The BBC continues Doctor Who‘s year-long 50th anniversary celebration with four specials about the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Doctors, now available in a four-disc DVD set. Like the First to Fourth release, Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited – Fifth to Eighth has a quartet of approximately 30-minute discussions by people involved in the production about each incarnation of the titular character, accompanied by a full serial per version. This completes the original run of the series, bringing us up to the modern continuation, which will be covered in an upcoming set.
In 1981, Peter Davison took over the iconic role of The Doctor. Davison had a serious approach, not as silly or scary of his predecessor, taking Doctor Who back to the basics of the premise. During his run, the stories got darker and grittier, challenging The Doctor to not only deal with some old foes, such as the Cybermen and the Master. But his attitude remained reactive and light, this Doctor allowing a flip of a coin to make decisions for him.
Davison’s Doctor had a different relationship with his co-stars than his predecessors, making his adventures more of a team sport than that of a leader and his assistants. He went through several different companions, making for an every-changing dynamic. And ultimately, the Doctor was forced to face the death of one of his friends.
Interestingly, Davison is the father-in-law of the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.
After Davison came Colin Baker, with a much more flamboyant take on the part. As dreary as Davison’s Doctor could be at times, Baker’s was the opposite, his personality matching his loud clothing style, with an undercurrent of danger and a lack of trustworthiness that gave him an edge. His chaotic nature matched what was going on behind the scenes, with his tenure short and ending with a lack of explanation. Still, Baker made an impression, even if he only played the part a scant couple of years.
Sylvester McCoy also didn’t stay long, finishing out the initial incarnation of Doctor Who after twenty-six seasons. McCoy’s Doctor was a turn for the role, being both childish and fun, but also sneaky and manipulative, fully realizing the layers the long-lived character was capable of. This Doctor was a manipulator who thought many multiple moves ahead, and showed the Time Lord’s darker nature more than most of the actors who had previously taken on the part.
To note, the serial that is included for McCoy is “Remembrance of the Daleks,” which is the one BBC America aired to accompany the interviews. For some reason, “Battlefield” aired instead in Britain. These are the only installments that have differed in the specials between in the two countries.
Last on the DVD set is Paul McGann. McGann didn’t get a full season, merely a two-hour TV movie. It’s an intriguing battle with the Master, sadly to never see a sequel. Intended to headline an American-made continuation of the show, McGann’s pilot lacked the ratings in the States to be ordered to series, although it was very popular in Britain. That small screen film, set in California, is obviously the featured “serial” for this Doctor, meaning Fifth to Eighth has all of his time included.
Just like in the first set, there aren’t any extras, with the four mini-documentaries serving as an extra for the show as a whole. I think again the people who put this set together have done well in selecting which serials to include. The episodes contained on the DVD set are representative of the actors’ work as a whole, and serve to showcase both differences and similarities between the various versions.
This set does come with four cool magnets, each one depicting one of the Doctors profiled in this set. Unfortunately, the first DVD set did not have the same, so it won’t be a complete set, even if you get all the DVDs.
Fifth to Eighth feels different than First to Fourth. While the beginning of this release harkens back very much to some of the earlier parts of the show, there is growth and maturation reflecting the time in which it aired. The 1980s and 1990s were a time of transition, and McCoy, especially, demonstrates how the character could adapt without growing stale.
After these episodes, there would be an almost-decade-long break before Doctor Who graced our televisions again. But that’s a tale for Ninth to Eleventh, which has not yet been completely aired or released.
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited – Fifth to Eighth is available now.