Friday, May 31, 2013

The Order of Rassilon #7: Jon Pertwee, The Dandy Scientist

Here the Doctor wears something that looks like a cross between a cape and a life jacket.

Most actors to play the Doctor took something from their predecessors.  Where the First Doctor was old and crotchety, and the Second Doctor was full of pure whimsy, the Third Doctor was whimsical and crotchety at the exact same time.  He could be somewhat old fashioned at times, and then, at the same time, he wore a fucking cape!

While most actors who play the Doctor have a background in classical theater, Pertwee, in his pre-Doctor career, was actually much more of a comedian than you would have guessed from his stuffy-ish portrayal of the Doctor.  He put out a series of novelty music albums, including one that has one of the greatest album covers I've ever seen, Jon Pertwee Sings Songs for Vulgar Boatmen:

Jesus, Pertwee looks creepy!
The Pertwee era is really interesting in that it was the first time a major change was made in the format of the show:  The Doctor was exiled to Earth as a punishment by his own people, the Time Lords, his TARDIS was disabled, and the knowledge of how to fix it was erased from the Doctor's brain.  It made a formula for a very, very different type of show.  Sure, by the end of the Pertwee era, the TARDIS was usable again, but Perwee carried the show as it moved almost exclusively to Earth in the present.  It was a wonderful experiment and, while not one that could or should have been carried on beyond a few years, it was still a great idea for a short term change up in the plot of the show.

Pertwee played a Doctor who was irritated with his situation, but also looking to make the most of it.  Trapped in 20th Century Earth, he teamed up with alien-hunting military organization, U.N.I.T., and the irreplacable Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.  Pertwee did an excellent job of portraying the Doctor's pacifism as it came into inevitable conflict with the military nature of the Brigadier and his organization.  Yet, he could still seem to see the good that U.N.I.T. was doing.  Pertwee and Nicolas Courtney (who played the Brigadier) had a perfect chemistry as two friends who are frustrated by each other, and yet still appreciate each other immensely.

Pertwee's era was marked by the unfortunate death of Roger Delgado, the original actor to play the Master.  (Maybe I should do a ranking of Masters?)  Pertwee and Delgado had a perfect chemistry as well, as two old enemies who still seemed to have a respect for each other's intelligence buried beneath their animosity.  The scene in "The Sea Devils" where the Doctor visits the Master in jail and feels sorry for him for a moment, telling his companion how they used to be friends in school, is a touching moment.  When Delgado was killed in a freak car accident, Pertwee had a lot of trouble going on.  He had created such a good friendship off camera with Delgado, that he eventually cited it as one of the reasons he left.

Ultimately, Pertwee did a lot for the series, including showing how flexible the basic premise of the show was.  The only real downside of the Pertwee era was their attempt to portray the hippie movement (like all television, they were about one decade behind the times) through Jo Grant, who was more of an insult to the 60's counterculture than anything, as she was portrayed by Manning as a blithering idiot.

Also, this ridiculous shit happened.
Thankfully, she was replaced with Sara Jane Smith, who showed that feminists aren't all dumb rich college girls.  Seriously, Jo Grant was an idiot.

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