Sixth Doctor

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The Doctor
Sixth Doctor portrait.jpg
The Sixth Doctor
Portrayed by Colin Baker
Tenure 16 March 1984–6 December 1986
First appearance The Caves of Androzani
Last appearance The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe
Dimensions In Time (charity special)
Number of series 3
Appearances 8 stories (31 episodes)
Companions Peri Brown
Preceded by Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor)
Succeeded by Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor)
Series Season 21 (1984)
Season 22 (1985)
Season 23 (1986)

The Sixth Doctor is an incarnation of the Doctor, the protagonist of the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who. He is portrayed by Colin Baker. Although his televisual time on the series was comparatively brief and turbulent, Baker has continued as the Sixth Doctor in Big Finish's range of original Doctor Who audio adventures. Within the series' narrative, the Doctor is a centuries-old Time Lord alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels in time and space in his TARDIS, frequently with companions. When the Doctor is critically injured, he can regenerate his body; in doing so, his physical appearance and personality change. Baker portrays the sixth such incarnation, a flamboyant man in brightly coloured, mismatched clothes whose brash and overbearing personality set him apart from all his previous incarnations.

The Sixth Doctor appeared in three seasons. His appearance in the first of these was at the end of the final episode of The Caves of Androzani which featured the regeneration from the Fifth Doctor and thereafter in the following serial The Twin Dilemma, the end of that season. The Sixth Doctor's era was marked by the decision of the BBC controller Michael Grade to put the series on an 18-month "hiatus" between seasons 22 and 23, with only one new Doctor Who story, Slipback, made on radio during the hiatus, broadcast as 6 parts (at 10 minutes each) on BBC Radio 4 from 25 July to 8 August 1985, as part of a children's magazine show called Pirate Radio Four. Colin Baker had been signed up for four years,[1] as the previous actor Peter Davison had left after only three years.

Prior to its postponement, season 23 was well advanced with episodes already drafted and in at least one case distributed to cast and production. Alongside "The Nightmare Fair", The Ultimate Evil", "Mission to Magnus", "Yellow Fever and How to Cure It", the remaining stories were still under development in a 25-minute episode format after the season was postponed. These were all dropped with the reconception of the season in mid 1985 in favour of a 14 episode story arc called The Trial of a Time Lord.[2] The Sixth Doctor also appeared in the special Dimensions in Time. There are also novels and audio plays featuring the Sixth Doctor, and the character has been visually referenced several times in the revived 2000s production of the show.


The sixth Doctor's regeneration was initially unstable, and he nearly strangled Peri before he came to his senses. Realising what he had nearly done, he initially considered going into a hermitlike existence on the planet Titan 3, only to be caught up in events on the planet Jocanda, after which he resumed his travels (The Twin Dilemma). He encountered many old foes including the Master, Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans, and even shared an adventure with his own second incarnation in The Two Doctors. He also faced a renegade female Time Lord scientist, the Rani, who was conducting experiments on humans using the Luddite Riots as a cover.

Later, the Doctor and Peri landed on the devastated planet Ravolox, which they discovered was actually Earth, moved across space with devastating consequences. Before they could discover the reason for this disaster, the TARDIS landed on Thoros Beta. What actually happened here is still unclear, but initial accounts suggest that Peri was killed after being cruelly used as a test subject in brain transplant experiments and the Doctor was pulled out of time to a Time Lord space station where he was put on trial for the second time by his own race, the Time Lords. In reality the trial was a cover-up organised by the High Council. A race from Andromeda had stolen Time Lord secrets and hidden on Earth, so in order to protect themselves the Time Lords had moved Earth through space, burning the surface in a massive fireball and leaving it as Ravolox. The prosecutor at that trial, the Valeyard, turned out to be a possible future, an evil incarnation of the Doctor himself who was out to steal his remaining lives. He had also edited the Matrix recordings of the Doctor's travels; in reality Peri had survived events on Thoros Beta. The events of the trial tangled the Doctor's timeline slightly, as he left in the company of Mel, whom he technically had not yet met. (Originally this was the then-producer's idea that in the following season this would be explained).

