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NYCC | Fifth Doctor Peter Davison Looks Back On 50 Years of Who

From 1981 to 1984, Peter Davison played the fifth incarnation of the titular hero of Doctor Who, a role he has reprised for more than a decade now in regular audio plays released by Big Finish Productions. During a panel at New York Comic Con, the actor shared with hundreds of fans his history with the hit sci-fi franchise and his thoughts on the new series.

“This is the only [convention] I’ve done in New York,” Davison revealed to the packed room before jumping into his experiences with fans.

“When I come to a Who convention, I quite often get given books people have written, stories people have written,” he said. “I got one at a recent convention which turned out to be a kind of Fifty Shades of Grey take on it. Fascinating it was.”

“I’ve always loved the fandom,” Davison continued. “You do seem to be an extraordinarily tolerant bunch of people, and I mean this in the nicest way, because it’s every kind of facet of the human condition that you see at every kind of convention.”

When asked about his experience with science fiction before he joined Doctor Who, Davison replied, “I did love science fiction, but I’m talking about H.G. Wells and John Wyndham. That’s really the only kind of science fiction I’d actually read. But I always watched Doctor Who. I’m the first actor [cast to play the Doctor] who grew up with Doctor Who. I think I was 12 when it started, so I watched it all the way through. Even when I became an actor, I remember thinking it’d be great to get a part in Doctor Who one day, never suspecting at all that I’d actually be playing the Doctor.

“So it was a great thrill and indeed it was quite a challenge to come to terms with the fact that I would be playing a sort of icon from my childhood, which is why I didn’t accept the job straight away. It seemed such an extraordinary idea that I should be playing it!”

The discussion turned to the subject of “Time Crash,” the Children in Need charity mini-episode written by Steven Moffat that featured the Fifth Doctor meeting the Tenth Doctor, allowing Davison to team up with his future son-in-law David Tennant.

“I know Steven Moffat quite well, and I remember we were sitting in the garden at my house,” Davison recalled. “And he said to me, ‘How would you feel about taking part in a Doctor Who special for Children in Need?’ And I looked at him and said, ‘Why do you even have to ask?’ So he wrote this, I thought, very good short script that was both about the Tenth Doctor looking back at being the Fifth Doctor, and also about David remembering looking at me on TV. We did it all in one day.”

Comparing the classic series to the current one, Davison explained the difference in how writers approached the show. “Now Doctor Who is one of the BBC’s premier prestige programs. It really wasn’t in those days,” he said. “It was very successful and it sold to many countries and made the BBC lots of money, but it was never considered a premier drama series. So the people who wrote for Doctor Who quite often were people who wrote for a detective series one week, Doctor Who one week, and then maybe a hospital drama the week after. They weren’t really driven by their love of science fiction. Except my last story ‘The Caves of Androzani’ was by Robert Holmes, and it was fantastic.

“Whereas what I feel now is the difference is largely that [the new] Doctor Who is written by people with a passion for what they’re doing. A comfort for me about that, and the other classic Doctors, is these people were all sitting out there as kids in the audience and watching us do Doctor Who; they’re all fantastic fans. Steven Moffat can tell you, just by looking at one single black-and-white picture of any Doctor Who story from the classic series, not only what episode it is, he can tell you how far into the episode that scene was. I’ve seen him do it! It’s quite extraordinary – it’s disturbing as well!”

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And is there any chance, as some rumors have claimed, the BBC may put away Doctor Who again after the 50th anniversary?

“I can’t see any sign of it ending,” Davison said. “It got a very low point before it was canceled the last time. I always knew when it was canceled that it would come back. A certain amount of time would pass and then someone would think it was a good idea to bring it back.”

Every 10-year anniversary for Doctor Who has involved a reunion of previous Doctors joining a story with the latest incarnation. Might Davison return for the 50th anniversary in 2013?

“Every day I check the phone to see if Steven Moffat has called me,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know what’s happening next year, I have nothing to report. I’m sure it will be something fantastic! But I don’t know what. I think if [the classic Doctors] aren’t invited, I’m going to make my own rival video. I’ll do my own 50th anniversary special. Colin Baker’s prepared to work for nothing!”

The floor opened up to fan questions, and included Davison taking a photo of a cosplayer in a very accurate Fifth Doctor outfit. When one fan asked how Davison felt about unraveling Tom Baker’s famous scarf in his debut episode, he answered, “I loved every minute of it!”

Other fans wanted to know if Davison thought the Doctor could’ve had a romantic relationship with any of his companions. “Nyssa? Maybe that’s too easy a choice,” he replied. “Nicola Bryant? Yeah, she stole my regeneration scene.”

