The Third Doctor: Five Favourites
K-Ci Williams reverses the polarity and picks out five favourites from Jon Pertwee’s era.
July! It’s already time for another birthday. Just a month and a bit out from the premiere of the latest Doctor Who series, the Doctor that seems to have inspired Peter Capaldi’s costume has his birthday on this day. Sadly, the great Jon Pertwee is not with us anymore, but lives on in the hearts of millions as the Third Doctor. Pertwee’s era of the show entailed a Doctor sent to Earth following his exile – including the introduction of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.
Spearhead from Space
The first story featuring the Third Doctor and the first story to be produced in colour! What a momentous occasion for the show – considering it was still a long way off fifty years. Spearhead is an episode that I enjoyed for what my friends have criticised as ‘different.’ The mere introduction of our beloved Jon Pertwee was enough to steer me over the top; isn’t he just fantastic. Now, in terms of a typical Doctor Who monster – I rather enjoyed the Nestene Consciousness in 2005’s Rose, and was also rather happy to find it was the centrepiece villain of Spearhead.
With an interesting establishment of the plot through the opening scenes, things kicked off into more intriguing territory, particularly with my favourite and most fascinating moments – when a man with a new face claims to be the Doctor, whom Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart met some time ago. From the first scene in which she shared with the Brigadier, Liz Shaw was an instant success in my eyes, and I attribute much of my love for the Third Doctor’s era to her presence in the series. The non-physical intelligence villain of the Nestene was developed well, and the sequence of attacking the Auton plastic factory was interesting also. There is a very prolific shot from the serial; a menacing image of Autons in a street, made all the more terrifying in the show. Now these are only a few thoughts for Five Favourites – there is much more to write! What a great introduction for Jon Pertwee and his Doctor.
Carnival of Monsters
Wow, just absolutely fantastic. Such a well crafted plot isn’t it! It allows for build up of suspense and kept me guessing which is what was the driving force for my favouritism of the serial. Accidentally materialising on board a sinister ship that disappeared (already becoming interesting right!), The Doctor and Jo Grant become entangled in a circuit of repetition as people on the boat arrest them repeatedly – similar to if Captain Avery of The Curse of the Black Spot had repeatedly forgotten that 11 and the Ponds were on board and he decided to arrest them for being stowaways.
As always, it’s an adventurous performance from Pertwee as the Doctor-companion pair are attacked by large swamp-living creatures in a compression field of minimised environments and creatures. This is a serial which serves as a model for a very different, peculiar but utterly engaging and entertaining episode of Doctor Who. Particularly intriguing is Vorg – who’s story is full of politics. When the members of his tribunal are restless of his leadership, they plot to make him look bad to force his resignation as president. It’s politically suggestive still today, with some parts of the world today in political upheaval. And now, the word carnival: monsters, including Cybermen and Drashigs. Just an epic Third Doctor story!
The Green Death
Usually the first I hear or see of a classic serial is the DVD cover and possibly small clips; in which the most memorable part is a shot of greenly-lit worms (well what I thought were worms). It’s gruesome, but it also persuaded me to try my hand at the serial. This is yet another serial of the Third Doctor which speaks volumes about our society today – and despite the intriguing plot and engrossing maggots and everything great about this episode (which I’ll address first) I need to tell you about how this serial relates to us today (which I shall do last).
Now, you see, this story is magnificent – a Doctor that would rather go on a trip than help first, a resourceful Jo Grant and spectacular performances from these two actors: Pertwee and Manning. Those maggots are utterly disgusting (do you know what the production team made them out of in some cases?)! It was nice to see the UNIT crew again, one of the other contributors to my love for Pertwee’s era. But also, this story is relative to us here today. Jo and the environmentalist, surname Jones – speculate that a new oil plant claiming to have increased petrol and diesel production but minimal waste from the same amount of crude oil is incorrect. The process is chemically polluting the world around the Doctor – our precious Earth. And it’s essential that we realise that at some point, our oil converters will become desperate and the processes they use will become even less safe and more wasteful for our environment, spitting out pollutants. This serial makes the list not only for its amazing exposition but the eye opening ideas that spring to mind.
The Time Warrior
It’s no ordinary show is it, Doctor Who? Then again, neither is this list – you’ll notice that it is full of ‘firsts’ for me. In The Time Warrior, we are introduced to my most cherished companion in the fifty year history of Who – Sarah Jane Smith. From the side of Sarah Jane – she was an ambitious young journalist, disguised as her aunt. When scientists disappear from a laboratory, the Doctor and the UNIT team begin to investigate – bringing Sarah Jane into contact with the Doctor, as her ambition is at the core of her character from her establishment, (although her character is more filled with love and compassion further on) she stumbles onto the TARDIS with the Doctor.
Yet another great monster or villain, however you prefer to call them. This time, a potato dwarf: Linx the Sontaran, played so well with a raspy voice and grotesque fascination – the Sontaran race became an intriguing hit. I absolutely love this serial because it’s close to home. Sarah Jane is my favourite companion from the fifty year history of Who, and Elisabeth Sladen (who’s middle name I did not know was Clara) portrays her just flawlessly and with so much grace. Up next to Jon Pertwee the pair are just a delight.
A perceptively well written piece of television, including attempts to stop drilling into the Earth – another oil-related message for today – stop deep sea oil fracturing (or what we call fracking). I am speechless with this story as it changes location to a different universe. The atmosphere is very fearsome and eerie as characters yell to get dialogue across over drilling noise. A fascist world is built into this universe they occupy, but is it really far from our own? I guess the allusion of it being a parallel universe is that it is not that far from how we live.
Similar to Pete’s World of the modern era, the parallel universe in Inferno features different counterparts of characters we’ve come to know. A Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as a menacing bully in an eyepatch, it’s Courtney showing his strengths. An evil Liz Shaw is portrayed just magnificently by Caroline John – as a section leader clad in a skirt and boots. With the Doctor not able to save the Earth from the savage greed of some people – we as an audience realise that he has lost, game over. He can’t save everyone, can he? And it haunts us as an audience: Jon Pertwee steals the scenes here. And I can’t forgot that. Nor will I ever.
So there you have it! My five favourites for Jon Pertwee. May I ask, what are yours? Instead of evaluating my five and stating whether you agree or not, share with us your five favourites! It’s all good fun, and all for the great purpose of remembering the great Jon Pertwee – who we lost before I was even born, but will live on forever in our hearts, as the Third Doctor. And despite not having any relevance to this article except for the fact I’ve not mentioned it yet: reverse the polarity!