Archive for April, 2013

The Pertwee Era

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Mention the era of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Doctor Who and you may we expect and receive some well-worn descriptions. ‘Man of action’ is one, maybe ‘exiled to Earth’, and then there’s ‘UNIT family’. They’re true, all of them, to a greater or lesser degree than Pertwee’s successors in the role, but what strikes me about these descriptions is how they attempt to find the unique aspects of the Third Doctor, sorting them from the more traditional and expected aspects of our hero. As mentioned they are accurate enough, but left as the sole descriptors for the Pertwee hero and his era we lose a vital element to this incarnation of the Time Lord – his Doctorishness.

The Pertwee Era is one of change of course (there’s another shorthand description) – colour, personnel, location, a new sense of dynamism, Action by HAVOC. While he’s on Earth there’s the sense that for the Third Doctor everything s going on all at once, and he’s in the middle of it doing his utmost to do the right thing. Jon Pertwee often likened his character to that of a ‘Mother hen’, using his great cloak to shield his female companions from whatever nasties they were facing. To be honest I can’t think of a single story where this actually occurs, but the notion of protection is a really useful theme to explore in Pertwee’s Era. The Doctor is firmly established as Earth’s protector more literally than ever before – once priding himself as a gentleman of the Universe he has been brought down to Earth as its guardian against threats from space, prehistory, modern science, and ultimately in the Master, the worst aspects of his own people. We can laugh at the routine appearances of Roger Delgado’s villain and the familiarity of the Doctor’s earthbound locations, but in an in-series context it’s arguable that the Time Lords were right – the Doctor was best put to use on our world, and is simply the best man for the job. And clearly we rub off on him, too, because no sooner does he receive his get-out-of-jail-free card with a new TARDIS materialisation circuit then he’s back here checking in on us. He’s not the only protector figure in Pertwee’s era of course – assignment on Earth leads to assignment to UNIT, and the Brigadier’s role as a reluctant ward, each man keeping the other on the straight and narrow; Jo is his moral compass – which is not to denigrate the roles of either Liz Shaw or Sarah Jane Smith, but The Daemons does cast a long shadow over Pertwee’s best stories.

As viewers casual and committed we need the Doctor to be first and foremost a protector, and no matter how he strays into periods of aloofness (early Tom Baker) or spurious morality (early Colin Baker), this is the version of the Doctor we want to see. Pertwee’s Doctor embodies this effortlessly, some of his best monologues are speeches of comfort (on the nature of heroism to the Thal Vaber in Planet of the Daleks, the ‘daisiest daisy’ speech to Jo in The Time Monster); at his worst he is aloof, haughty, hectoring and priggish – but at his best (more often than not) that metaphorical cloak of comfort comes out readily. We’ve seen versions of this with both Hartnell and Troughton previously, but in the Pertwee Era, with its UNIT and Production family, there’s an intimacy and confidence that parcels Jon Pertwee’s Doctor with an accessible humanity that moves to the background noticeably in his successors. If Saturday teatime Doctor Who was the comfort viewing for television audience families, then the era of the Third Doctor is comfort, security and protection personified. ‘The man Who’ fell to Earth, and became one of us.


Fast Return – March 2013

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

We are:

At the turnout for Valentine’s Day’s big screen science fiction double feature of The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. Hundreds of young fans in attendance, and not a single exasperated fan viewing day organiser in sight. Truly the series is no longer ours, and hooray for that!

That we forgot to mention in last month’s Media Circus the not insignificant and most welcome TARDIS Tales Treasury out now on Lulu courtesy of RTP publishing. Not bad work, and proof positive that things have not all been quiet down south with the zine. Many apologies Alex!

Even better (if Alex doesn’t mind this said), confirmation via Facebook that, inspired by the abovementioned feature, TT creator Graham Muir is currently penning a special anniversary episode of the tales for RTP’s 50th anniversary issue in November. Result!!

At FreakyTrigger’s description of this past weekend’s big Big BIG [as-predicted] 50th anniversary casting news (courtesy of DWM- damn! The Beeb):

“The writing was on the wall for Tennant’s return some months ago. Said wall being the London Underground, and said writing the posters for “Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger””

At the stories of JN-T coming out now. On the 50th anniversary. The truth will out, as they say, but the timing of the revelations must have made a few production heads sore in recent weeks. And, well, yikes…

That the JN-T media storm predicted in the tabloids have thus far amounted to a couple of days of slightly-ill-informed reportage (no surprises there then) and an awful lot of angry comments after the article for suggestions that avuncular uncle Who du jour Colin Baker looked to be involved by poor virtue of him being in the topmost photo in the old desk file. In every cloud, eh?

The end of the world is indeed nigh. Two words: Alien. Babies.

Two issues of DWM celebrating the series half-century, imminent return and Smith’s newest ever bow tie, and both issues are roundly mediabombed by a moving and revealing twenty year-old interview with Jon Pertwee. Well played, sir!

And speaking of the past, finally:

For Billyfluffs. Push the button, Bill…

And Relax…

Monday, April 1st, 2013

By the time this editorial is out The Bells of St John will have aired in the UK and possibly in parts not terrestrial elsewhere. The series is back, and peace can break out once more.

The weeks leading up to the return of Doctor Who are weird times for fandom, marked by bad behaviour as fears and concerns and values bubble over and manifest themselves in friction across the forums. Outpost Gallifrey, that ring-fenced pen of usual good behaviour, went more than a little feral recently and descened across several boards into its own version of Godwin’s Law, where nearly every thread, no matter how closely related to the new series, decsended into absurd absolute camps of ‘Moff Rules’ and ‘Moff Must Go’. Ridiculous, and yet, it’s just fandom letting off steam. Hopefully nobody got hurt…

For now, then, the anticipation is a different thing. With he first episode hurdle vaulted, those who have started watching the series can look forward to the weeks ahead with some knowledge of wha 2013′s make-up will be like; the rest of us watching terrestrially can fill the gaps in later. Beyond that of course the seri return marks another stepping on point for the 50th Anniversary celebrations – and here the rumours and disclosures are flying, even if one latest weekend announcement was a rush job. (If you don’t what to know about the 50th anniversary episode’s casting then thanks for reading!)