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Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who

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1983-03-31 Ranger.jpg

  • Publication: Ranger
  • Date: 1983-03-31
  • Author: Will La Duke
  • Page: 9
  • Language: English

WHO is this man who leaps entire galaxies in a single bound? WHO is this man who has two hearts, purports to be at least 750 years old, and travels the universe in what looks like (at least on the outside) a blue London police call box?

Well, WHO?? Yes ... , WHO. Doctor WHO, that is. And for nineteen years on British television, the good Doctor has saved our tiny planet, not to mention the entire universe, countless hundreds of times. Since 1975, the syndicated exploits of this alien superhero have done ratings wonders for WTTW in Chicago, and has become something of a mania to Dr. WHO fans here and abroad.

It is no secret that to many devoted Dr. WHO fans, the Tom Baker characterization of the Doctor was definitive, and certainly the most easily identifiable. Three other actors have essayed the role since the show first began in 1963, and part of the reason that Baker was so admired was the fact that he stayed with the role longest — seven years. It came as quite a shock to devoted viewers when Tom Baker announced his retirement at the end of the show's eighteenth season.

Since then, the role of the Gallifreyan Time Lord has been taken up by Peter Davison. Best known for his portrayal of the rakish, ne'er — do-well veterinary surgeon on the long running, immensely popular BBC series, "All Creatures Great and Small", Davison was touring the U.S. to promote Doctor WHO. We caught up with Peter in Chicago, where he was paying a special visit to George Brio, the proprietor of the New Fantasy Shop.

"For many Doctor WHO fans here in America, your episodes have yet to be seen. Subsequently, we don't know you as the Doctor ... Doesn't that make you nervous coming here?"

"Not at all, I love coming here. In England, I really can't just walk down the street unrecognized. But, over here, I'm not so easily recognized ... I may be recognized two, or maybe three times during an entire stay. So, it isn't all bad ... " (laughs)

"I suppose the obvious question is, how did you get your start in show business?"

"Well, I got my start in acting in Drama school in 1969. It was at the Central School of Speech and Drama, which I eventually left in 1976. Then after I left there, I worked as a theatre actor in a local group of players. Then, I got into television where I did two or three series. Then, the way I got the Doctor WHO role, I was simply rung up by John - Nathan Turner (producer of Doctor WHO) on a Saturday evening. He told me months before it was officially announced, that Tom Baker intended to leave Doctor WHO, and I said something like, "why don't I phone you back. (laughs) But, by the following October, 1982 I had lunch with John, and it seemed like such an outrageous idea and I thought then that it was too good an opportunity to turn down."

"In your role as Tristian, your character was played to be a bit of a rake — have any of Tristian's idiosyncrasies rubbed off on the Doctor?"

"Well, I suppose there is a certain amount, basically because I'm the same actor. I don't think there is any deliberate attempt to recreate Tristian. Although, someone once gave me the advice that the Doctor ought to be like Tristian but, be brave. It was a little boy, I think, who suggested that's how I should play him. You know, you use a lot of things when you're starting a part before you decide on the method to do it, certain various things. But there was certainly no conscious effort to emulate Tristian."

"What was the public response to your assuming the role of Doctor WHO, especially with the burden of following in the wake of Tom Baker's performance?"

"Well, I think the situation is slightly different in Britain than it is here in America. In Britain, I'm the fifth actor to play Doctor WHO, and there have been four predecessors, where as in America, it was mostly the Tom Baker episodes that fans in the states got a view of. Jon Pertwee perhaps as well. But certainly, I don't think you have gotten a look at Patrick Troughton or William Hartnell's previous episodes."

"Have you studied any of the previous actor's performances in the role?

"Oh, I looked at the old tapes, yes."

"Did you draw anything from these, any little idiosyncrasies that you may have picked up?"

"Oh yes ... yes a bit. Probably more from the first two doctors."

"Did you have a particular favorite?"

"Well, the one I watched the most was Patrick Troughton, because his episodes kind of coincided with the time I first started watching the show. So I used all the Doctor's performances as a sort of reference point. I may not have drawn very much at all from these tapes, but you certainly want to watch them, at least to get an idea of where to base your own performance. But, as for Tom Baker, I thought there might be a problem. especially when you consider that he stayed with the role longer than any of his predecessors — about seven years. I mean ... I felt that I was under his shadow for the first three or four months that I was filming Doctor WHO. But, I soon got over that. And then, it's just a matter of realizing that it is difficult taking over a part that someone else has done. But, there was no way in which I was ever employed to do an imitation of Tom Baker. So ... I simply had to tell myself to do the role the way I wanted to do it."

"Well then, what has been the reaction of fans here in the U.S.?"

"Well, I can only speak for the fans who have talked to me ... I mean, no one has said to me, I think you're just terrible! (laughs) The only people who have said anything to me have said, Think it's very, very good. Some have said something like, Tom Baker is still my favorite, but I think you're very good. I mean obviously there are going to be fans who don't think ... but a .. . no one has felt strongly enough to just come right out and insult me."

"In this country, Leonard Nimoy has found it increasingly hard, as well as increasingly lucrative to abandon his "Spock" ears. Do you fear that you may become typecast after appearing in Doctor WHO?"

