Thursday, March 31, 2005

Nine Days Of The Doctor - Day 3

In honour of the new series of Doctor Who which will be debuting on April 5 on the CBC I present Nine Days Of The Doctor - Day 3.

Jon Pertwee: 1970-1974

Companions: Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Jo Grant (Katy Manning), Sara Jane Smith (Liz Sladen).

Comments: It was fated that Jon Pertwee would become an actor - his father Roland was a distinguished playwright and actor, and his older brother Michael was also writer and an occasional actor as was their younger cousin Bill Pertwee. As a young man he counted Laurence Olivier among his friends. Nonetheless he was expelled from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts for refusing to play the role of the wind in a play. As a naval officer in World War II he was assigned to HMS Hood and was reassigned off the ship just before she sailed for her fatal battle with the Bismarck. Pertwee put his experiences in the Royal Navy to good use in the long radio comedy The Navy Lark which ran from 1959-1977. Until Doctor Who, Pertwee was primarily known as a comedic actor and created the role Marcus Lycus in the stage production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum which in the movie was played by Phil Silvers while Pertwee was relegated to the minor role of Crassus.

Pertwee's Doctor was the first to be seen in colour. The show was seen both on the 420 line Black & White BBC1 and the higher definition Colour BBC2 until the transition to the new system was completed. He is also the only one for whom all of the episodes exist although a few episodes exist only in Black & White. While Troughton's Doctor was a "cosmic clown" in a ragged coat and baggy pants, Pertwee's Doctor is a man of Science albeit a man of science dressed as an Edwardian dandy complete with red velvet coat. Pertwee's Doctor is much more active than either Hartnell's or Troughton's, thus the companions were relegated to the roles of "damsel in distress" and people to whom the Doctor can reveal details of the plot. This is particularly true of Katy Manning's character Jo Grant. The Doctor is constantly pulling her out of difficulties. Liz Shaw on the other hand tended to be more of an equal partner. Like Pertwee's Doctor, she was a scientist even though what the Doctor knew was far beyond her understanding. This wasn't to say that he didn't have a mystical side, simply that it didn't escape very often.

For the first two years of Pertwee's time as Doctor, the stories were primarily Earth based although no less science fiction because of it. The Time Lords had exiled the Doctor to Earth after the first Troughton episode and only occasionally allowed him to leave the planet until the episode The Three Doctors which marked the 10th anniversary of the series (it also marked the last time William Hartnell appeared as the character he created). This allowed the emergence of two major characters in the show, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney, who holds the distinction of appearing with seven of the eight actors to play the Doctor - he missed the ill fated Paul McGann, while his appearance with Hartnell was as a character called Bret Vyon in The Dalek Master Plan) Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) and Sergeant Benton (John Levene) representatives of the international military organization UNIT. The Pertwee era also introduced the character described by the Doctor as "my best enemy", The Master, played by Pertwee's close friend Roger Delgado. Indeed it was Delgado's death in a 1974 car crash in Turkey that led Pertwee to give up the role, which he felt wasn't fun anymore.

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