As The Caves of Androzani came to its dramatic conclusion, Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor sacrificed his own life to save that of his new companion, Peri, collapsing onto the floor of the TARDIS and regenerating in a bright burst of light… but when The Doctor regained consciousness, a rather different man sat in his place. It was change, my dear – and it seemed not a moment too soon!
Colin Baker, who played the sixth incarnation of the Time Lord and is celebrating his 73rd birthday today, actually made his first Doctor Who appearance in a different role entirely – he played Commander Maxil in 1983’s The Arc of Infinity, and had the rare honour of shooting The Fifth Doctor (a moment he jokingly claims was how he got the part of The Sixth Doctor). Colin then returned to the programme in the title role from 1984 to 1986, beginning with The Twin Dilemma (following his brief post-regenerative appearance in The Caves of Androzani) and bowing out in the epic season-long serial, The Trial of a Time Lord. Baker’s Doctor was an unusual beast at the time, with a far more rude and brash personality than his previous regenerations, as well as having more violent tendencies which led to many feeling lukewarm to his character at first. However, time has fared well for The Sixth Doctor, with many fans now looking back and appreciating his darker take on the role – even if he did have the most ludicrous outfit of any Doctor so far, seemingly taking fashion advice from Joseph and his technicolour dreamcoat (alas, Baker did not get the outfit he originally asked for – which was essentially what Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor ended up with).
Though there were many disputes and uncertainties surrounding Baker’s era in the TARDIS – famously, he did not return for his own regeneration scene into Sylvester McCoy – The Sixth Doctor enjoyed a number of classic adventures. Vengeance on Varos and Revelation of the Daleks stand out as two of this Doctor’s finest hours, and he even had the privilege of teaming up with his former self in The Two Doctors, in which he starred alongside Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. Since leaving the show, Colin has also reprised the role for Dimensions in Time (1993) and a number of Big Finish audio stories, one of which – The Last Adventure – has finally provided a heroic exit to his tenure.
Elsewhere, Baker played an instrumental part in Peter Davison’s 50th anniversary celebration The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, and has appeared in a wealth of other television roles, including numerous dramas and a notable appearance in the 2012 series of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Please join us in saying three cheers (or should that be six?) to Colin Baker on his special day. Happy Birthday, Sixie – we’ll raise a glass of carrot juice in your honour! And we won’t play “Doctor in Distress” at the party, we promise…!