The Sixth Doctor: When the Show Turned on Itself

One word is notorious among Doctor Who fans. No, not Tardis or Dalek. Not even the word Doctor. It’s a far more monstrous and terrifying word, one that has sent shivers down this fanbase for six decades.


Why is this relevant, you ask? Because it was the primary reason the producers of Doctor Who tried to have their own show cancelled. Remember: the 80s was the height of Star Wars mania. When you compared that big-budget blockbuster to the cheap and goofy costumes and sets of the British TV show, it was like comparing the Mona Lisa to a child’s finger painting. Sure, the child wrote some pretty good stories with those finger paintings. But you get the point.

What’s worse is the lack of a unified vision. The producer wanted the show gone. The director wanted it one way. The writers, another. And poor Colin Baker was stuck in the middle, just trying to make it all work.

To be fair: he did a better job of it than most people would. If someone handed me that coat, I’d have spent every waking moment on set laughing.

Unlike previous versions of the Doctor, the sixth was meant to be a darker, more serious and mysterious iteration of the character. While all the others had a goofy, childish sense of humor, the sixth was very no-nonsense. If you were saying or doing something really stupid, he’d call you out on it, promptly tell you to shut up, then proceed to do super genius shit and save the day just to further prove his point.

This aspect of the character was best displayed in the ‘Trial of the Time Lord’ storyline. When faced with the true corruption and hypocrisy at the heart of Time Lord society, what does he do? Calls them out on all their BS, his own fate in the court be damned.

Alas, this more serious version of the Doctor was greatly undercut by the show itself, which still tried to be as silly and cheesy as ever. This clash of tones runs so deep you can even see it in the sixth’s costume. One of the meanest and most serious iterations of the character, and what’s he wearing? A mismatched suit of a hundred different clashing colors so garish even a clown wouldn’t be caught dead in it!

Colin Baker had to act his heart out just to look happy to wear the damn thing. And to be fair, he put on one hell of a show! Man was a master of sass, and when he got serious, it was always a highlight of the story. Dude was so good that you could even ignore the costume!

With some effort. Man’s an actor, not a god.

Another massive misstep for the sixth was just how cruel he could be. In his introductory episode alone, he straight-up tried to strangle Peri to death! Beyond that, the dude could be rude to the point of petulance, sometimes without a real reason for it.

And then there was that scene where he shoved two dudes into a vat of acid to die. To be fair, I’m pretty sure he didn’t do any actual pushing, he was just trying to defend himself. Still. It looked a helluva lot like he just melted two dudes. Especially because he dropped a one-liner afterwards. Like, what the hell, Doc?!

Thankfully, while the show’s run of the sixth was plagued with problems, Colin Baker’s run didn’t end there. His iteration of the character lives on in the extended media, namely Big Finish’s audio dramas for the series. It’s in these stories that all the details that really didn’t work about his TV run – namely his pointless cruelty and ridiculous costume – were discarded. So at least in the extended material, the sixth got the love he deserved.

Because god knows he didn’t get it in the show. Poor Colin wasn’t even allowed back on set for his own regeneration scene.

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