Ah, now we're getting somewhere. It's 1970, Doctor Who goes colour and Jon Pertwee takes the reins and to cap it all I'm born! (Three days before the first episode of The Ambassador's of Death to be precise).
Its difficult to know what the BBC thought they were getting when they signed up Pertwee, a comedy actor who'd had bit parts in Carry On films? Probably not the dandy action man they actually got anyway.
Pertwee years pretty much exactly coincide with height of Glam Rock and
Ted Heath's government. There is certainly a touch of glam to the
debonair Third Doctor and his frequently patronising attitude makes him a
bit of a Tory too.
Then there are the obsessions of the era. Five stories concern energy sources (The Silurians, Inferno, Claws of Axos, The Three Doctors, The Green Death, The Monster of Peladon), three are about nuclear war or domesday weapons (The Colony in Space, The Mind of Evil, Day of the Daleks) and two are about environmentalists (The Dinosaur Invasion, The Green Death).
Pertwee is one favourite Whos though, the honourable mentions are going
to be quite long, so lets crank up Bessie, reverse the polarity of the
neutron flow, and get on with it.
Spearhead from Space,
which gave us the Autons and the classic scene of the dummies gunning
down hapless shoppers. UNIT get their colour debut to and whilst the
Brigadier's gang often appear to have been reduced to little more than a
flag party and have lost their sixties gizmo's, they do contribute to a
significant amount of gun play and enjoyable mayhem for the rest of the
Third Doctor's tenure.
The first season also ends with a cracker too in Inferno,
which features the destruction of a parallel earth and a baddy
Brigadier. Overlong and overrated, with the ubiquitous green goo, it's
still good, as long as you don't expect it to be the greatest Who ever,
which some people will claim.
The next season saw the
arrival of The Master, played by the late and great Roger Delgado.
Horrendously overused, he started well with Terror of the Autons and the series also contains The Daemons,
a story of witchcraft and devilry in an English village which scores
ten out of ten for atmosphere, but loses all its points for a silly plot
and a useless Doctor.
The Carnival of Monsters.
In terms of fun this could be the best-of-Pertwee. The one down side
was the useless Drashigs. Writer Robert Holmes apparently suspected
they'd look awful, so made their name ana nagram of dishrags.
Another favourite of mine is The Day of the Daleks,
the first story that actually uses time travel as plot device. Hard to
believe it took them ten years to use time travel in a story about a
time traveller isn't it? A tale of Freedom Fighters from the future
trying to change history whilst being hunted by time travelling cyborgs,
it does sound a little like a certain Arnie movie doesn't it?
also quite progressive. This Doctor's reign almost exactly corresponded
with Ted Heath's stay in Downing Street and, despite producer Barry
Letts being a communist, the Third Doctor didn't spend a lot of time
hanging around with the proles. Here though, whilst Jo falls for the
propaganda of the Controller, the Doctor diagnoses a very sick future
society just by observing the conditions of the workers.
the metal dustbins are kept very much in the background until the end,
which works. The sink plungers from Skaro were always more effective in
the imagination than reality.
Other Pertwee Dalek stories were less good. Planet of the Daleks is a rehash of the original Daleks story, although better made, and Death To The Daleks is an uninspiring H Rider Haggard rip.
The Three Doctors.
Not much to write home about in many ways, but worth while to see
Troughton and Pertwee playfully sending each other up and Hartnell's
last TV appearance - filmed in his garage as he was too ill to get to
the studio. Sad to think that all three are no no longer with us.
Another honourable mention must go to The Time Warrior,
which introduced those root-vegetable clones, the Sontarans and the
late Liz Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith in a passable medieval yarn.
The Dinosaur Invasion.
Now mostly remembered for the lamentable condition of the titular
sauropods, it is a good story with some well meaning, but very sinister,
eco-utopians as the real villains. Never trust a hippy indeed. Not bad,
but you're better off reading the book.
So what the top Pertwee story then? Well it was almost The Curse of Peladon,
the story of a primitive planet petitioning to join the swanky Galactic
Federation, which by complete coincidence came out just as Heath was
trying to get us into the Common Market. Here we have Jo Grant not being
completely useless for a change and the plot twist of the Ice Warriors
now being goodies.
However for the award of
best-of-Pertwee we have to have an earth bound adventure. It also needs
to be from his first series, as the Third Doctor, and the series
generally, was never again so gritty and serious.
and not just because it's set in Derbyshire. The idea of aliens who
have been here all along, and who probably have a better claim on the
earth than we do, was a startlingly original one. It's also done really
Production values are pretty good and whilst the
papermache Allosaurus is a bit of an embarrassment - they had a bit of a
problem with dinosaurs in the Pertwee years - the underground base and
the caves are greats sets and scenes of the epidemic outbreak at railway
station are frighteningly realistic.
Blake's Seven as a UNIT officer, Mackay from Porridge as a scientist and Geoffrey Palmer as an administrator.
main strength though is Malcolm Hulke's multi layered script. Both
factions, the Silurians and the humans, are split into hawks and doves,
but unlike in the New Series, they aren't caricatured as good and bad.
Major Baker, the leading human hawk, turns out to be genuinely brave man
whilst his opposite numbers in the reptile camp are eventually proved
right when the Brigadier blows up their caves and wipes them all out.
whilst the National Front and the Black Panthers where in the news,
this is remarkably even handed and grown up stuff, a million miles from
the simplistic "Racism's bad, m'kay?" approach of RTD in the New Series.
Instead Hulke created a genuine moral dilemma, with no easy answers.
is great, but it's not really exciting enough for six episodes and
whilst the dark ending is certainly startling, some of the effect is
lost when the Doctor turns up working for the Brigadier again next week.
What's a little genocide between friends, eh?
That aside though the next story really is one of the best.
Shaw, the first female companion with something other than cotton wool
between her ears, gets both to be clever and menaced by a couple hoods
in a Ford Capri.
The Brigadier, meanwhile, is far from
being the Colonel Blimp he later turns into. A one man killing machine
he bumps off at least half a dozen baddies personally with a variety of
weapons and none at all. He is also on the ball for a change, both doing
what the Doctor says and even finding out a few things for himself, but
at the end the Brigadier is happy to let the Doctor sort things out in
his own non-violent way. This is the way the Doc and the Brig should
always work together.
idea of monsters who aren't actually villains is also pretty neat. That
a whole galaxy of space faring baddies was queueing up to invade early
seventies Britain was one of the least plausible concepts of this
period, so it's reassuring to know this lot were really just visiting.
all told this wasn't bad for my first Who. Strange to think though that
I was born into a world where the BBC could put out a show which
featured the a British Mars Mission.
What happened to those dreams?