Events following the trial are not covered in the television series, but are covered in various spin-off media, though their canonicity is unclear. The Virgin Missing Adventures novel Time of Your Life states that the Doctor went into a self-imposed exile to avoid becoming the Valeyard. He was lured back into travelling, ironically by the Time Lords, and recruited Grant Markham as a companion. Although now travelling again, he still attempted to avoid meeting Mel and recruited other companions such as history lecturer Evelyn Smythe and Charley Pollard. He eventually does encounter Mel by accident during the events of the BBC Books novel Business Unusual and accepts his fate once she stows away in the TARDIS.

When the TARDIS was attacked by his old enemy the Rani, the Sixth Doctor was somehow injured and regenerated into the Seventh Doctor; the exact cause of the regeneration, however, has never been revealed on-screen.[nb 1] When writers Pip and Jane Baker's novel of the story tried to explain the regeneration many were not happy with the outcome. There have subsequently been various explanations for the regeneration. The Virgin New Adventures series suggests that the Seventh Doctor somehow killed the Sixth, because he could not become the masterplanner and manipulator that his next incarnation became, due to his fear of becoming the Valeyard. The BBC Books novel Spiral Scratch offers an alternative explanation that the Sixth Doctor died as a result of his chronal energy being drained in a confrontation with a powerful pan-dimensional entity before being snared by the Rani's beam.


Sixth Doctor press release photo.

The Sixth Doctor was an unpredictable and somewhat petulant egoist, whose garish, multicoloured attire reflected his volatile personality. He was both portentous and eloquent, even for the Doctor - of whom he saw himself as the finest incarnation yet – and his unpredictability was made even wilder by his mood swings, manic behaviour, bombastic outbursts and glib, unflappable wit. His personality also displayed occasionally fatalistic overtones.

The Sixth Doctor was almost supremely confident in his abilities and did not suffer fools gladly; he sometimes seemed to endure Peri's presence far more than he actually appreciated it, and his superiority complex applied to almost everyone he encountered. His intellect could support his ego; for instance, the Sixth Doctor was the only one who was able to repair and operate the Chameleon Circuit within the TARDIS, allowing it to change shape to suit its surroundings rather than looking constantly like a police box (although the appropriateness of the TARDIS's appearance to its environment was more-or-less nil) in Attack of the Cybermen. However, not only did his melodramatic arrogance and caustic wit eventually subside, it actually hid the fact that this incarnation retained the Doctor's strong moral sense and empathy, as seen in Revelation of the Daleks, in which he showed great compassion for a dying mutant; and The Trial of a Time Lord, where he displayed outrage at his own people for their part in a plot and cover-up which resulted in the death of most of the Earth's population. Underneath his blustering exterior, he was more determined than ever in his universal battles against evil, possessed of a tenacity and a thirst to do what was right that was far more visible than ever before. Despite his often unstable demeanour, he was always ready to act when necessary, and very little – even his companions – could hope to stand in his way.

His condescension towards the universe around him also extended to his companions, especially Peri. While his use of violence against his foes and his abrasive relationship with Peri were both often criticised by fans, the violence was largely in self-defence, and his relationship with Peri had mellowed significantly when the programme returned from hiatus for Season 23's The Trial of a Time Lord.

The events surrounding the production of Doctor Who in the mid-1980s caused the Sixth Doctor's tenure to be cut short.[citation needed]

During the Sixth Doctor's tenure in the Big Finish Productions audio plays, voiced by Baker, he appeared to be a somewhat calmer, wittier and altogether happier character (attributed in-story to the influence of companion Evelyn Smythe). In a 2001 poll in Doctor Who Magazine, Baker was voted the "greatest Doctor" of the audio plays. Baker has said that he was not given enough time in the 1980s to 'unpeel the layers' of his character.


The Sixth Doctor's blue costume

Colin Baker wished to dress his Doctor in black, specifically black velvet, to reflect his character's darker personality. Producer John Nathan-Turner, however, opted for a deliberately tasteless costume with garish, clashing colours (later described by Colin Baker as "an explosion in a rainbow factory"). He also retained the question marks embroidered onto his collar, which Nathan-Turner had added to Tom Baker's costume in 1980 and had retained through Peter Davison's tenure. Baker added a cat badge to the ensemble.[citation needed]

The costume itself, however, mainly features the red frock coat, with green patchwork, and yellow and pink lapels. The Doctor always wore his white shirt with question marks on the collar. There were many variants on the waistcoat and cravat - the most recognized and earliest is the knitted brown waistcoat with a turquoise polka-dot cravat. The waistcoat was later changed to a red check one, and in the following story the cravat became red and polka-dot. An unseen incarnation of the Doctor would wear a yellow starfield cravat and purple, green and blue waistcoat. His trousers were yellow and striped, and his preferred footwear was a pair of green/black ankle boots with orange spats. He would always wear a cat badge, but there were many badges throughout his tenure, many based on Baker's own. However the most remembered is the plain white cat badge, based on no cat but generic.[citation needed]

