Who’s who in Dr. Who 

29 August 2019 tbs.pm/69508



From the Daily Express for 20 March 1971

WHEN Jon Pertwee took over the swirling mantle of B.B.C.1’s Dr. Who more than a year ago he vowed to play the part straight. Without, as he put it, the baggy trousers.

And even while warding off attacks from a succession of outlandish adversaries like Silurians, Autons, Primords and Axons he has not swerved from that principle.

The result has been more than gratifying, he told me.

“Our viewing figures have shot up this season to the nine million mark and while the kids are still lapping it up we are attracting more and more adult viewers”


SHAGGY, growling, grimacing Primord, the transfigured terror of Director Stahlman, gave Dr. Who one of his biggest tests last June. Under the whiskers — Olaf Pooley.

The secret of the show’s growing popularity?

“Because, basically, it is more scary than it used to be. And it’s more scary because we now play it as science fiction rather than science fantasy.

“We have brought the monsters down to earth instead of zooming off to other planets to tackle them. Somehow, it’s far more terrifying if you can identify with what’s happening on the screen — the idea of meeting a Yeti shuffling down your High Street is more alarming than one somewhere in outer space.

“With most of the action being earth-bound too, we can shoot on actual locations rather than in studio sets — and this adds even more to the realism”

Fifty-one-year-old RADA-trained Pertwee agreed to take on the role partly because he wanted a larger audience to accept him as a straight actor and not only as a comedian

So his decision to play Dr. Who “for real” included using his genuine voice rather than one of the wide range of “funny” accents he has at his command.

“If there is humour in the script I use it, of course, but I won’t speak lines of dialogue that are nonsense because this would destroy the sense of realism I am trying to achieve,” he said.

But does the increased realism equate with more terror for the younger children?

‘We have been sniped at for frightening kids behind the sofa and all that sort of thing,” said Pertwee, “but nearly all the children I have met can take it— and more. And that is another reason I don’t play the part tongue-in-cheek: you can’t kid kids.

“Five-fifteen on a Saturday evening is family viewing time. In that, way it differs from other nights of the week. And if you have a particularly susceptible child there is nothing to stop you leaning forward at an angle of 45 degrees and turning that little button.”

• Jon Pertwee’s predecessor Patrick Troughton, who for three years played the Dr. Who role with a more comic, lighter touch, went on to greater dramatic things — the scheming Duke of Norfolk in the successful “The Six Wives of Henry VIII.”

Russ J Graham writes:

A bit of fluff from the Daily Express in 1971, ahead of episode 2 of The Claws of Axos debuting on BBC-1 that night.

Jon Pertwee takes care to stress how Doctor Who is now more realistic-seeming for being Earth-based; this despite him and Katy Manning just having finished recording the following adventure, Colony in Space, which saw the Doctor leaving Earth in his Tardis. This would become more common from that point on.

Of course, the Express wouldn’t be the Express if it didn’t put the boot in at some point in a feature. Here it’s done subtly against Patrick Troughton: mentions of ‘no more baggy trousers’, a new seriousness, more realism… and a final, off-topic paragraph about how he’s gone on to better and more upmarket things since. Nice way to condemn three years of the show and its former lead actor, then damn him again with faint praise. And a very good job at making it seem like Pertwee was slagging off Troughton’s portrayal, despite the two of them being friends in real life.

All-in-all, a nice glimpse into both how Doctor Who was publicised in the early 1970s and how newspapers can spin anything into anything if they want to.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Richard 29 August 2019 at 6:02 pm

Proof, were it ever needed (and in my mind it isn’t) that Who always promoted as family show until the management mid eighties kickings…

Trevor Wells 16 October 2019 at 10:06 am

The Pertwee years introduced colour to the series & the late great Roger Delgado as The Master. The 23/11 anniversary falls on a Saturday this year. Dr Who magazine is 40 years old I remember it being launched at a convention back in 1978.

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