Jon Pertwee: The Beginning, End and In-Between (Part 2)
John Hussey concludes his review of several stories from the Pertwee era.
‘Day of the Daleks’
By Louis Marks (1972, 4 Episodes)
“The Daleks have discovered the secret of time travel. We have invaded Earth again. We have changed the pattern of history.”
‘Day of the Daleks’ holds a special place in my heart for being the first Jon Pertwee story I watched as a kid. Since then it has remained a classic in my eyes. Despite the problems some people have over this serial, I find it an entertaining narrative that holds up today. Louis Marks came up with an inventive idea using time paradoxes, something never done within Doctor Who at that time.
The idea that the future was in peril and freedom fighters from that tortured time wanted to return to the past to alter history was ingenious. Putting that to one side it’s always fun to watch episode one’s UNIT parts and seeing the investigation unfold over the mysterious attack on Sir Reginald Styles. Then of course for a rare moment we witnessed the Third Doctor enjoying some fine wine and cheese whilst waiting for the said assassins. And we can’t go without mentioning poor Sergeant Benton who got caught out by Captain Mike Yates whilst Jo tried offering the famished soldier some food.
The narrative itself, putting aside the presence of the Daleks, was an interesting one which revolves entirely around time and for the first time had the Doctor travel through the vortex without his TARDIS. The future could be changed through the means of killing Styles for crimes he will commit at a peace conference. However this event turned out to be false and it was the freedom fighters that caused their troubles in the first place through their act of stopping Styles, thus ultimately becoming a vicious circle. The Third Doctor must then go back and prevent the freedom fighters from killing an innocent man, causing the war that will bring about the destructive future. It’s a story that has merit and was well thought out.
The Daleks were added in later on during pre-production stages and over the years I can see why they don’t fully fit into the narrative well by not doing anything throughout. But needless to say their presence is still worth watching and they had some great dialogue. The introduction of their servant creatures the Ogrons proved to be a nice addition to their mythology and proved fierce throughout.
What I do love is the Daleks’ cunning plan of gaining time travel and changing the patterns of history. They really became dominant beings and a real threat to the Time Lords through their careless actions. We can’t forget their charge back to present-day in order to prevent their version of history changing at the hands of the Third Doctor. The march out of the tunnel, accompanied by that particular incidental music, still gives me chills to this very day. What lets this ending down sadly was the poor directing, making it less impressive than it should have been.
‘Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks’
By Malcolm Hulke & Terry Nation (1973, 12 Episodes)
“Unarmed maybe but not unaccompanied. I’ve brought some old friends along to meet you.”
I was tempted to review the terrific ‘The Green Death’ but my gaze was turned to this unique specimen instead. ‘Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks’ holds the place of being the only Classic episode that has two stories combined into one, similar to the two-parters of the modern age. It is a brilliant story but isn’t without its faults. My biggest disappointment with this tale is the fact that the two serials don’t intertwine with one another and instead seem like two separate stories placed together for necessity.
‘Frontier in Space’ holds the ground for being the better story due to its tense build up as to who is behind the war-mongering of Earth and Draconia. The two species displayed fear to one another which led to false accusations and friction between the mighty empires and their peaceful existence together. The Third Doctor and Jo were caught between this and both sides accused them for being spies for the other party. The Master’s involvement was a delight and he played against the Third Doctor and Jo perfectly, proving to be at his most insane by causing war through manipulation. The Ogrons made one last appearance on the show though sadly this time round they were portrayed less impressive, serving as idiotic henchmen for the Master’s dominance.
The greatest reveal for this story was the resolution that the Master was working for the Daleks in an attempt to aid their war efforts. Sadly this part of the tale was abandoned in ‘Planet of the Daleks’ due to it being its own story, with mere nods to the continuity of the previous serial. It meant that ‘Frontier in Space’ got an extremely rushed ending and a disappointing resolution for Roger Delgado’s Master.
