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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 503 > THE DAVISON DYNASTY

THE DAVISON DYNASTY

Meet Peter Davison: the Fifth Doctor, father-in-law of the the Tenth Doctor, and the inspiration for a whole family of actors...

THE ORANGE TREE, RICHMOND SAT IN AN ALCOVE 27/07/16

Everybody loves Peter Davison, right? He’s TV’s Mr Nice Guy. His Doctor was the quietly heroic, vulnerable one – the underdog Doctor – dashing about, and playing cricket, and his voice going all squeaky when he shouted. He was gentle and brave. Canny and kind. And brilliantly played.

PHOTO © ITV/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

“I’ve never felt the need to distance myself from Doctor Who. If Steven Moffat said, 'We'd like you to do some more, 'I'd be very happy to."

“He’s such an amazing actor,” Doctor Who’s incumbent showrunner, Steven Moffat, once said of Peter. “It seemed impossible to replace Tom Baker, so they went for the most famous person on TV, and made the Doctor young and pretty. It was like a bolt from the blue. The way he played the Doctor was real passionate and heartfelt. You really felt for him.”

Off screen, Peter is as charming as his Doctor, but more laid-back, and much funnier than you’d expect. He’s defiantly self-deprecating – it’s practically encoded in his DNA! – and a fearless conversationalist. Which is why it’s a little surprising that DWM hasn’t interviewed him in-depth in forever. It’s been a decade or more. Let’s fix that, we thought. It’s time to catch up with the Fifth Doctor incarnate. But… it feels different this time. No more Mr Nice Guy?

This is Peter’s most candid interview ever.

It’s 3pm. I’m meeting Peter in the Orange Tree, a pub in Richmond that – says the mural on the wall – dates from at least 1780. The Isley Brothers’ rock-soulful cover of Summer Breeze is playing on the stereo – “Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune” – as Peter walks in, looking cool, and aestival, and definitely younger than 65. He’s wearing a panama hat a bit like the one he wore as the Doctor on TV. “Yes,” he grins, “it’s almost in style, isn’t it?” The Orange Tree was Peter’s choice of venue. “Is it all right?”

I love this pub, I tell him. I grew up just down the road, in Twickenham. I bought my first-ever alcoholic drink in the Orange Tree.

“How old were you?”

Not quite old enough, I confess. He laughs. I get in the drinks – a sparkling mineral water for him, a Diet Coke for me. Peter is on a health kick. He gave up sugar a fortnight ago.

Peter Davison and sons in 2013, as they appeared in The Five(ish) Doctor Reboot.

“It’s very nice, Twickenham, Richmond,” he says. “It’s one of the few places in London that has its own kind of positive identity. I lived around here during the mid-80s – no, before that, it was the mid-70s – and I’m sure I came to see something upstairs here.” A small room upstairs used to host the famous Orange Tree Theatre, established in 1971. In 1991, the theatre moved next door, into a disused primary school, where it’s been ever since. “I moved away for a while, but we came back to live here about 12 years ago, in St Margaret’s, thanks to a well-paid job.”

The last time I met Peter – real name Peter Moffett – was nine years ago, on the set of Moffat-penned Doctor Who mini-episode Time Crash. I interviewed him and David Tennant together for DWM. As a teenager, David was such a big fan of Peter’s Doctor; his granny knitted him his own cricketing jumper. Now David is Peter’s son-in-law. Funny how things work out. Peter’s daughter, Georgia, married David in 2011. They met on 2008 Doctor Who episode The Doctor’s Daughter. (Georgia played the daughter. David was the Doctor.) They have four children together; the youngest was born last November. Peter doesn’t look old enough to be a grandfather four times over. He also has two teenage sons, Joel, 15, and Louis, 17. Both have followed Peter into acting. Joel made his professional début here at the Orange Tree – the theatre, not the pub – two summers ago.

“It’s not too noisy here, is it?” says Peter. It is a bit. We’re sat by the door. We relocate to an alcove at the back of the pub. “Much better,” he says, squeezing in. “It’s very snug. Now I’m in, I probably won’t get out again. Right. Perfect. Although, I’m not sure what on Earth I have to say that I haven’t said before.”

Plenty, it turns out – on dating Doctors, killing companions, taking liberties, talking to girls, his “f***ed up” alter ego, Tom Baker, Colin Baker (“He is cross”), toffs and coppers, murderers and lunatics, UK politics (“Daddy, did you tell Boris Johnson to kill himself?”), the world’s worst toupee, the head of Gallifrey, DWM polls, pizzazz, panto, prickly moments on The Five(ish) Doctors, disinheriting his grandchildren, endless cliffhangers, record deals, the gay mafia, mortality, marriage, scandalous times, “pretty nasty little” places, and being “so damn easy to work with”…

I want to start by asking you about Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson –

“Oh God, okay.”

– and something you tweeted a month ago today. You wrote, ‘Dear Boris, you lying, two-faced, devious little s***. You scaremongering, xenophobic bigot. Go build your bridge – then jump off it.’