In recent years, a blue variation of the costume has become a popular[citation needed] alternative. This outfit was used in the webcast Real Time, as the clashing colours of the original design were tricky to animate.[3] It also has been used on the cover of some of the numerous audio drama stories from Big Finish Productions. Ironically, one of the few requirements set down by the designer of the costume Baker wore in his televised stories was that it not feature any blue at all, as this would interfere with some of the series' special effects. (However, the cravat used from The Twin Dilemma to Revelation of the Daleks was turquoise and the waistcoat in Terror of the Vervoids featured blue).[3]

Story style[edit]

Season 22 attracted some criticism for its violent content. Coincidentally, torture for entertainment was explored as a theme in the story Vengeance on Varos. After the 18-month hiatus, Season 23 featured a reduction of episodes produced, and the 14-part serial The Trial of a Time Lord was felt by some fans to reflect the fact that the series itself was "on trial" all this time.[4]

Other appearances[edit]



Target Books Missing Episodes
Virgin New Adventures
Virgin Missing Adventures
Past Doctor Adventures
Eighth Doctor Adventures
Make Your Own Adventure
Time's Champion

In 2008, an unofficial Doctor Who novel Time's Champion was published, written by Chris McKeon and the late Craig Hinton. All proceeds went to the British Heart Foundation.

Telos Doctor Who novellas
Short stories

Penguin Fiftieth Anniversary eBook novellas


The Sixth Doctor was featured in a number of acclaimed comic strips drawn by John Ridgway. These featured visuals and storylines of a whimsical fantasy nature, similar to Alice in Wonderland. The Sixth Doctor was somewhat calmer and more restrained than on television. All of these comic strips appeared in Doctor Who magazine in the 1980s. Colin Baker himself wrote a comic book special called The Age of Chaos in which the Sixth Doctor and Frobisher visit an older version of Peri.

Doctor Who Magazine[edit]

  • The Shape-Shifter
  • Voyager
  • Polly the Glot
  • Once upon a Time Lord
  • War-Game
  • Fun-House
  • Kane's Story / Abel's Story / Warriors' Story / Frobisher's Story
  • Exodus / Revelation / Genesis
  • Nature of the Beast
  • Time Bomb
  • Salad Daze
  • Changes
  • Profit of Doom
  • The Gift
  • World Shapers
  • Emperor of the Daleks
  • Up Above the Gods

Classic Comic Special[edit]

  • The Age of Chaos

IDW Comics[edit]

  • The Forgotten
  • Prisoners of Time

Video games[edit]

Audio dramas[edit]

Short Trips audios[edit]

  • The Wings of a Butterfly
  • The Doctor's Coat
  • Seven to One
  • Murmurs of Earth
  • To Cut a Blade of Grass

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures novel Spiral Scratch by Gary Russell, the Sixth Doctor was already dying and/or on the verge of regenerating before the Rani captured the TARDIS. The unofficial novel Time's Champion by Craig Hinton and Chris McKeon gives a different account of the events leading up to the Sixth Doctor's regeneration. Time's Champion, which was published for charity, posits that the events of Spiral Scratch are in fact an overwritten timeline creation of the Sixth Doctor in his first act as Time's Champion, in order to save Mel from the clutches of the Time Lord God, Death. The Sixth Doctor, through the TARDIS' telepathic circuits, forces his own regeneration and leads his Ship towards Lakertya, setting up the events of Time and the Rani. The Sixth Doctor's final words become "You want me to become a god?"


  1. ^ The Handbook: Sixth Doctor
  2. ^ The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor p p207-208
  3. ^ a b A Brief History Of Time (Travel): The Twin Dilemma
  4. ^ The Trial Of A Time Lord (Segment One) at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
  5. ^ Hodgman, John. More Information Than You Require. New York, NY: Riverhead Books. p. 316. ISBN 978-1-59448-364-6. 
  • Howe, D, Stammers M, Walker, S The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor (1993) Doctor Who Books (Vigin Publishing) ISBN 0-426-20400-X

External links[edit]