(originally posted on Tumblr in reaction to a "Warriors of the Deep" gifset)
It really is true that when the writers got to Five, they said, “Hey, here’s something we haven’t done before:* THIS Doctor is going to be fallible, and he won’t always be able to save the day! That will add to the dramatic suspense!” It was the first wave of Trope Cynicism and Meta that culminated in the dreaded Gritty Realism trope that the hero has to be an asshole and not necessarily likable.
So Five just… keeps losing battles. People. His innocence. Loss and fall from innocence are part of Eight’s arc, but Five is really the first of the lot who had the magic hero ability Pull Rabbit Out of Hat taken away from him.
*I realize that previous Doctors occasonally lost — Katarina, e.g., or the fiasco with the Brigadier blowing up the Silurians against the Doctor’s wishes, or the fall of Atlantis and the mirrorverse — but they were very rare occurrences.
The Face of Evil during the Fourth Doctor’s run had its dramatic oomph largely because it introduced a plot twist nearly UNTHINKABLE at the time: the Doctor had inadvertently screwed up on a previous visit and left a mess behind.
That wouldn’t be much of a shock with Five.
Big Finish took Fallible Five and ran with it. It’s good for drama, but it wrenches my heart. I feel bad for him. Why couldn’t he get Four’s impressive ability to Save the Day with maddening babble and faffing about? By painful degrees, Five’s failures grind down that joyous, curious, eager Doctor we glimpsed in Castrovalva. He tries so hard to help others, often putting his life on the line for them, yet the fabric of things/people he cares deeply about keeps unraveling and slipping through his fingers.
And it just keeps happening. No wonder he holds his emotions close. Peter Davison’s sad eyes seem to show the strain.