Fifty Years of Doctor Who: Part 4, The Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee
Sentenced to exile on earth, and forced by the High Council of Time Lords to regenerate from Troughton’s cosmic clown, to Jon Pertwee’s intergalactic Doctor of mystery. Overflowing with charisma, he was a man of action, a scientist, broker of peace, and ruthless adversary.
Pertwee’s incarnation of the doctor was worlds apart from Troughton’s, so much so they could barely work together to save the planet, until the first showed up and forced them to get along. Although he first didn’t initially think much of his future selves, calling the second a clown, and the third a dandy, they eventually saved the world, and became fond of each other. The third Doctor was a dandy, maybe even a bit foolish, but he was also every inch the early 70’s action hero. He was authoritative and had a problem with authority figures. He was a spirited scientist, always tinkering with and building gadgets. He adhered to a strict ethos, but was quick to use physical force when needed, and had no problem sacrificing one to save many.
This persona likely had roots in Petrwee’s former military service. He was an officer of the Royal Navy, in the Naval Intelligence Division during the World War II, and reporting directly to Winston Churchill, and working alongside author Ian Fleming. In a 1994 interview he said, “I did all sorts. Teaching commandos how to use escapology equipment, compasses in brass buttons, secret maps in white cotton handkerchiefs, pipes you could smoke that also fired a .22 bullet. All sorts of incredible things. It suited me perfectly as I have always loved gadgets.” With his background it is no wonder he was able to create a 007 type of Doctor with such convincing style. At one point, they even incorporated a tattoo on his right forearm. The image was of a snake, resembling a question mark. This was actually coincidental; the tattoo is a remnant of Pertwee’s naval service. He recounts the story as he woke up one morning after a drunken night out while in port to find a tattoo of a cobra on his right arm. Pertwee also likely picked up some authoritative traits from Churchill, “He told me to always watch people, that there was a lot you could learn about someone’s character from the little actions they make.”
Jon Pertwee’s Doctor established a many of traits of the Doctor we continue to see today. His tinkering for one, He was stranded on Earth, the Time Lords removed much of the knowledge on how to operate the TARDIS from him, and he had a laboratory with UNIT. He spent his time tinkering, he actually completely disassembled and reassembled the TARDIS attempting to fix it, which he couldn’t because the Time Lords removed one of the components. By the time the Time Lords returned the missing component, and restored his knowledge he has learned almost everything about the TARDIS, except how to drive it properly. His most optimistic character traits came out in this incarnation as well, which were most evident in his conflicts with The Master. He always tried to help him, and had great admiration for his old friend.
Jon Pertwee was a beloved Doctor; he tops many lists when the doctors are ranked. He developed the character by leaps and bounds, and began what many consider the golden age of the series, or at the very least, taking the program to the height of its popularity. He was a fantastic Doctor, frilly shirts and all. I am fond of thinking of him as the 00-Doctor who met his end destroying gigantic spiders.