50th Anniversary Retrospective: The 3rd Doctor

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John Hussey continues his monthly retrospective, this time looking at the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee.

The Origins of the Third Doctor

Patrick Troughton decided to leave Doctor Who and his famous role as the ‘cosmic hobo’, due to him believing three years was a long time for a character actor. He loved the show and his role to bits, but thought that if he didn’t leave he would find it hard to do so later on, while at the same time regretting leaving because of his shared love for the show. Patrick also explained that he found it hard to switch off from the character off-screen and incorporated the Doctor’s behaviour into his own personality.

In 1969 while recording ‘The Navy Lark’ Jon Pertwee had a conversation with Tenniel Evans about Doctor Who. Within this conversation, Pertwee was told about the rumour of Troughton’s departure and this sparked Pertwee’s interest in going for the role. He rang up his agent, who wasn’t at first convinced Pertwee was right, and got him to contact the BBC. As it turned out, Pertwee was already on the short list of actors they had in mind to play the Third Incarnation and had been for quite some time. He was offered the role and Pertwee accepted.

It is fair to point out though that if Pertwee had taken the offer of becoming Captain Mainwaring in the popular comedy series ‘Dad’s Army’, then he wouldn’t have become The Third Doctor. The BBC wanted his Doctor to be ‘a bit of a joke telling minstrel’ to begin with, before developing later on. However, Pertwee wanted his Doctor to be played straight and he also wanted some real science within the stories. He also wanted the addition of fast cars, power boats, motor bikes and Aikido. It’s fair to say Pertwee got his wishes and in doing so gained the show a mass of adult audience members. Due to playing the role as himself (at the request of Producer Barry Letts), Pertwee grew to have a better understanding of himself.

Character Traits, Personality and Catchphrases


The Third Doctor, like his previous self, was a changed man in both appearance and personality. Due to his exile on Earth, the Third Doctor was very frustrated about his mistreatment and became arrogant from time-to-time, often getting into bickers with his friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart due to not agreeing with his military methods. The most famous argument was in ‘Inferno’ where he calls the Brigadier ‘a pompous, self opinionated idiot’ right before attempting an escape with his non-working TARDIS Console. A few minutes later, the Third Doctor returned to ask the Brigadier for help after the Console landed in a rubbish tip, to which he has to apologise for his harsh and rash words.

The Third Doctor especially hated politicians due to their lack of intelligence and idiotic methods of dealing with problems. He spent a lot of his time trying to escape his fate by taking the Console out of the TARDIS and repairing certain parts of its complicated circuitry, most famously the Dematerialisation Circuits, in order to try and travel in time and space again. In his first story, ‘Spearhead from Space,’ he tried on many occasions to escape in the TARDIS, at one point deceiving his assistant Liz Shaw to steal the TARDIS key from the Brigadier. He even used the Master in ‘The Claws of Axos’ in order to repair his TARDIS so he could land onboard the Axos ship, also hoping to escape his exile after placing the creatures in a time loop. But to his bad luck, he discovered he had become an intergalactic yo-yo for the amusement of the Time Lords. The Third Doctor was also quite fun from time to time, when he wasn’t grumpy, and enjoyed the friendship of the family around him at U.N.I.T.

He was the first incarnation to show signs of post-regeneration problems. Upon his arrival on Earth, the newly regenerated Third Doctor exited his ship and collapsed in the middle of some woods. He remained unconscious for some time and was sent to hospital, where U.N.I.T. watched over him. The Third Doctor disliked his features at first but soon found himself quite distinctive.

The Third Doctor wore very classy outfits and took on the image of a British spy. He was also the first incarnation to change the colour of his outfits, having many different variants of the same design. The Third Doctor continued his use of the Sonic Screwdriver and became a very hands-on incarnation using various gadgets and vehicles to aid in solving his investigations with U.N.I.T. and his battles in space. He became very fond of vintage vehicles and created his trusty car Bessie, which he used to drive around in throughout his adventures. It was even used to capture the Master in ‘The Daemons’, allowing U.N.I.T. to finally arrest him for his terrible deeds. In his final season, the Third Doctor gained a new vehicle called the Whomobile, which was essentially a hovercraft.

