Doctor Who – The Peter Davison Era: Thoughts and Rankings

So the Peter Davison Era of Doctor Who has come and gone in a flash.

Getting through the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee Eras took six months each, while the overall time spent on Tom Baker amounted to just short of a year and a half.

And yet less than two months after I started Castrovalva, here I am on my final summary of the Fifth Doctor’s stint on the show.

Clearly there’s a lot less to get through (Davison has slightly more than half the amount of episodes the first three Doctors had each, and over 100 less than Tom Baker) but it’s still pretty quick going.

Why is that? Well I’ll be honest; I ended up watching some stories first thing in the morning just to get through them, and on other occasions – specifically Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Resurrection of the Daleks and Caves of Androzani – I was asked to watch them with other people.

And I think that sums up this period of the show. There are some stories that people know, remember and love, and there are others that are just absolute drivel. The show goes through some extreme highs and lows. But looking at my rankings, out of the 20 stories I have to go as low as 9th to find one I like, and 3rd to find one I really like. Much of it is poor.

As for the man at the helm? Well he only seemed to get into the swing of things in his last year. I’ve read it said that he ended up regretting asking to leave as he found that he’d just started to get comfortable. I think that shows in his performance as he ended up saving his best for last.

The Fifth Doctor is the favourite Doctor of both my dad and brother. Personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near that far, as to me he’s a clear 5th out of 5 at this stage.

But he’s better than the next two, that’s for sure.

Anyway, on to the rankings…

PD1

The Stories

20. Terminus

There’s bad and then there’s bad and boring. Terminus is just too dull for words. I don’t plan on watching it ever again.

19. Arc of Infinity

It’s just such a crap story, with practically nothing going for it. Like watching paint dry. It also has my least favourite actor ever to appear in Doctor Who in it.

18. Time Flight

Slightly more interesting than the last two. It’s awful but at least it doesn’t make me want to slam my head against a brick wall.

17. The King’s Demons

Pointless filler with an unacceptable conclusion and the most pathetic use of The Master yet.

16. Planet of Fire

Including the title of my review, I used the word “Dreary” six times when discussing Planet of Fire. That wasn’t even intentional; it was pointed out to me by someone else. But it summed up how I felt about it.

15. Warriors of the Deep

Crap on almost every level, but I think you can still have a chuckle at how bad it is.

14. The Awakening

Another filler. While not terrible, I have pretty much no interest in watching it again.

13. Castrovalva

It summed up Bidmead’s time in charge. A story that was confusing and went nowhere. Not the best start for the new Doctor.

12. Mawdryn Undead

A plot with too many inconsistencies and incidental music that drove me up the wall.

11. Kinda

I described it as a story that I “Did not enjoy”. What’s worrying is that it almost cracks the top 10.

10. Snakedance

Better than Kinda, but still pretty lacklustre.

9. Frontios

It has a good plot and it’s mostly well acted but the incidental music – again from the same guy – ruins it.

8. Four to Doomsday

People don’t seem to like this one, but I find it perfectly acceptable.

7. Black Orchid

A two-part story that isn’t filler. Amazing.

6. Enlightenment

The best part of the grim Black Guardian Trilogy. By no means a classic, but good enough.

5. The Visitation

I said at the time that it was the first story I’d seen in a while which was enjoyable. I like it. A proper Dr Who story.

4. Earthshock

A momentous affair, but one that perhaps wouldn’t be anywhere near as fondly remembered without the shocks.

3. Resurrection of the Daleks

Finally a story that I can say I really enjoyed without any major issues. It has a strong cast, it looks great and it’s a fun story.

2. The Five Doctors

Classic nostalgia. I love it and so does pretty much everyone else.

1. The Caves of Androzani

Genuinely brilliant. A strong contender for best story ever.

The Top 5 Cliffhangers

5. Warriors of the Deep Episode 3

Ok, when this gets into the Top 5, you have to worry, but there we go. The way the Sea Devil hisses/shouts “You’re turn” at the Doctor with such uncharacteristic rage makes me laugh. What’s even funnier is that the resolution is that he just doesn’t bother to shoot them. Nice.

4. Kinda Episode 1

The first properly strong cliffhanger of the era. The way the relentless incidental music stops to allow the bloke from The Bill to deliver his line is good, as is the delivery of said line.

3. The Caves of Androzani Episode 1

The Doctor and Peri are shot dead. You can’t get better than that, can you?

2. Earthshock Episode 1

To quote the guy from the Earthshock documentary…“Wow, shit, fantastic!!!”. The Cybermen showing up unannounced must have been a real treat for everyone watching.

1. The Caves of Androzani Episode 3

Top direction, great acting and a real sense that the Doctor could well be about to die/regenerate.

The Companions

6. Tegan

If you haven’t read any of my reviews, you probably think I’m mad, but I can’t stand Tegan. She’s an unlikeable brash character who does nothing but moan about wanting to get “Beck to the TAHDIS”. The actress playing her seems to have as much enthusiasm as the character.

5. Kamelion

Yup, Gerald Flood’s voice acting over a static piece of metal is better than Janet Fielding. If he’d been in at least one more story he’d have had a chance of finishing second. Hey, at least he tried to sing.

4. Peri

Not enough time to shine.

3. Turlough

He’s a bit of a nothing character, whose only development came in his first and last stories. He’s not bad, but he’s just so unremarkable.

2. Adric

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but Adric is the second best companion in the Peter Davison era as far as I’m concerned. He might well have been an annoying prat played by a terrible actor, but he actually had some level of significance in the stories he was in.

1. Nyssa

Nyssa is number 1. That says it all. Why is she number 1? Not out of any real merit but she was the only one who properly worked in the role of a companion to the Doctor. And she worked well with Peter Davison’s character.

The Seasons

Based on their positions within the rankings, the seasons end up as follows…

3rd. Season 20 (14.0) A contender the worst season of Doctor Who ever. Remember, the Five Doctors isn’t in it.

2nd. Season 21 (9.67) A close second. Two very strong stories let down by three particularly poor ones.

1st. Season 19 (9.43) Finishes top for being a solid if unspectacular season on the whole. The only real let down was Time Flight.

Get Involved In The Debate

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3 Responses to Doctor Who – The Peter Davison Era: Thoughts and Rankings

  1. Slavin Ivanov says:

    I think it would be better if you did something like Stuart Reviews Stuff Mighty 160. In a way that’s a fixed point in time if you know what I mean! 🙂
    A friend of mine told me that he thought Davison was “bland” but Colin Baker was “super”. We will see about that. 🙂

  2. Steve Vincent says:

    Davison was the first Doctor I got to meet in the flesh. In April 1983, just after he completed filming The Five Doctors, the Myer department store chain flew him out to Australia for a tour. I shook his hand and got him to sign my copy of The Visitation novelisation. Unfortunately Myer treated him very badly: they gave him a punishing schedule to keep, and he was exhausted by the time he returned to Britain. Davison quit the role a few weeks later. Australian fans have always felt a little guilty about that. During his time out here he gave an in-depth interview to the fanzine Zerinza, official publication of the national Doctor Who Club of Australia. Three comments remain in my memory from that interview. Firstly he was against the idea of having an American companion. Secondly he was asked if there was a ‘you will film a regeneration scene if you leave’ caveat in his contract (there was no such clause). Finally he strongly hinted that he would be staying on for a fourth year. Obviously there were creative differences with the producer when he returned to Britain. If only John Nathan-Turner had quit and Peter Davison stayed on. He was just making the role his own and the concept of an old man trapped in a younger body was something barely touched upon by the writers. There was much left to be explored in regards to the character of the Fifth Doctor.

  3. nomadman says:

    Great observations. Personally, I think PD had a tough time following Tom Baker (those were huge shoes to try to fill) but in my opinion his stint suffered for some serious handicaps – mediocre stories, too many companions, and a bland appearance/costume (I call this era the beige period). Moving the show to mid-week was a mistake – I missed some episodes on original transmission. I never liked JNT’s tenure as producer – from The Leisure Hive onwards the show lost much of its 70s-era mystery and became too ‘glossy’ – if you know what I mean. PD lacked the otherworldiness a good Doctor should possess so then and now I am left feeling ‘meh’. Colin Baker offered more promise but was criminally underserved with that atrocious Rentaghost-style costume and pretty awful scripts but at least his characterization had depth.

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