The Sixth Doctor was a controversial figure, on screen and off, by the end of his tenure on Doctor Who. At the time, Colin Baker’s exit was so tempestuous the actor did not return for the traditional hand-over of the role to his replacement, Sylvester McCoy. It led to one of the dodgiest wigs in Doctor Who history, but now, Baker regrets it for another reason.
The Radio Times reports that, speaking recently at a talk to celebrate the upcoming release of the 23rd season of the classic series of Who on Blu-ray — the famous “Trial of a Time Lord” arc, where each story was connected by a framing device of the Time Lords capturing the Doctor and putting him on, well, trial — Baker discussed his far-from-magnanimous exit from the series.
The Sixth Doctor’s brusque characterisation had proven controversial among viewers and people at the BBC, and the then-controller of BBC One, Michael Grade, had publicly made clear his own disdain of Doctor Who. When the series was looking for renewal on a 24th season, Grade offered a harsh ultimatum: Remove Baker from the title role or the show was cancelled.
The production team picked firing Baker — they offered him the chance to return for one more story and finish his time as the Doctor properly, but Baker was understandably upset about his firing and flatly refused. One face-down Sylvester McCoy and an incredibly cheap wig later, viewers tuned into “Time and the Rani” to see... this:
It’s not great. One of many, many things not great about the story, frankly — so in retrospect, a dodgy regeneration was the least of concerns facing Doctor Who at the time. But still, Baker conceded, what upsets him now is the fact that fans never got to see a regeneration done justice:
This was in November and [filming his regeneration] 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.
I forgot about [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.
It’s all right, Mr. Baker, it’s totally understandable as to why you didn’t. The wig atop poor Sylvester McCoy’s head they replaced you with is really what someone on the Who team should be apologising for.