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The Fifth Doctor Era Survey Results

Part 1

By Paul Scoones

In this, the first installment of the survey results, I will cover the Doctor and Companions categories, and feature the stories, novels, etc. next issue.

"Welcome aboard. I'm the Doctor. Or will be, if this regeneration works out."
- Castrovalva

In fact, it couldn't have `worked out' better - whatever criticisms have been leveled at Peter Davison's interpretation of the Doctor, that he was "too young" or didn't stay long enough, there is no denying that in New Zealand at last, the Fifth Doctor is currently the most popular incarnation of our favourite Time Lord, something borne out not only by the statistical results, but also the wealth of comments to come out of this recently conducted survey.

This is the sixth survey of this type that TSV has conducted, and drew by far the largest return - a total of 41 survey forms, most of which were accompanied by a plethora of comments, some even writing long letters expressing their views on aspects of the survey. 37 of the voters identified themselves as male, 2 were female, and two obviously weren't sure, as they didn't specify their gender. Nor however, did they specify their names or ages, although it was possible to make an educated guess at age on the basis of their comments. The age range of returns was between 10 and 27, with an average age of 17.

As with the last set of survey results I compiled, I have endeavored to include as much comment from the survey forms as possible, as numbers alone do not give the full picture. However it has not been possible to print what everyone wrote, but I believe that those comments I have reproduced cover the full range of opinions expressed by the voters. The results have been somewhat rearranged from their order on the survey forms, most notably in the case of the 'worst' category which has been divided up to appear alongside the relevant 'Best/Favourite' results. The Best and Worst results for each category have then been combined to create a third list, which perhaps provides a more accurate assessment of the results. All scores are expressed as percentages to enable easy and direct interpretation of the results within each category.

Explanations over, I shall begin then with the one category without a 'Worst' or 'Combined Average' listing, as voters were able to rank all choices in order of preference. It is also the only `general' category, applying not only to the Davison era, but the entire Doctor Who series...

THE DOCTORS

  %AGES 10-15AGES 16-27
1Fifth Doctor - Peter Davison17.917.9 (2)17.7 (3)
2Seventh Doctor - Sylvester McCoy17.218.9 (1)14.2 (5)
3Third Doctor - Jon Pertwee16.515.6 (3)18.0 (2)
4Fourth Doctor - Tom Baker15.914.3 (4)18.4 (1)
5Second Doctor - Patrick Troughton13.912.7 (5)16.1 (4)
6Sixth Doctor - Colin Baker9.612.4 (6)4.7 (7)
7First Doctor - William Hartnell9.18.2 (7)10.9 (6)

The Age Groups columns are the results split into two age ranges. In brackets alongside are the modified rankings [the rankings within each age group]

Beginning with the least favourite, William Hartnell never really had any hope of a respectable placing. If his meagre appearance in The Three Doctors is discounted, then his only televised exposure since 1969 has been The Dalek Invasion Of Earth during the Silver Jubilee week. Few of the voters can have had experience of his Doctor, and predictably, the older age group ranks him higher than the younger group. David Bishop claims that "Hartnell's worth cannot be underestimated - without him there would be no Doctor Who", and Alistair Hughes would like him to "receive more general recognition" for precisely the same reason.

Colin Baker was the other Doctor never likely to do well. One or two voters placed him first, but a considerable number, including almost all in the older group, put him last. My theory is that the older fans, having watched the series for longer, have a clearer idea of what Doctor Who is and is not. Most seemed to think it was not Colin Baker! David Bishop (again), says, "lumbered with the worst character, costume, companions and stories, the poor man was a loser from the start."

Patrick Troughton has also suffered from a certain amount of lack of exposure, though not nearly as severe as Hartnell. New Zealand viewers have seen the best of Troughton's five intact remaining stories since 1985, and of course his strong parts in each of the three 'multi-Doctor' stories. Nearly all voters would have been basing their placing of Troughton's Doctor on the basis of these appearances. Jessica Smiler thought he "was the most amusing Doctor and kept us all guessing. I love all his stories." Both Joshua Preston and David Bishop felt that Troughton's popularity had suffered with the loss of so many of his stories. Sylvester McCoy's portrayal is often said to imitate Troughton, but the older voters place Troughton above McCoy.

