Bigger On The Inside: A Quick Start Guide To… The Third Doctor



It can’t have escaped your attention that Doctor Who is about to celebrate its landmark 50th anniversary. The world’s longest running sci-fi show began in 1963, and has run on and off to this day. After thirty-three seasons, its 800th episode or so will be simulcast to 75 countries and hundreds of cinemas nationwide on November 23rd. Clearly, there’s a lot going for it, but the sheer size and scope of the show can make it impenetrable for first time viewers.

So if you’ve never seen an episode, or you only started watching it because David Tennant was a bit dishy, here’s the first in a twelve part series giving you a quick over-view of each Doctor, each companion, big name monsters and stories to snog, marry and avoid. We’ll even throw in the spin-offs that ran (mostly) in recent years, to let you know if they’re worth a look. So get your sonic screwdriver at the ready, and delve into articles which we hope… are bigger on the inside…




Since its very inception, Doctor Who has been about change.  Indeed, the show has thrived on it, with a revolving door of cast members, and each successive story being set in a different time and place to the last.  There are a few recurring themes over the years, but precious few physical constants in the show across two successive years, let alone fifty of them.

Which is what makes Jon Pertwee’s era as the titular Time Lord one of the more unusual parts of the series history. Coming after a then unprecedented seven month break since the final part of Patrick Troughton’s swansong aired, the first season of Pertwee’s run was perhaps the biggest revamp the show has ever undergone whilst still in active production.

For starters, Doctor Who was now being produced in colour, even if few households at the time could receive it. It was also being shot differently: the reduced episode count from around 45 episodes a year down to approximately 25, and an increase in location work allowing for greater opportunities to edit the finished episodes than ever before.  There were new effects machines on offer, with the series becoming one of the pioneering homes of early Colour Separation Overlay – now commonly known as blue/green-screen.  Those glorious CGI epics you watch today all owe Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who a massive debt, not least because it was these episodes which the likes of Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg got hooked on.



The big change, however, was the format of the show.  Tired of budget problems recreating alien worlds, and pleased with the success of (recently recovered) The Web Of Fear and The Invasion featuring UNIT soldiers battling monsters in present day England, outgoing producers Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant retooled Doctor Who into a fully-fledged revamp along those lines.

The Doctor, now under exile due to his meddling in time, has been forcibly regenerated into the imposing figure of Jon Pertwee: a suave, no-nonsense man of action.  Like the show at the time, he became two extremes – pompous enough to name-drop famous historical figures and work his way through the contents of other people’s wine cellars, but keen to burst the bubble of militaristic and bureaucratic types by pointing out how science was the logical solution to the monster of the week.

Paired up with his old friend, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (the ever wonderful Nicholas Courtney), the Doctor becomes UNIT’s official Scientific Advisor, and immediately hooks up with fellow scientist Dr Elizabeth Shaw (the late, great, Caroline John).  Suddenly, we’re in new territory, as the trio investigate various mysterious goings on at various military bases and scientific research facilities that involve living plastic Autons, prehistoric Silurians, missing astronauts and a project to drill to the earth’s core which could have deadly implications.

This initial season is often cited as amongst the show’s finest, and it’s not hard to see why – suddenly, Doctor Who was being played for adults just as much as it was for children, and the stories are intelligent yet packed with memorable, blockbuster moments. There’s no surprise Liz Shaw was paid tribute to in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, because the character would have fitted in perfectly.



Sadly, this approach wasn’t quite gelling for new producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks, and Caroline John’s pregnancy sped up the decision to replace Shaw with a younger, ditsier companion.  Enter the loveable Jo Grant (gloriously eccentric Katy Manning), and an enhanced UNIT family.  Occasional soldier Sgt Benton (John Levine) was promoted to regular status, and a potential love interest for Jo was brought in, with Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin).  All of a sudden, the show’s period of constant change drew to a halt, and the show pretty much stayed in this ‘mode’ for the next three years.

Which, in itself is no bad thing, when the series was so much fun.  Season Eight gave birth to The Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master – a fellow Time Lord played with Machiavellian delight by Roger Delgado.  The Master appeared in eight out of fifteen stories during this period, and whilst he became increasingly shoehorned in, it was always a delight to see the incredible Jon Pertwee square off against Delgado on screen. Long before Cumberbatch and Scott as Holmes & Moriarty was this equally dynamic pairing of two equals, batting wits, and the Doctor/Master rivalry has never been bettered in their subsequent incarnations.

The UNIT family battled Daleks, Sea Devils, giant maggots, Omega (with help from the First & Second Doctors, no less) and even a being who claimed to be the Devil himself.  For a while, they seemed unstoppable, even when the show began to explore travels in space and time once again, it always returned to UNIT HQ for some fun with the Brig, Benton & Yates.

And then, it all fell apart. Whilst filming a movie in Turkey, Roger Delgado was tragically killed in a car crash.  Not long afterwards, Manning decided to move on, and Pertwee announced he too, would leave the following year.  By the time Jo’s successor, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen – more on her next time) turned up, the Pertwee era was on borrowed time.  Yates was written out, and at the end of a deadly battle with giant spiders on Metabelis III, the Doctor stumbled back to UNIT HQ and died in front of Sarah Jane and the Brigadier.  As Lethbridge-Stewart put it during the regeneration: “Oh well, here we go again…”




Spearhead From Space: Pertwee’s debut, and the only classic Who ever shot entirely on film, this one looks beautiful on (possibly the only classic series) blu-ray, and is filled with epic moments – as the Nestine Consciousness turn innocent shop window dummies into children’s nightmares…

Inferno: The rather wonderful Season Seven concludes with a tale of a parallel Earth, an eye-patch wearing Brigade Leader, Liz Shaw rocking a fascist hair-cut, and Jon Pertwee at the top of his game.

The Mind Of Evil: A typical UNIT adventure, with The Master on top form, trying to control an alien device which is feeding on the evil thoughts of the inmates of Stangmore Prison.  Recently returned to vivid colour via magic technology, with episode one coloured frame-by-frame by two rather dedicated fans.

The Daemons: Spooky goings on in a quaint English village, where science meets is biggest foe… magic.

The Green Death: Famous as “the one with the giant maggots”, this one, in fact, is the one with the giant maggots.  And also the first time Who pulled at the heart-strings, as Jo accidentally breaks the Doctor’s hearts.


The two Peladon based stories (The Curse Of Peladon & The Monster Of Peladon) are dull allegories for political problems of the time, that fail to contain any Doctor Who magic.  The Time Monster is a pointless runaround in Atlantis, with a villainous computer genuinely called TOMTIT.  And Death To The Daleks has arguably the worst cliff-hanger ever, or the best depending on how you look at it… all fear the deadly patterned linoleum!!!


About Paul Holmes

Editor of The Velvet Onion since 2010, I also work in arts marketing and digital content producing, writer for a few things, listen to a lot of vinyl and watch lots and lots of Doctor Who.

Posted on October 14, 2013, in Articles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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