Dialing It Down


Review of The Doctors Revisited - Fifth Doctor

By now you know the drill. It's time to look back at the Fifth Doctor and his stint piloting the TARDIS. What made him unique?

Well, for one thing, at 29 years old, Peter Davison was the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor (a record he held until Matt Smith came along and beat him by two years). For another, he was already fairly well known, not least because he'd spent the previous three years or so as Tristan Farnan on All Creatures Great and Small (I'll admit it took me quite a while to think of him as "the Doctor" instead of "Tristan" when I started watching pre-Hiatus Who).

Perhaps most importantly, though, he was the first one to go from watching the show every week to playing the lead. He knew what it meant to fans, because he was one of us.

All of these traits informed the way Davison played the Doctor, and helped make him an interesting contrast to the Fourth Doctor. Previously, iconically over-the-top Tom Baker had made the Doctor very alien and unpredictable. Davison's Doctor had a more steady, "down-to-earth" and human quality. As Janet Fielding, who played Companion Tegan Jovanka, put it, Five was "less self-consciously eccentric." (Fielding appeared in interview sections along with Davison himself; other Companion actors Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, Mark Strickson, and Nicola Bryant; and post-Hiatus cast and production team members Steven Moffat, David Tennant, Marcus Wilson, Noel Clarke, and Hugh Bonneville.)


Worth Visiting


Review of The Visitation: SE (#120)

DVD Release Date: 14 May 13
Original Air Date: 15-23 Feb 1982
Doctor/Companion: Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan
Stars: Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
Preceding Story: Kinda (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
Succeeding Story: Black Orchid (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)

I've never quite been able to put my finger on why I like this story so much, but it's high enough on my list that I chose it to show to the Ladies two years ago. Maybe it's because, crowded as it made the TARDIS, this particular crew really epitomizes Five's tenure for me.

It's kind of typical classic fare. The Doctor steers the TARDIS wrong, then his curiosity gets the better of him, then everyone's in trouble. There's some lovely character development at the beginning as Teagan and the Doctor get angry with each other and then apologize, and later when Adric complains of feeling useless.

And, of course, there are some wonderful lines. A long-time favorite of mine is the Doctor's jibe at the Terileptil about his attitude on war, but the one that jumped out at me this time was this conversation between Nyssa and the Doctor:


The Beginning of the End


Review of Resurrection of the Daleks: SE (#133)
DVD Release Date: 12 Jun 12
Original Air Date: 08-15 Feb 1984
Doctor/Companion: Five, Tegan Jovanka, Vislor Turlough
Stars: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson
Preceding Story: Frontios (Five, Tegan, Turlough)
Succeeding Story: Planet of Fire (Five, Turlough, Peri)

The TARDIS crew unravelled pretty quickly at the end of Five's tenure. First - here - Tegan bows out, then Turlough immediately thereafter. Having picked up Peri during Turlough's swan song, Five then completes his last adventure with her. Bam, bam, bam! In quick succession, two Companions and a Doctor were all out; everything was completely changed up by the end of the series.

So in a sense, Resurrection marks the end of an era. Tegan's been with Five since the beginning, and with this, she's gone. Change is on the wind ("and not a moment too soon," if you believe some folks). Of course, as some things change, others stay the same.

First, the Daleks are back. They (and their minions) are more effectively brutal than before - the body count in this story is insanely high; just about everyone dies (including some innocent bystanders), excepting about three baddies and our heroes - but they're still Daleks, and as such are somewhat predictable. I have to say the new helmets they've forced their troopers to wear are good for a laugh, though.

Also, Turlough's in fine form, doing his best at every turn to follow his instincts for self-preservation over altruism. He's the quintessential reluctant hero. Having been conveniently separated from the rest (more business-as-usual) within the first few minutes, that penchant for saving his own skin is allowed to run rampant.


Confession #21: I Believe in the 13 Regeneration Limit


Common fan knowledge puts a Time Lord's Regeneration limit at 13. That is, a Time Lord can regenerate twelve times for a total of thirteen Regenerations (or incarnations). A couple of years ago, Russell T. Davies (RTD), the man greatly responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to our screens in 2005, once again added his own particular brand of fan-geekery to the mix, trying to show everyone in yet another way that he "knows better" than us.

In an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures called "The Death of the Doctor," Eleven ends up visiting Sarah Jane and her gang again. SJS-Companion Clyde, who previously met Ten, is stunned to see this regeneration thing for himself. Whilst peppering the Doctor with questions ("Can you change color, or are you always white?" "No. I can be anything."), he asks how often the Doctor can regenerate. The answer is a quick and flippant "five hundred and seven."

Apparently, RTD thought that was a hoot. He could casually rewrite decades of "canon" (whatever that means) with a so-funny-he-makes-everyone-who's-RTD-laugh line. Here's what he has to say on the whole number-of-regenerations question:

There's a fascinating academic study to be made out of how some facts stick and some don't – how Jon Pertwee's Doctor could say he was thousands of years old, and no-one listens to that*, and yet someone once says he's only got thirteen lives, and it becomes lore. It's really interesting, I think. That's why I'm quite serious that that 507 thing won't stick, because the 13 is too deeply ingrained in the public consciousness. But how? How did that get there? It's fascinating, it's really weird.

*Let's not get into RTD's own obvious ignorance/ignore-ance of the Doctor's age.

Personally, I don't think it's weird at all. And here's why.


A Regeneration for the Ages


Review of The Caves of Androzani: SE (Story #135, 1984)
DVD Release Date:  14 Feb 12
Original Air Date:  08 - 16 Mar 1984
Doctor/Companion:  Five, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown
Stars:  Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant
Preceding StoryPlanet of Fire (Five, Turlough, Peri)
Succeeding Story:  The Twin Dilemma (Six, Peri)

There are plenty of Long Term Fans out there (and polls, no doubt) that will tell you that The Caves of Androzani is The Best Doctor Who Story of All Time. I'd heard that about Caves ever since I started immersing myself in Who, and was really eager to get to it that first time, some three-and-a-half years ago. I have to admit I was underwhelmed.

Don't get me wrong; I liked it well enough. I just didn't think it was "all that." Recently, I was discussing it with an Internet friend who is a Long Term Fan. I eventually decided that, in part, it was because I first saw it while I was still largely unfamiliar with the pre-Hiatus canon. Having now re-watched it both during my pre-Gallifrey One Marathon and for review of the Special Edition DVD release here, I have to conclude that most of it is more likely to be a difference in the Long Term Fan v. neowhovian perspectives.

There are unarguably some brilliant facets. The regeneration - more correctly, the series of events that lead up to the regeneration - is the most poignant, selfless, Doctor-y one ever. I am in complete agreement with those who cite it as The Best Regeneration of All Time. If for nothing else than being able to see the Doctor completely swept along with events out of his control and paying the ultimate price in order to pull it out for his friend at the last moment, you should definitely go watch this one. But I'd be lying if I told you I thought there were none finer.



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