against impossible odds, he didn’t hesitate to give his life for her.
But he wasn’t a flawless moral paragon. Often times, he walked along the border of his own morals, nearly crossing lines the character swore never to cross in order to do the ‘right’ thing. Such as the time he held Davros as gunpoint and basically promised to execute him.
He didn’t, of course. No matter the face, the Doctor is still a pacifist.
Just ignore Hell Bent. And most of the 13th Doctor’s run.
All of this is brought to life in spectacular effect by Peter Davidson. Being the youngest actor to play the part – at the time, at least – and following up the legendary Tom Baker, he had some big shoes to fill. Not only did he do just that, he managed to deliver one of the most dramatic and striking performances of the Classic era!
It’s a shame he didn’t go for longer. Even he admitted that he only felt like he hit his stride in his final episode. If he had stuck around for at least one more season, it probably would have been amazing!
Change, however, is inevitable. Especially in Doctor Who. Just as a new actor steps in to take the role, they must also step down to allow another the same grace.
Unfortunately, good as the next actor was, not even they could overcome the ultimate enemy of Doctor Who: