Skip to Content

Doctor Who Profile: The Fifth Doctor

Doctor Who Profile: The Fifth Doctor

Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor

The Fifth Doctor

Portrayed by: Peter Davison

Companion(s): Adric, Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka, Turlough, Kamelion, Peri

Tenure: 20 stories, from Castrovalva (Jan, 1982) to The Caves of Androzani (March, 1984)

Signature look: White cricket outfit, tan jacket with orange piping (and celery as a lapel decoration), panama hat, tan, orange, and red striped pants, and white sneakers/trainers

Catchphrase: “Brave heart, Tegan”

Personality: The Fifth Doctor is the first Doctor to feel every bit his age, which is of course contrasted by his physical appearance (Peter Davison was 29 when he took on the role, making him the youngest actor to play the Doctor until Matt Smith, who was 26 when he was cast). He’s thoughtful and still, far less wordy than his predecessor, and perhaps partially due to the youth of his Companions, the Fifth Doctor is the most paternal since the First Doctor. He can be stern, one of the earliest to show the Fury of a Time Lord so common to the modern series, but he also has a sense of fun, taking time off here and there to catch a game of cricket and relax. He’s also the most approachable of the Classic Doctors, with a breezy demeanor that contrasts the Fourth Doctor’s manic energy.

Best TARDIS team: Tegan and Nyssa (alternatively, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, and the Brigadier in Mawdryn Undead. It’s a mess, there are way too many Companions, but the Brigadier!)

Worst TARDIS team: Tegan, Turlough, and Kamelion

Signature foe: He faces the Master several times, but he has more memorable altercations with the Mara, the Black Guardian, and others

Best Stories: Caves of Androzani is widely considered not only the best story in the classic era, but one of, if not the absolute, best in the entire series. Earthshock is also hugely memorable, with the death of Adric, and The Five Doctors is a fun, though definitely flawed, anniversary special.

Worst Stories: Black Orchid, the final pure historical in the series’ run, managed to kill that subset of story, which had been a staple of the early run, and Castrovalva, despite its many fun references to Doctors and Companions past, is one of the weaker post-regeneration stories.

Highlights of tenure: The death of Adric in Earthshock, the Doctor’s inability once again to help the Silurians and Sea Devils in Warriors of the Deep, the Doctor’s close, if bickering, relationship with Tegan throughout and her overall arc, one of the few examples to this point of Companions truly being affected by their travels, facing off against the Black Guardian, Omega, and so many other classic villains during the 20th season, and all of Caves of Androzani

Lowlights of tenure: The misuse and waste of Adric (other than in Earthshock). He was a fun Companion with the Fourth Doctor, but the show didn’t figure out how to tweak him to adjust to the Fifth Doctor. Also, the Fifth Doctor, though an absolute fan favorite, takes a while to find his footing and start to feel like the Doctor, unlike his predecessors, who feel Doctorish almost immediately

Regeneration/First Words: The Fourth Doctor dies after falling from a substantial height, surrounded by his Companions. The Fifth Doctor takes a while to become coherent, due to his regeneration crisis, but his first intelligible words are, “Ah, you’ve come to help me find the Zero Room. Welcome aboard. I’m The Doctor, or will be if this regeneration works out.”

Death/Final Words: The Fifth Doctor dies of radiation poisoning when, only able to procure enough antidote for one dose, he gives this to Peri to save her life (Adric’s death still weighing heavily on his mind). His final words, after seeing visions of his Companions urging him to regenerate, are, “Going soon. It’s time to say goodbye. Might regenerate, I don’t know. Feels different this time. Adric?”

Memorable quotes:

“You know how it is; you put things off for a day and next thing you know, it’s a hundred years later.”  Arc of Infinity

“I try to believe three impossible things before breakfast.”  The Five Doctors

“There should have been another way.”  Warriors of the Deep

“Is this death?”  The Caves of Androzani

Other notes: Until the online minisode “The Night of the Doctor” brought back the Eighth Doctor and “The Day of the Doctor” brought back the Fourth (maybe?), the Fifth Doctor was the only Classic Doctor to appear in any NuWho, in the Children in Need special “Time Crash”. A love letter to the Fifth Doctor (and Tenth Doctor actor David Tennant’s childhood attachment to the character), he’s presented as a significant inspiration to the Tenth Doctor, from his personality to his footware.

[wpchatai]