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The Fifth Doctor is the name given to the fifth incarnation of the fictional character known as the Doctor seen on screen in the long-running BBC television science-fiction series Doctor Who. He was portrayed by actor Peter Davison.

Within the series' narrative, the Doctor is a centuries-old Time Lord alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels in time and space in his TARDIS, frequently with companions. When the Doctor is critically injured, he can regenerate his body; in doing so, his physical appearance and personality change.


After the famous and popular Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), the decision was taken for the next Doctor to be played by someone who presented something of a physical contrast to Baker and by an actor who was already firmly established in the Britishmarker public's mind. Peter Davison was chosen, due in no small part to his popular and critically acclaimed role as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small, a BBC series based on the books of James Herriot.

The Fifth Doctor's era was notable for a "back to basics" attitude, in which "silly" humour (and, to an extent, horror) was kept to a minimum, and more scientific accuracy was encouraged by the producer, John Nathan-Turner. It was also notable for the reintroduction of many of the Time Lord's enemies; such as the Master, Cybermen, Omega (a founding-father of Gallifrey), the Black and White Guardians, the Sea Devils, and the Silurians.


The Fourth Doctor's regeneration into the Fifth was a problematic one, and nearly failed, with the Doctor briefly taking on personality aspects from his four previous incarnations. After recovering in the fictional city Castrovalva, he continued his travels with Tegan Jovanka, Nyssa of Traken and Adric. After trips to the future and the past encountering villains such as Monarch and the Mara, the Fifth Doctor was confronted with tragedy when Adric died trying to stop a space freighter from crashing into prehistoric Earth (Earthshock).

When the Doctor met a new companion, an alien boy stranded on Earth by the name of Vislor Turlough, he did not know that Turlough had been commissioned by the Black Guardian to kill him. Soon after, Nyssa left to help cure Lazar's Disease on the space station Terminus. After meeting the entities known as Eternals racing in yacht-like spacecraft for the prize of "Enlightenment", Turlough broke free from the Black Guardian's influence, and continued to travel with the Doctor and Tegan. The Doctor met three of his previous incarnations when they were summoned to the Death Zone on Gallifrey by President Borusa, who was attempting to gain Rassilon's secret of immortality.

After further adventures in which the Doctor re-encountered old foes including the Silurian and the Sea Devil both Tegan and Turlough left the TARDIS. Tegan would find the death and violence they encountered on their travels too much to bear (Resurrection of the Daleks), and Turlough returned to his home planet of Trion in the company of his younger brother, as well as other exiles of Trion, from the planet Sarn (Planet of Fire).

Ultimately, the Fifth Doctor and his last companion Peri Brown were exposed to the drug spectrox in its deadly toxic raw form on Androzani Minor. With only one dose of the antidote available, he nobly sacrificed his own existence to save Peri, regenerating into the Sixth Doctor, expressing doubt for the first time that regeneration might be possible.

A sketch of the Fifth Doctor is seen in John Smith's book in the new series episode "Human Nature".

Somewhere in his life (perhaps set after the events of Snakedance) he crashed his TARDIS into the TARDIS of the Tenth Doctor and consequently nearly opened a "Belgium sized" black hole because of the paradox caused. However the Tenth Doctor, remembering the event, knew how to stop it because he recalled watching himself correct the mistake when he was the Fifth Doctor. ("Time Crash")

A brief holographic clip of the Fifth Doctor appears in "The Next Doctor".


The Fifth Doctor was far more vulnerable, sensitive and reserved than his previous incarnations, and would often react to situations rather than initiate them. Frequently he would make decisions by flipping a coin. Unlike his more authoritative predecessors, he would treat his young companions as parts of a team, and would often willingly participate in situations under the leadership of someone else who had the strong command presence that he apparently lacked. However, the Fifth Doctor's boyish appearance, nervous energy and charm all hid the fact that he was a Time Lord of great age, compassion and experience.

