This week Whovian Leap puts on his purple velvet and takes Bessie for a spin!
Inspired by that recent breathtaking Third Doctor marathon on Twitch, those pleasing purveyors of a plethora of Pertwee, I decided to jot some thoughts down on this all-action debonair Doctor. Not that it is easy reducing a whole five series of Doctor Who into one short blogpost – well, not without a tissue compression eliminator that is. Twitch, however, certainly does help to focus the mind, showing episode after episode in an incredibly short space of time. So without further a splink or a “what year is thith”, let’s spurt into the Pert!
The Third Doctor’s first series, Season 7, has a polished and filmic feel, with one four-parter and three seven-parters, all featuring United Nations Intellligence Taskforce. The stories flow with a serious scientific and military vibe throughout and a budget seemingly matching that of any James Bond film of the day. The funny man of a thousand voices, Jon Pertwee, plays the new Doctor completely straight. His no-nonsense yet loveable new companion, scientist Liz Shaw, often seems more than a match for him intellectually. Stories are Earth-based and, what’s more, the Doctor’s hair is short and smart.
In Season 8, unfortunately, Liz has done a runner to Cambridge. Quirky Jo Grant turns up in her place and plays a more traditional companion role. The dastardly Master makes his first glorious appearance and sticks around for more than a while. UNIT is still made up of fan favourites, the Brigadier, Yates and Benton, but slowly but surely the tough military setup starts to transform into a cosy family arrangement.
After seeing off Omega in Season 10’s “The Three Doctors”, the Time Lords restore the Doctor’s knowledge of time travel and allow him to roam the universe once again. He whisks Jo off into space, allowing the show’s format to be stretched and provide more variety in story telling. UNIT still do regularly appear. Delgado’s Master makes his last appearance in “Frontier in Space”, due to the actor’s tragic death in a car accident. Season 10 also sees Jo leave, deciding she prefers Amazon to Ikea or something like that.
Season 11 sees journalist and übercompanion Sarah Jane Smith launch spectacularly into the series. The Doctor, whose hair has become distinctly more bouffant, is now everyone’s favourite Space Grandad, dashing around in Bessie, the Whomobile, and a whole array of fancy vehicles, helicopters and hovercrafts to boot. Alas, his days of Venusian Aikido come to an abrupt end when the Doctor meets some oversized arachnids and is blasted with radiation in their Queen’s lair.
Jon Pertwee’s five series of Doctor Who provide us with many a fast-paced, gripping and well-plotted tale. Clunkers are as hard to find as a Silurian in a haystack. In Pertwee’s Who the threat is real, because the stories are set on Earth, thanks to original producer Derrick Sherwin’s stroke of genius. His replacement Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks put in the spadework to bring quality Doctor Who to our screens every Saturday teatime. We owe them an enormous debt.
I wish, however, UNIT had remained as stern and serious throughout, as it had been in Season 7. If only Roger Delgado had not left us and his Master had stayed with the Third Doctor right till the very end for a final showdown. And Liz Shaw? She certainly could have done with a second season.
My top three Pertwee stories are “Spearhead from Space”, “Terror of the Autons” and “Carnival of Monsters”. I first fell in love with these stories through the Target novelisations. I would gaze at the cover artwork and dream about what the TV stories were actually like.
In conclusion, the Third Doctor was a charming action hero and for some the ultimate version of our favourite Time Lord. After five years of this flamboyant dandy, it must have been so hard for fans to bid him farewell. They could have never imagined that – almost fifty years later – a new generation of young fans would be falling in love with the Third Doctor. I am sure that Jon Pertwee is somewhere up there in the stars, looking down on us with a tear in his eye.