At the point in time when Jon Pertwee took up the mantle of the nation’s favourite Time Lord, Doctor Who was in rather a parlous state. Ratings had started to decline, the programme was making its transition from black and white into colour, and there was a radical new Earthbound format for the audience to get to grips with.
Plans were already being tentatively drawn up for a potential replacement series to take its slot, if it failed to perform well. Fortunately, both Pertwee and the production team did such a fantastic job of reinvigorating the seven year old property, giving it a whole new lease of life, and it saw it marking up its first decade in great style, with previous incumbents William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton returning for an anniversary shindig, which set the trend for so many future multi-Doctor escapades.
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In Reeltime Pictures’ latest entry in their series of interview compilation DVDs entitled The Doctors, we get to hear from the co-writers of this special adventure, ‘The Three Doctors’: Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Although they are perhaps more famous for co-creating Tom Baker’s metallic best chum K-9, Baker and Martin certainly have plenty to say about cutting their teeth writing for the series during Pertwee’s era, along with the rather unlikely start which they had in getting their careers off the ground in the first place.
The first of the pair of discs in The Doctors: The Jon Pertwee Years – Behind The Scenes Vol. 2 focuses heavily upon the show’s writers during that period, with two particular rarities getting a welcome outing. One of them – Robert Sloman – rather self-effacingly claims his father’s life story is of more interest than his own; while it certainly is fascinating to hear about the exploits of his dad, Sloman does sell himself short, as he has plenty of interest, not just about his involvement in some classic Who stories, but his wider career too.
In fact, it seems a common theme with many of the subjects featured on this set that their wider life stories are actually as fascinating – if not moreso – as their time spent working on the show. Writer Louis Marks (not to be confused with an American toymaker, Louis Marx, who made a load of Dalek-themed merchandise in the 1960s) gives a great overview of the differences between working in commercial television in comparison to being in the employ of the BBC, with the two worlds in question seemingly being poles apart.
Director Tim Combe – as well as his name apparently being a great vocal exercise for the show’s leading man – worked on some of the most striking Pertwee episodes, but sadly went over the allocated budget for his second assignment, which resulted in him not being invited back again. A great pity, as his two stories both stand up remarkably well even today. It helps to have a director’s perspective on things, especially as Combe is the only one represented in this latest set, making his contribution all the more valuable here.
For a great deal of the ‘70s, Doctor Who’s distinctive musical sound was chiefly the work of one man – Dudley Simpson. In spite of several composers being used on the show almost in rotation, the lion’s share of the work went to ‘Deadly’ Dudley, as he was nicknamed, scoring over 300 episodes in total. His story actually covers so much territory, the time he spent on Doctor Who does actually feel like the least significant part, as he opens up about all his various life experiences, such as working with ballet dancer Dame Margot Fonteyn.
Rounding out this latest set is another eclectic compilation of mini-interviews with actors who worked on the show, all of whom were caught on tape when they appeared together at a convention. One of them – Prentis Hancock – provides good value for money in particular, as he starred in the first season of Space: 1999. One thing which stands out during these micro-chats is the relative lack of ignominy at times when appearing in Doctor Who; a case in point is the near-castration of one of the interviewees, due to the manner in which his monster consume had been constructed.
The Doctors: The Jon Pertwee Years – Behind The Scenes Vol. 2 certainly carries on Reeltime’s very strong tradition of putting together the choicest cuts of its extensive archive of interviews with Doctor Who cast and crew, providing some fascinating viewing. Although some fans may perhaps find themselves disappointed with so much of the chat focusing on areas outside the show, this is actually one of the major strengths of the release, as it contains plenty of variety and keeps the viewer’s interest throughout.
The Doctors: The Jon Pertwee Years – Behind The Scenes Vol. 2 is out now on DVD from Reeltime Pictures.