50 Years of Doctor Who: The Colin Baker Era

“In all my travelling throughout the universe, I have battled against evil, against power-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here. The oldest civilization: decadent, degenerate, and rotten to the core. Power-mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen – they’re still in the nursery compared to us. Ten million years of absolute power. That’s what it takes to be really corrupt.”

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During the filming of “The Five Doctors”, Patrick Troughton advised Peter Davison not the play the Doctor for more than four years to avoid being typecast.  Davison took his advice and left before the end of his final season (he is the second Doctor to do so).  Colin Baker stepped in and was initially ecstatic.  If he only knew what was in store.

About Colin Baker

Colin Baker was a huge fan of Doctor Who practically from the beginning and grew up with the show. In fact, like David Tennant, it was the sole reason he became an actor.  He starred in  an episode of Blake’s Seven, a cult BBC sci-fi program created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks for Doctor Who.  He is the only Doctor so far to have previously acted on the show. (this has  happened with companions. For instance, both Nicholas Courtney and Karen Gillan had small roles in stories before landing their most famous roles as the Brigadier and Amy Pond, respectfully) Ironically, Colin had wanted to beat Tom Baker’s seven-year span as the Doctor.  After Doctor Who, Colin spent most of his career in stage productions, such as HMS Pinafore and Woman in White.  He returned to his role as the Sixth Doctor for many Big Finish productions, and I’ve heard his audio plays are better than his TV version. He also appeared as the character in an episode of the BBC racing program Top Gear. Since 1995, he has written a weekly column for the Bucks Free Press. He is the current president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.

Changes:

  • Colin Baker is the first Doctor to have a line after the previous Doctor’s regeneration. This did not happen again until the modern version of the show.
  • The show had two openings during Colin’s era. The first is similar to Peter Davison’s, but with a new logo (which is actually similar to the previous logo, just colored purple and slightly bent in the middle). For Colin Baker’s final season, a new theme and opening was created, but the logo remained.
  • Beginning with this era, only fourteen episodes were produced for each season. For part of Colin Baker’s first season, some episodes were actually 45 minutes long, just like the modern version of the show. (but still done in a serial format) However, for the final season of the era, the episodes were returned to their original 25-minute length.

Conclusion

I really feel sorry for Colin.  His era was plagued by terrible writing and backstage politics.  There was actually an 18-month hiatus between his first full season and his last season. The reason? Michael Grade, the head of the BBC at the time, hated science fiction, especially Doctor Who. He felt the show was too violent and a drain on the company budget. During the hiatus, the cast of Doctor Who formed an organization called Who Cares and began a campaign to bring the show back sooner.  Part of the campaign was a song called “Doctor in Distress.” (It was the 80’s. This was done a lot. Surely you’ve heard of “We Are the World”, “Sun City”, and “Do They Know It’s Christmas”?) There’s a big reason this was a bad idea. Unlike the songs I mentioned, none of the people behind “Doctor in Distress” could either sing or write a song. Want to hear just how bad it was? Click the link below.

As for Colin’s performance, I don’t think it was bad.  He was a great smug Doctor and in my opinion, he wasn’t annoyingly so.  Oh, and for the record, I like the outfit.

The Companions:

Peri Brown

Peri goes back and forth between decent and bad as a companion, depending on the episode’s overall strength.  She’s not the worst companion, but she’s not the best either, in my opinion. I hear she’s slightly better in the audio plays.

Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford)

First Appearance: “Trial of a Timelord part 9 (aka “Terror of the Vervoids” part 1)

Last Appearance: “Dragonfire” (with 7th)

I’d rather wait til next time to discuss this companion, as I feel she is better associated with the 7th Doctor.  She only has two stories with the Sixth Doctor.

Best Stories

“Vengeance on Varos” (2 episodes)

This story introduces Sil, who earns the award for Most Disgusting Doctor Who Villain.  Just listen to that laugh. What I think makes him even creepier is that you know this is an actual person in the outfit. This is something I think is lost today, not just in Doctor Who. CGI has replaced the days of Ray Harryhausen. I’m not saying we should go back to mechanical monsters, but sometimes they seem better than the CGI ones we have today.

“Mark of the Rani” (2 episodes)

This story introduces the Rani, a rogue Time Lady who appears in two more stories; “Time and The Rani” and the awful “Dimensions in Time” special. Kate O’Mara is excellent as this character.  It’s a shame she only had one good story.

“Trial of a Time Lord” (14 episodes)

“Trial of a Time Lord” is a unique story. It’s really four stories linked together: “The Mysterious Planet” (parts 1-4), “Mindwarp” (parts 5-8), “Terror of the Vervoids” (parts 9-12) and “The Ultimate Foe” (parts 13 and 14). The story uses the unreliable narrator formula, most famously used in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”.  It’s not the most celebrated Doctor Who story, but it deserves a look.  I’m really hoping Stephen Moffat refers to it when the 12th Doctor Who era commences, because there’s a prediction in the plot.

Worst Stories

“The Twin Dilemma” (4 episodes)

“The Twin Dilemma” is almost universally considered the worst Doctor Who story ever.  The biggest complaint comes from the scene where the Doctor actually strangles Peri. It also has a terrible plot and pacing.

“Revelation of the Daleks” (2 episodes)

This is in my opinion the worst Dalek story of the Classic period.  It seems like an incoherent mess that is paced haphazardly.  The interaction between the Doctor and Peri isn’t at its best, as it is in “Attack of the Cybermen” or “Vengeance on Varos”. Davros doesn’t seem as menacing as he should be, either.

 

 

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Author: rocklobsterjwt

I am a Christian and an anime fan. My blog will cover anime reviews and maybe an occasional story

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