Despite this, ‘Planet of the Daleks’ was indeed a fantastical adventure featuring the Daleks. For the first time since ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ Terry Nation penned the story and created a story that had his creations attempting to harness the power of invisibility, a notion that would’ve made them invincible against their enemies. One of the tragic elements of this serial was the factor of it resembling too much of the original Dalek story. The setting and certain segments, such as the bacterial bomb, were all rehashes and nothing original for the creatures. Saying that, since the serial was a part of the tenth anniversary season these notions payed a nice little homage to the past, particularly with the return of the Thals and them recognising the Doctor through the events of ‘The Daleks’, now deemed history within their legends.
In many ways I would’ve preferred ‘Planet of the Daleks’ to have been withheld another season to allow ‘Frontier in Space’ to continue its story in full but the end result wasn’t a bad one and told an impressive outing for the Daleks for Doctor Who’s tenth anniversary. Their ambitions were high again and their threat even higher. This tale is something of nostalgia in my mind and holds many vivid memories for me, especially the Master and the Daleks working together against the Third Doctor.
‘Planet of the Spiders’
By Robert Sloman (1974, 6 Episodes)
“I had to face my fear, Sarah… That was more important than just going on living… A tear, Sarah Jane? Don’t cry. While there’s life there’s… Hope…”
After five successful seasons the Third Doctor finally bowed out within this particular serial, but like Hartnell’s finale outing ‘Planet of the Spiders’ didn’t fully commit in giving Jon Pertwee a great farewell.
This serial was good in many ways but suffered with certain issues such as length, with the narrative often padding away to fulfil its time-slot of six parts. Also there was the over necessary chase scene in Part Two which, bless Pertwee, was there to allow the Third Doctor one final outing with his different vehicles. But when you think about it Lupton could’ve easily used his teleportation powers at any given time to escape the Third Doctor rather than allow the case to go on and on. Then tragically the CGI let some of the narrative down due to it being far too ambitious for the time and made the serial seem tacky within its believability.
The characters on Metebelis III were extremely bland and didn’t add much to the plot. Lupton as a villain was very unusual as his motives seemed far too high given his background, and he was underused and somewhat unnecessary as the narrative went on. One of my biggest grudges against this serial was the absence of UNIT. The Brigadier and Sergeant Benton proved useful within the beginning of the narrative but by Part Three had been totally abandoned for no apparent reasoning. It would’ve been nice to see the Brigadier and Benton join the Third Doctor onboard the TARDIS for his final adventure.
At least the Brigadier was present for the regeneration scene but by that point you feel like you’ve watched a completely different story between Part Two and Part Six due to his absence. Also Mike Yates was given some great scenes to redeem his character and grant him closure but like the Brigadier and Benton he was underused and became absent from the narrative, shamefully granted a rushed ending instead of a clean closure like he deserved.
What I will give credit for is the enemy. The Eight Legs, despite their poor effects, were challenging and different for the Third Doctor to face. The creatures resembled the very thing that most people are afraid of and to have large psychic spiders was something to be frightened of. It was horrifying to watch spiders actually in control of human minds and actually having them sacrificed to them for food. The Great One, though underused, proved to be the most dangerous spider of them all as its size and psychic projection managed to overcome even the Doctor. Watching him being controlled by the Great One was unsettling and for it to utter the mere idea of the Doctor being frightened was chilling.
I loved how his confrontation with the Great One brought about his downfall. This time it wasn’t a sudden unexpected death that killed him but a choice. This choice being that the Third Doctor had to face his fear and be punished for his greed for discovery. What cemented the Third Doctor’s regeneration was the knowledge that once he’d stolen the Metebelis crystal within ‘The Green Death’ his fate was sealed.
Th Doctor’s return at the end of Part Six was upsetting but happy at the same time through the knowledge that the TARDIS brought him home to die before his friends. What added to the scene was the Third Doctor’s happiness in knowing he faced his fear, achieving the highest victory at the cost of his own life. The Third Doctor’s mentor K’anpo aided him in the regeneration process, promising the Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith some erratic behaviour would follow.