HomeTelevisionDoctor Who: The Doctor of the Month -- The Third Doctor

Doctor Who: The Doctor of the Month — The Third Doctor

jason stives and michael dworkis examine the third doctor, Jon Pertwee …


Played by Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor was exiled to earth without any knowledge of how to operate the TARDIS, as ordered by the Time Lords. While on Earth, The Doctor found himself at the service of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) as their scientific advisor. This incarnation of The Doctor had no issue getting physical with his adversaries, a trait that his previous versions did not possess. Credited to the fantastic acting abilities of Pertwee, the Third Doctor had a commanding presence, as he was a man of action, and often asserted himself in an authoritative role. Although at times he came across as arrogant, he truly cared for his human companions.

Do not be confused by his gadget-tinkering obsessions, this Doctor was considered as dashing and debonair, who would exercise and teach his high moral values, as well as bring out a young and youthful sense of excitement when it came time to travel in an adventure. Wearing velvet suits of different colors, often complimented with frilly shirts and various bow-ties and other accessories, the Third Doctor can be considered the most “gentleman” of all.


As far as influence on further incarnations, names like Troughton, Baker, and Davison get thrown around, but rarely is Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor ever mentioned as prominently. As a character, the Third Doctor was a specific kind of persona, the James Bond of the Time Lord’s many incarnations. A gadget-wielding, fast-car-driving, sharp-dressed man about the universe, the Third Doctor came at a time when the show was conceivably outdated. Stressed from the end of the black and white era many changes were made behind the scenes to facilitate an earth=bound Doctor that would rely more on Earth-based technology than his TARDIS to combat all imposing forces. Pertwee showed that The Doctor wasn’t always just solving the problem, he was taking action too. And backed up by Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and the soldiers of UNIT, The Doctor was always equipped to take on otherworldly forces with some string and a kettle if he wanted to.

Jon Pertwee brought a deliberate amount of flair to the role, creating a Doctor who showcased his presence and knew he was the bee’s knees. Cunning, gentile, and at times irascible to boot, he had a much firmer grip on himself than most of his incarnations would show and was one never to fail. That being said, the Third Doctor showed much heart, showcased in his relationship with his longest-standing companion, Jo Grant, who he became a father-like figure to in the process. The third Doctor’s era, which ran for five seasons, was also the beginning of the so-called golden era of the classic series. With a heavy focus on well thought-out stories with real science and less invaders from space, Doctor Who became just as adult as it did childish, and the twinkle in the eye of Pertwee kept that reassurance to the kids watching at home. Much like his successor, there are many classic serials from this period that have been held in the annuls of fandom as being some of the best examples, even if the cheap cost of the show became far more prevalent at this point. This era also saw the introduction of the Doctors greatest enemy, the Master, and with Pertwee’s own Sherlock Holmes-like tendencies, his own Time Lord version of Moriarty created great grounds for the show to pivot on even for just a few years.


“I Have reversed the polarity of the Neutron flow” — ‘The Sea Devils’

“Look try and make some sort of sense man, even if you are a politician.” — ‘Day Of The Daleks’

“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.” — ‘The Green Death’

“Well, I’ll tell you something that should be of vital interest to you. That you, Sir, are a NITWIT!” — ‘Inferno’


‘Spearhead From Space’

Fans of the modern Doctor Who series will no doubt remember the attack of the mannequins in the first episodes of series one, Rose. They appeared before then … long before then. The first story arc of the Third Doctor aired in 1970 and featured the plastic menace known as the Nestene and their plastic weapons the Autons. The Doctor, recently regenerated and exiled to Earth by the Timelords, is taken to hospital where he is left under the watchful of the men of UNIT and the Doctor’s old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

The Autons are housed in an Auto Plastics factory, and we soon find out an invasion is imminent. The Doctor agrees to join UNIT to track down the meteorites and to stop the Autons from their mission. Casualties mount as shocking discoveries are made about the Autons and the meteorites. There is more than meets the eye, and a terrifying alien is behind the attacks. In order to prevent Earth from being its next victim, the Doctor and his new companion Elizabeth Shaw must outwit their foe. While The Doctor and his colleagues are successful in deactivating the threat, they realize how close they were to defeat, and resolve to be vigilant in the protection of Earth.
— MD

‘Terror Of The Autons’

The Doctor has always been the alien Sherlock Holmes, a detective with endless knowledge and a bit of crass to fight off the simpletons. By Season 8, with the addition of the Brigadier as the Doctor’s pseudo Watson, a decision was made to create a logical Moriarty to the earth-bound formula. Enter the Master, the Doctor’s equal and a foil that would run through every story in Season 8 and in many incarnations for years to come. Played deliciously by Roger Delgado, the Master was calculating, mischievous and every bit as dangerous of a mind as The Doctor could be. In this meeting as well as many classic subsequent meetings, the Third Doctor and the Master were always like two opposing forces at the center of the universe waiting to explode and their initial meeting in episode four of this story showcases this greatly.