Before the results came in, I expected Tom Baker to win this category by a wide margin, simply because this has been the case with virtually every other survey of this type that I have seen. The reason for this being of course that he was in the role the longest, and for a great number of people, Tom Baker is, and always will be, the definitive Doctor. Hence his top placing by the older fans, but his popularity is not so widespread amongst the younger counterparts, possibly due to his reduced role in The Five Doctors. David Bishop thinks Tom Baker would fare a lot better if it wasn't for the Graham Williams era, and Joshua Preston considers Baker's " unique portrayal" to be his greatest asset.

"Jon Pertwee will always be the Doctor," declares Alistair Hughes, and a fair number of fans tend to agree. Both age groups rank him one of the top three Doctors, and his triumph over Tom Baker is probably due in no small way to Pertwee's considerably greater role in The Five Doctors. Joshua Preston thinks Pertwee's appeal is due to his "wonderful stories", and David Bishop cites him as one of two Doctors who have made him "want to watch the show again." I personally feel that Pertwee's popularity over Baker has a lot to do with the standards of their eras - whilst there were more and greater classics in Baker's era, there were also some appalling turkeys, which the Pertwee era was almost completely free of. Pertwee's actual performance is the role was also more consistent and stable than Tom Baker's.

Sylvester McCoy's second placing comes as something of a surprise. I can only suppose most voters have seen more than just Silver Nemesis by way of videoed stories. There is no doubt in my mind that McCoy has the potential to become enormously popular, but his stories have yet to be seen here on television (at least at the time of the survey), with the exception of Silver Nemesis. Chris Girdler considers McCoy to be his favourite, and Matthew Goodall feels he shows "a refreshing originality and spontaneity." McCoy is also, in case you're wondering, the other Doctor that has made David Bishop want to watch Doctor Who again. Among the younger group of fans, the Seventh Doctor is actually considered to be the best, edging out Davison, but McCoy obviously has yet to impress the older fans who only place him above Colin Baker and William Hartnell. This is the greatest disparity between the two age group rankings.

"Peter Davison's Doctor is my favourite." Paul Rigby's simple statement sums up the opinions of most that answered the survey. Second with the younger fans, and third behind the 'giants' - Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker - with the older fans, the Fifth Doctor is overall New Zealand fandom's favourite Doctor. Perhaps Davison did a little better than he might have done had this survey not been connected with his era, which had just finished on the screen at the time it was sent out. Rather than speculate further on this, I shall let the fans explain his popularity.

"The impetuousness of youth combined with the wisdom of age made for an interesting Doctor, and Davison gave a first class performance throughout," in Alistair Hughes' opinion. Nigel Flockhart thinks, "Peter Davison will probably always be my favourite Doctor. I've always admired him as an actor, and he should have stayed longer - for one more season. He was very easy to accept after Tom Baker - a fresh face breathing new life into the part. He was just the right age, his character being a mix of boyish charm, intellectual brilliance and `human' fallibility. Unlike the previous Doctors, the fifth Doctor took losses of companions harder. He also felt guilt, most visibly in Planet of Fire when he let the Master burn. Overall, I liked everything about him, including his costume." Murray Cramp also thought the Doctor was "around the right age - Time Lords are supposed to regenerate into better, younger, fitter bodies. I believe that Peter Davison's acting in the role was the best I've seen."

Elvis Bowring also thought it was good to have "someone youngish" as the Doctor, as "the other six look middle-aged or older. His interest in cricket suited him well." Jessica Smiler agreed - "The cricket fitted his personality beautifully. Davison's Doctor was excellent; innocent at all times, funny, kind and gentle. He was the perfect regeneration, completely different from Tom Baker - a fresh start. No longer aloof but pleasant. He was a bit like a grown-up Patrick Troughton."

Chris Noaro thought Davison was "excellent as the Doctor - just as faithful to the character concept as the four previous Doctors. Being so young didn't seem to matter. Watching him, I just get the impression all the time that the actor really cares for the part. Although it was subtly played, his Doctor seemed sensitive and almost shy at times. He interacted well with his monsters, too. His costume was great except for the '?' marks." Chris believes the show has gone downhill since Davison left, and he "can't help wishing that someone like Davison would return to the show."

