Long, long, ago, in the dark ages before streaming video, mobile phones, and realistic CG, there was a time when we had to get up off the couch to change TV channels by hand (*gasp!*). It was during these archaic times that our beloved ‘Doctor Who’ was conceived and aired by the BBC starting in 1965.
For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of meeting the Doctor, he’s (the character has identified as male through nearly the entire run) essentially immortal and a ridiculously smart but kind-hearted being who has a ship that travels through time called a TARDIS. There is so much complexity in the series and the story that I can’t possibly give it justice in my summary here.
The point at issue is the fact that while the Doctor is technically immortal, when he takes enough damage to die, he is respawned into a different body of a different age and usually with a significantly different personality, although he retains all his memories from previous lives. These respawns are referred to as “regenerations” and are usually very dramatic displays of light and often profound sadness. They serve as a way for the BBC to change actors without it being weird.
‘Doctor Who’ was quite popular in the 1960s through the 80s, after which it took a bit of a hiatus and then was rebooted in 2005 and has been going strong through to the present. The good Doctor has died twelve times throughout the ages and each incarnation is referred to in pop culture by its numerical arrival. We’re currently on Doctor #13, who for the first time in 56 years, identifies as female. However, this story is about the 6th Doctor.
The 6th Doctor was played by Colin Baker from 1984 to 1986. Unfortunately for him, he had some kind of falling out with then-BBC One controller Michael Grade. Grade held the show hostage and refused to allow production to continue until Baker was sacked. As they say, the show must go on, so Baker soon found himself looking for other work. However, the producers didn’t want to just write him off because fans were expecting a regeneration scene. So the BBC invited Baker back to shoot one last time, to preserve the continuity of the story.
In a recent interview, Baker told the story of what happened next:
“This was in November and that would take place the following March/April… I wasn’t going to commit myself to two weeks work the next March/April… and I’ll be honest, I was hacked off. I saw no reason to be nice to them.”
In other words, he declined to acquiesce to their request. Speaking to the audience at his interview, he offered an apology to them and all ‘Doctor Who’ fans:
“I forgot about you [the fans] – sorry. I was being brutally selfish at the time and I just felt annoyed. Because I loved that part… and I thought I had more to offer.”
Baker apparently thought better of his refusal and proposed a later date for the shoot, but he never heard back from the BBC. Instead, they cobbled together a rather poorly executed makeover for Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor) to try to make him look like Baker (see it below). It was long before proper CG, so it was probably the best they could do on a low budget.
The events are old news now, but it’s nice that Baker is still thinking of us “Whovians” and it’s a testament to how endearing the character is to geeks of all ages.
Source: Radio Times