Here’s Peter Davison talking to Radio Times back in 1981 about his approach to playing the Fifth Doctor. Davison had big shoes (Tom Baker’s) to fill, and this interview – published shortly before he made his debut – reveals he met Baker for a drink to discuss the role, but couldn’t hear what his predecessor was saying. Nice story, hope it’s true!
The producer rang me up one day and said ‘How would you like to be the new Dr. Who?’. I was speechless. I was staggered to see it announced on the news. I really had no idea ‘Doctor Who’ was so important. I bet some of my friends thought I’d died when they saw my picture.
Tom Baker and I did meet in the bar one evening to discuss the part, and he was all set to give me some advice. But it was ‘Top of the Pops’ that night, and the noise was so furious, all I heard was ‘good luck’.
It’s a lot more than just an acting job. You take on the mantle of Dr. Who, and that kind of instant charisma that goes with the job.
I’ll be a much younger Dr. Who, and I’ll be wearing a kind of Victorian cricketing outfit to accentuate my youth. I’d like my Doctor 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’s he going to get out of this tight corner?’ has been missing. I want to restore that. My Doctor will be flawed. He’ll have the best intentions and he will in the end win through, but he will not always act for the best. Sometimes, he’ll even endanger his companions. But I want him to have a sort of reckless innocence.
I don’t consider it a disadvantage taking on a part that is well-known. It’s not as if you have to continue the same characterisation. You can start from scratch. I don’t overtly copy (the other Doctors), but I do bear in mind a particular aspect of each one.