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The Sixth Doctor

November 17, 2013


The Sixth Doctor was the Time Lord who ran out of time.

There was plotted for him the slowest and most crafty version of what’s now called a “story arc” – and his tenure in the Tardis was intended as a painstaking effort in rehabilitation.  By the time he was done we were meant to be tearfully surprised at how much we had come to love him.

He began his Doctorship in the very worst way possible – by trying to strangle his companion, Peri.  From there, the only way was up.  In episodes like Vengeance on Varos, he handled people falling into acid baths with a flippancy that would have been impossible for his sensitive predecessor.  But week by week, year by year he was intended to mend and evolve and humanise.  Even his dress sense would, eventually, have become progressively more bearable.

Unfortunately, the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker’s Doctor – had to confront the deadliest, most destructive nemesis in the Whoniverse:

Michael Grade.

Michael Grade (together with Jonathan Powell) made increasingly plain that he disliked Doctor Who with a rare and brooding intensity and would have been delighted to end it permanently.  The worst thing that happened to Doctor Who before its long sojourn in the outer void was the mucking about with scheduling.  Tossed about between week days and weekends, it lost its fixity within the rhythms of the week.  The scheduling experiments were a violation, a liturgical disaster.  No longer was the Time Lord associated with any one time and place.  Doctor Who was sent into perilous peripatetic exile.

Now Colin Baker himself was (is) a fine actor.  Note his performance as Bayban the Butcher in one of the finest episodes of Blake’s Seven.  But he ran out of time because time was taken from him.  The bold experiment that was plotted for him of deliberately alienating our affections and then winning us over could only have worked if the show retained its status as a fixed and necessary part of everyone’s life and everyone’s week.  By playing so radically with the character and then playing with the scheduling, the exfoliation of the Sixth Doctor became impossible.

Michael Grade pulled the plug on Colin Baker the actor as he would soon pull the plug on Doctor Who the programme.

Ah Sixth Doctor.  We never (properly) knew ye…

(Unless we’re Big Finish fans of course, in which case we know ye very well indeed.)

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