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'Doctor Who' class notes: Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, John Nathan-Turner and that cat pin

Syracuse Post-Standard culture reporter, Katrina Tulloch, continues her coverage of Who Class with key takeaways from the first public offering of the course in the spring of 2015.

Tulloch writes:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It's spring break at Syracuse University, so Anthony Rotolo's popular Doctor Who in the Digital Age class did not meet on campus this week.

However, students and Whovians took a brief online lesson explaining Colin Baker's introduction as the Sixth Doctor and the continued failures by show runner John Nathan-Turner.

1. The Sixth Doctor

Like Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, Colin Baker grew up watching "Doctor Who" and had always hoped to play the titular role.

It was a dream come true for Baker when he was cast, but he came in at a time when the show runner was more concerned with merchandise and money, than good writing and relatable character development.

"[Baker] stated publicly he hoped to play the Doctor as long as Tom Baker had, or even longer," Rotolo said.

That didn't happen. Baker arrived during a troublesome era of "Who" and he was encouraged to act psychotic, egotistical and unpredictable.

Fans didn't like him or his superiority complex. Even his positive qualities -- intelligence, empathy and eloquence -- were overshadowed by his arrogance.

"The hero we had come to know over 20 years was suddenly gone," Rotolo said. "He was replaced by a crazed and unrelatable new character."

Baker's Doctor even attacks and strangles his companion, Peri, on the floor of the TARDIS. This is exactly the kind of "tea-time brutality for tots" activist Mary Whitehouse warned the BBC against airing.

2. That technicolor suit

Show runner John Nathan-Turner decided the Sixth Doctor would wear a costume purposefully in bad taste. Baker's suit was comprised of multiple hideous patterns and colors, which even the costume designer found appalling.

"It is in many ways reflective of the quirky fashion trends of the 1980s," Rotolo said. "But also it's an embodiment of the problems with 'Doctor Who' under John Nathan-Turner: disorganized, difficult to understand and driven by blind marketing."

Rotolo explained the meaning behind Baker's cat pin, which replaced Davison's signature stalk of celery pinned to his lapel. It was the only part of the new Doctor's costume which Baker picked for himself.

"Baker said this was a subtle way of reflecting his ideas about the Sixth Doctor, citing a children's story called 'The Cat That Walked by Himself,'" Rotolo said.

The story includes the line "I am the cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me." Pretty depressing.

3. John Nathan-Turner

Time and time again, Nathan-Turner proved he was unfit to take the reins of "Doctor Who." Stories during his era were convoluted, unpopular and never made the Doctor very likable.

"Many who worked on the show, as well as many fans, blamed producer John Nathan-Turner for these failures," Rotolo said. "JNT would go on to prove them right as he presided over a dark and painful period of 'Doctor Who.'"

In the end, BBC didn't cancel the show, but they made a big mistake. They kept Nathan-Turner, but let Baker go.

"The Doctor who had dreamed of playing the role was robbed of the chance by producers and writers who could never care for the program the way he did," Rotolo said. "Brokenhearted, Baker was released from his contract and unfairly took the blame for the show's failure."

Luckily, Big Finish Productions took the Sixth Doctor's character and breathed new life into him via licensed audio adventures. Still, Baker never made his mark on the series they way he hoped he would.

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