Doctor Who: The Jon Pertwee Years, 1970-74

Jon PertweeDoctor Who

    Season 7: 1970

  1. Spearhead From Space
  2. Doctor Who And The Silurians
  3. The Ambassadors Of Death
  4. Inferno
  5. Season 8: 1971

  6. Terror Of The Autons
  7. The Mind Of Evil
  8. The Claws Of Axos
  9. Colony In Space
  10. The Daemons
  11. Season 9: 1972

  12. Day Of The Daleks
  13. The Curse Of Peladon
  14. The Sea Devils
  15. The Mutants
  16. The Time Monster
  17. Season 10: 1973

  18. The Three Doctors
  19. Carnival Of Monsters
  20. Frontier In Space
  21. Planet Of The Daleks
  22. The Green Death
  23. Season 11: 1973-74

  24. The Time Warrior
  25. Invasion Of The Dinosaurs
  26. Death To The Daleks
  27. The Monster Of Peladon
  28. Planet Of The Spiders

1969: production on Doctor Who had come to a full stop with the exit of Patrick Troughton and his co-stars, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. The series was without a star or even continuing companions. Furthermore, the exhausting ten-week epic that was The War Games, Troughton’s final adventure, didn’t produce inspiring ratings where the BBC brass was concerned, despite introducing the Time Lords, firmly establishing the Doctor’s background, and promising yet another miraculous change of appearance.

With those elements, and a Time Lord sentence of exile to Earth, producer Derrick Sherwin was already laying the foundation for the series’ future. And his blueprint for the Doctor’s (hopefully most cost-effective) Earthbound adventures had been on display for some time, even though no one noticed at the time: The Invasion, an eight-part modern-day adventure reintroducing The Web Of Fear‘s Brigadier (formerly Colonel) Lethbridge-Stewart as the head of a top secret military organization called UNIT, was a test run for Sherwin’s idea. The Brigadier would return as a regular member of the cast, and the Doctor would be working for UNIT in the capacity of its scientific advisor.

If, that is, the BBC didn’t cancel Doctor Who first. BBC1 was relaunching in full color in January 1970, and the BBC had already purchased a package of reruns of a recently-cancelled American science fiction series called Star Trek to fill its need for color programming. Doctor Who had always been shot in black & white, and in many ways took advantage of that limitation and made a virtue of it. With its increasingly complex special effects, the show would be a formidable challenge to produce in color. But in the end, with fans clamoring for more, and no other alternative programming proving to be as promising, the BBC greenlit a seventh season. Now Sherwin had to find a new Doctor.

Nicholas Courtney as the BrigadierJon Pertwee as the DoctorAfter an exhaustive search and audition process, the producer chose radio comedian Jon Pertwee, famous for his multi-voiced talents in The Navy Lark. The British press, beginning to show its fascination with the selection process of a new Doctor Who star, latched onto this as proof that the sometimes whimsical tone of Patrick Troughton’s era would now be expanded to full-throttle silliness. But with James Bond and other slick heroes firmly in vogue, Sherwin and Pertwee surprised the speculators with a decidedly dramatic Doctor. Serious but with flashes of humor and eccentricity, there was seldom any doubt that Jon Pertwee was playing the third Doctor as a serious dramatic role. Nicholas Courtney rejoined the cast for the entire seventh season, and Caroline John was cast as a new companion, Cambridge scientist Dr. Liz Shaw.

Doctor Who: Spearhead From SpaceThe third Doctor’s first year was serious, somber and spectacular: one four-part introductory story was followed by three seven-part epics – and those stories were among the most intense in the series’ history, dealing with subjects ranging from biological warfare to man-made geological disasters that would end the world. Pertwee’s Doctor stood his ground against plastic Autons, reptilian Silurians, obsessed scientists, and a group of captive alien ambassadors whose touch was deadly to any human. All four stories were set in modern-day Britain, with the Autons terrorizing the heart of London and the Silurians storming the English countryside.

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death (VHS cover)During that season, Sherwin handed the reins over to a new producer, Barry Letts. Keen to leave his own stamp on the show, Letts brightened up the feel of the series, dropped Liz Shaw (and actress Caroline John) with nothing more than a line of dialogue indicating that she had resumed her research at Cambridge, and introducing a younger, peppier assistant in the form of Jo Grant (Katy Manning). A semi-regular retinue of UNIT soldiers was kept in rotation, with Sergeant Benton (John Levene, a veteran of UNIT stories all the way back to The Invasion) and Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) quickly gaining favor with the fans. And perhaps most importantly of all, Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and writer Robert Holmes created a new arch nemesis for the Doctor: the Master.

Roger Delgado as the MasterDoctor Who’s entire eighth season was devoted to introducing this new character, played by the lean and sinister Roger Delgado. The Master was another rogue Time Lord, but unlike the Doctor, he had escaped the Time Lords’ justice – and his goals and methods were decidedly evil. The Master repeatedly tried to assist aliens hell-bent on invading Earth, and the Doctor fought him in a close duel of moves and counter-moves. A worthy adversary, the Master employed hypnotism, disguise, bribery, and a matter-compression gun that would reduce its victims to the size of dolls (killing them in the process). Soon, the audience was looking for the Master at the beginning of every new story, as it was a given that he was involved with the foul deeds that were afoot. The Master wasn’t above associating with energy-leeching Axons, the Autons, a deadly psychic creature feeding from humans’ basest violent impulses, and even – apparently – the devil himself.

