Jon Pertwee played the Third Doctor in Doctor Who. But you knew that.
He had a lot to prove going in. Then known only for comedy, could he handle a serious acting role? It turns out that he could. There’s a reason why he’s a firm fan-favourite!
As part of our annual Jon Pertwee week join me as I count down ten of my favourite stories to feature the Doctor that “crossed the void beyond the mind”. Here are my top ten in reverse (the polarity) order. We begin with number ten…
10. The Dæmons
The Doctor and Jo investigate an archeological dig that he fears could disturb the ancient demon-like alien Azal from Dæmos. On arrival they find the Master is there as well (which they really should be expecting at this point) hoping to claim Azal’s power for himself. This story is an action-packed thrill-ride from start to finish. Jon Pertwee was always the Bond-esque action Doctor and here he gets to show this off. The Dæmons captures all of what makes The Pertwee Years memorable with the entire ‘UNIT family’ getting their moment in the spotlight and Roger Delgado’s Master making an appearance. Katy Manning, however, steals the show as Jo Grant, proving her undying loyalty to the Doctor and cementing her status in the Companion Hall Of Fame. Plus it gives Nick Courtney’s Brigadier the line of a lifetime:
“Jenkins – chap with the wings there. Five round rapid.”
9. The Three Doctors
The original fan service storyline, The Three Doctors has Jon Pertwee team up with Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell to defeat the evil rogue Time Lord Omega in an antimatter universe. Seeing multiple incarnations of the Doctor come together to defeat a common enemy was unheard of at the time and the stuff fans’ dreams were made of. While the ill health of Hartnell, in his final acting role, means he is sidelined, it’s still nice to see him. Meanwhile it’s left to Troughton and Pertwee to carry the story, which they do with great ease. They’re both having fun, and when they have fun so do we.
8. Planet of the Spiders
This was the first time a regeneration story actually meant something, and as such Planet of the Spiders plays out as a celebration of the Jon Pertwee era with its strong Buddhist themes, not entirely convincing monsters, another Time Lord and lots and lots of action. The regenration itself will bring a tear to the eye.
“A tear Sarah Jane?”Nope. Try a whole ocean of them! But the Third Doctor, true to form, goes down fighting and we wouldn’t have him bow out in any other way!
7. The Silurians
(I’m NOT calling it “Doctor Who & The Silurians”, I refuse!)
The Brigadier summons the Doctor and Miss Shaw – Call her Dr. Shaw please! Typical mysogynistic seventies television. – to an underground base where a source of nuclear energy is being sabotaged by lizard people from the dawn of time. This story is a moral dilemma for the Doctor as he tries to broker peace between Homo Sapiens and Homo Reptillia while the Brig has orders to destroy them. The Silurians is tense and will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. And it doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending…
6. Invasion of the Dinosaurs
This story is let down by the laughably bad effects for the dinosaurs that give it its title. However the dinosaurs are but a subplot to a much larger story. Invasion of the Dinosaurs really tells the story of Operation Golden Age, a top-secret project that threatens to wipe out all life on the planet and start afresh. Filled with high adrenaline action sequences, shocking twists and political intrigue, this is The Pertwee Years in a nutshell.
5. The Sea Devils
If there’s a single story that emphasises how wonderful the Doctor/Master dynamic between Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado truly was then The Sea Devils is that story. It sees the Master attempting to revive the Sea Devils from hibernation and it’s up to the Doctor and Jo to stop him. The interactions between Pertwee and Delgado are, as I said, the highlight here (never moreso than their swordfight) but the Sea Devils themselves are a great villainous race as well, one that need to make a comeback in Revived Who – the recent Twelfth Doctor comic strip is a start but I want them on screen! A good villain to use in your final season, Mr Moffat? A good way to make your mark, Mr Chibnall? Can one or both of you please get this done!
4. Terror of the Autons
This story sees the return of the Autons, the debut of Jo Grant, the debut of Benton and, most importantly of all, the debut of Roger Delgado as the Master. That alone makes it a must-see; the fact that Terror of the Autons itself is good is a bonus. The plot sees the Master allying himself with the Autons to conquer the world as the Doctor tries to stop him. The thing that makes the story stand out, besides the Master, has got to be the scariness of the whole thing. Before Moffat made making the mundane scary his trademark, Robert Holmes was doing it first. Here he makes you scared of armchairs, troll dolls and, er, daffodils. This is one of those stories that sends the kids behind the sofa and gets the eighth season off to a great start.
3. Day of the Daleks
“THE DALEKS IN COLOUR!” screamed the BBC Publicity Department. Beyond that, there’s no real reason why the villains are Daleks, but who care because the story’s great. The Doctor gets transported to the future where the Daleks have conquered the world after WWIII, which began when peace talks broke down in the present. He has to get back to the present in time to get the diplomats together for the peace conference or else the stage will be set for the Daleks. The Day of the Daleks plays about with the consequences of time travel in a very “timey-wimey” way and as a result it’s a great story. Jon Pertwee at his 007 action hero best, Nick Courtney gets to lead UNIT troops into battle, the Dalek's sound ridiculous… what’s not to love?
2. Spearhead From Space
Who on Earth is Jon Pertwee? It’s time to find out! We meet a new Doctor, we meet Liz Shaw and we are reunited with the Brig. We have the Doctor trying to convince the Brig that he’s still the little fellow with the Beatles-inspired haircut who helped him fight the Great Intelligence and the Cybermen. We have the iconic and scary scene of the Autons walking down the street and killing everyone they meet. We have the Nestene Consciousness make its debut. The fact that this story so heavily inspired 2005’s ‘Rose’ is telling. If I ever try to start someone on watching the Classics then there’s no question about it, I always start them here.
The ending to Pertwee’s debut season brings in everything from the season that had worked and puts it all together. We have mad scientists, monsters, a research base, UNIT soldiers and lots of high adrenaline action set-pieces. The story is simple enough: there’s a drill that seeks to tap into a powerful energy resource but doing so has the potential to destroy the world. The Doctor knows this and is trying to stop the project. Then the twist comes when he ends up trapped in a parallel world where Britain is a fascist dictatorship. All his friends are there but the Brig is a coward with an eyepatch and no mustache, Liz is not a scientist, Benton is an unpleasant git. And all of them are the Doctor’s enemies. As the Doctor tries to stop this world being destroyed we see something rare and unique as he ultimately fails to save that universe and the consequences of his failure are shown, upping the tension for “our” world in the process for an extremely tense final episode. Inferno is far and away my favourite Jon Pertwee story, and even my favourite of the entire classic 1963-96 run.
So those are my top ten Third Doctor stories. Agree, disagree? What are yours?
When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.