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Peter Davison shares his Doctor Who memories as Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular comes to the Newcastle

The fifth 'Time Lord' is to perform the narrator's role as the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular comes to the Arena

Yui Mok/PA Wire Peter Davison
Peter Davison

It is now more than 30 years since the fifth Doctor Who passed on the mantle of the BBC’s most famous sci fi creation... but once a Time Lord, always a Time Lord.

Or so it seems to Peter Davison.

“It’s one of those things where I can’t quite imagine what life would be like without it,” says the actor thoughtfully.

The programme’s history now spans more than five decades between William Hartnell (1963-66) and Peter Capaldi, who emerged as the 12th Doctor last year.

Peter’s dates were 1981-84 when he captured the look of the time – somewhat Brideshead Revisited – in cricket whites and summer hat.

But he will be back doing Time Lord duties at the Metro Radio Arena this week as the narrator in The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular.

This is a live show which would have seemed unimaginable in 1963 when the spooky electronic wailings of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop sent small children scurrying for safety behind the sofa.

But when the series was revived 10 years ago after a break of a couple of decades, it was heralded by a new musical arrangement by composer Murray Gold. Samples of the original score were included but new elements were added.

Gold’s music forms the substance of The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular which, along with Daleks and Cybermen, will feature the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and members of the BBC National Chorus of Wales, conducted by Ben Foster.

Then there will be Peter who also did narrating duties when the show was presented in Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

“It went down very well,” he says.

The degree of Doctor Who fanaticism might not be quite as high as here, he suggests. “But it’s pretty close. I’m often asked how British fans compare to those elsewhere and I say they’re all pretty much the same.

“The Americans love Doctor Who because of its Britishness. That’s what we love about it too. Doctor Who doesn’t conform to the hero mould.”

Peter says he does go to some of the Doctor Who conventions where the most devoted fans are usually to be found.

“I’m always amazed they want to see me because I can’t imagine they know who I am. They always do, though. I suppose it’s because Doctor Who is back on the TV and, of course, it’s easy now to go back and find the earlier series.”

Peter was 29 when he signed up to play the Doctor in 1980 and he remained the youngest in the role until Matt Smith came along in 2009 (aged 26).

He confirms that he left after three years on the advice of his predecessor, Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor who did a similar stint and warned about the dangers of being typecast.

“I might have been mistaken but it seemed long enough to make a mark but not long enough to ruin your career afterwards. I was very young when I did it really and I wanted to go off and do other things, and that happened.”

In fact, Peter had already become a household name playing Tristan Farnon in TV series All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books of James Herriot. He would later return to the role in 1988.

Joseph Byford Peter Davison as narrator in the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular
Peter Davison as narrator in the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

He remembers that he was a “huge” fan of Doctor Who when he was growing up. “My Doctor was Patrick Troughton and I used to watch him every week when he was on. But I thought what (producer and screenwriter) Russell T Davies did when he brought it back in 2005 was brilliant.

“What I felt when I was in it was that there were some great scripts and some dodgy scripts, although the special effects were the best we could do at the time.

“But the new writers who came in, like Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, were hugely keen on the science fiction genre. I don’t think that was always the case in my time.”

Reflecting on his Doctor Who ‘look’, Peter says: “The producer said he wanted to have a younger look and I was a fan of cricket. An outfit based on cricket whites seemed a fairly eccentric thing so they went away and designed this thing. I would have gone for something a little more off the peg.”

One thing does mark Peter out from most of his Doctor Who colleagues. His son-in-law has followed in his time-travelling footsteps.

Peter’s daughter, Georgia Moffett, has been married since 2011 to David Tennant who played the 10th doctor from 2005-10.

This conjures up a wonderful picture of rival Doctors vying with each other at family get-togethers.

Peter laughs and says: “It does come up in conversations a bit but we don’t sit around discussing the ghost of Doctor Who or dress in disguise if we go for a walk in the park.

“It is quite nice that we both have this connection with Doctor Who.”

Then he jokes: “I’m sure he is hugely jealous of me doing this but unfortunately for him he’s doing an American series in New York.”

Peter, meanwhile, has been on stage in the West End, playing Herbie in an acclaimed production of the musical Gypsy opposite Imelda Staunton in the title role.

He says he had already been contracted to do Doctor Who narrating duties when he was offered the musical so is taking a holiday to become a Time Lord on a lightning arena tour.

“It’s OK,” he assures me. “I’m happy.”

You can see him at the Metro Radio Arena on Thursday, May 28 when there are performances at 3pm and 7.30pm. For tickets tel. 0844 493 6666 or buy online via www.metroradioarena.co.uk

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