He was also very fond of hand-to-hand combat in order to get himself out of sticky situations. The amount of times the Third Doctor picked a fight with guards (both human and alien) and slung them over his shoulder is unbelievable. In ‘The Curse of Peladon’ he has to face King Peladon’s champion in a fight to the death. Another reoccurring habit was the use of his special technique Venusian Aikido which stunned enemies. The Third Doctor was certainly very adventurous and keen to stamp out evil wherever it was possible. He also delighted in trying to keep the peace and create unity. This is displayed in both of his trips to Peladon and of course when he tried to make an alliance between Humanity and the Silurians and the Sea Devils.

The Third Doctor grew very fond of his friends and assistants and continued to showcase his kind and caring nature from his previous incarnations. He was loyal to the Brigadier, and was very protective of his assistants. Although it has to be said he did often call his main assistant Jo Grant ‘stupid’. His relationship with his companions was very formal, especially with the likes of the Brigadier and co, and at times he took on the role of a teacher instructing them about the universe. At first he was fearful of Jo Grant due to her bumbling nature but quickly became fond of her. Like Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, the Third Doctor showed a sign of sadness towards the departure of Jo who had decided to leave behind her life with the Doctor and U.N.I.T. in pursuit of marrying Professor Clifford Jones. During their toast, the Third Doctor drinks his drink by himself in the background and quietly lets himself out of Cliff’s cottage and drives off in Bessie. It’s fair to say the Third Doctor grew very close to Jo, and started to foresee her departure upon her rejecting his offer to travel to Metebelis III earlier on in the story.

The Third Doctor developed a habit of using words such as ‘pompous’ and ‘nitwit’ to describe people, usually politicians or members of the military, he thought were idiots.

The Third Doctor’s most famous line, although he only ever said the full line once during his era and once more in The Fifth Doctor’s era, was of course ‘I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow’.

Era and Stories


The Third Doctor’s era was very James Bond, filled with gadgets, chases, fight sequences and Special Forces. With the shift to Earth-bound stories, due to budget reasons, the Third Doctor would spend the majority of his adventures on Earth helping out his old friends at U.N.I.T. against alien threats and corrupt humans. The era took on a very spy-themed style of storytelling, with the Third Doctor playing a more sophisticated and hands-on hero. He was the first Doctor to really start fighting in order to escape or solve a problem. The Third Doctor’s most trusted gadget was Bessie, which was introduced in ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ and was used throughout his adventures. The car even made a return during The Fourth Doctor era and The Seventh Doctor era; that’s how special it was to him.

The stories became very spy-based, with the Third Doctor having to go along and discover the root of the problems at hand. There was also a lot of political stories that involved government squabbles that would lead to a World War if the situation wasn’t resolved, usually leading to an alien incursion to try and provoke the debate in order to gain their own goals like The Master in ‘The Mind of Evil’ and the Daleks in ‘Day of the Daleks’. The other kind of political stories were ones set in space either involving the mistreatment of colonies and aliens by massive corrupt Earth corporations (‘Colony in Space’ and ‘The Mutants’) or the problems involving the alliance between the governments of Peladon and the Galactic Federation (‘The Curse of Peladon’ and ‘The Monster of Peladon’). Most of the stories involved the Third Doctor serving as U.N.I.T.s Scientific Advisor in order to help them out during their investigations. One of the reoccurring themes throughout this era was the Third Doctor and the Brigadier bickering over the choice of military order in which to solve the problem at hand. The Doctor in this incarnation became very rebellious and opinionated, especially when it came to the military mind.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Benton (now promoted to Sergeant) made a return and began to form the legendary U.N.I.T. family of this era, which would later have Jo Grant and Captain Mike Yates join and complete the family of characters. It became the Doctor’s family during his exile and these characters became the best of friends during their duties at U.N.I.T. as they battled against all kinds of alien invaders. The U.N.I.T. family lasted for three seasons. The breakdown began in ‘The Green Death’ when Jo Grant decided to leave in order to pursue a life with her soon-to-be husband Professor Clifford Jones. The following season would see both Mike Yates and the Third Doctor leave with the Brigadier, Sergeant Benton and U.N.I.T. slowly making their departure during the beginning of The Fourth Doctor’s era.