Warwick Gray hated Davison when his stories were first screened here, but "this time around, I enjoyed his preppie Doctor. It was a refreshing change after the know-it-all years of Pertwee and Baker. I still think his costume was rather bland, though - with the fair hair and the light costume, he tended to blend into the white walled TARDIS."

Donald Macalister believes that "Davison brought vitality to the role after the long stay of Tom Baker - a youthful face was something that was needed. He stayed long enough for a new spark of interest to be fostered. The costume reminded the viewer of the Englishness of the programme; the celery reminded the viewer of the alien, i.e. that this wasn't a normal person. I would love to see him make a return appearance."

Matthew Goodall believes that part of Davison's success was that he wasn't so far removed from his predecessor, as Colin Baker was - "He helped capture a new audience with his youthful looks, while still retaining features of his earlier selves." Hamish Reid thinks Davison's "younger appearance brought a sort of vitality to the series," but Chris Girdler confessed to not really liking Davison much, saying that he was too young. Murray Jackson disagrees, with a comment that could only come from Murray - "Davison was excellent in all regards. Anyone who says he was too young or had no character are talking through a bodily orifice not normally associated with verbal communication."

Davison's Doctor "did little" for David Bishop, and Graham Howard said he took "a while to get used to Davison as the Doctor, and found it easier to think of him as a companion at times. However, by the end of his tenure, he had become accepted as the Doctor, and would have benefited from another year." Geoff Tompsett agrees - "The Fifth Doctor was just coming into his prime; he should have stayed for another year or two." Jeff Stone feels that "Peter Davison came on the scene only just in time to save the show. He was good without being excellent. I found him to be rather weak, not that he was a wimp - far from it, but he just didn't fit the image of the Doctor - too young, perhaps? He played the Doctor as well as could be expected."

"Davison's Doctor is my favourite," declares Candice Schilder. "He played the Doctor well, and had a fun character who couldn't stop his curiosity getting the better of him. He also had an ingenious way of talking himself out of tricky situations." Richard Scheib would "like to have seen him in more confrontation situations," and although liking Davison's Doctor, was disappointed that there was no real attempt to get to the Doctor's character, in his opinion. Craig Young thought Davison's portrayal "was sharp-edged, tense, but also possessed of considerable personal integrity," and Paul Rigby thought Davison "portrayed the Doctor in a very mature manner, but with streaks of curiosity and eccentricity."

And as for myself, I have considered Davison's Doctor to be my favourite for most of the nine years I've been an active fan of the series (at first it was Tom Baker, and now Sylvester McCoy looks set to be my new favourite). It is possible to pick out faults in the performances of most of the seven actors to have played the Doctor, but Davison's is virtually faultless. Where his character suffered was in the script editing. Christopher Bidmead had very definite - and very good - ideas about the Fifth Doctor; he was to be an old and wise man trapped in a youthful body, personified most clearly in his occasional use of spectacles and his frustration at the failure of others to take him seriously. Eric Saward, however, did not uphold this concept, so writers weren't sure whether to write for a youthful, exuberant and occasionally naive Doctor, or Bidmead's wise old man. A close examination of various Davison stories shows up these conflicting images. The move to cast a youthful actor after Tom Baker's middle-aged Doctor was a daring one which paid off for John Nathan-Turner, and I am in agreement with the twenty or more respondents to this survey who wrote that Davison should have stayed longer in the role. Coincidence or not, the series collapsed into a shadow of its former self immediately after Davison's departure. It would certainly be nice to see him return in a special sometime...

THE COMPANIONS

 BEST%  WORST%  AVERAGE%
1Tegan49 1Adric61 1Tegan34
2Turlough27 2Peri16 2Turlough27
3Peri10 3Tegan10 3Nyssa20
4=Nyssa7 4Turlough8 4Peri18
4=Adric7 5Nyssa5 5Adric1

Janet Fielding's Tegan Jovanka is not only the longest-running of the Fifth Doctor companions, but also, as these results show, definitely the most popular, taking almost half the total vote in the 'Best' category, and retains a clear lead in the combined result.

Craig Young says that Tegan was "a strong gutsy woman who wasn't really replaced as a quality female companion until Ace came along." Matthew Goodall thinks much the same - "A tough, resourceful young lady who can look after herself without screaming. A good mix of independence and sensitivity," and Geoff Tompsett liked "her brash, down-to-earth character." The only negative thing anyone said about Tegan was one of the nameless voters who said they didn't like her because of her Australian accent. At the time this survey was conducted, Tegan was my favourite companion form the entire series, but since then, having seen Season 26, Tegan has slipped into second place behind Sophie Aldred's Ace.