The Master (Roger Delgado)

In “Terror Of The Autons,” the Master lands on Earth with the intention of bringing about the return of the Nestene Conscious last scene in “Spearhead From Space.” Through evil marketing tools, the Auton’s infect the public through demonic dolls, plastic inflatable chairs, and daffodils handed out by men in masks so disturbing that the Bob’s Big Boy logo would be ashamed to think it disturbing. In the midst of all of this, the Doctor is once again working on fixing the TARDIS circuits and is given a brand new assistant in Jo Grant, played by the bubbly blonde Katy Manning. This story is responsible for several highly publicized complaints about violence in Doctor Who, making this story even more of a classic for featuring the aforementioned demon dolls attacking people and policeman with false faces. It’s fun, it’s scary, its overly cheesy, it’s Doctor Who at its finest in the early ’70s.
— JS

‘The Daemons’

The eighth season of Doctor Who concluded with a five-part story arc featuring once again the diabolical villain, The Master. We begin with the introduction of Olive Hawthorne who appears to possess psychic or mystical powers as she sense that evil is present, a great evil.

Jo believes an age of the supernatural is approaching, but The Doctor dismisses it while intently watching the newscast with rising suspicion. His suspicions are validated when Olive appears on television, interrupting the event to warn of a coming evil caused by their excavation. The Doctor tells Jo he has the same feeling. Something evil is approaching. Olive returns to her village and meets with Mr. Magister, who looks familiar but not yet recognizable. This villain plans on summoning demons to Earth, in order to possess ultimate power! Soon, disaster is everywhere. The Doctor is briefly incapacitated while a trail of fire paves a path of destruction. In a surprising moment, The Doctor awakens and informed about the evil of Mr. Magister. The Doctor realizes the villain is not who he says he is. In fact Magister is a disguise of language and Magister is Latin for … The Master!

The series is full of references to witchcraft and myth, fables which have kept the demon alive and undetected for thousands of years, controlling Earth in a large-scale experiment. The Master summons Azal to do his bidding. However, Azal is not happy at being disturbed a second time and denies The Master ultimate power. The climax of the battle sees The Doctor and The Master having a heated debate about the future of humankind. Azal the Demon sides with The Master, and is about to give him the power he desires, but first wishes to kill The Doctor. Jo, steps in front, and challenges Azal to kill her instead. Azal, confused and shocked at this display of selflessness from a human is immobilized and causes him to die! The room clears out and The Master is caught trying to escape.

Calm passes over the village as life resumes. The Doctor admits to Jo that there might be some magic on Earth after all.
— MD

‘The Three Doctors’

In the first of many multi-Doctor stories that would plague the classic series, this story brought together the first three incarnations of the Doctor for the show’s 10th anniversary in 1973. Set primarily in the two backdrops of UNIT HQ and an alternate world of anti matter, a black hole draining power from the universe threatens to collapse the universe. Desperate for answers, the Timelord’s call upon the Doctor’s first three incarnations to help find the cause of the energy drain. Unbeknownst to them, the threat lies in one of their owns, the original Timelord, the creator of time travel himself, Omega, and it’s up to the Doctors and their friends to help thwart their greatest descendant before it’s too late.

The story itself is imaginative, but the actual events are hogwash, a little more slapstick than they are ingenious. This just gives the two on screen Doctors a lot of time to bicker and conspire to wonderful results. The play off between Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor would flow into other mediums including the convention circuit and again in 1983 for The Five Doctors 20th anniversary special. There is also some great lines from the Brigadier here but the character is suddenly turned into a militaristic buffoon, which kind of destroys all progress the character had made. Suddenly, he is a background character and much of this has to attribute to this story being the last earth-bound story, as the Doctor is given back his TARDIS and all his knowledge of how to operate it. Besides being a lot of fun, “The Three Doctors” holds significance in being William Hartnell’s last acting role and the only time he reprised the role of the First Doctor. Relegated to appearing sporadically on the TARDIS’s monitor due to poor health, his role was written substantially bigger and then downgraded when it became apparent that he would not be able to appear in shot. That being said, his presence is worth the time just to see these three significant figures all on screen together.
— JS


‘The Time Monster’

The Time Monster is Kronos, a being who devours time and space. The series features a cerebral battle between The Doctor and The Master, who once again uses a name in another language to disguise his identity. This time, it was Dr. Thascalos, with Thascalos being Greek for the word master. Both time lords travel using their own TARDIS ships, and the battle takes a frightful turn when The Doctor boards the TARDIS of The Master, only to be devoured by Kronos. The Master then imprisoned Kronos into its crystal shell, and catapulted Jo and the TARDIS into a time vortex. Thankfully, Jo was able to use the TARDIS to save The Doctor before it was too late. Though alive, The Doctor had been defeated by the sinister Master.
— MD


At seven episodes in length (the standard episode length for stories during Jon Pertwee’s first season), ‘Inferno’ is a wonderful story that’s two to three episodes too long. Acting as the finale of Season 7, it tells the story of the Mole Hole Project, an underground drilling expedition to reach the center of the earth (for reasons unknown other than presumed world domination). When the project seems to be on the verge of destroying the earth, The Doctor, fiddling about with the TARDIS console is transported into an alternate world where the Mole Hole project is creating dog looking creatures called the Primords and everyone has an evil doppelganger. Watch out for the Brigadier as the Brigade leader, complete with evil face scar and scary eye patch. The story has a lot of compelling elements to it and great peril but is worth the time just to see every one play a baddie. It’s also the final appearance of Dr. Liz Shaw as the Doctor’s companion as the producers felt she didn’t fit the mold they were looking for in a companion.
— JS


All Photos Credit: BBC America



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