Peter Davison tells TV Times magazine why he thought he was too young to play the lead in Doctor Who, and how he battled with Tom Baker’s legacy…
How did you react when you were offered the part of The Doctor?
“When I was the offered the part, I thought I was too young. But unfortunately – or fortunately – depending on the way you look at it, if you’re a fan of Doctor Who and you get offered the part you can’t really turn it down. You just can’t.”
Looking back, is there anything you’d change from your time on the show?
“I suppose if I look back I think I was frustrated that I didn’t have a lot of control over how I played The Doctor. The main problem was that during Tom Baker’s time, what the producer John Nathan Turner called ‘undergraduate humour’ had crept in, which I loved. But we almost had an iron curtain come down on any kind of humour and we weren’t allowed to put anything in, and that was a great shame. I don’t think I fought hard enough to get it back in. I think I was always aware that Tom had been a little too confrontational and I was probably trying to prove that I wasn’t at all, so it didn’t really do me any favours.”
When you took the role, did you ever expect to be talking about it all these years later?
“No! I thought you’d be finished and then quickly forgotten, but it didn’t work like that. It gradually dawned on me, and I realised that it probably wouldn’t go away after I left.”
Did you keep anything from Doctor Who after you left?
“I do still have my jacket, actually! In that first flush after you leave, you’ve kept various things, but people get in touch with you and say ‘We’ve got this charity auction, can you give us something?’ and you give away the most stupid things and you think ‘Why on earth did I do that?’ I think I gave away my shoes from the series after about two months and I thought ‘What have I done? That was my pension!'”
How much influence did you have over the costume?
“I suggested the cricket theme as I rather liked the idea that he went into his Doctor Who TARDIS wardrobe and just hoiked out a few things that matched up. It was the first of the designer Doctor Who outfits, although I always had a slight worry about the question marks on the collar!”
What are your fans like?
“I do find now I have a broad fan base. Lots of children ask for my autograph – but they’re probably shocked that I don’t look quite as I did in 1981!”
Do you think the show can run and run?
“The canvas for Doctor Who is limitless – you’re not going to really run out of stories to tell. I think it could easily go on and on.”