In the 'Best' category, the only other companion to rake in a sizable number of votes was Mark Strickson's Turlough. Interestingly, the only two voters to offer any real comment on his character were our only two female respondents! Candice Schilder thought Turlough was "a really sneaky guy instead of a wimpy goody-goody forever asking dumb questions," and Jessica Smiler said that "Turlough was cool, but there was no real chance for his character to develop. He showed promise in his cunning."

Nicola Bryant's Peri Brown, introduced near the end of the Fifth Doctor era is almost as disliked as Adric, judging by the comments. Craig Young cited Peri as the aspect of Davison's era he hated. David Bishop considered her worse than Adric, reasoning that although they both whined so much, " at least Adric had to share his lines with [two] others," but Alistair Hughes considered Peri "gorgeous from a male chauvinist point of view, but also a likable and inquisitive companion vaguely reminiscent of the 1970s ladies."

No one had much to say, good or bad, about poor old Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). The results show that she is considered a rather average companion, not particularly liked or disliked either. Adric, however, predictably came out worst. The only good thing said about Adric was by Candice Schilder, who liked his character, "because everyone else hates him, and because everything he does is a laugh." Chris Girdler that Adric would be the worst companion in the results, and cited his "only proud moment" as his "terrific death scene." David Bishop thought there was "a wealth of choice" for worst companion, "But of course Adric - just - carries the day, ahead of Nyssa and Peri." Joshua Preston was unequivocal in his opinion - "I hated Adric."

As I have already stated, I now consider Tegan my second favourite all-time companion, and the best of the Davison era. I also liked Turlough, but thought he was grossly underused in almost all his stories. Nyssa was like an extension of the Doctor himself, a knowledgeable assistant who almost always agreed with him. She was never really allowed to develop, which was a shame. I have never been particularly fond of Peri, but preferred her (brief) partnership with Davison to that with Colin Baker. I felt there was an interesting relationship developing there, but it was effectively 'sabotaged' by the Doctor's regeneration. My reasons for disliking Adric are twofold: the character was quite contrary and irritating, and Matthew Waterhouse's acting inexperience was always painfully obvious. I think he was better suited to the larger than life Fourth Doctor: no one took much notice of Adric alongside Tom Baker.

I'll leave the last word on this category to Chris Noaro - "God, what an atrocious lot! Not one decent companion since Romana left!"

THE TARDIS CREW

 BEST%  WORST%
1Tegan-Turlough53 1Peri37
2=Tegan-Nyssa15 2=Tegan-Nyssa-Adric18
2=Peri15 2=Peri-Turlough18
4Tegan-Nyssa-Adric10 4Tegan-Nyssa15
5Tegan-Nyssa-Turlough5 5Tegan-Nyssa-Turlough9
6Peri-Turlough2 6Tegan-Turlough3
 COMBINED AVERAGE%
1Tegan-Turlough56
2Tegan-Nyssa16
3Tegan-Nyssa-Turlough12
4Tegan-Nyssa-Adric10
5Peri-Turlough4
6Peri1

This category looks similar to the best Companions one, but it is actually intended as an indicator of which grouping of companions worked best with the Doctor, be it in dramatic terms, or whatever. Perhaps predictably, the clear winner is Tegan-Turlough - the top two companions in the previous category. Matthew Goodall liked all the TARDIS Crews, but considered the Tegan-Turlough pairing to be the best as "Turlough's presence could be sinister," something which Matthew feels Nyssa diffused while she was still part of the crew. "Also Tegan and Turlough's love(?)/hate relationship, with the Doctor as amused intermediary was very good," says Matthew. Paul Rigby also liked how Tegan's relationship with Turlough developed, making them his favourite crew as well. David Bishop's reason for choosing this crew is more straightforward - "The only combination without any of the 'terrible trio': Nyssa, Adric and Peri."