Katy Manning as Jo GrantAnd for the first time during Pertwee’s reign, the TARDIS left Earth for pastures new – at least in one episode, Colony In Space – but only on a mission prescribed by the Time Lords. (Naturally, they wanted the Master brought to justice too, but they seemed only concerned enough to dispatch another renegade Time Lord – presumably an expendable one – to do the job.) Other forces were trying to influence the Doctor’s travels as well: Terror Of The Autons, the Master’s debut story, drew heavy criticism from many corners, including self-appointed TV violence watchdog Mary Whitehouse. But serious concerns were also voiced by Scotland Yard, over scenes where policemen were unmasked to reveal killer Autons. Any further plans for a rematch with Robert Holmes’ plastic predators were quickly nixed, and they wouldn’t appear in the series proper again for over 30 years.

1972 saw the beginning of Doctor Who’s ninth year on the air, and the return – for the first time since the Patrick Troughton era – of Terry Nation’s Daleks. Day Of The Daleks wasn’t the first time the metallic monsters had been seen in color (that honor went to the two Peter Cushing theatrical films of the 1960s), but it was their first appearance in five years – and some fans were disappointed as what seemed to be a reduced role in the action. The Master also made two return appearances in the ninth season, and the TARDIS continued to take the Doctor away from present-day Earth…when the Time Lords (and the even more powerful demands of ratings) deemed it necessary.

Doctor Who: The Three DoctorsFor the tenth season, Letts and Dicks used a storyline that had been submitted to the Doctor Who production office by countless fans: a teaming-up of the three Doctors thus far. This tenth anniversary four-parter, The Three Doctors, was hampered by rewrites to accomodate the ailing William Hartnell. Though back in costume and back in character, Hartnell’s deteriorating condition limited what was originally meant to be a more dynamic role. This was also the first time either of the first two Doctors had appeared in color, and Troughton in particular seemed to enjoy the experience immensely, building a friendly-insult rapport with Pertwee that the two actors carried on into convention appearances years later. At the end of The Three Doctors, the Time Lords – and the makers of the series – lifted all limitations on the Doctor’s travels.

Doctor Who: Carnival Of MonstersIn addition to the end of the Doctor’s exile, there were other plans afoot, including a definitive confrontation with the Master that promised to reveal, once and for all, the true nature of his relationship with the Doctor – a story which would have also seen the end of the Master, as Roger Delgado was ready to seek other work. The seeds for this were planted in the six-part story Frontier In Space, in which the Doctor’s rival Time Lord pooled his resources with the Daleks, leading directly into a further six-part story, Planet Of The Daleks. The TARDIS brought the Doctor and Jo back to modern-day Earth at the end of the season with The Green Death, in which Jo was written out to accomodate Katy Manning’s desire to work on other projects. But this wasn’t the only storyline brought to an end: Roger Delgado was killed in a car crash while filming a movie in Turkey, ending any plans to wrap up the Master’s story.

Jon Pertwee, at this point, was in negotiations to renew his contract. About to begin production on his fifth season in the role, Pertwee was the longest-serving Doctor to date – and he felt this entitled him to greater compensation. The BBC’s Head of Drama disagreed and declined Pertwee’s request for a raise, and between that refusal and the shock of his close friend Roger Delgado’s death, Pertwee made it clear that the new season would be his last.

Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane SmithA new companion, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), was introduced, and Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks deliberately designed the character in response to complaints about sexism in the series: too many female sidekicks screamed helplessly, some complained, and too few of them truly fought evil alongside the Doctor. Sarah Jane’s debut story, The Time Warrior, addressed this character trait almost too directly, with the show’s new heroine openly proclaiming herself to be an advocate for women’s lib. This four-parter also introduced a completely new title sequence – a complex animation showing Pertwee and a new Doctor Who logo traveling through a seemingly endless tunnel of colorful swirling patterns – and a new villain in the form of the militaristic Sontarans. Devised by Holmes, the Sontarans were an army of identical clones, gifted with enormous strength, tactical genius, and no remorse whatsoever for killing anyone who got in their way.

Season 11 continued with another Dalek tale, Death To The Daleks, a sequel to season 9’s Curse Of Peladon, and finally a six-part epic, replete with Buddhist symbolism of rebirth and enlightenment, to see the third Doctor out. Planet Of The Spiders, reflecting Letts’ Buddhist beliefs, was let down on the production value end, but culminated in yet another change of the body for the Doctor. A fellow Time Lord hiding on Earth in the guise of a Tibetan monk, K’anpo Ripoche, finally gave this process a name – regeneration – shortly before Pertwee’s visage faded into that of his replacement, actor Tom Baker. Could this relatively unknown, eccentric actor match Pertwee’s longevity or popularity in the role?

    Season Seven: 1970

  1. Spearhead From Space
  2. Doctor Who and the Silurians
  3. The Ambassadors of Death
  4. Inferno
  5. Season Eight: 1971

  6. Terror Of The Autons
  7. The Mind Of Evil
  8. The Claws Of Axos
  9. Colony In Space
  10. The Daemons
  11. Season Nine: 1972

  12. Day Of The Daleks
  13. The Curse Of Peladon
  14. The Sea Devils
  15. The Mutants
  16. The Time Monster
  17. Season Ten: 1973

  18. The Three Doctors
  19. Carnival Of Monsters
  20. Frontier In Space
  21. Planet Of The Daleks
  22. The Green Death
  23. Season Eleven: 1973-74

  24. The Time Warrior
  25. Invasion Of The Dinosaurs
  26. Death To The Daleks
  27. The Monster Of Peladon
  28. Planet Of The Spiders

Introduction written by Earl Green

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