Who Marathon: Jon Pertwee
Well, on 27 August 2022, I reached another milestone in my Doctor Who Marathon. I completed the Third Doctor’s run with episode 6 of “Planet of the Spiders”. I reached it a little earlier than I thought I would as I ended up watching five episodes this day to finish off his era. I never originally intended to do that, but I knew I’d have to double up (or more) a few times if i want to get through everything before 23 Nov 1963. So today I went for it.
Pertwee has never been a Doctor I ranked high. I never thought he was bad – he has some excellent moments. But his era never resonated with me. I couldn’t tell you why, but when I started this back on 28 of April, I was hoping I’d discover some stories I had forgotten about. That definitely happened. Some of these stories I enjoyed more than before. The ones that I really didn’t care for not much changed there. Planet of the Spiders was a disappointing send off to his era. The other thing that I thought was an issue with his era was incidental music. Planet of the Daleks in particular had horrid music – so much so it takes the story down several notches.
I still very much adored the Draconians. They were glorious in execution – I really wish they would come back to the show at some point. While I thought Roger Delgado was used too much in Series 8, his performances were glorious. He easily remains my favorite actor to have played the Master. It’s not even close. As for the companions..
- Liz Shaw – She was the first, and the one that got treated poorly. In the 70’s, she couldn’t escape the mold of female companion wanting to be rescued. They tried to make her a scientist, and while it never completely went away, the original remit of her being an equal kind of was glossed over. I enjoyed the year she was on the show, and really wish she got more than one. The character was barely mentioned again after her (off-screen) departure. Caroline John made a quick cameo in 1983’s “The Five Doctors”, but that was her final appearance in the show. That is unless you want to count an appearance in the non canonical “Dimensions in Time” special from 1993. Liz Shaw was again briefly mentioned in the 1989 serial “Battlefield” when the 7th Doctor tried to get Ace to use an expired UNIT ID badge that belonged to Liz Shaw.
- Jo Grant – This was a companion that I never cared for in the past. I always thought her as whiny, and never took to her. My favorite Third Doctor story had her in it (Frontier in Space), so it’s not like I never watched her episodes. There were some moments I really liked (The Three Doctors), but in general, Jo never worked for me. That changed this time. I think part of it had to do with the character’s reappearance in 2010 episode of “The Sarah Jane Adventures” with the 11th Doctor Matt Smith. That story brought back Katy Manning to play Jo Grant on screen for the first time since she left in the 70’s. It was glorious. I felt that changed my opinion of the character, so that when I rewatched her episodes now, they were much more enjoyable. I always felt her departure in Green Death was one of the best emotional moments of classic Who, but this time round it hit harder since I was invested in the character.
- Sarah Jane Smith – What else needs to be said here? She was the perfect Doctor Who companion. She started here in Jon Pertwee’s final season and ran through a few with Tom Baker as well. Her being a journalist was mostly forgotten about, but then most companions usually don’t stick to their initial character remit. Of all the classic era companions, she returned more than any other. She got her own spinoff in 1981 that only produced a pilot (K-9 & Company). She returned in the 1983 special “The Five Doctors”. She returned in the 10th Doctor’s era for “School Reunion”, and then was given her own series, “The Sarah Jane Adventures” which ran from 2007-2011, ending only with the death of Liz Sladen. Sarah Jane Smith was pretty much everything you’d want in a Doctor Who companion.
- UNIT – Now.. I don’t consider the UNIT people to be proper companions. I know some people do, but they really aren’t. They’re UNIT family, much like the modern show had Rose’s mum and boyfriend, Donna’s mother and grandfather. Those weren’t companions, they were just part of the show’s characters. UNIT was the same way for me. Loved them – The Brig, Sgt Benton, Mike Yates, etc… But they weren’t companions in the proper sense of the word.
There’s no single episode I can point to with Pertwee’s era that I consider “essential” – in the way that Hartnell’s Unearthly Child Episode 1 or Troughton’s War Games Episode 10 was. There’s a lot of great stuff in Pertwee’s era, but no single “Oh you MUST watch this”. Thing is, I don’t see episodes like that in several other Doctors either, that’s not a slag on Pertwee. The two aforementioned episodes I would recommend to anyone watching Doctor Who. If I was to give someone a Pertwee story to watch as a newcomer, I’d probably go with Frontier in Space, or perhaps Terror of the Autons. Maybe Inferno, too.
Jon seemed to have a lot of “close up” acting – borderline mugging for the camera. It happened a lot. Not that it was bad, but it seemed to happen more than any of his predecessors. It was just something to look for – you knew when there was a dramatic scene, here comes Pertwee’s closeup. :)
I met Jon a few times at conventions in the 80’s. He was always fun – his banter with Patrick Troughton was a particular joy. I also met Jon’s son Sean in 2016, and I had an action figure of his dad with me. He thought that was cute, and we spoke about the 80’s convention circuit. Turns out Sean was at several of the same conventions I was at too, as Jon would bring him with him a lot.
Jon himself returned to Doctor Who in The Five Doctors, where he was one of the main actors, and finally got to fight some Cybermen, something that didn’t happen in any of his stories. Jon played the Doctor in “The Ultimate Adventure”, a Doctor Who stage play in 1989. He also returned in the 1993 special “Dimensions in Time”. His final anything with Doctor Who was a fan special called “Devious” which attempted to bridge the gap between the end of The War Games and the start of Spearhead in Space, showing the actual regeneration from 2 to 3.
Jon died about a week or so before the UK airing of the Paul McGann TV movie in 1996. The show (in the UK) carried a dedication to Jon in its titles.
I’m quite pleased to have gone through his era again. I discovered a lot of stuff I had forgotten about, or overlooked in the past. I’m sad to finish another Doctor in this run, but the next one I’ll be with for quite some time, as there’s more of Jon’s successor than any other.