"Obviously, there is a danger of this role hindering my career a bit ... It's just something you have to weigh up ... um. .. balance, you now. I mean, it probably all comes up even in the end. I don't think it's quite as difficult now as it was years ago for Leonard Nimoy. I mean, these things are kind of arbitrary: if someone puts on a strange set of ears, suddenly they become almost unemployable. The same thing didn't really quite happen to William Shatner quite the way it happened to Nimoy. So I don't see ... it certainly really hasn't affected the other performers who have gone on to do what they have wanted to do."

"From what we've been able to gather, it seems that our Doctor has an affinity for things associated with Cricket. What with the Cricket bat, pads, etc. Could you explain this? Was this your idea?"

"Well, it was my idea to begin with. John - Nathan Turner wanted to have something to emphasize that I'm a younger version of the Doctor. And I felt I needed something that was quite eccentric, so we hit upon Cricket as a combination of the two ... Really, I mean it's a sport ... but one has to be a bit eccentric to like it. as well as play it. So, John gave that idea to costume design, and they came up with a base that is ... , which is vaguely ... , vaguely based upon a Victorian era cricketeer. And, that's how the idea of the customer originated. So, it was my idea that my Doctor should be associated with cricket .. because I like it. Which, I suppose makes me a bit eccentric."

"Did you ever show any interest in Science Fiction before joining Doctor WHO?"

"Oh, I've read a fair amount of science fiction in my time ... usually more earth - based science fiction, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, etc."

"John - Nathan Turner has stated publicly that he wants your interpretation of the Doctor to move away from the gimmicks and gadgets that Tom Baker's Doctor has favored. And, yet there's been rumors that K-9 might reappear ... is there any truth to this?"

"I don't think there's any substance to the rumor that K-9. will reappear, except that he may, although this is not certain at all. He may be put in a small appearance in that. But, I don't think he's going to return to the show."

"What about the gadgets? How about the sonic screwdriver?"

"Well, it's blown up, I'm afraid. I don't think so, I mean I agree with John on this, really. You see, we came upon endless troubles if you have an implement that can do just about everything. You come to a point, where the Doctor is locked inside something and the obvious answer is, well, last weeks episode he got out of a five foot steel door by twiddling the sonic screwdriver — well why doesn't he get out of the same situation with it this week? So, to avoid this, you then have to engineer devices where you lose the sonic screwdriver, or for some reason you leave it behind in the Tardis. Just as it is with K-9, they found that in every story they were having to make it break down, so that it didn't solve all the problems, or continually get the Doctor out of all messes he'd gotten himself into before the episode was up. So, rather than go through all this every week, it was decided it was time to sort of .. you know, cut the dependency on the electronic devices that could do anything. The same went for the dog, K-9."

"So your Doctor is going to be relying more or less on his wits opposed to the electronic devices?"

"Yes ... I guess that about sums it up ... "

"Speaking of K-9, will there be any reappearance of the Doctor's former assistants?"

"Yes, well I think there are several assistants reappearing on the twentieth anniversary special. Again, nothing is really certain. And, in my second season we met up with the Brigadier."

"How about the various old foes we've come to expect. The Daleks, Cyberman, etc.?"

"Ah, Cyberman — I had a run-in with them in my first season. Um ... the master, obviously. As for the Daleks, I hope to meet up with a Dalek."

"That would have to be a plum assignment, for any Doctor ... "

"It is ... really. I'd love to get one under my belt. (smiles) I' know there was a writer working on a Dalek episode ... there was a problem with the Daleks, because Terry Nation, who first created the Daleks held the copyrights and didn't want anyone else to write a Dalek story. Or, he just didn't have the time ... it was a matter for John to sort it all out. Like I say, I'd like nothing better than to get a chance to do battle with the Daleks."

"Do you have any idea how long you will stay with Doctor WHO?"

"Well, I'm certainly going to do next season, which will be my third. And, after that, I really don't know. I guess I'll decide to take it year by year."

"You have had one long running successful series ("All Creatures") under your belt. Why surrender yourself to the grueling pace of another?"

"Well, it's a matter of deciding what you want to do, you know. The only way you can decide on what job to do is if you think you'll enjoy it. I did "Creatures" for about two and a half years, and my next season of Doctor WHO will add about three years to that. I don't know, it doesn't seem like a grueling pace. I thought I would enjoy it, and I have. I don't think in terms of, oh, I don't want another long running job. I managed to do a number of things in between seasons of Doctor WHO..."

"Have there been any threats to your sanity or well being?"

"Well, we're a harmless lot, really."

PICTURED, L TO R: Sandra Dickenson (Davison's wife and co-star of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy') Will La Duke and Peter Davison.

Spelling corrections: Sandra Dickinson, George Breo, Tristan, Cybermen

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

  • APA 6th ed.: Duke, Will La (1983-03-31). Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who. Ranger p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Duke, Will La. "Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who." Ranger [add city] 1983-03-31, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Duke, Will La. "Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who." Ranger, edition, sec., 1983-03-31
  • Turabian: Duke, Will La. "Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who." Ranger, 1983-03-31, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who | url= | work=Ranger | pages=9 | date=1983-03-31 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2020 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Peter Davison talks about life as the new Dr. Who | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2020}}</ref>