This is a transcript of part of a US interview with Peter Davison from 2003, in which he talks about his career, about typecasting, about the audio adventures (which were pretty new back then) and about advice he received from Patrick Troughton to be careful about staying in the role for too long. You can see the original video here.
Q: You come over to America to do conventions fairly often. Do you enjoy coming over?
A: Yeah, I mean it’s a work experience. When we first started doing conventions, many years ago, all the actors leapt at it, the chance to visit and do the conventions, but in many ways it’s harder work than doing the job, because there you’re playing a part, here you’re having to be yourself. Some of us aren’t that good at that. (laughs) We prefer to hide behind the mask of whoever we’re playing.
Q: Do fans ask you about other work you’ve done, such as ‘Campion’ and ‘All Creatures Great and Small’?
A: Well they ask about things they’ve seen, and the first thing they’ve seen over here (in the US) is ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, so yes, they definitely do. And also ‘Campion’, which came out under the ‘Mystery Theatre’ heading. They’re always interested in other work I’ve been doing, although I was very fortunate in the early years that I was doing a lot of stuff that was shown in America, I’ve been doing a lot of television stuff more recently that hasn’t normally appeared on American TV.
Q: You left ‘Doctor Who’ around eighteen years ago, and you’ve had an incredibly versatile career in stage and television, and even some film. If things were very different and they were making ‘Doctor Who’ now, and they only now approached you for it, how might your choices be different?
A: Well I’m still playing him in a way. I’ve no idea, is the answer… I’d be less youthful, is the honest answer, I wouldn’t be running down the corridors quite so quickly.
A: Yes. I thought the way I’m doing it on the audio CD’s, although I’ve not consciously made it different to how I was playing the Doctor in the series, it’s necessarily different, because you do grow older.
Q: Let’s talk about the audios for a moment. After you left the show, you must have known there would always be fan interest, conventions and things, but in your wildest imaginings did you think there’d be books and audios and conventions still going on?
A: Well the audios very definitely fill a gap. I didn’t do anything connected with ‘Doctor Who’ while the programme was being made because I didn’t want to, really. I mean the thing about the audios is I think they fill a gap, and in the absence of the programme being made, which I think’s a shame, it’s nice to give the fans something. I think if another Doctor took over, if the TV series was back on and another Doctor took over, I think I’d probably stop doing the audio CD’s. I think there wouldn’t be a need for it, and I’d feel that I was stepping on another person’s toes. In a sense it fits in perfectly because all the Doctors are ex-Doctors, so we can all do our audio CD’s.
Q: Do you feel that the quality of the scripts gives you a chance to stretch…
A: No, I think they give the writers an opportunity to stretch, I don’t think they give the actors an opportunity to stretch, I mean I don’t think you can stretch the part of the Doctor very much, but they give the writers an enormous opportunity because of course you can deal in any budget you like in audio, you can put yourself in extraordinary scenes and conjure it up simply by the sound effects and the acting. From that point of view, it’s marvellous for the writes, because they can do whatever they want.
Q: Do you enjoy working on the audios because there’s no make-up, you don’t have to wear the costume…
A: Well it’s mainly that you don’t have to learn the lines. You can go in there with the script, I mean obviously you have to research it, read it a couple of times, but what I like is that it’s instant, and you can get tremendous energy on the audio CD’s.
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about the work you’re doing now, the projects you’re involved in these days…
A: Well I’ve got a couple of things going, there’s a series that’s been running at home for about four years, which is called ‘At Home With the Braithwaites’, which is about a family that wins £38m on the lottery, and how it affects them, and I play the father in that. And then recently I’ve made a series called ‘The Last Detective’, a detective show, hour-and-a-half shows, that’s currently airing in Britain.
Q: Among your contemporaries, because you do some stage work, do you get some teasing that you’re in not just one but several shows that have strong fan followings?
A: Well I’ve always been teased by people who’ve perceived me as working far too much. So yeah, I mean, when I was doing ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘All Creatures…’ and a couple of comedy series, I was on virtually every night of the week. And then I had, after ‘Campion’ and ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’, for me, a sort of quiet patch, but in other peoples’ terms it wasn’t a quiet patch at all, I was still making televisions shows and one-off programmes, and now I’m doing lots of stuff again, so I feel a bit fortunate, maybe I should hand over a few of the roles to other people but I don’t feel inclined to do that. I think the secret is that I’ve been able to move easily from one genre to another. A lot of actors get unfairly stuck in sitcoms, or very serious drama, or soap operas, and I’ve managed to dodge from one thing to another.
Q: When you took the role in ‘Doctor Who’, you’ve said that Patrick Troughton advised you to limit the amount of time you played Dr. Who, to avoid typecasting. Do you think that was good advice?
A: Yes, I very definitely had a choice to do a fourth year of ‘Doctor Who’ or leave after three, and it was a close call, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I would leave after three. I wasn’t very happy with season two of my time, we were beset by money problems and strike problems, and had I been happy at the end of season two, which was really when I had to make a decision, I might well have gone on and done a fourth season, but I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do. I mean, when I left ‘Doctor Who’ I went up for a very good part in a BBC2 classics serial and I know there was much discussion about whether I should be offered the part because I’d just done ‘Doctor Who’, and that was something that would have got worse had I done ‘Doctor Who’ for longer. I mean fortunately they did offer it to me, but I was very aware that if you stick to long to something it just takes longer to recover from it, and I think Tom found that.