The third Doctor's era
The Tory's Timelord? by John Riordan Updated 25/11/97
Among Doctor Who fandom there is a wide range of opinions about the different Doctors. It seems that only the two Bakers are more or less immune from "controversy," Tom being universally praised and Colin being unanimously panned. With the others more of a critical grey area exists, and Jon Pertwee's is surely the most intense shade.
No other Doctor, it seems, has more staunch defenders and heartfelt critics. The latter group generally base their criticism of the Third Doctor on the belief that he was an "establishment" figure, and therefore an unwelcome variation on a character who is essentially an anarchic renegade. They argue that his association with the military and other groups was a complete compromise of a show whose premise was based on a wandering adventurer who is always sceptical of authority.
I'm at odds with these efforts to politicize a TV character. The Doctor is a figure for people of all opinions and convictions. He has no politics in the sense that we know them, and his beliefs are ones we all agree on.
The Third Doctor in particular could be said to encompass this ideal; he saw good qualities in a wide variety of people and positions. He never arbitrarily rejected either authority or rebellion, but based his judgment on each individual case. This open-mindedness makes him, in my opinion, the most complex and subtle of all of our favorite Timelord's incarnations. He knew that blind opposition was just as dangerous as blind obedience.
One of the best actors to play the Doctor! by Cody Salis 27/6/97
I must agree with John Riordan on Jon Pertwee. When I first started watching Doctor Who, I saw Tom Baker. I did like his style and humor, however he constantly used the jelly babies to get out of trouble. Jon on the other hand knew when he could not back his way out of trouble and tried to use common sense to throw his enemies off. He was always using gadgets and every so often he would invent something new to use against the Master, The Daleks, and any other foe he would face.
One instance I can remember was in his last adventure Planet of the Spiders. After Sarah was captured by the spiders, the people of Metabelis 3 helped the Doctor retrieve his machine that would help stop the spiders using their staves to hurt or kill people. One of the sons of Sabor asked the Doctor, (who was eating to regain his strengh). "Are you going to help us, or just sit there eating broth?" The Doctor replied, "I wanted to see what I was facing at first, now I know what I am up against."
Jon Pertwee will go down in history as one of the best ever to play the Doctor. I will miss him, but I have a few of his adventures to remember him by.
If Only They Had Dropped the James Bond Schtik by Dennis McDermott 10/11/97
Choosing your favorite Doctor is a bit like choosing a flavor of ice cream at Baskins-Robbins -- except for a clunky flavor or two (sorry, Colin), you can never really be sure you've made the right choice.
Such it is with Doctor Who -- only one Doctor has been not been reviewed yet in this page (William Hartnell) and even the only one that has received any heavy criticism (Colin Baker) has his defenders. Which is why I want to make this clear: I like the Third Doctor. I like him a lot. Handsome, debonair, witty -- he is the essence of a gentleman. Not just a Victorian gentlemen, but a gentleman for any age or situation. He is in many ways the most likeable and certainly the most approachable of all the Doctors.
I just wish they hadn't put that James Bond element to his character. Besides Pertwee's being a little too old to successfully pull it off, it tended to put him in situations that ended up being a drag on the story. As soon as I see Pertwee rushing into Bessie (or a helicopter...or a jet ski...or a hovercraft...or a motorcycle) I either hit the fast forward button or saunter off to the kitchen to make a sandwich as I know nothing of significance will happen for at least 5-10 minutes while a tensionless chase unfolds. Compare any chase scene with Pertwee in it to any chase scene in any James Bond movie and you'll see what I mean. Even the Venusian Akido got a little ridiculous at times.
Ironically, what Pertwee excelled at wasn't action, it was relationships. Whether it was his companions or his enemies (e.g. the Master), he established a rapport that no other Doctor could match. He might get distracted, he might on occasion been thoughtless, but he was never mean or rude. He's the type of person I hope my daughter brings home someday.
