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Doctor Who - The Fifth Doctor

Updated on August 21, 2015

With a new producer and a new Doctor, the series fully entered the new decade in 1982 with a young cast and an updated look.

Very much unlike his predecessor Tom Baker, Peter Davison was already something of a star when he was selected to become the Fifth Doctor in 1981. Not quite yet 30 when he accepted the part, he is the second youngest actor to play the title character.

Peter Davidson the Fifth Doctor

(c) BBC
(c) BBC

Doctor Who and Davros, Dalek leader

(c) BBC
(c) BBC

The Fifth Doctor – Peter Davison

Born Peter Moffett in 1951, the future actor was born in Guyana, before being moved to and brought up in Surrey. Professionally trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Davison had an active career as a stage and television actor before being cast as Tristan Farnon in “All Creatures Great and Small.” This role catapulted him to stardom in the UK and helped keep Doctor Who as popular as it had been during the Tom Baker-era.

He played several repeating roles on BBC television series since he began acting professionally in the mid-1970s. Just prior to his first full serial as the Doctor, science fiction fans will remember him as the “Meat of the Day” in 1981's “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.”

Like other actors before him, Davison decided to leave after three seasons in an attempt to avoid being type-cast, as recommended by the Second Doctor, Peter Troughton. Davison has since appeared on the show as part of the 2007 Children in Need special with the Tenth Doctor in “Time Crash.”

Since his departure, Davison worked as a BBC television actor for 15 years before regaining prominence with his 2000 performance in “At Home with the Braithwaites.” More recently, Davison's real-life daughter, Georgia Moffett, has also appeared in the new series as Jenny (from the generation machine) in the Series Four episode, “The Doctor's Daughter.”

The Fifth Doctor

(c) Radio Times
(c) Radio Times

How did Peter Davison play the Fifth Doctor?

The Fifth Doctor begins his most difficult regeneration to date by unravelling his predecessors scarf while looking within the TARDIS for a rose-scented “zero-room” in which to stabilize his current self. The fifth Doctor immediately appears to differ from his previous self by getting far more obviously frazzled by his companions, and generally more emotional.

Generally less impulsive, the Fifth Doctor avoids violence at all costs, and is not to be seen delivering Venusian Karate regularly. This doctor allows his companions to assist him more than the other Doctors, though he is perfectly willing to risk his own safety for others if no other options exist. He does seem to be the most hounded of the Doctor's incarnations – whether by Guardian influence, the Master's meddling or just plain, old bad luck. 

From his symbolic de-Baker-ing gesture onward, we are treated to yet another very different doctor. The Fifth Doctor is able to be flustered and often seems nervous, though there is no mistaking the swagger with which any 800-year old Time Lord would likely conduct himself – you learn a few things with that sort of time. Of course the Fifth Doctor is clever – that's fundamentally who he is and does not change between incarnations.

Davison has since said that he thought he was too young for the role and would approach it differently at this stage of his life.

Adric Tegan and Nyssa with the Fifth Doctor

(c) BBC
(c) BBC

What was the most recognisable trademark of the Fifth Doctor?

Having a fascination with cricketing when he regenerated, the Fifth doctor wore striped pants, a brimmed hat and a jumper vest under his long coat. Iconically, he kept a sprig of celery pinned to his lapel, occasionally replacing it with a fresh piece.

It was also with the Fifth Doctor that the “branding” of the Doctor's look began to reliably include a question mark, such as those on his lapels, having first appeared on the Fourth Doctor in his final few serials.

I met him in London on the Tube one day, when my own scarf got caught in the escalator he very gallantly rescued me from certain death.  I was young, and far too star struck to even ask for an autograph! 

Who were the Fifth Doctor’s assistants?

When the Fifth Doctor regenerated, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan were all travelling with him, having been picked up by the Fourth Doctor. They assist with the complications of his regeneration. While only Tegan is really interested in getting home, the Doctor seems to have quite a hard time doing that.

Tegan Jovanka is the companion most completely associated with the Fifth Doctor. Though initially resistant to staying on board, she remains with the Doctor for nearly all his three seasons, departing after a difficult battle in “Resurrection of the Daleks.”

Adric, a member of the elite on his home planet of Alzaria (in e-space), also follows the Fifth Doctor through his regeneration, and remains with him throughout most of 1982's nineteenth season. Before the final serial, he is poignantly seen sacrificing his life trying to save a ship from hitting the Earth in the fireball that would kill off the dinosaurs.

Nyssa, was also highly adept and could be relied upon to construct devices for the Doctor, as Romana did for the Fourth Doctor. After meeting her double and contracting a communicable disease, she decides to stay and conduct medical research.


