Okay kids, this is where it gets complicated.
It’s 1985, I’m sixteen years old and the Doctor has just strangled his companion. And that’s when I left. Except for a couple of episodes in the McCoy era I would not watch new Who for almost 20 years. And that’s a shame.
There were a couple of factors in this. One being that I was sixteen and had discovered rock and roll and girls; being a devoted fan of a cult-status British kid’s show that aired late night on PBS had lost a bit of its appeal. But mostly it seemed to me that the show had just given up trying, so I did too. I was perfectly willing to ignore the wobbly sets and suspend my disbelief at the cheap rubber suits pretending to be monsters. But when the Doctor became unlikeable and mean… well I just turned off the set. I was done.
Thing is, it didn’t have to be this way. Sure I was a high school freshman with hormones raging and a new found love of the Velvet Underground but I would have gladly soldiered on enjoying with relish my secret, favorite show if only I had been given a leading character I could respect. Instead I was given a domestic abuser in a clown suit.
So, Colin Baker killed Doctor Who for me. Now, I don’t blame Colin Baker for this. He is actually a good actor; he was only doing what he was told to do. It’s just that what he was told to do was stupid. The idea, as its explained, was to make the Doctor unlikeable at first and then over the course of several seasons gradually make him more likeable. A sort of redemption thing.
The basic premise of this is flawed. When you take a beloved character that has been on the air for 20+ years and suddenly make him unlikeable and unwatchable your core fan base will not like it or watch it. Which is what happened with myself and many others. Stupid, see?
Every characterization of the Doctor is basically a reaction to the one that came before. And since Davison’s Doctor was mild-mannered and nice I suppose the thinking was to make Colin Baker’s Doctor brash and an asshole. I don’t know. I didn’t get it at the time and I went away.
Now in the age of the new series and Netflix and Big Finish I have revisited the 6th Doctor.
And yes, the Big Finish audio dramas have redeemed Colin Baker a bit. The mean and jerkish tendencies have been played down and he has been given better, stronger stories with which to act and grow. So that’s nice.
And, being the completest that I am, I have gone back to watch his entire tenure on DVD with an older and more forgiving eye. To be fair I have found several moments where I found myself saying, “Oh, I guess that wasn’t too terrible.” It is Doctor Who, I will embrace it as much as I can.
But in the end I still do not enjoy this period. A sad time in the programs history. A time of excess and bad decisions. Not to mention I still can’t quite get over and can’t quite find it in my heart to forgive the fact that, for me, the 6th Doctor killed Doctor Who.
My Favorite 6th Doctor Episodes
Both of Them:
- Vengeance on Varos: Reality TV and a slug-man
- The Two Doctors: Troughton is great.
Originally published November 20th, 2013