This post consists of my recommendations for Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.
Doctor Who reinvented itself with the appointment of Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. Forced to regenerate by the Time Lords, the Doctor is stranded on Earth with a non-working TARDIS and his knowledge of time travel is also taken from him. The Doctor becomes the Scientific Advisor to UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), and works closely with Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Mike Yates, and Sgt. Benton. The Doctor gains a regular adversary as well, in the Master – a Time Lord set on conquering Earth (Played brilliantly by Roger Delgado). These Earth-based stories meant a bigger budget (since it was no longer required to build alien planets as sets) and frequently moved the show outside (hello rock quarries, stately manor houses, and quaint English villages). The show was also filmed/video-taped completely in color for the first time.
When I originally saw the Jon Pertwee stories, some of them I saw in black and white not color – these were 16mm film prints which the BBC sent for overseas viewing of the show. Though some of the color negatives of episodes were missing – all of Jon Pertwee’s stories exist as at least these 16mm prints. The Doctor Who Restoration Team were able to use the prints to restore Pertwee’s stories. Many of the color prints were also found, and it was the color stories that were released on DVD. In a very few cases where only a 16 mm black and white print existed, colorization techniques were used to re-create the original color versions of the episodes. Please see The Doctor Who Restoration Team website for more detail, or Paul Smith’s excellent book, Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium.
By Jon Pertwee’s third season, the Doctor was traveling in Time and Space again, at the direct request of the Time Lords, and after “The Three Doctors” (opening Pertwee’s Fourth Season) his knowledge of time and space travel was officially given back to him and his TARDIS restored to working order (or at least as working as one might expect.)
And now on to the recs.
Consisting of two Jon Pertwee stories and one Peter Davison story, Beneath the Surface collects all the stories featuring the Silurians and Sea Devils. The DVD snap cases do pull out of the cardboard slip case, though, so you can shelve them chronologically.
The interesting thing about the Silurians (other than it being the only story where “Doctor Who” is part of the official story title) is it’s not a story about a rampaging monster that destroys “just because”, nor is it the typical mad dictator or mad scientist plot. The Silurians have their own intelligent civilization that existed before humans ever evolved. They hid away when they expected a ecological disaster to destroy their planet (well, for several thousand years) and expected to wake up after the planet had recovered naturally. However, they’ve long overslept and are awaken by atomic researchers near their cave. The Doctor attempts to negotiate a peace between the intelligent Silurians and the Humans – but warriors on both sides interfere with his plans, and in the end… Well, the Silurians are one of the most genuinely sad creatures in the Doctor Who universe. Though parts of this story are a bit slow, it’s well worth having and watching. A quick glance at Amazon.com shows this is available both in the set and separately.
This is one of my favorite Jon Pertwee stories. The Doctor is messing with the TARDIS council and sends himself to an alternate dimension, where the Brigadier and Liz Shaw serve a dictatorship. In the alternate reality, they monitor a drilling project to obtain energy from the Earth’s mantle. Although the Doctor tries to stop the project, he is unsuccessful – and the alternate world is destroyed. Returning to his reality – the Doctor discovers, to his horror, a similar project and must try to stop it. Although the story is long (7 parts), it’s brilliantly played, especially Nicholas Courtney as the “Brigade Leader”.
After choosing this story I thought about going back and choosing Terror of the Autons instead, but I think Mind of Evil, Delgado’s second story is over all better. The Master shows up at a prison for the criminally insane with the “Keller Machine” a device that is supposed to remove criminal impulses from the inmates – so they can rehabilitated. The Keller Machine hosts a Mind Parasite. Meanwhile, the military is in the midst of dumping an illegal nerve gas missile and nearby a peace conference is going on. The Master incites a riot at the prison, steals the missile and threatens to use it against the peace conference. This story has some of the most complex action sequences in Doctor Who – with actual army officers storming the prison. That alone sets it apart.
The Daemons is a wonderful story, simply wonderful. The entire cast, including the Brigadier and the Master are in top form. The plot involves weird goings on at a small English village, and a race of beings who basically use magic (harnessing energy in advanced ways). It’s just a great story and definitely a Classic story to have in your collection.
This story is included in the Beneath the Surface boxset, but can be purchased separately. The Master works with the Silurians’ aquatic cousins, the Sea Devils, to sink commercial and naval vessels, and the Doctor and Jo, as well as UNIT must stop them. There’s a lot of action, plenty of great dialogue, and a great guest cast. It’s always been a favorite.
The Three Doctors celebrates the program’s tenth anniversary and reunites William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee in a mission given to them directly from the Time Lords to stop Omega – another Time Lord. Once a great stellar engineer, who harnessed the power of the Eye of Harmony to give the Time Lords their power over time, he was trapped in an anti-matter universe. He’s gone power-mad and it will take all three versions of the Doctor to stop him. As a reward for his work, the Time Lords restore the Doctor’s knowledge of time and space travel and give him the needed working components of his TARDIS.
Frontier in Space is another story that isn’t about rampaging monsters – it’s about diplomacy. The Doctor and Jo materialize in the TARDIS on a alien spaceship that is supposed to be hosting a peace conference between the warring Earth Empire and Draconia. However, they discover that the Master is also on the ship – using a hypnotic device to cause the Draconians to see his Ogron henchmen as humans and the Humans to see the Ogrons as Draconians. Basically, the Master is just messing with everyone in this episode. What I like about the story is that Jo – sweet, nice, innocent, Jo Grant really grows up in this episode and she kicks ass. Jo defeats the Master’s attempt to hypnotize her by mentally reciting nursery rhymes, she rescues the Doctor more than once, and she’s actually the one that helps the Doctor figure out exactly what the Master is up to – because the Master’s device causes her to see the Ogrons as a Drashig. Since I’ve always liked Jo, this story is special to me because it’s great to see her come into her own.
The Green Death is Jo’s last story. The plot involves chemical waste killing miners in a Welsh village, mutant giant bugs, maggots, and et cetera, a giant corporation ruled by an evil computer called B.O.S.S., and a group of activists. Least you think that might be either too preachy or too silly – the cast, especially Nicholas Courtney, Katy Manning, Jon Pertwee, and the guest cast really make the plot work. There are just some wonderful moments in this story.
This story introduces the Sontarians, another classic monster who will appear several times in the Classic series and will be brought back in the new series. It also introduces Sarah Jane Smith, arguably one of the most popular companions ever in Doctor Who. Here Sarah appears at her feminist best. Sarah, an independent reporter, sneaks into the TARDIS and is transported back to Medieval times, where she and the Doctor confront Linx, Sontarian warrior who’s crashed nearby.
Jon Pertwee’s last story has a wonderful bittersweet quality to it, and the storyline brings in some unusual influences. I really like the Blue Crystals – which show up again in the Davison episodes Kinda and Snakedance. That the spiders are not the best effects is a given, but it’s still a great story and highly recommended.
There you have it ten recommendations from the Pertwee era. What Jon Pertwee stories do you recommend? Feel free to answer in the comments. Tune in tomorrow for more classic Doctor Who recommendations.