Tuesday, January 19, 2010

5Z1 - Castrovalva 1

Watching Doctor Who in the 1980s in North America was a different beast than it was in the UK. As I've mentioned previously, instead of watching one or two half hour episodes a week, we got to watch an entire story, one night a week (Saturday, 11:00 PM, for me), followed by another one the week after, and so on. Often, a two-part story would air the same night as the preceding four-parter, so we would get TWO stories on some nights.

For kids growing up in the UK, there was a three-year period when they were most heavily involved in watching the show, and which ever actor that was in the part during that time was "their Doctor". Once Tom Baker (for many a child, the only Doctor they ever knew) left at the end of Season 18 in March 1981, the British public had a (then) staggering nine month wait until the next season and the debut of Doctor number five, Peter Davison. It would be almost easy for a young child to forget who Tom Baker was by the time January 1982 rolled around.

For me, though, Tom Baker was "my Doctor" for about 40 weeks. Peter Davison became "my Doctor" the very next week after I was stymied by the events of Logopolis. Davison really never stood a chance in that week leading up to his debut in Castrovalva, in my eyes. Even after the regeneration was recapped before the opening credits, I was still hoping/expecting Tom Baker to return, booting out this new, blonde guy like a nasty cough.

But then, as the early parts of this episode played out, and I (and the audience) began to warm to this new Doctor, I gradually started to forget about about the Doctor that came before him. Unlike any debut Doctor story since The Power of the Daleks, this newly regenerated Doctor has one of the key, central roles in the action from almost immediately after his regeneration. I find this was essential to get the public to forget about Tom Baker. Scenes with Davison mimicking his previous selves are all fine and dandy and help to cement the fact that he is still the same man as he always was, it's Davison's little quirks that really bring life to his Doctor - unravelling his old scarf, mimicking cricket poses in the mirror, cruising around the TARDIS in an electric wheelchair, and so on.

Whatever Davison did in the opening episode, he had me hooked. He had done the utter impossible - he made me forget my sorrow of losing the only Doctor I ever knew, and I embraced this new, young, energetic Doctor as, unequivocally, "my Doctor". I'm a fan of every incarnation of The Doctor, but if I had to pick one who stands about above all the rest, to me, it's Peter Davison. And it's Peter Davison for a lot of reasons, but Part One of Castrovalva is one of them.


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