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Revisiting Jon Pertwee’s era of ‘Doctor Who’

Season Seven is a masterpiece

Jon Pertwee Years
Credit: BBC

Jon Pertwee’s opening year as the Doctor is incredibly high-calibre. Running to only four stories, two of them (at least) ought to be included in any self-respecting ‘Doctor Who’ fan’s top twenty list. The opening story, ‘Spearhead from Space’, was authored by the much-revered Robert Holmes. Apart from a slightly silly ending, employing the same kind of ‘Deus ex machina’ resolution that would become commonplace in the 2005 remake, the story is perfectly structured. The second story, featuring the Silurians, is similarly more adult-themed, with a moral dilemma about how to treat intelligent lifeforms who have a prior claim to living on Earth. ‘Ambassadors of Death’ is the only instalment with substantial padding, and yet the essence of the story is gripping, and the use of space exploration is timely, given the moon landings that had occurred only months earlier. Finally, there’s ‘Inferno’, the story that warns of the perils of plundering Earth’s resources and tampering with nature. It’s also the first overtly political story, with the Doctor shifting into a parallel universe populated by Communist thugs like something out of Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. It’s arguable that ‘Doctor Who’ was never quite that brilliant again, and that ‘Inferno’ is its crowning glory. Top marks for Pertwee’s Doctor, but there were still four years to go, meaning that…

Greg Jameson
Greg Jameson
Book editor, with an interest in cult TV.

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