Quite a few people expressed their surprise to me over Colin Baker’s decision to take part in ITV1’s I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here this year, but I can see the sense in it.
Between 1984 and 1986, Colin played the sixth incarnation of The Doctor in the BBC’s iconic science fantasy series Doctor Who. When he took the part, he wanted the character to be more akin to the original portrayal of William Hartnell, who was the Doctor between 1963 and 1966. Baker asked the production team to make his Doctor aloof and detached. He was also keen to dress his time traveller in a black frock coat and make his clothes less like a costume.
Unfortunately, the writing staff explained the sixth Doctor’s more abrupt nature by saying the latest regeneration had produced an instability resulting in temperamental mood swings. They also made him wear a multi-coloured patchwork coat and bright yellow trousers, the idea being that he had lost his taste in clothes.
After playing the Doctor for one full season, the series was cancelled by BBC1 controller Michael Grade, who was looking for ways of saving the Corporation money. Thanks to fans within the BBC leaking the news to the press, and following a lot of tabloid pressure, Grade said he hadn’t cancelled the show but merely suspended it for 18 months. When it returned in 1986, it had been whittled down by a third and was up against stiff competition from ITV.
Viewing figures dropped significantly compared with the previous season. Michael Grade blamed, not his own decision to interrupt the series’ run, but actor Colin Baker. The sixth Doctor is the only one in the show’s history to be replaced at the behest of the Corporation’s hierarchy.
I was 14 when Colin debuted as the Doctor, and to my mind he was returning the character to form. He came across as intelligent and alien. He was detached and aloof, and didn’t suffer fools. At the time, I thought his terrible dress sense was hilarious. And I was deeply upset when he was dropped after just two seasons.
As a boy unknowingly doing battle with a subtle form of Asperger syndrome, I struggled with the more acute aspects of social-interaction and as a result was frequently labelled aloof and abrupt.
So, for me Colin Baker’s Doctor was a hero, and Colin himself, when he appeared on children’s magazine show Saturday Superstore, was my role model. I would listen to him and imagine that I would be something like that when I reached adulthood.
In 2004, Colin endorsed my book The Feeling’s Unmutual. You can read what he had to say to the right of this blog. When it first came through from the publisher, I nearly burst into tears!
All of the Doctors have been successful. Even the seventh and last actor to play the Doctor in the original series of Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy, stars in Peter Jackson’s film of The Hobbit.
Sadly, because he barely got off the ground as the sixth incarnation of the Time Lord, Colin Baker became the forgotten Doctor.
Thanks to his appearance in I’m a Celebrity, should the BBC repeat adventures of the old series Doctors to mark Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary in 2013, the viewing public will know the name Colin Baker.