(c) BBC
(c) BBC

Both red-headed schoolboy Vislor Turlough and the shape-shifting android, Kamelion are taken on board as adversaries that the Doctor brings around to his way of thinking. Turlough, as he's called, is sent to kill the Doctor by the Black Guardian, who is hoping to settle his score with the Fourth Doctor. Turlough wrests himself from the control of the Guardian and continues to travel with the Doctor until he finds his own people in “The Caves of Androzani.”

Immediately after Tegan left the TARDIS, the doctor picks up Peri Brown. A young American girl, she makes her appearance in “The Planet of Fire,” which is where Kamelion She is the only companion who remains when the Fifth Doctor dies and regenerates, continuing to travel with the Sixth Doctor for some time.


(c) BBC
(c) BBC

The Black Guardian

(c) Doctor Who Magazine
(c) Doctor Who Magazine

What technology did he rely on?

The sonic screwdriver was still very much in evidence during the Fifth Doctor’s time, but he lost it during the episode “The Visitation.” A nasty looking creature called a Terileptil destroys it. Of course, he builds another, different versions of which will be seen throughout his lives, but not again as the Fifth Doctor.

The Zero Chamber is used to regulate his nervous system and metabolism during regeneration. Tegan and Nyssa eventually build him a box of the chamber and carry him to Castrovalva for treatment. A delta-wave generator was used to help both Tegan and Nyssa to sleep for therapeutic purposes. 

It is with the Fifth Doctor that we are first introduced to a TARDIS feature called the cloister bell that warned of impending and disastrous danger. We also learn that the TARDIS can increase its power by “deleting” part of itself.

The Five Doctors

(c) BBC
(c) BBC

Which main enemies did he face?

Bad luck for the Fifth Doctor, but his first enemy upon regenerating was none other than the Master, who continues to plague him periodically. The Cybermen also return with yet another plot to take over the Earth.

It is none other than the President of Galifrey (and a long time mentor), Barousa that plays the villain in “The Five Doctors.” In this serial, both companions and opponents from throughout the show history appear in cameo roles.

The Black Guardian continues to follow the Doctor before being defeated in the world of the immortals. He also faces the Urbankans, Terileptil, the Mara, Captain Wrack, Silurians, the Malus and Tractators. There are mad scientists and megalomaniacs to contend with, such as Kalid and a dark matter Omega.

The Doctor's Fifth Regeneration

Peter Davison’s last story as the Fifth Doctor was “The Caves of Androzani”. Unlike most previous regenerations, occurring right at the end of a season, Peter Davison left before the 21st season was over – the victim of poisoning, but he did still manage to save the day and get back to the TARDIS. This meant there was an entire serial with the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, before the series ended for that year, “The Twin Dilemma.”

Filmography of the Fifth Doctor

Season Nineteen - 1982

  • Castrovalva – The Master continues pursuit and captures Adric, the Doctor and holding Adric prisoner while his regeneration has some difficulties
  • Four to Doomsday – A leader has gone insane from the long journey and wants something from the Doctor and his companions
  • Kinda – Colonists are surveying a planet, but it may already be inhabited
  • The Visitation – The TARDIS isn't the only piece of technology to recently land in 17th century England
  • Black Orchid – The Doctor is mistaken for someone else in 1920s England and everyone is invited into a situation of murder
  • Earthshock – Mysterious robots are attacking geologists, but someone in orbit is controlling them
  • Time-Flight – A Concord jet mysteriously disappears and Heathrow officials enlist the help of the Doctor in getting it back

Season Twenty-One - 1984

  • Warriors of the Deep – There's a conspiracy on a late 21st century sea-base and the TARDIS crew uncovers another old enemy of Humanity
  • The Awakening – Some people in a contemporary English village are taking a 17th century historical reconstruction very seriously
  • Frontios – The very last outpost of humanity is either on the unluckiest planet ever, or someone is causing them problems on purpose
  • Resurrection of the Daleks – Somewhere in a London warehouse, Daleks are planning a comeback, and they brought a friend
  • Planet of Fire – On a seismically active planet Turlough finds reminders of his past before being exiled on Earth
  • The Caves of Androzani – A disfigured scientist takes the ultimate revenge out on the Doctor while falling for Peri

Season Twenty - 1983

  • Arc of Infinity – The Doctor is being attacked by a mysterious force that has something to do with Galifrey
  • Snakedance – An old threat is using Tegan and others while returning to life, and only the Doctor can save her or the planet
  • Mawdryn Undead – A luxurious ship is where a race locked in immortality requires the Doctor's help
  • Terminus – Nyssa finds herself on a ship full of sick people on their way for a peculiar form of treatment that is bankrupting everyone but the company that makes the antidote
  • Enlightenment – Immortal beings use “ephemerals” in a surreal ship race for a most unusual prize
  • The King's Demons – Someone has brought sophisticated equipment to a rather unpleasant 13th century English ruler
  • The Five Doctors (20th Anniversary Special) – A “time scoop” is used to transport the Doctor, in all his incarnations, to an abandoned part of Galifrey for deadly games

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