A Hero in Life and Fiction by James Peterson 13/6/98
Jon Pertwee is my favourite of the Doctors. He was the first I saw when channel 17 out of Philadelphia ran season 7 in 1974. Doctor #3 I feel is the best because he embodied many things I like. He was a warrior for truth and justice in words and deeds. He was always an impeccable gentleman of the old and new school who charmed nearly everyone. He always kept his manners even against his enemies, and took them on in a gentlemanly fashion. (As a fencer, his fight with the Master is of special significance to me.) Although he tended to jump to conclusions, he always got it right in the end. He was also a bit of a sentimentalist. Of the Doctors Who, Pertwee's was most like a mentor to his companions and allies.
My choice of Doctor #3 is coloured by the fact he was my first and the fact I greatly admired Jon Pertwee. Since I first read Moon Boots and Dinner Suits (15 years ago), I have come to regard him as a personal hero. One day I too shall sport the Inverness Coat.
I only met him once July 19, 1983. After I received his autograph, I asked him: "Tell me, should I reverse the polarity of the neutron flow?" He smiled warmly and replied, "Oh that horrible line. I never could remember it." He went on to tell me that he actually created a little song to help him remember the line. Unfortunately, he once actually sang it on camera and thus gave the cast and crew a hearty laugh.
I shall always remember him fondly, and his death in 1996 came as a truly personal blow.
Middling by Rob Matthews 21/8/00
Granted, I don't have the frame of reference that many of the reviewers here do, but it seems odd to me that so many reviews of Doctor No.3 have taken such a defensive tone; especially since, on this site at least, there's no real criticism of Pertwee's Doctor.
So I thought I'd chime in with a review that's not exactly negative, but not glowing with praise as others have been. I think the third Doctor's era was one of the show's most distinctive, but it has very little appeal for me. I think Pertwee was a fine actor, but he's not my favourite Doctor. I'm adding this review not because I hate the 3rd Doctor and his era, but because I'm indifferent to it. I'm always interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of Who, the rationale of one season compared to the next, but not always in what turns up on screen. For the most part, I find that to be the case with the Pertwee years.
Several reviewers here have mentioned Colin Baker for some reason. Perhaps that's because if you compare and contrast any two Doctors, the 3rd and 6th are the two who appear most utterly different (unlike, say, Troughton and McCoy, who are easier to think of as the same man).
Now, I don't absolutely loathe Jon Pertwee's Doctor, and I'm glad he played the part because his interpretation contributed to the overall richness of the character. It's just that if I were to make a list of my favourite Doctors he'd end up at the bottom. From what I know of him, Jon Pertwee was a thoroughly nice, thoroughly thoughtful man, a good comic actor and a surprisingly un-comic Doctor, but - like Peter Davison (though for very different reasons) - he's just never felt like the Doctor to me.
In response to the argument that Pertwee's Doctor was too much of an 'Establishment' figure, John Riordan says he's at odds with efforts to politicise a TV character. But for me, the Doctor's status as an 'anarchic renegade' is the most important thing about this TV character. Because for a Doctor to really seem like the Doctor, I have to able to imagine that he, this one, would have left his society in the first place. And the only two Doctors who don't pass this test are Pertwee and Davison. Davison would have thought about it but then not bothered, and Pertwee would have compromised - perhaps as a roving ambassador of some kind. Hell, he'd probably have ran for president. Willingly.
For me, Pertwee's Doctor just doesn't have the basic element of mischief that makes the character likeable. Despite his gadgets and whatnot, he comes across as staid.
A quick compare and contrast exercise-
William Hartnell - The chinks in his armour are more obvious, and more humorous. He's more of an antihero, and his character developed more over the course of his tenure than Pertwee's did.
Patrick Troughton - He's funnier, he's a more unlikely hero. He has that 'space vagrant' look which encapsulates the Doctor's character. But he's pretty cunning underneath it all, and so comes across as both more innocent and more devious than Pertwee's Doctor.
Tom Baker - Well, I don't think I'm going to surprise anyone by pointing out that Tom is funnier too. He's also more alien, less predictable.
