Reverse the Polarity: The 3rd Doctor

By Last Updated: February 25, 2024Views: 3058

Doctor Who Week continues on DaddyElk! The Series 9 premiere is coming this Saturday and to celebrate we’re going to be doing all kinds of Who-related content starting with revisiting some old articles written for the 50th anniversary highlighting my take on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th Doctors. In addition to regenerating (see what I did there?) this old content there will be tidbits and trivia scattered throughout the week. Allons-y!

It didn’t take long for me to come to terms with the fact that what I thought was the only Doctor was in fact one of many. The show I loved was larger than I had imagined. Bigger on the inside you might say. So while I waited for new episodes to arrive from across the pond I settled in and tried to get as much information about the show as was possible at the time. This included sitting through pledge drives on PBS and looking things up at the library.

Typical conversation at the library in 1981:

Me: Do you have any Doctor Who?
Librarian: Doctor What?
Me: Who.
Librarian: Excuse me?
Me: Never mind. **sigh**

And it was during this time that my local PBS station acquired episodes of the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. I eagerly ate them up. The station didn’t acquire all the episodes and they were frequently aired out-of-order. So my introduction to Three was a bit disjointed. Still, I enjoyed them well enough but I must admit there was something that didn’t sit well with me.

There was the overuse of the two finger chest push and the yelling of “Hai!” and an awful lot of neck rubbing. Too many of the episodes started off or ended with, “Oh, look it’s the Master again.” But more than that there was something intrinsic to the characterization. This was a very conservative Doctor.

Now at the age of eleven I wouldn’t have been able to articulate this but I was able to sense it. Whereas Baker’s Doctor was flamboyant and anti-establishment, Pretwee’s Doctor was decidedly pro-establishment going so far as to work for the military itself. Yes, there were times when he would spout off and complain about regulations and whatnot, but for the most part Three went along with authority and did as he was told. And he was often rude and downright nasty to his companions. This didn’t endear me to Pertwee right away.

But I did eventually warm to him, especially the later episodes with Sara Jane. And it was a very consistent show. There are very few bad episodes, and some quite good ones. The production team of Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks didn’t take many chances, but at the same time didn’t really fail either.

I once heard someone say of the Pertwee era, it is very hard to praise but very easy to love. And that kind of sums it up for me. While it’s not my favorite era it was entertaining. And it did reinforce my love of the Baker’s tenure, and wet my appetite for what was to come.

My Favorite Third Doctor Episodes

In no particular order:

  1. Spearhead From Space: menacing mannequins
  2. Ambassadors of Death: Great action and visuals
  3. Inferno: He must be evil, he has an eye patch
  4. The Daemons: The Devil and Doctor Who
  5. The Three Doctors: Just plain fun
  6. Carnival of Monsters: Robert Holmes at his best
  7. Green Death: maggots
  8. Claws of Axos: psychedelic aliens
  9. Curse of Paledon: old enemies and a penis
  10. Terror of the Autons: Probably the best Master episode
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