The running theme throughout Season Seven to Ten was the Third Doctor’s exile, which was forced upon him at the end of ‘The War Games’. Without any knowledge of how to use the TARDIS, the Third Doctor was stranded on Earth in one lonely time period. Although he got to help out and save the planet time and time again, the Third Doctor was very keen to escape his exile and tried on many occasions to repair the TARDIS or make a run for it, with each and every attempt foiled due to the Time Lord’s power. It wasn’t long though, the Third Doctor’s second season to be precise, before he was allowed to travel to planets again.

In Season Eight, the Third Doctor was sent by the Time Lords to Uxarieus in order to prevent the Master from possessing the Doomsday Weapon. This became a reoccurring theme throughout the following season, the ninth, where the Third Doctor was sent to Peladon and Solos in order to complete two further missions for the Time Lords. During his battle with Omega, the founder of time travel on Gallifrey, in ‘The Three Doctors’ the Time Lords offered the Third Doctor all the help he needed (knowing too well he was the only one that could save them and the universe from Omega’s threat), even to the point of sending him help from his previous incarnations The First and Second Doctor. Because of his good deeds during this adventure, the Time Lords finally forgave the Doctor and granted him his freedom, allowing him to once more travel in space and time in the TARDIS. U.N.I.T. stories by the time of Season Nine had become less, only two pair season, with Season Ten doing the same after The Third Doctor was allowed to travel in the TARDIS again. This didn’t stop The Third Doctor maintaining his role as Scientific Advisor and would return to his new home at U.N.I.T. HQ once his adventures in the TARDIS had come to an end.

Upon his lifted exile, the Third Doctor travelled to a few different alien planets. Here are those destinations and their allotted episode:

  • Inter Minor – ‘Carnival of Monsters’
  • Draconia – ‘Frontier in Space’
  • Spiridon – ‘Planet of the Daleks’
  • Metebelis III – ‘The Green Death’ and ‘Planet of the Spiders’
  • Exxilon – ‘Death to the Daleks’
  • Peladon – ‘The Monster of Peladon’

The Third Doctor also did a little bit of travelling back in time, continuing with the theme of having an alien threat instead of a historical figure. Here are those destinations and their allotted enemy:

  • Atlantis – Kronos
  • Medieval England – The Sontarans

The Third Doctor’s era was the first to include a story that used the idea of parallel worlds. In ‘Inferno’ a time experiment caused the Third Doctor to travel to a parallel Earth where Britain had become a dictatorship run by a Republic Government after the Royal Family were executed. Within the story, the Third Doctor foresaw the events of a drilling operation, which he was a part of in his own universe, and had to use the help of his friends’ alter-egos to get back to his own world in order to warn them of the approaching doomsday.



Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

After at first doubting the Third Doctor’ identity due to his change in appearance in ‘Spearhead from Space’, the Brigadier continued his loyal friendship with the Doctor. Though it is noted that the Brigadier argued more with the Third Doctor than his previous incarnation, he still retained the same characteristics and did the right thing when it came to it in order to save both the Earth and the Doctor from danger. The Brigadier finally stepped foot inside the TARDIS in ‘The Three Doctors’. At the end of ‘Planet of the Spiders’, the Brigadier sat by the third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith as he regenerated.

Liz Shaw

Shipped in from Cambridge at the request of the Brigadier due to her scientific knowledge, Liz Shaw ultimately aided U.N.I.T. after becoming the Third Doctor’s assistant. Liz was extremely clever and was able to help the Doctor out with all the scientific stuff, even to the point of doing it herself. She became very caring towards the Third Doctor and they formed a good working relationship. Liz eventually left U.N.I.T. off-screen after ‘Inferno’ in order to return to Cambridge.

