HomeTVRevisiting Jon Pertwee's era of 'Doctor Who'

Revisiting Jon Pertwee’s era of ‘Doctor Who’

The fifth and final season feels tired

The Monster of Peladon

Nobody can say that the production team was fully out of ideas. At least four of the five stories comprising season eleven are well-told and interesting. But there is a faded grandeur to much of it, like a once splendid hotel in a seaside resort that has become a touch weather-worn and shabby. Part of the reason for this is understandable: Roger Delgado’s tragic and premature death in 1973 was a terrible shock to those who worked with him, and the show lost an asset in his charming portrayal of the Master. More than that, Delgado and Pertwee had become close friends. Pertwee was missing Katy Manning, too. As the incoming companion Sarah-Jane Smith, Elisabeth Sladen recorded in her memoirs that Pertwee was tearful over her predecessor’s exit from the show. At five years, Pertwee had played the Doctor for longer than either of his two predecessors, and had noticeably aged in that time. His hair is what you might call ‘peppered’ in his first two seasons, and grows progressively white thereafter. As if overcompensating for the loss of colour, as script editor Terrence Dicks was wont to point out, “Jon’s bouffant became bigger and bigger”. The monsters in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ represent arguably the lowest point (against some stiff competition) in special-effects work in the entire series, spoiling an otherwise excellent story. ‘The Monster of Peladon’ is almost unremittingly dull, and is saddled with some sorry-looking Ice Warrior costumes that have been cobbled together from stores. ‘Planet of the Spiders’ is overly-indulgent of its lead star, with plenty of padding allowing gratuitous multi-vehicle chase sequences that contribute nothing to the story. It has its high points, but it all feels like a season too far. The saving grace is the person who would establish herself as the most enduringly popular companion of all-time, Elisabeth Sladen.

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

Must Read