Out now on double DVD is ‘The Doctors – The Jon Pertwee Years Behind the Scenes Vol 1’, a collection of interviews with the talent involved in the making of ‘Doctor Who’ during the era of the Third Doctor back in the early 1970s.
These interviews were captured over a wide time span, in many different places, but they unite around their focus on that most enduring of science-fiction shows, specifically during the time in which Jon Pertwee graced our screens and made velvet smoking jackets and frilly shirts incredibly cool. Older fans may remember this series of documentaries from its original umbrella title of ‘The Myth Makers’.
The first disc is taken up with a two-part interview featuring that most special of double-acts – Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. Although they were the producer and script editor respectively during the Pertwee era, off-screen they became close and lifelong friends. A recent documentary revealed that they met up for fish and chips every week, up until Barry Letts’ final illness and death in 2009. A decade later, Dicks would also pass away. These interviews from 1994, recorded at a time when they were working together on BBC radio adventures featuring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, are a poignant reminder not only of their unique and significant contribution to ‘Doctor Who’, but of an enduring friendship too. If you didn’t know they were recorded in the mid-90s, then interviewer Nicholas Briggs’ snazzy waistcoat will leave you in no doubt!
Over the course of around three hours, Letts and Dicks run through the entire history of their involvement in ‘Doctor Who’, from Jon Pertwee’s first season to the casting of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, ending on what was then the present-day, shortly after the exciting thirtieth anniversary of the show that long-standing fans will remember so fondly. Gently encouraging of one another, Letts and Dicks clearly relished talking about making ‘Doctor Who’, and you come away with the distinct impression that those precious years in the early 70s were the happiest and most fulfilling of their careers and lives. It’s hardly any wonder that their warmth and affection for the show comes across on screen. It’s wonderful to spend time in this dynamic duo’s company, and fitting that these interviews were recorded in the nostalgic afterglow of a very special celebration in the show’s history.
The second disc offers some rare and interesting content. First up is an interview with writer Don Houghton, who penned the Pertwee classics ‘Inferno’ and ‘The Mind of Evil’. The footage was recorded as a panel discussion at a ‘Doctor Who’ convention in the late 1980s (Houghton died in 1991). Thankfully, the sound and picture quality are good – it has been professionally recorded, and is leagues above the standard wobbly camcorder footage that has found its way onto YouTube to immortalise some of the convention interviews. Originally released in 2006, the footage also features writer Bob Baker as well as the much-loved duo of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. Fans of ‘Sapphire and Steel’ may be interested to hear Houghton’s story about his involvement on Adventure Five of that show.
There is a joint interview with two stalwart directors of the show – fan-favourite Christopher Barry and the often-overlooked Paul Bernard. Barry is captured on a lovely summer’s day relaxing in his garden, and by contrast, Bernard is in a studio. Since Barry’s involvement in the show dated back to the Hartnell era, he gives some interesting details about working with the first three Doctors, and reveals Raymond Cusick’s original cardboard studio design for the Hartnell historical ‘The Romans’ – we can’t help but wonder what has happened to that! Behind the camera for three Pertwee adventures, Bernard’s focus is dedicated to the Third Doctor’s era.
The final instalment is a set of shorter interviews recorded with actors who were attending the 2008 ‘Flight Through Eternity’ convention. Anna Barry and Valentine Palmer (who starred together in the Pertwee classic ‘Day of the Daleks’) give an overview of their careers, with a focus on their involvement in ‘Doctor Who’. There are also contributions from Terence Lodge, who appeared in Troughton’s debut story as well as two Pertwee classics, all as different characters, and the recently-deceased Damaris Hayman. She may have only featured in one ‘Doctor Who’ story, but her memorable performance as the white witch Miss Hawthorne in the revered Pertwee serial ‘The Daemons’ has ensured that fans have always held her close to their hearts.
The cruel passage of time means that only a few of the many contributors to these interviews are still with us today, but thankfully their personal reflections on their contributions to ‘Doctor Who’ have been preserved for posterity. Future generations who enjoy delving behind the scenes of their favourite science-fiction show will find diving into this wonderful range of interviews a rich and rewarding experience. As they were made before the omnipresence of high definition, the standard definition picture quality will be an adjustment for some younger viewers. Needless to say, as for copyright reasons no clips from ‘Doctor Who’ are included, these in-depth interviews will only appeal to fans who tip towards the fanaticism end of the scale. There’s little here for casual viewers. For those steeped in the mythology of classic ‘Doctor Who’ and for whom the names on this release elicit reverence and awe, there are many joyous hours of viewing pleasure to enjoy. A similar title featuring talent from the William Hartnell era is planned for release in August 2021.
Cast: Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, Don Houghton, Bob Baker, Christopher Barry, Paul Bernard, Anna Barry, Valentine Palmer, Terence Lodge, Damaris Hayman Director: Keith Barnfather Certificate: E Released by: Reeltime Pictures Running time: 315 mins Release date: 12th July 2021 Buy ‘The Doctors The Jon Pertwee Years Behind the Scenes Vol 1’ now