A couple of days ago now it was the anniversary of Jon Pertwee’s death. 18 years since the third Doctor passed on from this universe to the next. And recently I listened to a podcast, and then read a thread on a forum, where it seemed open season on Pertwee and his era. So I wanted to take a chance to tell the world that there are plenty of Pertwee fans out there who to this day love the five years he gave us, and umpteen appearances he made after he left the role.
I mean heck, the guy actually appeared in a fan-made film trying to explain the transition from Second to Third Doctors! The ‘showman’ never failed to come back when asked, and he never stopped giving back to the fans. And for fans that take their fandom as seriously as us Doctor Who fans, that deserves great kudos.
Criticisms rage about his era that Pertwee was too ‘establishment’, his stories were too formulaic to ‘Bob Baker and Dave Martin were crap’. Hmmm. What can I say? I have a few friends for whom Pertwee is the ultimate Doctor, for me it is Troughton. But one of the reasons I love Troughton so much is the way he worked with Pertwee in The Three and Five Doctors. When I started to watch Doctor Who regularly, it was the 80s and Pertwee had an almost full series of repeats shown at 6.30pm. He and his era sucked me properly into the show, after I’d seen one Colin Baker episode and read a few of the Target books.
Spearhead drew me in, Ambassadors pulled me along and Inferno was a great big hook and I have never looked back. I even like most Bob Baker and Dave Martin stories, and I think ‘The Mutants’ is the most underrated Doctor Who story there is, bar ‘The Gunfighters’. This writing team was responsible for some of the most different and creative stories from the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. ‘The Mutants’ may feature a couple of bad performances, but at the same time directly attacks British colonialism. And the Third Doctor is NOT on the side of the Overlords – he still sticks up for the underdog, the downtrodden, those treated unfairly. The Claws of Axos is an amazing amalgamation of ideas and visuals, and I will always LOVE ‘The Three Doctors’ despite its shortcomings.
Pertwee IS establishment quite often, but always expresses rage and dismay at bureaucracy and pen pushers. Some have said that his Doctor wasn’t ‘nice’, but I never got that. The way he worked with Katy Manning showed a very soft and caring side to the Doctor. He was a man who was flamboyant, yet completely and utterly dependable. As a young kid, whatever the Doctor and Co were facing, you knew the Third Doctor would win out. And as for the rapport with Delgado, the way the two worked together – we have never and will never see better Doctor/Adversary matchup. That is clear.
Say what you like, Pertwee is not my favourite of all, but will always be one of my favourite Doctors. He has magic, a soft side, he was dynamic, funny at times, deadly serious at others. And in the early years right through to today, no Doctor has delivered speeches quite so well. See – ‘The Mind of Evil’, ‘The Time Monster’ and ‘Planet of the Spiders’. So, grab some cheese and a bottle of the finest wine you can find in Style’s cellar and drink a toast to Jon Pertwee. I salute you sir!