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New Who

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Doctor Who, Monday and Tuesday BBC1 Peter Davison, everybody's other favourite vet, the bespectacled Brian in Sink or Swim, is the new Doctor Who. Renate Kohler meets this 30-year-old actor as he prepares to step into the Tardis and delight yet another generation

PEOPLE WATCHING television one evening last autumn would have seen an unlikely duo. The Nine O'Clock News that night starred two actors — Ronald Reagan and Peter Davison. Only one of them got the part of Doctor Who.

The enduring Doctor has, over the years, become a kind of lovable national monument. The tension and speculation that surround the election of each new actor to that part is not unlike that surrounding the election of the American president. But that it should qualify for inclusion in a major news bulletin amazed the 30-year-old victor, Peter Davison.

'I was staggered to see it announced on the news,' he says, the disbelief still evident in his voice. 'I really had no idea that Doctor Who was so important. I bet some of my friends thought I'd died when they saw my picture.'

The new Doctor, regenerated at the end of the last series, appears this week for the first time. Davison, sweet-faced and with the sort of soft blond hair you ache to brush off his forehead, brings a new and impetuous element to the redoubtable Time Lord.

'For a start, I will be a much younger Doctor Who and I'll be wearing a kind of Victorian cricketing outfit to accentuate my youth. I would like him to be heroic and resourceful. I feel that, over the years, Doctor Who has become less vital, no longer struggling for survival, depending on instant, miraculous solutions to problems.

'The suspense of "now how is he going to get out of this tight corner?" has been missing. I want to restore that. My Doctor will be flawed,' says Davison. 'He will have the best intentions and he will in the end win through, but he will not always act for the best. Sometimes, he will even endanger his companions. But I want him to have a sort of reckless innocence.'

It was as something of an innocent that Peter Davison first made the acquaintance of the Doctor nearly 18 years ago. He was a little lad of 12 and, for six years, tuned in regularly every Saturday to catch the wanderings of the Time Lord.

And, as befits a dedicated Doctor-fan, he is able to analyse and dissect with intimate knowledge the characters of his four predecessors. ' I don't consider it a disadvantage taking on a part that is well known. It is not as if you have to continue the same characterisation. You have to start from scratch.'

He confesses, however — and freely — that he does occasionally feed off the forerunners. 'I don't overtly copy them,' he explains, 'but do bear in mind a particular aspect of each one.'

The choice of Peter Davison, everybody's other favourite vet, as successor to the eccentric Doctor of Tom Baker, came as a surprise to many, not least Davison himself. 'The producer rang me up one day and said something like, "How would you like to be the new Doctor Who?" I was speechless.'

It worried him that there were some children who had only ever known Tom Baker as Doctor Who and that there were certain responsibilities to children that went with the part. 'I realised that it was a lot more than just an acting job. You somehow take on the mantle of Doctor Who and that kind of instant charisma goes with the job,' he reflects.

But none of this prepared him for the pain of his first read-through. Hearing himself say the lines that he had always heard Tom Baker say made him flinch, he admits. But it was a momentary panic.

Luckily for him Tom Baker did not put his head round the door and smile that man-eating toothy smile of his. 'But we did meet in the bar one evening to discuss the part, and he was all set to give me advice. But it was Top of the Pops that night and the noise was so furious all I heard was "good luck"!'

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Kohler, Renate (1982-01-02). New Who. Radio Times p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Kohler, Renate. "New Who." Radio Times [add city] 1982-01-02, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Kohler, Renate. "New Who." Radio Times, edition, sec., 1982-01-02
  • Turabian: Kohler, Renate. "New Who." Radio Times, 1982-01-02, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=New Who | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/New_Who | work=Radio Times | pages=9 | date=1982-01-02 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 August 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=New Who | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/New_Who | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 August 2019}}</ref>