Peter Davison - A more fallible Doctor. In contrast with Baker, he's very 'human', and through most of his era it's almost like watching a group of companions travelling through space and time without a Doctor on board. Which is an interesting change, if nothing else. His final story redeems his era and makes it more interesting in retrospect.
Colin Baker - Again, this is a Doctor who's not as great as he thinks he is. He's pompous, but the bluster never fools us. Full-on arrogance is easier to ignore than subtle arrogance, if you see what I mean. He uses violence when he needs to, when his life is endangered, but contrary to what people think, never just waltzes out of the Tardis and starts battering people. When he does get violent, however, at least he doesn't use those cartoony Venusian martial arts - a 'Zap! Pow!' cop-out which mars the Pertwee years.
Sylvester McCoy - Something of an evolved super-Doctor, the same old peculiar vagrant working on a grander scale. For the first time, the Doctor's actions match my conception of what a Time Lord's real concerns would be. It's amazing that it took the show twenty-five years to tap this potential.
Now I look at this list, I think it's the lack of extremity in Pertwee's character that prevents me from really taking to him. Tom is alien, Peter is human. Peter is vulnerable, Colin is full of himself. Colin's pompous but a bit of an oaf, Sylvester is unassuming but powerful. Pertwee is somewhere in the middle of all these things. He's perhaps too reliable.
Come back Jon all is forgiven by Garrett McGovern 7/12/00
Being born in 1968 Tom Baker should've been my favourite Doctor. I was six when Jon Pertwee lay on the floor of UNIT HQ with his body ravaged by the Metabelis crystals. (For years I honestly believed that the Doctor was bitten by a giant spider until I re-viewed the story courtesy of a fifth generation Australian (ABC) pirate copy! Oh how the memory cheats.)
Pertwee went onto host 'Whodunnit' and I was devastated. Unlike my contemporaries I just couldn't get used to Tom Baker. His erratic behaviour in his opener Robot did nothing to endear me to him. The fact newly regenerated Timelords behave this way was a plot detail that was lost on this six year old. The new fella was an eejit and that was that. I remember watching The Brain of Morbius and the mind challenge. I was convinced that the Doctor was going to change again. I was urging Morbius on. How sad is that? My hero and I wanted him dead. I wanted Jon back.
I eventually conceded that he was never going to come back and that I was stuck with Tom. The funny thing is I actually love Tom Baker and it's only as the years passed and the general decline of the series that I realised how good Tom was. In the old days repeats were as rare as hen's teeth. The early memories took on greater significance; the memory cheated.
In 1981 'The Five faces of Doctor Who' season strengthened my claim that the early 70's were the best in the show's history.
Well,is the Pertwee era as good as I thought it was all those years ago? YES, however Tom's first three seasons are outstanding, his last three awful. I've taped all of Tom's later stuff from UK Gold and I still can't sit through any of it. The same cannot be said of Jon's stories (ok, ok I concede, The Mutants gets the stop button at episode two!)
"Smith. Doctor John Smith." by Joe Ford 20/7/02
If I were to ask Joe Bloggs on the street which Doctor Who they remember it would more then likely be a tie between Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee. They were in the role during the height of its popularity, the ratings during their periods were consistently excellent and they both revolutionalised the show by simply appearing in it. But is it just down to their popularity? What of the actor himself? Or the stories?
Several years ago I would have put Jon Pertwee at the bottom of my favourite Doctors list thanks to The Three Doctors and The Time Monster alone. He seemed brutish, arrogant, selfish and rude... all the critisisms that were levelled at Colin Baker, my all time favourite. How wrong was I!
Jon Pertwee is the most underated Doctor. Period. people are always going on about how formulaic his time was, how pathetic he was with his vensusian karate and stupid chase scenes but people forget just how shocking this new formula was in 1970. To have a Doctor grounded on earth, not flitting through time, forced to commit himself to a military organisation... it was just not seen before. And Troughton and Hartnell for all their abruptness were never as deeply unlikable as Pertwee, possibly because of his stature and sarky voice. Take a look at the Doctor's behavior in The Mind of Evil at the Keller process... he interupts, talks throughout, is arrogant, rude and vain... not your typical Doctor is it? And Pertwee played the part with such relish. It was brave and it was compelling.
