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There’s a thing that Peter Davison can do which very few actors manage quite as well, namely to look stressed in an appealingly brittle fashion. He can do other things, of course, as a brief glance down this list of his greatest hits should serve to prove, but it’s that air of a man desperately (and pathetically, at times) trying to keep the plates spinning, despite the earthquake all around him, that has made him the go-to guy for sitcoms and comedy dramas.
It’s curiously fitting, given subsequent events with science fiction and work and family, culminating in his daughter Georgia, who has played his screen daughter more than once, marrying David Tennant – the man who played his own character in Doctor Who, after a regeneration or two – that one of Peter’s first appearances on TV should be in a British sci-fi show, The Tomorrow People, alongside Sandra Dickinson, his future wife (and Georgia’s mum). You can’t really tell it’s him, however, what with the silver afro and all:
Here he is in the 1980 comedy Sink or Swim, playing the drippy Brian Webber:
And here’s Sandra again, in 1981′s TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. And look, her husband is being delivered on a trolley (yes that really is Peter as the cow):
It’s thought that the show’s producers offered him the role because of his fame playing the part of Tristan Farnham, a veterinarian in the massively-popular 1977 TV series All Creatures Great and Small. They just wanted him to see things from the animal’s point of view for a change. Here he is as Tristan, giving Mr Biggins some valuable advice:
It was this role which really secured his place as the Fifth Doctor.
Peter also had a diverting sideline in music, specifically the theme music to TV shows. Here’s the theme to children’s TV show Button Moon, which he wrote and sang (with Sandra)
Here he is in Campion, playing the lead role in a 1989 series based on Margery Allingham’s whodunnit novels:
And here he is welcoming Magnum PI and Higgins to Britain in 1985:
Here he is getting into a spot of bother in a 1988 episode of Tales of the Unexpected (a kind of Twilight Zone show, written by Roald Dahl):
His other big hit of the time was A Very Peculiar Practice (1986-88), a distinctly odd medical comedy drama. Here’s his trailer for the second series:
And here he is in another comedy, Fiddlers Three from 1991:
And another, Ain’t Misbehavin’, in 1994:
And here he is playing Joseph Lockwood in a 1998 TV version of Wuthering Heights.
Another big TV hit, in the early years of the new millennium was the domestic farce At Home With The Braithwaites:
A few years later, Peter appeared in A Complete Guide To Parenting, casting a less than impressive spell over a classroom:
Speaking of parenting, who is he teaching to drive here? Look! LOOK!
OK, that was from 2007′s Fear, Stress and Anger. And this is from The Last Detective, filmed around the same time. He’s playing a man called Dangerous Davies:
And since then, nothing. Not a thing. No one even knows where he is these days. There was the voice of the Planetarium in Sherlock and then…what?
Oh wait sorry, he’s here, on BBC America, alongside Freema Agyeman – a former Doctor and a former companion – in Law & Order UK.
And if that doesn’t last, there will always be another sitcom to star in, another theme song to sing, another stressed executive to play.
Next: Colin Baker
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic