Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is Back!
Back in 2021, as the status of the Collection damage felt uncertain due to covid putting the range on hold, Season 8 was released, perhaps much sooner than anticipated. Now in 2023, following another year with less boxsets than usual, we have another Jon Pertwee season to show off just how much more improved these seasons can be thanks to new restoration.
Season Nine ran between 1st January and and 24th June 1972, and sees the Pertwee era continuing its UNIT-family format, whilst also gradually branching away as the Doctor and companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) visit other planets, including Peladon and Solos.
Day of the Daleks
Despite being rather maligned by the core cast, Pertwee especially, DotD is often considered a fan-favourite, owing to its longevity in Doctor Who home media (it was one of the earlier VHS releases) and also being a notable return for The Daleks following a five-year absence (owing to creator Terry Nation pursuing a potential US project).
The plot sees human guerrillas, Daleks and their guns-for-hire Ogron henchmen travelling back in time to descend upon a world peace conference in efforts to alter history for their own gain and conquest. There’s almost a Terminator-esque feel to the story, 12 years or so before Arnold Schwarzenegger would be on the hunt for Sarah Connor.
A highlight of the story comes from the Controller, whose portrayal by Aubrey Woods (best known as the Candy store owner from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) is nuanced and engaging, which can’t really be said for the titular Daleks. The title itself is rather apt as the story only features about three or four of them, owing to the cost of new ones being too great, and the ones we do get are rather static and a bit tattered.
The idea of them having invaded earth in the future for minerals isn’t all that different from The Dalek Invasion of Earth’s premise, but does pain a grim reality that the Doctor witnesses first-hand. We also witness Jon Pertwee getting another opportunity for an action sequence involving a small bike that he clearly revels in driving, despite how slow it seems onscreen.
A point of contention in the story comes from the Dalek voices, which are rather off for the story – though I can’t say that the Nicholas Brigg’s replacements in the special edition really tickle my fancy either. The special edition in question, made for the 2012 DVD release, also improves another issue for the story in the final battle, which sees three Daleks and some Ogrons advance upon the conference, by adding more Daleks and better effects. It’s a good attempt to improve the stories’ shortcomings, but can’t fix the rather abrupt ending.
Overall, despite the Daleks not quite being at their best the story works rather effectively with or without them present, and the Ogrons are a solid addition who would reappear in the following season story Frontier in Space.
The Curse of Peladon
The Doctor and Jo arrive on the planet Peladon, where meetings are taking place for the planet to potentially join the Galactic Federation. These meetings face potentially lethal sinister happenings that are alleged to tie into a powerful beast known as Aggedor (Nick Hobbs), who is reportedly unhappy with the prospects of Peladon abandoning its old ways.
The premise was quite topical for the time, owing to the UK joining the EU around this period, and also allows for a variety of new aliens and Chairmen Delegates like the fan-favourite Alpha Centauri (Stuart Fell in costume, Ysanne Churchman in voice) and also the return of the Ice Warriors, who last appeared in 1969’s The Seeds of Death.
The Doctor and Jo end up being mistook for the Earth delegates and get involved with trying to resolve the sinister happenings, having been accused themselves and also pointing the finger at the Ice Warrior delegates (Alan Bennion & Sonny Caldinez), who are revealed to be protagonists this time around.
The king of Peladon (David Troughton) is keener for the negotiations than his advisor Hepesh (Geoffrey Toone), which ties into the overall mystery and themes of old vs new. This is a great story and has always been a favourite of mine thanks to how the plot plays both as a political thriller and also as a murder mystery, incorporating its morals of judgment as the Doctor comes to term with his own prejudice and the King has to take matters into his own hands Add in a great pit combat scene and a catchy Venusian lullaby and you have a classic for the era.
The Sea Devils
Arguably the most iconic story of the season, TSD not only introduces an iconic Doctor Who monster for the first time, but also sees the return of the Master (Roger Delgado), who has been locked up in solitary confinement following the events of The Dæmons, and claims to have turned a new leaf.
This is, of course, a rouse and it turns out that he has been manipulating his jailer George Trenchard (Clive Morton) into providing electrical equipment to create a device to control the Sea Devils into retaking the Earth, plotting an escape in the process.
The Doctor attempts to avert this plot by trying to broker peaceful negotiations between the Sea Devils and humans, still feeling the effects of the Silurian incident wherein they were seemingly wiped out by the military, much to his disgust. The Sea Devils make for engaging monsters, though their subsequent appearances were sadly a case of diminishing results, and Delgado is on typically good form, even fencing with the Doctor at one point.
I also found the naval setting to be a nice touch, having not been explored since 1968’s Fury from the Deep, and the iconic sequence of the Sea Devils emerging to the shores is one of the all-time great moments for the series. The presence of actual Naval members who were more than happy to take part in the series alongside stock footage adds a nice authenticity.
Curiously, this is a rare earthbound serial that doesn’t feature UNIT in any capacity, and though their presence is missed somewhat, the story remains a strong one, with some great directing by Michael E. Briant – especially the artillery-heavy final battle, and an experimental electronic score by Malcolm Clarke that really shone with this release.
A story considered to be one of the low points of the season, this Bob Baker & Dave Martin penned story is set in the 30th Century, on and above the Earth colony world of Solos, where developments are being made to make the atmosphere of Solos habitable for humans as a New Earth, but not the native inhabitants of the planet.
This unfolds amidst the Doctor and Jo carrying out a mission to deliver a set of tablets containing lost information about the Solonians’ life cycle to the Solonian Ky (Garrack Hagon). This story is notable for its early attempts in Who to tackle themes of colonisation and racism, as the native representatives of Solos clash with the sadistic Marshall and his soldiers, who look down on the natives as lesser beings.
This is one of the six-parters of the era that feels like it could have used some trimming as the story feels a bit padded out in parts, especially the first episode. Veteran Who director Christopher Barry is typically capable at the helm as director, and I do like the story despite its flaws, especially highlighting the design of the Mutt creatures, and some of the set and location work is quite atmospheric. It’s also a stronger script for Baker & Martin than their first story The Claws of Axos from Season 8.
The Time Monster
The Time Monster opens to The Master manically taunting the Doctor in a dream and then shows the villain posing as a professor (with a questionable accent) working with a pair of scientists (Wanda Moore & Ian Collier) to get access to a physical science research unit. This ties into the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), straight faced, telling The Doctor about a demonstration for a TOMTIT (Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time) machine.
This sets up the serial’s more absurd nature, which only grows as the Lost City of Atlantis becomes a focal point of the story, and a being that exists outside of time and space named Kronos (Marc Boyle & Ingrid Bower) becomes the target of The Master’s desire – as to rule the universe (of course).
Kronos, despite the build-up, amounts to one of the series’ less impressive creatures (a person in white with flapping wings, that flies around on a pantomime rope during the climax). There’s also Sergeant Benton (John Levene) ending up being regressed into an infant state and back again by the machine – nappy and all.
TTM even features the mythical Minotaur, who threatens Jo, a redesign of the Tardis interior (that was shelved after this story), and an accidentally phallic time sensor – despite the talking points the story drags, more so than The Mutants, across its six episodes.
I will say that TTM does feature one of my favourite Third Doctor and Jo scenes as the former discusses his past whilst they’re imprisoned, though it’s one great moment in what I feel is the weakest Pertwee era story.
Best Story: The Curse of Peladon
Worst Story: The Time Monster
Must see: The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils
Check out Part Two of our review, where we unbox the set and look through the video & audio quality, discuss the special features and provide an overall review score.
By HW Reynolds
Images courtesy of the BBC