Elvis Bowring thought Tegan and Nyssa were good together - "They were like sisters and helped each other out." The Tegan-Nyssa crew came second equal with Peri as sole companion of the Doctor. Alistair Hughes thought this was the best crew, but David Bishop thought the Doctor-Peri pairing the worst, and it seems more fans agree with David as Peri tops the Worst TARDIS Crew list, and definitely last in the combined Best and Worst list.

Geoff Tompsett thought the crew consisting of Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough was the best "because they made a good team and provided a lot of different characters, with Turlough the best because of his deviousness." Although these three characters appeared in two stories Mawdryn Undead and Terminus, there are in fact very few scenes in which the trio interact - the crew are paired off - the Doctor and Turlough, Nyssa and Tegan in Mawdryn, and the Doctor and Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough in Terminus, so this short-lived crew was one I was reluctant to include at all. Nevertheless, people still voted for it.

The unpopularity of the original TARDIS crew of the Davison era - Tegan/Nyssa/Adric, is almost certainly due to the widespread dislike of the latter member of the trio; the successor to this crew - Tegan/Nyssa - scores much higher, could this be due to the absence of Adric?

Apart from the companions themselves, these results also show that viewers generally prefer the Doctor to have two or even one companion. Three seems to be too crowded for most fans' liking. It is also clear that one particular crew, consisting of two companions, is particularly favoured, rating a lot higher than the other five. As with the individual Companions category, Tegan and Turlough are tops!

THE GUEST COMPANIONS

 BEST%  WORST%
1Brigadier64 1Kamelion29
2K912 2K917
3Kamelion10 3Susan14
4=Susan5 4Sarah Jane11
4=Romana5 5=Zoe9
6=Sarah Jane2 5=Liz Shaw9
6=Liz Shaw2 7Mike Yates5
    8=Jamie3
    8=Romana3
 COMBINED AVERAGE%
1Brigadier43
2Romana11
3=K98
3=Jamie8
5=Mike Yates7
5=Liz Shaw7
7=Susan5
7=Sarah Jane5
7=Zoe5
10Kamelion1

The purpose of this category, which some people may have found a little unusual, was to avoid a situation whereby everyone would almost certainly vote for the cameo appearances by past companions in Mawdryn Undead and especially The Five Doctors in the 'Supporting Characters' category. Hence the creation of a 'Guest Companion' category. Kamelion was included in this, as he doesn't really qualify as a true companion, having only appeared in two stories - his first and his last, no less!

Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was always going to be the hot favourite in this category, and sure enough he took almost two thirds of the 'Best' vote, and didn't even register in the 'Worst' (the only one who didn't). His position is undoubtedly due to Mawdryn Undead in which he was the star attraction, rather than The Five Doctors, in which he was simply one of many old faces. David Bishop calls the Brigadier "a nostalgia winner".

David also comments on the companion who came second in both Best and Worst results - "Worst Guest Companion: K9 - who else could it be?" Well, David, it could be Kamelion by the look of things! It seems that voters either loved or hated both these robotic companions, judging by their placings in both lists. No one bothered to comment on this category apart from Mr Bishop, so I am left with my own speculations.

Kamelion was a nice idea, but terribly under-used, although this was no fault of the Doctor Who production team, as the man who built and operated the robot died soon after The King's Demons was made, and no one else knew quite how the thing worked. There were obviously those voters who considered the potential of Kamelion, judging by his third placing in the Best, but there were many more who, for probably a variety of reasons, considered Kamelion to be the worst of the Guest Companions.

It is clear that many voters weren't particularly impressed with Carole Ann Ford's revival of her role as Susan, probably because she was so different and also because few would remember her from the early 1960s.

I confess to being a little surprised at the unpopularity of Sarah Jane Smith in this survey, but it was of course based only on her appearance in The Five Doctors. Equally, if not more surprising, is the high placing of Romana in the combined results - as Lalla Ward only appeared in two excerpts from Shada in The Five Doctors!

The rest - Jamie, Zoe, Liz and Mike, are of course the 'phantoms' who appear to the Second and Third Doctors in the Dark Tower. To my mind, these brief cameos were a little silly, and the cluster of votes for them in the 'Worst' category seems to reflect this.

One thing is clear from these results, though: the Brigadier is undeniably the most popular of the Guest Companions. It will be interesting to see how he fares if and when the McCoy era is finally surveyed amongst NZ fandom.

Go to Part 2

This item appeared in TSV 17 (January 1990).