‘My son-in-law Tennant was a better Doctor than me’

Ex-time lord Peter Davison – whose daughter is married to David Tennant - tells us why he still loves the show.

When Peter Davison signed up to play the fifth Doctor in 1981 aged 29, he was the youngest actor to take on the role.

He kept the title for almost three decades until whippersnapper Matt Smith joined the show in 2009 at the age of 26.

Davison played the Time Lord for three years, but his connection to the show didn’t end there – his daughter, actress Georgia Moffett, appeared in 2008 episode The Doctor’s Daughter, and in 2011 married 10th doctor David Tennant.

And as Doctor Who’s 50th birthday approaches on November 23, Davison tells us why the show is never far from the conversation around the kitchen table…

What’s the secret behind Doctor Who’s success?

Well obviously the regeneration idea means you don’t have to get one actor who’s going to survive for 50 years playing the part. But the biggest reason is the fact that it regenerates itself.

When Doctor Who came back, it returned under the control of the people who’d grown up watching the classic Doctors all those years ago and been inspired to write and direct and wanted to do Doctor Who. So in a way, it’s self-perpetuating.

Your son-in-law and your daughter have both been in the show. Do you find yourself talking about Doctor Who every Sunday night?

In some form or other it’s quite often a topic of conversation. We don’t go into intricacies about storylines or who is best, but Doctor Who is never far away from the conversation I would say.

David Tennant and the Tardis

My two sons are addicted to Doctor Who. They have  a rivalry in that one is a David Tennant fan and one is a Matt Smith fan, neither of them are my fan. I suppose that’s just the way of the world… My grandson has already established that I’m not even his third favourite Doctor.

My daughter very kindly put a video online where he’s asked who’s your favourite Doctor, pre-David being his father, and he says David Tennant. She says who’s your second favourite Doctor and he says Tom Baker and who’s your third favourite Doctor and he thinks for a bit and says, ‘I haven’t got a third favourite’. So he’s been disinherited!

Who do you think was the better Doctor, you or David?

I couldn’t make a judgement on myself. I’ve never sat down in front of anything I’ve ever done and thought ‘I did a pretty good job there’. You’re always critical of everything you do.

I loved the new series when it came back. I thought David’s performance was fantastic. So the generous thing would be to say I think he was much better than me, and he probably was.

But if they’d only invented computers about 50 years before they did. The digital technology would have been there to do those kind of effects. I think he did a fantastic job and I’m very flattered by the fact that he grew up watching me and then gave that performance.

There was never any romance in the classic Doctor Whos. Do you think they had to move with the times, or should they have kept it like that?

I think the idea that there’s a frisson in the Tardis works. I’m actually rather envious of the number of times that the Doctor gets to kiss girls now. As long as it’s on that level I think it’s fine.

You kind of embrace being an ex-Doctor really - that’s the way to cope with it."

I don’t know why really they were so obsessive about… why there was never any flirtation or anything. And I think that was partly why they never quite mastered the whole companion idea. They were struggling for many years to find a better way of making the companions more rounded characters.

Certainly when it comes to the female companions they never once thought it was a good idea to put any kind of frisson or sexual tension, even in its most innocent form between the Doctor and companion. I think it probably would have made it easier to write a better character.

They struggled for many years to write a good companion’s part, and didn’t really ever manage it. I don’t think they ever really managed to do it until Rose (played by Billie Piper) when the series came back and that was really just writing a damn good part.

What was the strangest public appearance you’ve made?

I accepted an invitation to go to a Doctor Who convention in Haywards Heath and it turned out to be in someone’s living room which was extremely bizarre. I went to the address and it was a very ordinary semi-detached housing estate. The convention was in their front room and I was shown to the hospitality suite which was the box room upstairs and I spent the rest of the day sitting on a sofa surrounded by about 50 other fans crammed into this room.

I also unintentionally turned up to open a Conservative Party fete in Norwich. No one had told me and I was extremely distressed!

You kind of embrace being an ex-Doctor really and that’s the way to cope with it. If you don’t do that, you’re going to find yourself locking yourself in a room for 25 years and never coming out. So I think it’s fine to embrace it and it’s nice for the fans if you embrace it.

Finally, did you nick anything from the set when you left?

I prefer to use the word ‘borrowed’. Things sort of ended up in my suitcase as I walked out of the building… I remember giving my shoes away for a charity auction shortly after I left and thinking, ‘What the hell did I do that for? That was my pension’. I have got a jacket which I’m sure is still officially the BBC’s but I’m damned if they get it back!

Doctor Who series 1 to 6 are available now on BT TV.