Doctor Who: Pertwee (More Like Pertweak) Part 3

Fellow travelers, we have finally reached the last in my series of TARDIS Tavern-inspired Pertwee posts.  Rejoice!  (I certainly do.)  In Monday’s post, I pointed out that I’m not fond of Pertwee’s Doctor, in yesterday’s post, I elaborated on part of why.  Here are a few more reasons Doctor number three doesn’t do it for me:

As I mentioned previously, this is the suave Doctor, and many folks point to that as one of his winning qualities.  I beg to differ.  Scratch that, I just differ.  Oh he’s suave alright.  To the nth degree.  I’ll grant him that.  But I don’t like it—at least, not in the Doctor.  “My Doctor” isn’t suave.  Suaveness is a quality I much prefer in a villain because it’s something I love to hate.  The Master is a perfect example of this.  He’s got a very similar quality, but in his case, it’s ok because I’m not supposed to be rooting for him.  He’s the bad guy.  In my mind, that’s how bad guys should act.  I really feel the Master wears it better.

Apparently in a hero, quips are part of a package deal with suaveness.  We’re firmly setting our feet in James Bond territory now.  Quipping is another thing that rubs me the wrong way about this Doctor.  For example, in The Time Warrior the Brigadier mentions keeping the scientists safe by having all his eggs in one basket.  The Doctor replies “That’s fine [zoom to dramatic close-up] so long as no one steals the basket.”  *GROAN*  I thought my eyes might not return to the front of my skull, they rolled so far.

To continue with the Doctor-like-James Bond theme, there’s the Doctor-as-an-action-hero phenomenon.  This, more than anything else, seems to set Pertwee apart from his other incarnations.  There are a few swordfights and the like sprinkled here and there throughout the other Doctors’ reigns, but no other era sees the consistent level of action (by HAVOC) that Pertwee’s does.  Frankly, this bores me. Venusian Aikido?  I have nothing more to say about that than *yawn*.

Next up in the Bondy-Doctor comparison department: the Doctor’s “I’m so cool” attitude.  This is, of course, part and parcel with the suave, debonair personality.  As such, it bugs the snot out of me.  An example from Terror of the Autons: Mike Yates exclaims “A bomb!  Is it defused?”  The Doctor’s cool reply: “It is now.”  You could practically see the “smug” coming out of his ears.  I must admit, in one case I didn’t mind this attitude.  In the same story, he’s tied up at the circus and being a royal smartass to his captors.  That time, I was okay with it.  It’s cool to act like that to the bad guys, but there’s no excuse for being a jerk to your friends.

To really get at my feelings about Pertwee, I tried to make an informal pros and cons list, but I found I could only come up with one pro, and that’s his kindness.  In the moments when he’s being the kind, grandfather-character, he’s really quite sweet.  (However, at the risk of straying back into con territory, that makes it all the more harsh and jarring when he starts acting like a big jerkface again.)  When I stop to think about it, the few things I like about him are things I see as overarching characteristics of the Doctor in general.  I can’t think of a single thing that stands out as “Pertweesque” that is something that draws me to him rather than alienates me.  Maybe seeing more Pertwee episodes will aid me here.  I freely admit that I have a long way to go in completing my third Doctor education.  These posts illustrate how I feel right now.  It’ll be interesting to see whether my feelings have changed after concluding my journey through his era (something I’m not exactly excited to do, but will nonetheless get to everntually).

For now, I’m about as far from a third Doctor fan as you can get.  I simply wouldn’t want to spend time with this kind of a guy.

As I said before, there’s nothing here that’s inherently terrible.  Lots of folks look at the very things I’ve pointed to and say “yeah, and isn’t it great?”  More power to them (you?).  It pleases me that there are people out there who are adoring the parts of Who that I don’t like.  I think it’s important for every aspect of my favorite show to be loved.  I’m just not equipped to cover it all.  So hooray for all the third Doctor lovers out there!  I hope you keep on enjoying the hell out of seasons 7–11 (in part, so I don’t have to).

In closing, I want to encourage each and every one of you (who haven’t already) to check out TARDIS Tavern’s Episode 61: A Pertwee Extravaganza!  It was great fun to record, and it definitely gives a more balanced look at the third Doctor than I’ve presented here.  Believe me, if I could head back to the TAVERN right now, I’d do so.  After all this Pertwee talk, I could sure as hell use a drink!

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Doctor Who: Pertwee (More Like Pertweak) Part 2

Ok!  Time for more Pertwee (inspired by my TARDIS Tavern appearance).  In yesterday’s post I pointed out that I’m not fond of Pertwee’s Doctor.  Here’s part of why:

Many of my problems with Pertwee’s Doctor exist in other Doctors as well, but the fact that there are so many all together in one incarnation adds up to (or subtracts down to) a very low level of appreciation for Doctor #3.  The first of these is that he’s so mercurial (and yes, like I said, that’s not something unique to Pertwee).  Travelling with the third Doctor seems reminiscent of being in a dysfunctional relationship.  In The Curse of Peladon, one minute he’s yelling at Jo and calling her an idiot.  Not a minute later, he softens drastically and allows that she’s also been very brave.  His mood swings must be exhausting to deal with.  I understand that it’s gotta be difficult for the Doctor to have to deal with mere humans all the time, but about-faces like that smack of “I’m sorry baby; I didn’t mean it; you know I love you!”  Yuck.  At times it’s almost like he has multiple personality disorder or something.  He’ll be yelling and brash and jerky, then in the next scene he’s all meek and loath to hurt anyone’s feelings.  In Terror of the Autons he rails to the Brigadier about how terrible Jo is and how she’ll have to go, but in the next scene he can’t bring himself to fire her, and relents to having her assistance, however useless it may be.

When it comes down to it, he just doesn’t have a very pleasant personality.  Curt insults trip off his tongue more often than praise, and not just for Jo; the UNIT boys bear some of the brunt as well.  Plus, he’s often snarky.  When Mike Yates asks if Jo is hypnotized in Terror of the Autons, the Doctor snaps at him “Of course, why else do you think she tried to blow us all to pieces?”  Then the Doctor condescendingly mocks Yates by repeating him and pointing out how wrong he is about hypnotism.  In that same story, when the Doctor dresses down Brownrose the bureaucrat, instead of inspiring that “In-your-face!” feeling that I love to get when a fool is put in his place, this just smacks of dipping down to Brownrose’s self-important level.  “Tubby” indeed.  *rolleyes*  The third Doctor comes off as a pompous blowhard a lot of the time.  The only thing that mitigates it for me is the fact that he’s got something to back it up.  He does know more than everyone else around him.  That fact can only soften it so much though.

I suppose one could defend him for having somewhat frayed nerves when it comes to dealing with humans.  The third Doctor is primarily confined to Earth, so he has to deal with Earthlings on a day-to-day basis for a good stretch of time.  I guess that must wear on him.  But he’s a Time Lord.  The few years he has to spend on Earth are a drop in the bucket for one as long-lived as he.  Though I could argue with myself further here (I often do) by pointing out that the Doctor lives quite the vagabond lifestyle, and any curtailing of his freedom, no matter how brief, is bound to make him rather cross and sour in general.  Even if you buy that, it’s pretty darn rude for him to take out his frustrations on the humans around him rather than the Time Lords who stuck him on Earth.  He ought to learn some more effective coping mechanisms.  That might help him minimize the hissy fits.

Yes, that’s right, the third Doctor throws tantrums—whether it be tearing up reports or kicking the TARDIS and declaring that he likes being childish.  Come to think of it, those types of outbursts pair rather oddly with his general suave demeanor.  Perhaps we’re meant to find these different sides of our protagonist interesting and complex, but to me it just seems jarring, confusing, and even a little unsettling.  This is certainly not “my Doctor.”

Removing this dichotomy of character wouldn’t save the third Doctor for me.  Even if he expressed the suave side of his nature and nothing else, I still wouldn’t enjoy it.  I shall expand on that tomorrow.

Doctor Who: Pertwee (More Like Pertweak) Part 1

So it’s come to this.  I sorta promised myself I’d do four Pertwee-related blog posts after my thrilling appearance* on TARDIS Tavern a while back—one for each story we reviewed, and one on Pertwee’s Doctor in general.  We have now reached the general-Pertwee blog.  So I’ve got to try to distill my feelings on the third Doctor into some sort of comprehensible form without alienating anyone.  Actually, screw that last part.  If you’re not comfortable with someone holding a different opinion from you, then I guess I’ll just have to be okay with alienating you.  For the record, I think it’s great that so many people love Pertwee and his Doctor.  Doctor Who bringing joy to people is what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned.  So please don’t take this post as a condemnation if you happen to be in that camp.  I’m just camped firmly elsewhere—in a more brightly-colored and ramshackle tent.

[Editor’s note (which is also a writer’s note ‘cause there ain’t no one here but me): After spewing out all my Pertwee opinions, I realized it would make for one truly epic post, so I’ve decided to split it up.  Today’s is a brief overview of my feelings.  Over the next couple days, I’ll post some more specific observations.]

Ok.  So.  The third Doctor.  Here we go.  *deep breath*

The third Doctor is the suave Doctor, the action hero, the James Bond of the Doctor Who pantheon, and thus, he’s my least favorite of all.  I often find that when discussing him, the fan with whom I’m speaking disagrees very little.  The character traits which make Pertwee’s Doctor so beloved of some others are the very traits that turn me off.  He’s so very smooth and sophisticated.  He’s adept at hand-to-hand combat.  He wears a freaking cape.  None of these are things that excite me.  On the contrary, they make me at best, roll my eyes and sigh, and at worst, become very annoyed and want to turn off the TV.

I will allow that he does these things well.  Pertwee takes each of these characteristics and plays them just right.  I have no complaints about his ability to pull off what he’s trying to do.  I just don’t like the direction in which the Doctor is taken during this era.  That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy some of the camaraderie of having UNIT as a somewhat “familial” backdrop for the stories.  It’s an interesting way to keep costs down, and I think it works on the whole.  I just think I’d enjoy it more if it was a slightly different Doctor that was slotted into those same surroundings.  Note that I don’t suggest any of the other existing Doctors.  None of them would really work well here.  Though for me, Pertwee doesn’t either.

And I will explain why in more detail over the next couple days.  Stay tuned.  Or if you’re a big Pertwee fan, maybe don’t. ; )

*Why does that look like it’s meant to be sarcastic?  It’s most certainly not.  “Visiting” TARDIS Tavern was one of the most thrilling things I’ve done in some time.


Doctor Who: The Time Warrior (or Time Waster)

Le sigh.

Why am I sighing, you ask?  Well I’ll tell you.  It’s because it’s time to continue the Pertwee reviews I so foolishly declared I would do.  Why do I do this to myself?  My masochism knows no bounds—when it comes to Doctor Who, that is.  At least, I haven’t found those bounds yet.  They’re probably out there.  I haven’t even tried watching Dimensions in Time, so perhaps the aforementioned bounds do exist.

Ok.  I’m clearly babbling in order to put off the inevitable.  I’m afraid it’s time to talk about The Time Warrior, the third and final Pertwee story we covered during my guest appearance on TARDIS Tavern.  Once again, I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already.  Chris from Radio Free Skaro defends it quite admirably, though I cordially disagree with pretty much everything he said.

I can sum up most of what I dislike in one word—one name, actually: Irongron.  I.  Hated.  Irongron.  It’s rare that I have this intense a visceral reaction to a character, but I despised Irongron from the start.  Now I know you’re not supposed to like him; he’s one of the bad guys, but you’re not supposed to hate the bad guys the way I hate Irongron.  The Master is a perfect example of this.  No, I don’t want the Master to win, but I do love watching him try.  Even Linx here in The Time Warrior was preferable.  I quite like the Sontarans and enjoyed the first-Sontaran-appearance aspect of this story.  Kevin Lindsay will always be my favorite Sontaran, may he rest in peace.  Sorry, back to Irongron.  I found him so very grating that I wanted to turn off the TV every time he was on screen.  I couldn’t stand anything about him—the writing, the acting, the directing; it’s as if at every artistic choice that went into shaping the character, the creators said “Now what would annoy Erika the most?”

