In 1981, Davison signed a contract to play the Doctor for three years, succeeding Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) and, at age 29, is the second youngest actor to have played the lead role. Attracting such a high-profile actor as Davison was as much of a coup for the programme's producers as getting the role was for him, but he did not renew his contract because he feared being typecast. Reportedly, Patrick Troughton (who had played the Second Doctor and whom Davison had watched on the programme as a teenager) had recommended to Davison that he leave the role after three years, and Davison followed his advice. The Fifth Doctor encountered many of the Doctor's best-known adversaries, including the Daleks (in Resurrection of the Daleks) and the Cybermen (in both Earthshock and The Five Doctors). However, Peter Davison has since stated that he also felt too young for the role, and if given the chance at the role now he would have made a better Doctor.
Davison did, in fact, return to play the Fifth Doctor in the 1993 multi-doctor charity special Dimensions in Time and in the 1997 video game Destiny of the Doctors (audio only). He continues to reprise the role in a series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions. He returned once again in "Time Crash", a special episode written by Steven Moffat for Children in Need; in the episode, which aired on 16 November 2007, the Fifth Doctor met the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant.