Doctor Who: 5 Things You Might Not Know About Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: 5 Things You Might Not Know About Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor

Reversing the polarity since 1970...
Making his debut on January 3rd 1970, Jon Pertwee brought action, flamboyance and colour to Doctor Who. On his birthday we explore five things you might not know about Pertwee's iconic take on the Time Lord...

1. Jon Pertwee first appeared in character as the Third Doctor back in September 1969 for a Radio Times photo-call to announce his casting. Pertwee arrived in what he thought was "a suitably eccentric outfit" from his family wardrobe, as evidenced above. The flamboyant image stuck with producer Barry Letts who thought it ideal for the new incarnation of the Time Lord.

Through his first two seasons, Pertwee wore a flowing, crimson-lined cape over a black velvet smoking jacket and a ruffled shirt with a variety of neckties such as jabots, bow ties or cravats. The look was first refashioned during the 1971 season, with the iconic red jacket and a cloak with purple lining introduced. In Pertwee's final two seasons as the Doctor, the colour scheme changed from story to story, though the basic look was maintained, inspired by that first photo-shoot.
2. In the first episode of Spearhead From Space, the Third Doctor's debut adventure, the Doctor evades capture by taking a shower. During this segment a tattoo of a serpent can be seen on Jon Pertwee's arm. Whereas in real-life Pertwee obtained it during his service in the Royal Navy, an in-universe reason for it was eventually provided in the New Adventures novel Christmas on a Rational Planet as being a Time Lord symbol signifying exile, removed once the Doctor's exile was formally ended following the events of The Three Doctors.
3. After his debut season on the show, Jon Pertwee felt himself to be well-established as the Doctor and had turned the viewing figures around after Doctor Who's ratings had begun to flag during Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Time Lord. Confident in his ability and the show's renaissance, during the break between seasons Pertwee decided to write his own Doctor Who adventure for the show, with the aim of it being part of season 8.

Coming off the back of three seven-part episodes, a longer format which Pertwee had enjoyed, Pertwee co-wrote The Spare-Part People and submitted it to the Doctor Who production office in the summer of 1970, as he explained during a 1986 interview, posthumously published by SFX Magazine in 2006.
“I knew a very well-known writer named Reed de Rouen – half-Cherokee Red Indian, actually – and he and I wrote a complete Doctor Who, which we submitted, with great joy, because we knew it was extremely good,”
The synopsis for The Spare-Part People would see the Doctor pose as Cambridge don Dr John Madden to investigate a spate of celebrity disappearances. He is kidnapped by mummy-like beings who take him to Antarctica, where a hidden civilisation exists. There the Doctor participates in brutal games and combats a monster which dwells in a labyrinth. Sadly, notes from the era appear to show that the story was never seriously considered by the production team. Perhaps it's a potential future one for Big Finish' Lost Stories range?
4. Jon Pertwee had struggled on several occasions to remember the technobabble included within some of the Doctor Who scripts. With this in mind, when Malcolm Hulke submitted his final draft of the 1972 adventure The Sea Devils, the then script editor Terrance Dicks re-wrote a long segment of technobabble explaining how the Doctor would disable the Sea Devils base, cutting it down to simply "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow". In the DVD extras, Dicks recalled that Pertwee approached him about the line, thinking the actor was going to object and ask him to remove it, but instead Pertwee stated that he liked it, and wanted to see it more often. Dicks obliged and it became the Third Doctor's catchphrase.

That being said, surprisingly the Third Doctor only said the full phrase "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" twice, and only one time in his own era – in The Sea Devils as mentioned. The other occasion came during the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors, but there were plenty of "reverse the polarity moments" without neutorns mentioned (during the Third Doctor's tenure alone Pertwee spoke the shorter phrase during The Dæmons, The Time Monster, Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs), and many of his successors have uttered both complete and partial versions of this famous catchphrase.

Jon Pertwee also used the full phrase when he acted in the 1989 stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure in 1989 (when Colin Baker took over the role in the play he amended the line to "Reverse the linearity of the proton flow.") However, in a very knowing meta reference, during the 1993 radio play The Paradise of Death the Brigadier asks "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow?" and Pertwee's Doctor proceeds to explain that the phrase is meaningless because neutrons are chargeless, so to reverse the polarity of a neutron flow is to do nothing at all!
5. Although he had a very long, varied and successful career, the Third Doctor was a character that Jon Pertwee repeatedly came back to throughout the 20 years after he left the series. Alongside both the previously mentioned The Five Doctors, The Ultimate Adventure and The Paradise of Death, Pertwee reprised the role in the 1993 charity special Dimensions In Time and again in 1994 for the recording of the BBC Radio play The Ghosts of N-Space (which was broadcast in early 1996).

Although Jon Pertwee's final television acting appearance came in 1995 for an episode of The Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones titled Attack Of The Hawkmen (filmed in 1993), he donned the Third Doctor's Inverness cape one last time for what would be his very final acting role, in a Doctor Who fan film called Devious. Set between The War Games and Spearhead From Space, Devious stars amateur actor Tony Garner as an interim incarnation of the Time Lord, or the "Second-and-a-Halfth Doctor" as he is referred to. Production had begun on the fan film as early as 1991, and after 4 years of filming and a conversation with John Nathan-Turner the Devious production team managed to secure the services of 75 year old Jon Pertwee for an afternoon of filming in a living room in Worthing!

Filming took place in April 1995. It was apparent that Pertwee was not in the best of health and needed a cane to move around, but once the camera rolled he became the Third Doctor, as if he'd never left the role. The final scene of Devious was a redo of the Third Doctor's first appearance in Spearhead from Space; Jon Pertwee was filmed coming out of the TARDIS (with a stunt double doing the fall), just as he did on January 3rd 1970. Making something of a perfect circle for his time as the dandiest of Doctors.

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