That's not to say that he wasn't kind and compassionate, far from it but it made his gentler moments all the more enjoyable. Some of Pertwee's more memorable moments are his sweeter scenes such as the gorgeous moments at the end of both The Curse of Peladon and Planet of the Daleks where he realises Jo has strong feelings for these guys and isn't able to cope with her feelings or his... Pertwee plays this uncertainy so well and it brings a tear to the eye to think of her upcoming departure is eminent for this very reason.
A man of action, he lights up the screen whenever he appears. His era has some of the best choreographed fights in the show's history and Pertwee enters into the spirit of them with real gusto. His fight with Grun in Curse of Peladon is stark and brutal, his scrapes with Irogron in his courtyard in The Time Warrior just reminds you of how much fun he was having and of course the long chase scenes in Invasion of the dinosaurs and Planet of Spiders look great.
A lot of people say his performances get worse as he goes along and I want to go on record to say it simply is not true. I have recently re-watched season eleven and I can cheerfully say he is as sharp as ever. His scenes with Linx (The Time Warrior) are thought provoking and dramatic, his journey through the City of Exillon (Death to the Daleks) is real entertainment and who can ever forget that tear jerking sequence just before he re-generates ("A tear Sarah-Jane"). In fact re-watching I was genuinely surprised how well Sladen and Pertwee work together, a great mixture of intelligence and action. Great stuff.
But of course it is the sumptuous Katy Manning who fires up Pertwee like no other. Jon beautifully plays their opening scenes "Oh no!" but by the end of Terror of the Autons you can tell they already have a great affection for each other. By the end of the next story Jo has already shed a tear for the Doctor believing he was dead. Come season ten they have such a watchable chemistry I couls easily sit through dreck like The Three Doctors to watch them. Carnvial of Monsters and The Green Death show them at their absolute peak... working together, laughing together, crying together... the loss of Jo is perhaps the toppest moment of the entire era, reducing me to tear everytime they say goodbye ("I've got all of space to show you, and time... I'm offering them to you...?") He just cannot bear to lose his best friend and would offer her anything to make her stay. the final shot of Pertwee walking up to Bessie and driving of into the sunset as everbody celebrates Jo's engagement is very touching.
The day I learnt of Jon Pertwee's death I was upset but only to have lost another Doctor. The death of the great actor meant nothing to me. re-watching his stories I had a sudden sense of loss. It was overpowering. I yearned to have met the great man. Sparkling moments made his loss even more upsetting....
Five top Pertwee moments. Watch and admire.
5) "Would you stop referring to me as the creature sir! Or I may become increasingly hostile!" Only Pertwee could get verbally angry with somebody as in Carnival of Monsters and yet stay very polite. Funny stuff.
4) "You're caught in a temporal paradox!" Day of the Daleks. A superb moment, made that bit more dramatic thanks to Jon's terrific performance.
3) "It was the daisyest daisy" The Time Monster, A wonderful quiet moment in a horrible story proving Jon can underplay just as well.
2) "I haven't got a pass! Because I don't believe in them that's why not!" Always flouting authority and doing it with style!
1) "I've had just about enough of this pompous military idiot!" The climax to his first season and Jn plays up a great moment of comedy. His return through the doors covered in hay is hysterical!
So there you have it. Jon Pertwee. A superb actor and a superb Doctor. I discovered his true talent after he had passed away and he provided me with hours of fun and excitement. He made me glad that I was a fan. There is nothing more to say. God bless you Jon.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 1/8/02
The most flamboyant and elegant incarnation of the Doctors as played by Jon Pertwee, the Third has a lot to offer, despite coming in for a bit of a bashing by some quarters of fandom. The best way to describe him would be as a flawed hero; always striving for a peaceful resolution but rarely acheiving it. There are two characteristics that strike me, the first being his compassionate side, when he would try to be democratic whether it was with the Silurians and Sea Devils, or pleading that The Master be spared as in The Time Monster. The other characteristic is that with which he is most associated the man of action, James Bond role. Whether he is employing Venusian Aikido to a foe or giving chase in Bessie. This is where Jon Pertwee brings much of himself to the role, minus his comedy background. For the most part this works, although sometimes the action overshadows the story; Planet Of The Spiders part 2 springs to mind. This is however what made the Third Doctor and is how I think of him.