Sergeant Benton

Benton returned in ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ now promoted as sergeant. He was a very loyal friend to the Third Doctor throughout their adventures together. Still slightly dim from time-to-time, but he was willing to lay his life on the line in order to do what was right. Along with the Brigadier, Sergeant Benton stepped inside the TARDIS for the first time in ‘The Three Doctors’. Surprisingly he was less sceptical about it than the Brigadier due to his acceptance of the strange and weird around the Doctor.

Jo Grant

After Liz left, the Third Doctor needed a new assistant. The Brigadier ultimately assigned the new girl Jo Grant to the role in ‘Terror of the Autons’, with The Third Doctor disapproving at first due to her bumbling nature. Although not always bright, Jo was very loyal to the Third Doctor and also proved very useful when it came to escapism. She travelled in the TARDIS for the first time in ‘Colony in Space’ during the Time Lords’ errand and would go on to travel to Peladon, Solos, Inter Minor, Draconia and Spiridon over the course of her time with the Doctor. In ‘The Green Death’ she fell in love with Professor Clifford Jones and accepted his proposal of marriage.

Captain Mike Yates

Captain Mike Yates was first seen in ‘Terror of the Autons’ and like Sergeant Benton was a loyal friend to the Third Doctor through their investigations at U.N.I.T.. In ‘The Time Monster’ he was injured by an attack by the Master and placed on medical leave during the events of ‘The Three Doctors’ and so didn’t enter the TARDIS. In ‘The Green Death’ he was hypnotised by BOSS to kill the Third Doctor, and nearly the Brigadier in the process, but was saved by the Doctor’s Metebelis crystal. Due to those events, he eventually became corrupt and attempted to aid General Finch, Professor Whitaker and Sir Charles Grover complete Operation Golden Age. The Brigadier retired him with Mike ultimately visiting a mediation centre to sort himself out which led to his last investigation with the Third Doctor in ‘Planet of the Spiders’.

Sarah Jane Smith

During an investigation in ‘The Time Warrior’ where scientists were going missing, journalist Sarah Jane Smith sneaked in using her auntie’s identity and ultimately her curiosity sent her travelling to Medieval England after stowing away in the TARDIS. After defeating the Sontarans and returning the scientists to modern-day Earth, Sarah Jane finally began to trust the Third Doctor, who she thought at first was the enemy, and then helped U.N.I.T. battle against Dinosaurs and a global conspiracy before being offered an official place onboard the TARDIS. After having a few trips in the TARDIS, she joined the Third Doctor for his final journey and sat by his side as he regenerated.

Encountered Villains and Monsters


The Autons

After all the different segments of the Nestene Consciousness landed on Earth in ‘Spearhead in Space’, an invasion was put into motion as Nestene Agent Channing built an army of plastic creatures known as Autons to serve their master. They attempted to replace members of governments with plastic duplicates, but when the Third Doctor and U.N.I.T. intervened, the Nestene Consciousness activated a signal to awaken every piece of plastic to life in order to take over the Earth. The Third Doctor managed to kill the Nestene Consciousness and Channing but he anticipated that the other members of the Nestene would be aware of their defeat and would eventually try to invade Earth again. In ‘Terror of the Autons’ The Master attempted to build his own army of Autons and tried to form an alliance with the Nestene via killer plastic troll-dolls, couches and deadly suffocating daffodils. Ultimately he was persuaded by the Third Doctor to not allow the Nestene entry to Earth and their plans for invasion were once again prevented by the Doctor.

The Silurians

Within ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ it was discovered that an intelligent reptilian race known as the Silurians lived during the age of the Dinosaurs. Due to their fear of destruction via an incoming object, which later turned out to be the Moon coming into orbit with the Earth, they went into hibernation. Upon their awakening, some of them were furious to see the Earth overrun with apes and decided to do something about it. The struggle resulted in the murder of the current chief and the slaughter of thousands of Humans via a virus created by the Silurians. The Third Doctor tricked them back into hibernation, but they were destroyed afterwards by the Brigadier due to the fears of them trying again to eradicate Humanity.

