Jon Pertwee had the distinction of being the first Doctor to be aired in color and (due to BBC budget cuts) stuck on planet earth for many of his stories. Despite this, the show had some terrific writing during this era and his Doctor (who was a much more serious Doctor) became a man of action for the first time.
Jon Pertwee brought a lot of gravity and more of the sage back to the Doctor again and has all the arrogance of the first Doctor, after the more lighthearted second Doctor’s time. There has been a lot of comparison between his Doctor and that other great British character James Bond. Certainly his Doctor is the most action oriented of the classic era, with his penchant for Venusian karate, and his love of fast vehicles. He expanded the idea of who this character is further again.
Best Companion: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
Worst Companion: Jo Grant
BEST EPISODES (STORY ARCS):
Why it’s the best: Inferno is one of the first story arcs to explore the idea of a parallel timeline. As a huge fan of the stories that feature the difficulties and complexities of time travel and its repercussions, this story rates very highly with me. When the Doctor starts working with a nuclear powered research facility with the intent of diverting energy to the TARDIS, he turns up in a parallel reality that is a communist state. Easily one of the most intricately woven of plots and stories of the classic Who era, this one stands out for its attention to detail and for the fantastic glimpse of an alternate reality it presents. With a surprise ending that really delivers, this is a tense race for time and a truly exceptional story.
The Three Doctors (#65)
Why it’s the best: The title says it all – THREE DOCTORS. The first three Doctors have been brought together by the Time Lords to deal with an unusual problem. One of the most fun and funniest stories of classic Doctor Who, this arc also reveals some important things about Time Lord history and sets up a lot of the mythology of future Doctor Who . While not perfect, it is certainly one of the better stories, dealing with anti-matter and black holes, and other fascinating concepts, it is a little abstract at times, but it is still a solid story. It also has some of the Brigadier’s best scenes, and seeing the interactions of these very different, very distinct personalities of the same character is just a riot.
The Green Death (#69)
Why it’s the best: I’ll be honest, here, I’ve never been a huge fan of Jo Grant as a companion. So her leaving the series was not a huge loss, as far as I was concerned, that being said, it cannot be denied that this was among her best episodes, not so much because she was proven to be a great character here, (she is still as daffy as ever) but because we finally see how much the Doctor has influenced her future and her life, (she is essentially the Eliza Doolittle of Doctor Who) and we also get a glimpse of life for the Doctor on his own. The plot is a bit silly involving giant larvae and an all too human computer, but what makes this story shine is what it reveals about the characters. We get a great story for Mike Yates for the first time here as well, and it has one of the saddest and sweetest send offs for a companion, and a rare and poignant moment that revealed something important about the Doctor that was not often seen in the classic Who stories. For all of these reasons, while the plot itself is only average, the humanity of the story makes this one of the best.
The Mind of Evil (#56)
Why it’s the best: While Terror of the Autons (#55) was technically the first story to feature the Master, this was the first story where the Master really proved how fantastic his character is. Roger Delgado is my favorite actor to play this dynamic character and in this story he really gets a chance to show his evil nature. When the Doctor goes to a prison to witness a scientific demonstration of a machine that has been created in order to extract the evil impulses from violent prisoners, he gets more than he bargained for. This is also the first story where Jo actually shows herself to be a reasonably capable companion, and it features an unusual setting as most of the story takes place in the prison. Everyone in this arc gives an excellent performance, including the supporting cast, but Roger Delgado is truly the start of this one.
The Mutants (#63)
Why it’s the best: While this may seem an odd choice to some fans, I challenge anyone to show me a story in the 3rd Doctor’s arcs that has more things going on than this one. It has some strange psychedelic 70s moments, but what makes this one so great is the warring factions of aliens, the imperialist class struggle, the mystery of the nature of the planet itself -and what is causing the developments of the “Mutts” (Mutants) – and the truly awesome resolution that was really very clever and unexpected. It is helped by terrific writing, and solid performances from Jo, the Doctor and the supporting cast. A great and interesting saga that showed just how creative this show could be.
The Claws of Axos (#57)
Why it’s the best: Many of the stories during the third Doctor’s time were set on Earth, so instead of outer space adventures, there were anomalies here that the Doctor encountered. One of the strangest is The Claws of Axos. When a spacecraft appears on Earth, The Doctor and UNIT investigate and communicate with the aliens that are known as Axos, but there is more to Axos than meets the eye (as is frequently the case). What is great about this story is that it has some of the craziest sets and concepts, and while some of it is a bit like the effects of a carnival fun-house, it is definitely one of the most creative stories. Another fun and funny story.
Spearhead from Space (#51)
Why it’s the best: The third Doctor’s first story, sets up a lot of the elements that would continue throughout most of his stories. The Doctor, stranded on Earth by the Time Lords, reconnects with UNIT and The Brigadier, who sees his friend’s new face for the first time. Filled with action and introducing the Nestene Consciousness and the Autons (who would later return in both Terror of the Autons #56 and Rose #157), it had Venusian karate, a compelling story, humor, chases, and intrigue. What more could a fan of the third Doctor ask for? A great start for this new Doctor that showed there were even more things to learn about this character.
The Sea Devils (#62)
Why it’s the best: As Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado continued their sparring match as the Doctor and the Master, this is arguably the most fun the two actors ever had playing off each other. Featuring an actual duel between the two, with some of the most hilarious moments of the series, and a great chase on land, air, and sea, this is without a doubt one of the most elaborate battles between the two. It also brings back a variation of the Silurians – their underwater cousins, The Sea Devils -who were so rarely seen in Doctor Who after this, but were one of the more interesting creatures of the series. If that is not enough, the story also features some of Roger Delgado’s finest moments as the Master.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs (#71)
Why it’s the best: With dinosaurs suddenly appearing all over London, the Doctor and Sarah Jane have the difficult task of determining how the creatures have been misplaced in time, and why and how they are suddenly appearing and disappearing. Featuring some great stop motion and effects worthy of Ray Harryhausen, this one is fun if for no other reason than to see dinosaurs stomping around London, and UNIT scrambling to stop them. The story had an interesting twist when a regular character became the source of a betrayal to the Doctor, and the plot was well thought out and very well done. One of the more creative stories of the third Doctor.
Day of the Daleks (#60)
Why it’s the best: This story arc is easily among the very best of the Dalek stories. Equal parts war and spy story, as much as a Dalek story, it is frequently reminiscent of The Dalek Invasion of Earth (#10) As the Doctor and UNIT attempt to protect a political ambassador, they find themselves caught in a war with soldiers from the future. With one of the more interesting time loop twists of the series, this one real goes above and beyond to create a stellar story for the third Doctor and the Daleks. This is possibly the greatest example of a story that is reminiscent of James Bond with Jon Pertwee’s performance.
WORST EPISODE (STORY ARC):
Terror of the Autons (#55)
Why it’s the worst: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Now take a look at the picture below. That is just the starting point. This is a story that is well loved by many Doctor Who fans, but was one that just did nothing for me. It introduced the Master and that is about the best thing that can be said about the episode. It had a bizarre series of events, which led to a troll-like doll becoming an Auton and killing people, plastic lilies handed out at the airport carrying a deadly toxin, and then the bobble-headed Autons below. Oh, and did I mention that the Doctor is nearly choked to death with an out of control phone cord? As if that were not enough, this story also introduced us to Jo Grant, one of the third Doctor’s worst companions, and she is at her absolute dumbest here. I may be biased, but all that adds up to the worst story for the third Doctor in my book.