A Review by Tom Eaton 20/8/02
When reviewing any of the Doctors it is impossible to separate the actor from the era of the show during which he played the role. Inevitably, an assessment of the actor playing the lead role will depend on the reviewer's assessment of the entirety of the Doctor Who program during the relevant time period. As a result, the lead actor will receive the lion's share of the credit for successes and the blame for failures. While this is sometimes unfair to the actor, the casting of the lead is itself an important component of the overall direction of the show, and as he settles in to the role the scripts will tend to play to his strengths and his particular characterization of the part. This review, therefore, is as much about the Pertwee era as it is about Jon Pertwee's Doctor. To even speak of the Pertwee era is misleading, for as other reviewers have discerned, there were three distinct periods during Pertwee's reign: Season Seven, Season Eleven, and the three seasons in-between.
Season Seven is one of the most praised in the program's history, and it's easy to see why. There were only four stories, but they were long and elaborately plotted though not actually complicated. UNIT, which had appeared several times during the Troughton years, became a regular feature of the show and at this point was still portrayed as a competent organization, and the Brigadier a competent soldier and commander. The new companion, Liz Shaw, was one of the few companions who didn't spend all her time getting captured, screaming in terror, and asking "What is it, Doctor?" every five minutes.
All the Season Seven stories were confined to Earth and included UNIT. This was a confining format, but introduced a familiarity with the setting and characters that worked, a format which the program only very gradually broke away from. Of the four stories produced in the season, two (Inferno and The Silurians) are classics, and a third (The Ambassadors of Death) is good. I personally disliked Spearhead from Space, but I seem to be in the minority.
The following seasons, however, were a nearly complete reversal of the Season Seven formula. Some of this was unavoidable. Eventually the Doctor had to break away from Earth some of the time or the stories would have become too predictable. There are only so many times viewers will accept the Alien-Race-Invades-Earth story. Moving some stories away from Earth lessened the role of UNIT and restored some of the wonder of the Doctor exploring the universe.
The change of companions from the intelligent scientist Liz Shaw to the dolly-bird Jo Grant was the most visible change in focus. The other changes were that UNIT was emasculated, the Brigadier gradually degenerated into a lovable bumbler, and the Master was introduced as a semi-regular villain.
In retrospect it seems clear that there was a conscious decision to re-orient the show toward the child viewer. Doctor Who was supposed to be a children's show, after all. After Season Seven we would no longer have morally ambiguous endings like in The Silurians. Instead the Doctor would play the protective father to Jo, who represented the frightened child viewer, and do battle with the Master, who wore black and had a fu-manchu mustache just to make sure there was no confusion as to who the bad guy was.
In Pertwee's final season Jo Grant was replaced by Sarah Jane Smith, and Roger Delgado had died so the Master never appeared. The show tried to appeal more to adults, but the transition was never complete until after Tom Baker took over the lead role.
The child-oriented seasons are easy to criticize. The stories were not bad, with a few exceptions, but it was a very simple formula. Jo would get into trouble, and the Doctor would get her out of it; the Master would try to take over the universe, and the Doctor would stop him, making a moralistic speech along the way. Having said that, I find no fault with this era of the program, even though it was not as good as Season Seven or the Holmes/Hinchcliffe era during the Tom Baker years. The stories were simple, yes, but on a basic level the whole thing worked. The Doctor saved the companion and defeated evil, and this is the simple morality play that Doctor Who is all about. It was the show getting too far away from this simple formula in later years that contributed to the decline of the program. It is all well and good to have interesting companions and complicated, challenging stories, but at the end of the day what the audience wants to see happen--or at least what I want to see happen--is for the Doctor to save his likable companion and for good to triumph over evil. That's what these stories did so very well.