“(Laughing) Yeah, I like to hold back.”

I thought you’d been hacked, Peter. ‘Two-faced, devious little –’?!

“Well, that was because that’s exactly what he is. I was hugely distraught over the country’s… just… stupidity.”

It was the Monday after the EU Referendum [Johnson had been a prominent Leave campaigner], right?

“Yeah, and I remember watching Boris’ face on the morning that Leave won, and he was just stunned. He didn’t know what to do. The first thing he said was, ‘I… I think we should, er, just, er, take a… a couple of breaths before we do anything. There’s no great rush. I think we need to build bridges with Remain voters.’ I thought, ‘You little tosser.’ He didn’t want to win. He never wanted to win. He’d said, six months before, that we shouldn’t leave the EU, that it’s vital to our trade… At least [former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice – and prominent Leave campaigner – Michael] Gove is stupid enough to believe what he says, but Boris just thought, ‘My best chance of becoming Leader of the Conservative Party is if I oppose David Cameron and campaign for Leave.’ He thought he’d fail, but gloriously, and so be Cameron’s natural successor.

Boris Johnson. © BEN CAWTHRA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

“The person to really blame, I suppose, is Cameron himself, for actually holding the EU Referendum in the first place, because it wasn’t about giving us a choice; it was about silencing the right wing of his party – and it blew up in his face. My saddest thing is, in my heart, I feel we should be part of Europe, and this inward-looking Britain is just not where we should be. We’re a very insular country. When we joined the EU, I remember thinking that Britain had so much to learn from Europe. The EU Referendum taught me that we’ve learnt nothing. Not a thing. We still think that we’re much better than anyone else, and that foreigners shouldn’t really come in. The Brexit campaign appealed to – I wouldn’t say racists, but – xenophobia. It encouraged the idea that somehow, if we voted Leave, all the immigrants would disappear and Britain would be great again. The Leave campaign embraced Nigel Farage [Leader of UKIP, 2006-09; 2010-16], and that is shameful in itself. They’ve left us in the s***, basically.

“There are many people who have argued, rationally, why they think that we should leave the EU, and that’s absolutely fine. I’ve no objection to that. But it only takes a million-anda-half idiots who think that we’re ‘taking our country back’…”

Has the vote for Brexit emboldened the racists and xenophobes, do you think?

“You’re right, it absolutely emboldens them. It says, ‘Yes, this is how to make our country great again.’ I know we probably have idiots on the Remain side, too, but at least the idiots aren’t basing their opinions on hatred of foreigners. ‘We’ve got to stop the foreigners who are taking all our jobs! Britain used to be great! Let’s take our country back!’ – not realising that Britain hasn’t been great for about 150 years. Even then, I don’t think it was that great. It annoys me when America does that… America is particularly vocal about how brilliant it thinks it is. As much as I want the Democrats to win, did you see Michelle Obama on Monday night get up [at the Democratic National Convention] and say, ‘Don’t let anyone ever tell you that America isn’t great – because this right now is the greatest country on Earth!’ And now we’re going, ‘Britain is the greatest country in the world.’ No, we’re not! How do you know?”

Over the course of this next question, I’m going to – very subtly – drag the conversation onto 1980s Doctor Who

“Ha! Okay.”

Peter as Elmer in the 1975 Tomorrow People serial A Man for Emily.
© LTD/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Two weeks ago, Theresa May became Britain’s second female Prime Minister. Our first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, served throughout your time on Doctor Who.

“Yes!”

You were cast as the Doctor during Thatcher’s first term. Two weeks before you began filming your final season, she was re-elected for a second term. Happy times?

“No. My overwhelming feeling during Thatcher’s time was that people thought that Britain was great – and I didn’t. I just felt that we were a pretty nasty little country, and that’s the feeling I get again now. We’re a nasty little country, and I wish we wouldn’t be.”

What else do you think of when I say, ‘the 1980s’?

“The 80s, really, were a blur, because I was working so much. I barely had time to take anything in. I just went from one job to another. Instinctively, I’m very lazy. One of the ways I prevent myself from being lazy is to work. During that whole decade, I never finished a job without knowing what I was going to be doing next. When I started on Doctor Who, I was doing three jobs at once – something that still galls Janet Fielding [who played Tegan in all but the last two of Peter’s Who serials] to this day! [1] (Laughs) I had a fantastic time, but I kind of missed the bits of the 80s that everyone else remembers. I don’t remember any of the music. The 80s, in terms of popular culture, I missed.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: an exclusive, in-depth interview with Fifth Doctor Peter Davision; Doctor Who's executive producer, Brian Minchin, talks about the next series; showrunner Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; new comic strip action for the Doctor and Jess in the final episode of The Pestilent Heart; the Time Team watch the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood; The Fact of Fiction takes a close look at the 1977 Fourth Doctor adventure The Sun Makers; the mysteries of the TARDIS wardrobe are considered in Wotcha!; plus reviews, previews, prize-winning competitions and more!
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