The Doctor (Doctor Who)(05)
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The Fifth Doctor is one of only three incarnations to date that ever saw the cover of a US-produced Doctor Who comic. Like the Fourth Doctor before him, Peter Davison's incarnation appeared in the US comic long after he'd relinquished the role in Britain. This is easily attributable to the fact that he was the subject of a great deal of anticipation in the US as Baker's final story, "Logopolis" was shown over and over again on US Public TV stations until the new Davison episode was finally available for US audiences. In a real sense, then, his appearance in US comics coincides less with his time in the role in Britain, and much more with his general availability to the majority of PBS stations in the US.
He wasn't, however, in the role very long in Britain, and consequently few story lines were ever actually played out in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine, the source for the US comic. His run as the "featured" Doctor in the US comic only amounts to about the last 7 issues, precisely because he was the "current" Doctor for a scant 26 issues of DWM.
This means that he had virtually the shortest run as the "current" Doctor in the pages of DWM, second only to the Ninth Doctor. Ironically, though, this isn't a measure of his "failure" as a Doctor, but rather his success. As of 2007, he's the Doctor with the greatest number of televised episodes since Tom Baker, and the final classic-era Doctor to have a "normal" run, in which the seasons (or his tenure) weren't abbreviated by decisions from BBC executives.
However, his run was truncated a bit by the slightly unusual nature of his departure. Because he didn't leave quite at the end of a season, his comic tenure ended about six months prior to when it would've otherwise done. Thus, instead of being the "current" comic Doctor for three full years, he was only allowed about two-and-a-half. The Sixth Doctor, whose first full adventure was the final story of the 1984 season, thus was the "current" Doctor for the entire back half of 1984.
Nevertheless, the Fifth Doctor's era was one of great evolution in the DWM strip. After a scant four issues of the Davison era, artist Dave Gibbons—who'd been the main artist at DWM from its beginning—would move on. Gibbon's clean-lined, "mainstream super-hero" look gave way principally to Mick Austin's sketchier look. While the art diverged, Steve Parkhouse, who'd replaced the MIlls + Wagner writing team late in the Fourth Doctor's tenure, would stay on throughout the Fifth Doctor's run to provide a sense of continuity.
And it is here in the writing that the Fifth Doctor's era is perhaps strongest. For the first time in the comics, a genuine effort was made to provide some real continuity. The Fifth Doctor's era was thus a kind of blueprint for what would eventually take place in the continuity-heavy Eighth Doctor's era. Indeed, it's somewhat unsurprising that many of the elements that recurred in the Eighth Doctor's time had their origins in Davison's modest little run. The roots of the Threshhold Saga are here, with the introduction of Shayde, the town of Stockbridge, and Maxwell Edison. Also present is the idea of a story arc for the companion. Like Izzy and Destrii who would follow in the late 90s, the now-little-known character of Gus would have threads dangling from one story to the next, until the very last Davison story literally laid him to rest.
Curiously, though the Fifth Doctor's era is fairly tightly integrated with the Eighth Doctor's comic continuity, its harmony with the television show would prove both wet dream and worst nightmare to the observant fan.
One of the biggest hurdles with the comic Fifth Doctor is just where all these stories fit in. They all portray a Fifth Doctor basically traveling alone—or at best with the temporary companionship of Gus. Yet the Fifth Doctor's era on TV has no convenient, companionless gap. Some suggest that there's a tiny moment in the serial, "Arc of Infinity", where the Doctor is without Tegan or Nyssa, and that the stories could take place there. However, this is a very tiny moment indeed. It is just as well to think that the gap, as well as the stories themselves, occur entirely off-screen. The point is, unlike the Second, Third and Fourth Doctors, who had clear moments where they were without their televised companions, the Fifth Doctor was never definitively shown to be without at least one companion. That makes these stories a bit of a puzzle.
Doctor Who Classic Comics (1992)
On the other hand, the Fifth Doctor's era in DWM was dramatically different from the Fourth's in that it was the first to use a specific, named character from television, other than K-9. Again in a way that prefigured the Eighth Doctor's era, the Davison Doctor encountered an old 60s enemy, the Time Meddler, in "4-Dimensional Vistas", a story that also saw the re-emergence of the Ice Warriors
Aside from these continuity touches, the Fifth Doctor's era saw other "firsts" in the history of Doctor Who comics under the Marvel license. Among them: the first double-page spread, the first (albeit limited) use of color, the first extensive use of Gallifrey in the main Doctor Who story, the first genuine "historical", and the first prologue.
Despite all this, the brevity of the run, and the far greater glories that would progressively come over the years, limit the exposure many fans have had to the material. Wedged between the many reprints of the mainstream-friendly Fourth Doctor material, and unnaturally lengthy runs of subsequent Doctors, the Davison era remains a quiet, forgotten, monochromatic corner of the world of Doctor Who comics.
A documentary about the Fifth Doctor comic strips is available on the DVD release of the Doctor Who story, "Black Orchid".
First Appearance: Doctor Who Magazine (1979) #61
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View a chronological listing of this character's appearances
Doctor Who (1984)
Doctor Who Classics: Series 2 (2008)
#5 Doctor Who Graphic Novel (2004)
- 'The Tides of Time Parts 1, 2, and 3'#6
- 'The Tides of Time Parts 4, 5, and 6'#8
- 'The Stockbridge Horror, Part 1, 2 and 3'
Doctor Who Magazine (1979)
Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition (2002)
#1 Doctor Who Yearbook (1992)
- 'The Complete Fifth Doctor'#18
- 'In Their Own Words, Volume Four: 1982-86'
Doctor Who: It's Bigger on the Inside! (1988)
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time (2013)
Doctor Who: The Forgotten (2008)
HCTPB#3 The Comic Relief Comic (1991)
- 'Part 3: Misdirection'#6
- 'Part Six: Reunion'
The Doctor Who Fun Book (1987)
The Dr Who Annual (1965)
Time Lords and Gallifreyans
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