This Doctor greatly abhorred violence and would often hesitate about taking matters into his own hands. For the first time indecision weighed seriously on the character, and it had its consequences - yet this Doctor was also one of the most courageous of his incarnations. He was willing to take chances with companions like Turlough and Kamelion, who were originally threats, even as he pretended (as was the case with Turlough) to be unaware of it at first in order to grant his companion the opportunity to do the right thing, under a careful watch of course. He was also willing to make enormous sacrifices (Mawdryn Undead) simply to keep his word and liberate others from suffering. It was perhaps the awful realisation that his very existence begat violence, and the weight of companion Adric's death on his conscience, and perhaps Tegan's near emotional breakdown as well, that led him to sacrifice his own existence to save his last companion, Peri. In an episode of Doctor Who Confidential, Steven Moffat said that "this doctor takes the emphasis off the eccentricities and turns it into a pained heroism of a man who is so much better than the universe he is trying to save but cannot bear to let it stand."

The Fifth Doctor was the last to use the original sonic screwdriver, which was destroyed during The Visitation, although the Seventh and subsequent Doctors were later seen using new versions of the tool. In Time Crash, he declined to borrow the Tenth Doctor's sonic screwdriver, prompting the Tenth Doctor's sarcastic remark, "Oh no, of course, you mostly went hands free didn't you? It's like, 'Hey I'm the Doctor, I can save the universe using a kettle and some string. And look at me, I'm wearing a vegetable.'"


The Fifth Doctor's chosen mode of dress was a variation of an Edwardian cricketer's uniform, and he was even seen to carry a cricket ball in one of his pockets (which saved his life in one adventure). He wore a cream-coloured frock coat, striped trousers, plimsoll shoes and occasionally a pair of spectacles. The Tenth Doctor, who inherited various traits from this incarnation such as spectacle use, revealed in Time Crash that the spectacles weren't actually needed to aid the Doctor's eyesight but were just for show to make him look clever (perhaps to counter his youthful appearance). The Fifth Doctor's costume also retained red question marks embroidered onto the collar which producer John Nather-Turner added to the Fourth Doctor's costume in 1980. The Fifth Doctor also displayed an unusually acute sense of taste in Planet of Fire, also inherited by the Tenth Doctor.

On his lapel, this Doctor wore a celery stalk. He claimed in The Caves of Androzani that the celery would sometimes turn purple in the presence of certain gases in the "Praxis" range to which he was allergic, although this allergy was not mentioned by any incarnations before or since. He said that if that happened, he would then eat the celery (explaining, "If nothing else, I'm sure it's good for my teeth"). In the same story, while attempting to revive a feverish Peri from Spectrox Toxemia, he had noted that celery was an "excellent restorative from where I come from", but that the human olfactory system was "comparatively feeble." The Tenth Doctor repeatedly poked fun at the celery in Time Crash, describing it as a "decorative vegetable".

Peter Davison stated in an interview on the DVD of Castrovalva that he thought the clothes he wore were far too "designed" and that he would have still kept them, but wanted to add some individual flair to them, as other actors portraying the Doctor have done in the past.


The Fifth Doctor was first seen on television in the last episode of Logopolis, broadcast on 21 March 1981. Davison played the role through the 19th and 20th seasons of Doctor Who, including the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. Patrick Troughton, who played the Second Doctor, advised Davison to stay in the role for three years, and acting on this advice Davison informed producer John Nathan-Turner that he would leave the role after the 21st season. In a break from recent tradition, Nathan-Turner decided to regenerate the Doctor in the season's penultimate story, in order to introduce the Sixth Doctor to audiences before the seasonal hiatus. Davison's last regular appearance as the Fifth Doctor was in the last episode of The Caves of Androzani, broadcast on 16 March 1984.

Davison returned to the role briefly in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time. Beginning in 1999, he recorded a series of Doctor Who audio plays for Big Finish Productions. In 2007, Davison, at the age of 56, appeared alongside Tenth Doctor David Tennant in a Doctor Who special for Children in Need, written by Steven Moffat and titled "Time Crash". This was the first official time that a Doctor from the New Series met a Doctor from the original 26-year run. This is the first "multi-Doctor" story in the revived series and the first televised one since The Two Doctors in 1985.

The Fifth Doctor has also appeared in officially licensed novels, short stories and comics.

Non-television appearances

Short stories


Virgin Missing Adventures
Past Doctor Adventures

Eighth Doctor Adventures

Telos Doctor Who novellas


Doctor Who Magazine
  • The Tides of Time
  • Stars Fell on Stockbridge
  • The Stockbridge Horror
  • Lunar Lagoon
  • 4-Dimensional Vistas
  • The Moderator
  • The Lunar Strangers
  • The Curse of the Scarab

Doctor Who Yearbook
  • Blood Invocation

Video games



External links

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