Timestamp: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

 

It’s an unfortunate ending to an era.

The Fifth Doctor’s three series run did not perform well in comparison to the rest of the franchise so far, and that’s disappointing considering how much potential the character had. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t stellar.

The Twenty-First Series had highs in Warriors of the Deep  and Resurrection of the Daleks, and it had a low in The Awakening. The rest just evened out to the average. Part of that was the companions, Tegan and Turlough, who I never really connected with. Another part was the stories, which has really high body counts and somewhat lackluster execution and resolution.

This series also contained a regeneration, but what is interesting about that is how it shakes out against other regeneration stories. The Fifth Doctor’s regeneration and Sixth Doctor’s premiere both scored a 3, and the last regeneration/premiere story to do that was An Unearthly Child. Everything since then has been either a 4 or 5, leading to an average among those stories of 4.2. I hope this doesn’t bode poorly for the future of the franchise, but there have been stories…

The caveat here is that none of the series so far have been outright bad. The average across all twenty-one series is a 3.6 on a 5.0 scale. The lowest series score is 3.1 out of five, which is smack in the middle. The downside is that is that the Twenty-First Series is tied with the Third and Nineteenth Series (the Fifth Doctor’s first set of stories) for last place.

After Adric left the series, I was optimistic about the series and the Fifth Doctor’s evolution. I wanted to see him run with the role, but the opportunities never came to fruition. More on that in a moment.

 

Warriors of the Deep – 4
The Awakening – 2
Frontios – 3
Resurrection of the Daleks –  4
Planet of Fire – 3
The Caves of Androzani – 3
The Twin Dilemma – 3

Series Twenty-One Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

 

 

If there’s one positive thing to say about the Fifth Doctor, it’s that he was consistent.

If there’s another, it’s that he was a good father figure.

The Fifth Doctor’s tenure brought the franchise back from some of the silliness of the Fourth Doctor‘s run, but it also reduced a bit of the charm. I admired his youth, sensitivity, and honesty. His reserved honor made him an ideal guardian and guide for his companions, and he used his traits to help each of the companions (whether I liked them or not) expand their horizons.

But those traits brought a hesitancy to the character that made him demure instead of advancing the take-charge attitude that the Doctor often embodies. Since he also tended to rush right into danger before observing the conflicts, we also tended to see a higher body count in his stories.

It’s that consistency that hurt his run the most because he never really evolved. Compare him to the two other scientist Doctors, the First and the Third, and you can see a distinct improvement as the character evolves and settles in. The First Doctor started as a gruff nomad but demonstrated a deep capacity to love and care. The Third Doctor’s run was an evolution of the franchise, and he started angry and frustrated by his circumstances before softening once he got his keys back and could satiate his exploratory curiosity.

And that’s why I’m so conflicted about the Fifth Doctor. I admire people who embody ideals like honor, sensitivity, and fairness, and Doctor Who has asked us to celebrate heroes who triumph over brute force and cynicism with love and compassion. But it also asks us to celebrate the capacity to learn and grow, and I don’t know that this Doctor ever really did.

If the First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, and the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, then I would call the Fifth Doctor an honorable humanitarian.

 

For scoring purposes, I obviously will not include The Twin Dilemma in the Fifth Doctor’s final tally.

 

Warriors of the Deep – 4
The Awakening – 2
Frontios – 3
Resurrection of the Daleks –  4
Planet of Fire – 3
The Caves of Androzani – 3

Series Twenty-One (Fifth Doctor) Average Rating: 3.2

 

Series 19 – 3.1
Series 20 – 3.3
Series 21 – 3.2

Fifth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.20

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – First (3.41)
5 – Fifth (3.20)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – First Doctor
5 – Fifth Doctor

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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5 thoughts on “Timestamp: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

  1. The Fifth Doctor never does very well in overall Doctor ratings. He’s often been referred to as “bland”. I like your assessment of him as a “humanitarian”, but it’s certainly the most understated of all the Doctor performances to date.

    As for evolution, I’d argue that he didn’t have much time to evolve. Even though Davison stuck with the “three years” of Hartnell and Troughton the seasons had become much shorter by the time he took on the role, so he got less episodes than either of those two Doctors. In hindsight, Davison says that if he hadn’t been asked to make the decision about whether he’d stay for season 22 during season 20 that he may have stayed on because he enjoyed the stories in season 21 far more. It would have been interesting to see where they might have gone with a fourth Davison season, although the fact that Saward was still there as script editor may have been an issue.

    Looking at it the other way, John-Nathan Turner and Eric Saward seemed to prefer a static TARDIS. That’s why the characters seem to wear uniforms during this era instead of changing their clothes every story like they used to. It may have been a conscious choice to go for a static Doctor performance as well. Regeneration forces change, though, and unfortunately the direction that they went wasn’t to the taste of most viewers.

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