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Doctor Who Profile: The Sixth Doctor

Doctor Who Profile: The Sixth Doctor

Colin Baker as Doctor Who's Sixth Doctor

The Sixth Doctor

Portrayed by: Colin Baker

Companion(s): Peri, Mel

Tenure:  8 or 11 stories, depending on if you count the Trial of a Time Lord season-long arc as one story or four separate, yet linked stories. His tenure runs from The Twin Dilemma (March, 1984) to part four of Trial of a Time Lord, The Ultimate Foe (Dec, 1986)

Signature look: Colorful and loud coat and complete ensemble, curly blonde hair (FYI, unlike in NuWho, actors in the classic series had little say over their outfits, particularly by this part of the show’s run)

Catchphrase: “Mmm, I wonder… Aha!” The Sixth Doctor, for better and worse, spends much of his time pointing out how clever he is.

Personality: The Sixth Doctor is extremely brash and outgoing. He’s quick to anger, but can calm quickly as well, if he puts his mind to it. He’s incredibly arrogant and self-assured and immediately assumes a position of authority upon encountering a situation that requires his attention. He is blustery and is often short with his Companions, making him among the most difficult Doctors for many fans to embrace. He suffered an extreme reaction to his regeneration and went temporarily mad, lashing out at and attacking his then Companion, Peri. He’s not particularly aware of others’ needs and dispositions, as his mind is usually elsewhere, but he cares deeply for his Companions and, like every Doctor, is incredibly protective of them.

Best TARDIS team: The Sixth Doctor only ever has one Companion at a time, and only has two Companions in total, Peri and Mel. Peri is definitely the stronger of the two Companions, and she’s also the Sixth Doctor’s main Companion, filling that role for all but two of his stories.

Worst TARDIS team: Perhaps because she only filled the role of Companion for two stories, half of the Trial of a Time Lord season, Mel never grew into being as good of a Companion for the Sixth Doctor as Peri.

Signature foe: The Valeyard, his prosecutor in Trial of a Time Lord (who is a future evil version of the Doctor, not dissimilar to the Dream Lord presented in “Amy’s Choice”)

Best Stories: Vengeance on Varos (Jan, 1985), which explores reality TV obsession and the effect of violent media, and The Two Doctors (March, 1985), which sees the return of the Second Doctor

Worst Stories: The Twin Dilemma and Timelash are two of the worst, most painful to sit through stories in the entire series and Terror of the Vervoids isn’t much better. The writing for the Sixth Doctor often left much to be desired.

Highlights of tenure: Bantering with the ever entertaining Sil, facing down the Valeyard, and bringing undeniable character, bravado, and honesty to the many admittedly silly stories of the Sixth Doctor’s run

Lowlights of tenure: Contrasting the reserved, friendly, and beloved Fifth Doctor with the Sixth Doctor’s immediate in-your-face aggression is one thing. Having him strangle Peri, who we’d just seen the Fifth Doctor sacrifice himself for in the fantastic The Caves of Androzani, in his first moments due to a regeneration crisis, was a bridge too far.

Regeneration/First Words: The Sixth Doctor has significant trouble regenerating and has somewhat of a mental break during the process, perhaps due to lingering radiation from his adventure on Androzani Minor, physically attacking his Companion, Peri, before regaining his senses. His first words are, “You were expecting someone else?”

Death/Final Words: Colin Baker was let go between seasons due to behind the scenes problems (on the producers’ ends- Baker absolutely loved being the Doctor and was an outspoken advocate for the series). Electing not to return to shoot a regeneration scene, his Doctor (played by Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy in a frizzy blonde wig) bangs his head on the TARDIS console after the Rani shoots them in flight, causing his regeneration. The Sixth Doctor’s final onscreen words are in the previous story, referencing his Companion Mel’s attempts to get him healthy, a grumbling, “Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice…”

Memorable quotes:

Peri: “What’s happened?”
The Doctor: [re: his regeneration] “Change, my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon.” The Caves of Androzani

– “Rest is for the weary, sleep is for the dead. I feel like a hungry man eager for the feast!” Attack of the Cybermen

– “Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet

– [re: the Time Lords] “In all my traveling 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.” Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe

Other notes: The Sixth Doctor, along with the Eighth, is one of the Doctors to most benefit from the extended universe of the novels, comics, and Big Finish audio dramas. Due to behind the scenes scuffling, Colin Baker’s run was cut short; he’d been looking forward to rivaling Tom Baker’s seven seasons and taking the character on a significant arc, from violent and aggressive in his first moments and stories to increasingly compassionate and accessible. While the character never had the chance to grow over time on the show, his adventures have been expanded greatly in other mediums.