One of the last fans to reach the microphone asked which companion in the history Doctor Who did Davison think stood out the most. “I have to say, Rose Tyler. I think she changed the show and how we see and relate to companions. Those first seasons, she’s the most important character, more important in some ways than the Doctor. You’re seeing the show from her point of view. Really great companion.”


  • Demoncat4

    nice that he still looks back fondly playing the doctor . and hope he is allowed to be involved for the 50th in fact would love bbc to do something where every version of the doctor team up along with all the companions for the fifith but if it only turns out to be at least him and maybe tom  bakerwith matt i will be happy.

  • Skapunkboi19

    It would be cool to see a multi Doctor team-up for the 50th but I think some of the first few doctors are dead. I was thinking they could do the last five Doctors and Rose, Martha, Jack, River and the Ponds.

  • Brandon Allen

     Only the first three are dead.

  • Ultra_Brabbnus

    “Those first seasons, she’s the most important character, more important in some ways than the Doctor.”

    Which is not a good thing. It’s called DOCTOR Who not COMPANION Who. I have nothing against a strong companion with an arc and a back story and like for them to do more than stand around going “what is it Doctor?” but they should never ever be more important than the Doctor

  • kerr_avon

    I don’t see the love for multi-Doctor stories. They never match up to the potential:

    The Three Doctors: Fun but nothing special

    The Five Doctors: well really it was only 3 Doctors, a pretend and some stock footage. It was a bit of a mess

    The Two Doctors: A continuity ignoring, out of character embarrassment. If anyone ever asks you why Who was ever cancelled then show them this or Paradise Towers.

  • Desariella

    I hope Peter does come back fro the 50th. He is my favourite classic Doctor.

    *PS: Check out my DW Fanfic: The Aresian Saga. Just Google the title.

  • Linette

    psssst you forgot Twin Dilemma xD

    I would LOVE to see this “rival vid” more than an official multi doctor by steven moffat. 

  • Lani

    Twin Dilemma wasn’t a multi-Doctor episode…

    Personally, as I watched the show in order, I found The Five Doctors a hoot. The Three Doctors was kinda meh, but we got to see William Hartnell again! It wasn’t much, but hey. And Omega is one of the best villains, though he wasn’t properly realised till Arc of Infinity.

    The Two Doctors is great. Two is my favourite Doctor and seeing him come back and be flustered and amazing again – WITH JAMIE was incredible. You can also explain away the obvious continuity issues with Season 6b, or just not caring that the Doctor and Jamie were older. If we accept Hurndall as canon One for his serial, why can’t Jamie and Two be canonically as old as they were right after they left Victoria in Fury from the Deep (but before Wheel of Space, obviously)? Or, alternately, if Zoe IS mentioned in The Two Doctors (I forget), a Time Lord shows up Genesis-style and gives Two a mission, but he refuses to do it without companions. They acquiesce and allow him ONE companion. He chooses Jamie. This could allow placement immediately after Wheel in Space or anytime before The War Games, really.

  • Lina Langlois

    I didn’t say Twin dilemma for a multi doctor but just because it’s the worst episode ever IMO. Patrick Troughton is my fav too. And I’m a 6B believer lol. I don’t think they mention Zoe in Two dilemma but just Victoria with her graphology thing… One can say, that’s just because the time lord allowed Two for just one companion and when he said “I want (my husband) Jamie back!” they said “ok, but he won’t remember the trial and what happened to you”.

    This story was weird actually. Jamie fight a sontaran… With a knife. And he wins? What the… And the androgum thing with two… I can’t say if I love it or if it’s very bad. Troughton do love this, talking paella and overplaying etc… But in the end, I quite don’t understand how he can be ok and don’t have a bit of… Androgumness…

    Five doctors… I’m ok with hurndall, that’s just because he’s taller than Troughton that there’s this “legend” that Troughton is smaller than any others. But Hartnell was smaller in fact. Funny when I see some drawings with multi doctors and with this size thing…
    Regarding the story, I’m just a bit sad with Borusa, love the master punched by the brig and three, talking riddles with One (as easy as Pi!), and we see the time lords. I love the time lords, bastards, but I love them. Just ten seconds with Jamie……..

    Three doctors for Hartnell and the first time for the brig and Benton in the tardis. And Two… In color. The first time I saw this story I think I shouted when he appeared taking his recorder. No Jamie……..

  • brandon fleet

    like Davison

  • brandon fleet

    peter Davison ,amazing tardis, awesome clothes, best companions and brilliant sonic

  • brandon fleet

    I love peter for the tallent

  • brandon fleet

    best episode kinda

  • brandon fleet


  • brandon fleet

    wish he was in the 50th

  • brandon fleet

    I agree

  • brandon fleet

    who thought peter was a funny doctor?

  • brandonfleet

    love to meet peter