David Tennant On Jon Pertwee In The Doctors Revisited

David Tennant was one of the contributors on BBC America’s latest Doctor Who Special, The Doctors Revisited : The Third Doctor. The show examined Jon Pertwee’s time as the Time Lord, and also contained comments from Steven Moffat, Caroline Skinner, Camille Coduri, Hugh Bonneville, Adam Garcia, Richard Franklin and John Barrowman. The special aired on the evening on Sunday 31st March.

The regeneration into the Third Doctor brought with it a complete reinvention of the show. It was now based on Earth as the Doctor’s back story changed to that of an exile, and it was for the first time shown in colour and recorded on film. The Doctor, previously a clownish figure suddenly became rather imposing but also dashing and debonaire in his velvet suits and frilly shirts. He became a james Bond-like adventurer, a man of action with his gadgets in place of the TARDIS. A rather more serious figure, he could be pompous, bad tempered and superior. He was also forced to work for a living and found himself employed at UNIT as their scientific advisor. This brought in a whole cast of recurring characters, led, of course, by the much loved Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart.

David said: “His Doctor was rather patrician and probably the most authoritarian Doctor there’s been. He finds himself working as the scientific advisor for UNIT. It wasn’t about somebody travelling, it was about somebody who couldn’t travel, who was stuck in one place and the threats travelled to him.”

Of the Doctor’s reinvention as an action hero he said; “He’s a much more hands-on action man than we’ve seen before. You can see the influence of James Bond or the Avengers. Jon Pertwee’s straightforwardly heroic approach is reflected in what the Third Doctor ended up doing, so he suddenly becomes an expert in Venusian Aikido , which seems to involve him shouting ‘Hai’ at people and throwing them over his shoulder a lot.”

The new Doctor came with an entirely new cast and, of course, some new companions. First up was Liz Shaw, played by Caroline John. Steven Moffat described her as a very grown up kind of companion for the Doctor where usually he attracts more irresponsible people

“Liz Shaw was conceived as the Doctor’s equal – a contemporary human but she was very bright, very skilled,” explained David, “She was UNIT’s scientific advisor and then the Doctor appears and trumps her so they end up working together. Though she’s effectively his sidekick because he has access to more technology that she can ever dream of “

Next up was Jo Grant, perhaps a complete polar opposite to the Doctor and therefore a choice of companion that worked perfectly. David said:
“Jo Grant played by Katy Manning is more of the traditional sort of naïve wide-eyed girl in a short skirt.”

One of the classic Who foes introduced in the Third Doctor’s tenure was the Autons. Both John Barrowman and Steven Moffat recollected how they had found shop window dummies quite terrifying. David reflected on why, as a concept, the idea of the Autons worked so well:
“It’s a very clever idea that the modern world has plastic everywhere and if that plastic should somehow be sentient, if that plastic could somehow fight back when we try to make it into chairs and little dolls and shop window dummies. If that could somehow rebel against its human masters then that would be a very chilling prospect,” He added, “Doctor Who has thrived when it takes the mundane and makes it horrific.”

Another recurring enemy was The Master, a renegade Time Lord with his sights set on destroying the Earth, played to perfection by Roger Delgado.

“The Master would show up regularly through the Third Doctor’s time. He was a wonderful brooding presence and a real nice counterpoint to Jon Pertwee’s stern rather bluff Doctor – you got this wonderfully smooth, rather oleaginous Master. Roger Delgado just oozed this kind of deathly charm. The Master does tend to team up with the monster of the week, usually with disastrous consequences,” recalled David. “The Master did a lot of hypnotic stuff. There would be a lot of staring eyes and people would fall under his thrall. So believable actually, he just oozed maleficent charm, it was wonderful.”

Finally David summed up exactly what Jon Pertwee brought to the role and the show, “Jon Pertwee was enormously popular and hugely loved. I think the show got higher viewing figures than it ever had up to that point during his time which for a show that was by then getting on for ten years old was quite unlikely. He really helped to reinvent it. He managed to take it in a very unexpected direction and the viewing public responded to that hugely.”

The Doctors Revisited is a monthly series of specials from BBC America, each focusing on a different incarnation of the Doctor. The next show in the series featuring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor will premiere on Sunday 28th April at 8pm/7c on BBC America and will be followed by a screening of the classic serial Pyramids Of Mars.

Screencaps from the episode: