Jon Pertwee’s Season 9 is being released on special edition Blu-ray as part of The Collection. To coincide with this exciting event, one DWC contributor recalls watching the episodes on their first broadcast…
1st January 1972. I’m six years old and living in London with my four brothers and my parents in a draughty Victorian vicarage in London. The house is still decorated for Christmas and a new Doctor Who adventure is starting on Saturday evening. This is heralded by a colourful Radio Times cover declaring, “The Daleks Are Back!” and I’m wildly excited by this. The artwork is brilliant.
Ours is a Doctor Who-watching household: my brothers and I never miss an episode and lie down on the floor in a semicircle in front of our black and white TV. Simon (my twin brother) and I adore Doctor Who and talk about it a lot. We tend to draw Daleks instead of Moses in Sunday school and are told by our Sunday school teacher, who finds this quite funny, that it nevertheless isn’t quite what she asked for. My father has watched the show since William Hartnell’s time: his favourite companion was Zoe, played by Wendy Padbury, and he says, “Oh, it’s Doctor Who!” whenever Patrick Troughton turns up in a BBC drama. (We don’t watch ITV. In 1972, even Labour voting middle class households like ours don’t watch ITV because it has advertisements and advertisements are common.) My three elder brothers like the show but they lack the dedication and adoration of their younger twin brothers. They were known to shout “Hippy!” at the Primords.
Simon and I are very excited that the Daleks are back. This must mean that we’ve seen The Evil of the Daleks when we were about three years old and could remember it (though I can’t, in 2023, remember watching any first broadcast Troughton episodes). I remember we had a Louis Marx toy Dalek in our playgroup in the late Sixties and scorned the nursery school worker who called it a robot :“It isn’t a robot; it’s a Dalek!” Tsk.
So. Day of the Daleks. I remember the camera pulling back in episode one to reveal the chief Dalek, who barked, “Report!” at the Controller. The Ogrons are a bit scary. I think the end of episode one, with the massed ranks of Daleks, is excellent. I tend to remember the episode endings, thus proving the impact and importance of the cliffhangers: the Doctor helpless on the mind analysis table as his previous selves’ photos swirl onto the screen above him. “You are the Doctor! You are the enemy of the Daleks!” How’s he going to get out of this one? Curiously, I understand that there were Doctors before Pertwee, although later in 1972 the BBC premieres the movie Dr Who and the Daleks in its High Adventure Saturday night movie slot and I’m confused and dismayed to see that the Doctor isn’t played by Jon Pertwee.
In the playground at primary school, I ask my rich friends – who have colour TV – what colour the Daleks are. “All colours,” they say. (It is a lie, but I don’t find this out until I see the story on VHS about 10 years later.) I ask what colours “the beginning” – i.e. the title sequence – is. “All colours,” they inform me. Those rich kids are a mine of information.
The Curse of Peladon doesn’t interest me quite as much because it doesn’t have Daleks in it. Ageddor is scary though, and I like Alpha Centauri, who has a friendly voice. We act the story out in the playground at school. My friend Christopher calls Alpha Centauri, “the funny looking lady”. I don’t like Hepesh because he shouts too much. Simon and I both love Jo, who is gentle, nice, and kind, and our identification point with the show. She looks so pretty in her long princess’ dress. My older brothers are disappointed at the story’s presentation of the Ice Warriors and think it’s a swizz that they are now goodies. They explain to us that the Ice Warriors used to be baddies. We can’t remember The Seeds of Death although I do remember, way back when I was four years old, thinking that the Silurians in Doctor Who and the Silurians were Ice Warriors so I suppose I must have seen the second Ice Warrior saga. I don’t like the new Earth Ambassador, who is shouty. But Jon Pertwee is fantastic and is my hero. He’s much more heroic than Captain Kirk in Star Trek and wears more interesting clothes. I like Star Trek but it’s on at 7.10 and my bedtime is 7.30 so I can only watch the first half of an episode.
The Sea Devils is great and doesn’t seem slow at all on a first watch, even though it takes six weeks to tell the story. I’m glad to have the Master back: we all love Roger Delgado’s performance. One of my school teachers tells me she knows the actor who plays the Master as he walks his dog on Richmond Common every morning and she chats to him when she walks her dog. He has a great big dog, she tells me, and is a very nice man.
I wonder where the Brigadier has got to as he’s one of my favourite characters. I quite like the Navy stuff. I think the monsters are brilliant and start drawing them in Sunday school. All of us are going around whispering Sea Devil threats in the playground. Simon and I are invited to a Saturday children’s party in our church hall and I run away from it at about 5.15 because I want to watch The Sea Devils. No one hears me ring our doorbell so I panic and ring the doorbell of our next door neighbour, who opens her door just as my mother lets me in at our front door. Mum tells me to write a letter of apology to the neighbour for disturbing her. I draw the neighbour a picture of a Sea Devil instead and add a speech bubble. This reads, “Ssssssss”.
Don’t remember much about The Mutants although I find it hard to follow. I’m scared by a shot of an old man in a fog-wreathed village: the camera moves around him and you can see the horrible mutant spine coming through his clothes. I notice that The Mutants is by some people called Bob Baker and Dave Martin and become resigned to thinking that their names on the title sequence means that this week’s story won’t be very good. I don’t like Valen because he shouts too much.
I remember almost nothing about The Time Monster. A flying bomb appears in a time slip sequence and my mother says she remembers them from the war and that people were terrified of them because their engines would cut out and you wouldn’t know where they were going to blow up. I think the final shot of the big face of Kronos, with the Master and the Doctor in front of her, is brilliant and imaginative and brilliant.
In 1973, a kind family friend invites us to watch Doctor Who in colour at her house. I blow my mind when I see the purple Spiridons’ cloaks and that Pertwee has a different colour jacket in every story. But that’s another tale…
Doctor Who: The Collection — Season 9 is available to pre-order now.