The Master

The Master is a renegade Time Lord like the Doctor, but unlike the Doctor he delights in chaos, destruction and, above all, control of power. The Master’s first outing within ‘Terror of the Autons’ left U.N.I.T. battling against his own personal army of Autons as he tried negotiating with the Nestene to complete greater conquest. Throughout Season Eight, the Master terrorised the Third Doctor, Jo and U.N.I.T. via his dark schemes of conquest and power, usually resorting to him making alliances with other aliens or creatures of destructive wisdom. During ‘Colony in Space’, The Master attempted to use the Doomsday Weapon but was intervened by the Time Lords via sending The Third Doctor in to prevent his actions. He was ultimately captured in ‘The Daemons’ and arrested for his crimes. In ‘The Sea Devils’ however, The Master managed to manipulate his governor and escaped to complete his plans of using the Sea Devils to provoke a war between them and Humanity. He managed to escape unscathed at the end of the battle.

The Master returned again in ‘The Time Monster’, this time trying to harness the power of the great time god Kronos, but ultimately caused the destruction of the ancient city of Atlantis. The Master returned one last time during ‘Frontier in Space’ where he tried to provoke a war between Humanity and the Draconians to aid the Daleks’ conquest of the galaxy. He saved the Third Doctor from extermination in an attempt to make him suffer by forcing him to watch the Daleks’ victory. The Third Doctor escaped, but not before the Master shot him and escaped into the shadows. The Master was truly the Third Doctor’s great nemesis.

The Daleks

After a long break, the Daleks finally returned in ‘Day of the Daleks’ where it was discovered they had again invaded the Earth. Guerrillas from the future attempted to change their fate by travelling to the past and killing the one responsible. It turned out they created their own future via a deadly paradox and the Third Doctor managed to rectify it. But this was not before the Daleks attempted to prevent him with a massive battle erupting between the deadly creatures and U.N.I.T.. They were ultimately destroyed and the future was saved.

It was revealed in ‘Frontier in Space’ that they had employed The Master as their agent in an attempt to aid their conquest of the galaxy. The Third Doctor interfered but as he discovered in ‘Planet of the Daleks’, they were more than prepared for a minor setback. On the planet Spiridon they had a secret army frozen within the ice caves and were attempting to experiment with the natives abilities of invisibility. Ultimately with the aid of the Thals, their experiments were put to an end and the army was once again resealed in their frozen tomb.

They returned in ‘Death to the Daleks’ were they attempted to find the cure to a deadly space virus and became trapped on the planet Exxilon with The Third Doctor and a Human space expedition. Momentarily the Daleks became powerless and were forced to make an alliance with their greatest enemy before finally gaining the upper hand with some miner weapon replacements. They were eventually destroyed by one of the humans who snuck onboard their ship with an explosive.

The Ogrons

These ape-like creatures were deadly mercenaries for hire, used namely by the Daleks as servants during their conquest of the galaxy. During the Daleks invasion of Earth in ‘Day of the Daleks’, they were used as police to make sure humanity were kept in their place and didn’t resist the Daleks power. The Master later used them as helpers during his plans to provoke Earth and Draconia into going to war with each other within ‘Frontier in Space’. They are simple creatures, but are still quite deadly killing machines with superior strength. Their biggest fear is of course the Daleks, their deadly masters.

The Ice Warriors

The Martian warriors made a return in ‘The Curse of Peladon’ were they were revealed to be peacekeepers as part of the mighty Galactic Federation during negotiations between their Federation and the government of Peladon. Upon their return in ‘The Monster of Peladon’, a rogue batch of Ice Warriors attempted to take control of Peladon during a war between the Federation and Galaxy 5 in an attempt to gain control over a vital power- source to which was only found on Peladon. In doing so, they would’ve given Galaxy 5 the advantage within the war but they were prevented by the Third Doctor and ultimately killed.