Regarding Jon Pertwee and the way he played the Doctor, I remember him saying that when the BBC interviewed him about the role it was suggested that he play it as he had played some of his previous comedic roles. If he had done so, we might have ended up with a taller, grayer Pat Troughton. Fortunately he went another direction, although occasionally that side of him did show itself in his silly songs and hilarious facial expressions.
Pertwee was an unusually physical Doctor, which seemed a bit out of place given his age. More than that, having the Doctor running around frantically and getting into hand-to-hand combat fairly often contradicted one of the signature attributes of the Doctor as a television hero: solving problems with diplomacy and wits rather than brawn. Even in Doctor Who there's nothing wrong with having action sequences now and then, but they became a bit of a crutch during the Pertwee years. Long, often pointless chase scenes were used as padding to fill out stories that didn't have enough material to complete six episodes. It may also have been part of the larger idea of making Doctor Who more of a children's series by having something uncomplicated that the children could relate to even if they didn't understand the rest of the plot. In any event, Pertwee's era is justifiably criticized for going a bit too far in this area.
The characterization of the Doctor's personality was primarily as a sort of aristocrat who stood proudly erect and gave indignant speeches. The costume, consisting of a series of frilly shirts, smoking jackets, and capes, reinforced this image. Many commentators object to this characterization on the grounds that it made the Doctor seem pompous and conceited.
Given the overall direction of the show at the time, however, Pertwee's characterization was just the right fit. I wonder if his patrician manners might be more palatable to an American like myself than to the typical British viewer. Here in the U.S. even the most privileged often attempt to portray themselves as everyday citizens, or "regular guys" because it is considered elitist for anyone to proclaim themselves morally superior to anyone else. It sounds egalitarian, but the problem is that people who take the moral high ground become indistinguishable from those who don't, and moral stances are cynically viewed as mere reflections of personal interest. To Pertwee's detractors, the Third Doctor seems vain and consumed with his own importance. His supporters on the other hand probably find it refreshing to hear the lead character say lines like "I intend to put an end to this shameful business," as he did in Carnival of Monsters. It's a corny line, but that's part of its charm. If bombastic posturing bothers you regardless of the situation, you're probably never going to like Pertwee's Doctor, and that's fine. For the rest of us, there's no better place for moralistic speechmaking than Doctor Who.
A Review by Trevor Lawson 3/3/03
Jon Pertwee's Doctor evokes a wide range of reactions from Doctor Who fans. Some love him, some hate him, and others are indifferent towards him. The last review was by an American, like myself, and I think that he's on to something. Pertwee appeals to Americans, who see him completely different than our British counterparts. I also like the Third Doctor, In fact, he's probably my favorite. It wasn't always that way, of course. Tom Baker was the only Doctor I had seen when I first had the chance to see the Pertwee episodes on PBS. It was a shocking departure, mainly because he was much older, and the stories contained a higher degree of moralizing than the Fourth Doctor serials. There are also the obligatory chase scenes, the bizarre and confusing use of Venusian Akido (one wonders why the Doctor doesn't just kick the crap out of the bad guys in every story), and the lack of mystery that characterized the Tom Baker years. Still, Pertwee grew on me. I, for one, never thought of Pertwee as an action hero, despite the randomly scattered fight scenes. The Third Doctor was more about characterization and the use of morality plays. This is what sets Pertwee apart from the other Doctors and what he does best.
Another criticism of Pertwee is his portrayal of the Doctor as a "Tory," "Aristocrat" or Establishment figure. This is probably more common in the UK, because to the average American, he comes across as an anti-establishment figure. This is more true of Season 7, and later episodes, like The Green Death (it's too bad the Doctor cannot show up now and make Bush sign the Kyoto accord). When the Doctor heads off to Metebelis Three, you know, just like Han Solo in Star Wars, he will come back to join the cause, and you know it for reasons other than there are 5 episodes left in the story, and we'd better have the Doctor in there somewhere.
