The Pertwee Era in Review

The UNIT Family. Barry Letts. Terrance Dicks. Bessie. Benton. Yates. The Brigadier. Liz Shaw. Jo Grant. Sarah Jane Smith. Autons. The Master! The Silurians. Peladon. Exile. Color. The Three Doctors. These are all associated with the Pertwee Era. Doctor Who was practically a new show. The Doctor was exiled to Earth for half the era. He worked with UNIT, often reluctantly, but in the end, as he stumbled from the TARDIS—dying from exposure to the crystal web—he whispered that the TARDIS had brought him home. Where before, Earth was a place to visit, now it is home. We have come a long way from that junkyard.

I mentioned in my previous post that I mourned The First Doctor; I mourned The Second Doctor. I don’t know that I will mourn The Third Doctor. For some reason, despite liking Jon Pertwee, I never fell in love with the era like I did with the Hartnell and Troughton eras. I think Jo Grant was the first companion that I actually disliked, which is odd given the lack of characterization of Dodo Chaplet in the Hartnell era. For me, Jo’s high point was her final story, due in part to the character development in that story. It was necessary and it was late. Similarly, I didn’t like the changes to The Brigadier. I loved The Brigadier and UNIT in season seven, but season eight saw him significantly dumbed down. He started out as a successful military leader, one who had to balance keeping his men safe with encountering a new species in The Silurians. He ended up as a slightly thick but lovable comic relief character. The Doctor went from butting heads with him to patronizing him.

So I didn’t like all of the changes. Regardless, there were some great stories along the way. Season seven will stand out as one of my favorite seasons of Doctor Who. Season eleven, so long as I can excise The Monster of Peladon, is also great. And it is only now that I realize that these are the two seasons that didn’t have Jo Grant, which is probably somewhat telling.

It is hard to give a top five because so much time has passed while viewing this era. Rather than put them in a particular order, I’ll just list a handful of favorites and a handful of least favorites.

Favorite Stories

  • The Silurians – Moral dilemmas permeate this story. The Doctor wants to negotiate peace with a new race. The Brigadier has the government and the safety of his men to consider. Malcolm Hulke did an amazing job of making all sides sympathetic and believable in this story.
  • Inferno – This story throws you through a loop. It starts out as a story of scientific hubris, and suddenly becomes a story of survival as The Doctor finds himself in an alternate, fascist version of England. The performances are amazing.
  • The Green Death – I love The X-Files and Fringe. In some ways, The Green Death is the blueprint for both shows. The pace is great, the story is dark, the monsters are absurd (but look good until they metamorphose), and Jo Grant finally gets some good material to work with. This story made me a fan of Robert Sloman.
  • The Invasion of the Dinosaurs – I like this story for many of the same reasons I like The Green Death: it is slightly absurd but a lot of fun. The theme, however, is somewhat dark. And Mike Yates is the one who gets good material. I think this story is unfairly judged by its special effects.

Least Favorite Stories

  • The Curse of Peladon – There were some good turns in this story: The Ice Warriors were not the villains and Aggedor was interesting. But ultimately, this story bored me. This story, combined with its sequel, was the first story that I have considered not buying when completing my Doctor Who collection.
  • The Monster of Peladon – See above. The death of Aggedor was sad, though. And I really liked Eckersley. He was a good villain.
  • Terror of the Autons – I think I rank this one so low because I watched it after The Inferno, which was a great story. The Master was good, and I like the Autons. But Jo Grant was a poor replacement for Liz Shaw. The Brigadier was disappointing in this story because he seemed to have been turned into an imbecile. I didn’t immediately warm to Mike Yates (although he got better). The Master is the best thing about this story.

Thus ends the Pertwee Era. Time for the Tom Baker era, which is the only era of classic Doctor Who I have already seen in its entirety. I wonder how it will hold up now that I have greater context.

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