The Sea Devils

Like their distant cousins the Silurians, the Sea Devils were prehistoric creatures from the age of the Dinosaurs who went into hibernation due to their fears of the end of the world, ultimately revealed as the Moon coming into orbit. Again like the Silurians, they awoke from their sleep with an urge to rid the Earth from the species of ape. They had the misfortune of coming into contact with the Master who manipulated them into waging war against Humanity for his own purposes of revenge, pushing away any hope the Third Doctor had of making peace. The Sea Devils were eventually all thought to be killed.


In ‘The Three Doctors’ Omega was revealed to be the founder of Time Travel on Gallifrey via his experiments with super-novas to generate the power required to make the theory a reality. The experiments unfortunately cost him his life and sanity after he was trapped on the other side of the super-nova during a crucial experiment. While the Time Lords evolved and became gods of time, Omega felt cheated and abandoned by his comrades and sought to seek revenge on his race. With his will power to live, he created a world within the dimension of anti-mater and began his plans to drain Gallifrey of all its power. The Time Lords sent the first three incarnations of the Doctor to stop him. It was revealed during the confrontation that Omega no longer existed in a physical form due to anti-matter eroding his matter and merely existed via his will. In the end, the only way to stop him was by tricking him with a gift which contained a piece of unconverted matter, a process everyone went through to enter Omega’s world, and the different matters collided and destroyed Omega and his dimension. Omega was thought to have been destroyed and at last given his luxury of peace and escape.

The Sontarans

The deadly clone race were first introduced in ‘The Time Warrior’ were Commander Linx of the Fifth Sontaran Battle Group crashed landed in Medieval England. He met up with ruthless warrior Irongron and promised to build him deadly weapons in return for shelter and a place for him to repair his ship. Linx then began to steal scientists from the 20th Century that led to U.N.I.T. to investigate, ultimately leading to The Third Doctor travelling back to prevent Linx from escaping and allowing Irongron to change the future with his futuristic weaponry.

The Three Most See Episodes

  • 3. ‘Day of the Daleks’
  • 2. ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’
  • 1. ‘Inferno’

Special Mentions to:

  • ‘Spearhead from Space’
  • ‘Terror of the Autons’
  • ‘The Daemons’
  • ‘The Sea Devils’
  • ‘Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks’
  • ‘The Green Death’
  • ‘Planet of the Spiders’

First Words

“Shoes. Must find my shoes.”

The Incarnation Speech

“Ah, you my friend. You may be a very brilliant scientist but you have very little understanding of people. Particularly yourself. Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway. Just as you did.”

Famous Last Words

“A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don’t cry. While there’s life there’s…”

The Regeneration

The Third Doctor regenerated in ‘Planet of the Spiders’ after being exposed by the radioactive Metebelis crystals. This all started back in ‘The Green Death’ when the Third Doctor stole a special crystal during his trip to the planet Metebelis III. He gave it to his assistant Jo Grant as a wedding present at the end of that story and upon her sending it back to him in ‘Planet of the Spiders’ the Third Doctor was thrown into an adventure which led to him realising that the Great One, the leader of the Eight Legs, wished to use the crystal’s powers to control the universe.

It became apparent to the Third Doctor, after his talk with K’anpo Rimpoche (the Doctor’s former mentor back on Gallifrey), that his greed for knowledge caused this chain of events and so he must return to Metebelis III to not only stop The Great One, but to also face his fears of spiders. By entering the lair of the Great One, the Third Doctor was exposed to a high and deadly concentration of radiation, but managed to defeat The Great One and the Eight Legs after the crystal caused an overload in her web of power. The Third Doctor managed to escape and returned to his laboratory at U.N.I.T. HQ some weeks later in order to say goodbye to his assistant Sarah Jane Smith and good friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He momentarily died but with the help of the newly regenerated K’anpo, the Third Doctor was given the nudge to regenerate. With a warning that the new Doctor would be slightly erratic, Sarah Jane and the Brigadier watched on as the Doctor changed his face once again…