The era also is maligned for its use of CSO, but I don't really think it is a fair criticism. CSO was pretty widly used during the time, and at one point was considered to be fairly state-of-the-art. Nowadays, we are spoiled with computer generated special effects, and have a higher standard. But Doctor Who was never a leader in special effects (K-9, anyone?), and that shouldn't be used against it any more than William Shatner's hammy acting in Star Trek. Part of the appeal of Doctor Who from an American perspective is the campiness factor. CSO increases the camp exponentially.
Season 7 is, as others have more eloquently stated, very, very good. With the exception of Spearhead From Space, the true villians are all earthly in origin. It is also a transition into a more mature Science Fiction from the general hit and miss stories of the First and Second Doctors. Overall, the Pertwee era is consistant, moreso than the Fourth Doctor's era, and that, for me, makes it all the more welcome.
All this talk about eras reminds me that before I get caught in a Temporal Paradox, I think that a good way of viewing Doctor Who in its entirety is to seperate the serials into three distinct periods: The First period, with the first two Doctors - mostly experimental in nature, and at times, silly; The Second period - Pertwee, Baker, and Davison (to the death of Adric); and the Third period - Later Davison, Colin, and McCoy - inconsistant decline. The Second period is what I consider to be the Golden Age of Doctor Who, despite the differences in Pertwee and Baker's formulas, both portrayals are excellent, and entertaining.
A Character Study of The 3rd Doctor by Ronald Mallett 22/4/03
The closest The Doctor ever got to James Bond! Without the carousing of course. The 3rd Doctor was the very essence of the well dressed, Victorian Gentleman with a love of adventure and gadgets. Exiled to Earth, he was the most settled of all the incarnations - although champing at the bit to have his freedom restored. He was Earth's champion against galactic menace, ably backed up by UNIT.
Like the other actors to play the part, Pertwee invested a lot of himself in the character. His personal interest in speed and machines, pervaded many of his stories. Many were surprised by the restrained nature of his performance, given that his background was mainly comic and in radio. His interpretation was suave, dashing, a little naughty (enjoying driving Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier up the wall!) and most defiantly physical. The Doctor became a master of the art of Venusian Akido! He could fence, drive any vehicle (the faster the better!) and reverse the polarity of the neutron flow of any technology so quick it would make the Master's goatee stand on end!
At his era's peak, the UNIT 'family' consisting of Jo Grant, The Brigadier, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton and the original Master, provided the perfect combination for some excellent stories. Although a sort of repetitiveness pervaded his tenure, headed by Producer Barry Letts they really were the true glory years of the show. The era saw not only the inception of the Master, but the Autons, the Draconians, the Ogrons and an endless supply of incompetent/corrupt scientists and politicians! Later on, the interaction between the 2nd and 3rd Doctors was always a highlight of any reunion. Of them the 1st Doctor exclaimed: "So these are my replacements! A dandy and a clown!" They were the epitome of chalk and cheese. "Fancy pants!" "Scarecrow!" And on it would go with the 1st Doctor acting like a kind of tempering parent.
He was by all accounts superb in The Ultimate Adventure stage play but had to retire part way through the tour due to ill health. It is another tragedy that Jon Pertwee did not live to take part in the Big Finish Audio series as he would no doubt have been eager and would have proved to be popular (as The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space prove).
A Review by David Rosenthal 14/8/06
Jon Pertwee was a great James Bond action-type Doctor. Too bad that in his first story, Spearhead From Space, he was just stuck in a hospital bed for two episodes but when he came out of that he was the Doctor. The Brigadier didn't recognize him because he remembered the Patrick Troughton's Doctor and didn't know what regeneration was. He becomes UNIT's Scientific Advisor. In Doctor Who and the Silurians he gets Bessie the yellow roadster. In later stories he would use his Venusian Aikido.
He was a very James Bond Doctor. His best stories were The Three Doctors, Frontier In Space and The Sea Devils. His last story, Planet of the Spiders, was really good. When he regenerates he says when "When there's life there's -" then he regenerates into Tom Baker. Jon Pertwee you're a great Doctor.