As I’ve stated multiple times before, I adore Robert Holmes.  I firmly believe he’s the greatest writer Doctor Who has ever seen, but boy-oh-boy was this one character a miss for me.  His lines were florid and over-the-top.  Had they been delivered in a less bombastic manner, perhaps I’d’ve handled them better, but we’ll never know.  The rest of the story was fine really.  I’ll never be a great Pertwee fan, but he was largely inoffensive here.  I must admit I took some perverse pleasure out of the fact that Sarah Jane was at odds with him at the beginning of the story.  Speaking of Sarah Jane, I quite liked the way she was introduced.  Her characterization may have changed after this story, but I liked it both before and after the shift.  I enjoyed how she held her own right off the bat.  Her confusion at where she was seemed a little silly, but would I handle such an experience any differently?  Perhaps not.  The only thing that really made me roll my eyes was her self-righteous “women’s lib” speech to the serving women.

Now that I think about it, there were an awful lot of things that I liked about this story.  Besides Linx and Sarah Jane, there was Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett himself!) as the charming and faithful Hal, Donald Pelmear as the absent-minded, but eventually adorable Professor Rubeish, the lovely costumes, the Doctor acting as a “wizard” because his science might as well be magic to the natives (Clarke’s Third Law, anyone?), and the basis for the plot itself—people being stolen and brought through time to the middle ages.  So it certainly wasn’t all bad; the bad just outweighed the good in a staggering manner.

In addition to my deep-seated loathing for Irongron, the story simply didn’t hold my interest.  My mind kept wandering every time I sat down to watch an episode.  It was like my subconscious was trying to tell me there were better ways I could be spending my time.  And that in itself was really disappointing to me.  I tend to like period pieces, and the middle ages is one of my sweet spots.  I should have liked this. Seeing Robert Holmes’ name in the title sequence raised my expectations, so it was an extra let-down to enjoy this as little as I did.  Normally I’m willing to forgive poor execution like the fight scene in the courtyard or the bungled falling-asleep scene, but here they just served to drag me down all the more.

After all that negativity, I feel it’s important to point out that this is Doctor Who, so I still love it.  My criticisms of this story should all be seen as in comparison with other episodes of Doctor Who.  There is no Doctor Who that I hate, no matter how much certain aspects may annoy me.  I don’t like Pertwee, and I don’t like his era, so the negatives in this story were piled upon a foundation that was already sour—thus my rampant pessimism.  But I really do love Doctor Who.  Really.  I swear.  I just don’t love Pertwee’s Doctor.  Or this story.  Or Irongron—I REALLY don’t love Irongron.  But I’ll say it again, just so we’re clear:

I love Doctor Who!

So do Sean and Steve and Chris, so you should probably listen to what they have to say about this too.

Ok, so next time will be (I hope) my last Pertwee post for some time.  I’ve covered all three of the episodes we talked about on TARDIS Tavern, all that’s left is to cover the third Doctor himself.  (Time) Lord grant me strength.

Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons (Plastic and Pertwee)

Hey, guess what?  My episode of TARDIS Tavern is now available!  Please take a listen and hear me wax (un)poetic about the Pertwee episodes I’m also covering here.  Speaking of, I might as well jump right in with Terror of the Autons.

I have to admit, I had rather high hopes for this story.  I’d heard good things about it, it features plastic people and the Master, and it was written by Robert Holmes.  Sounds great!  Perhaps I’d built my expectations up too high, because I really wasn’t taken with this one.  I found my mind wandering continually, and while there were bits of it that I enjoyed, I was rather bored overall.

Terror of the Autons is the first time we see both Jo Grant and the Master.  It’s pretty clear that this is Jo’s first story, but the Master is introduced with such little fanfare that I didn’t realize it was his introductory story at first.  The only reason I even suspected he was new to the scene was because a random Time Lord traveled to Earth to warn the Doctor about him.  That scene is quite amusing—definitely a solid example of why I love Robert Holmes.  The entire exchange is brilliantly written.  When the Time Lord tells the Doctor that he’s “incorrigibly meddlesome…but we’ve always felt that your hearts are in the right places,” I giggled out loud.  Though when the Doctor says the Time Lord looks “quite ridiculous in those clothes,” I wanted to say “look who’s talking.”

As for Jo’s introduction, she was about what I expected.  There’s really not a lot I can say about her in this story—or in general.  She’s not one of my favorite companions, but I don’t find much to dislike about her.  I definitely feel bad for her at times, having to deal with the Doctor’s mood swings.  He’s downright mean to her occasionally.  (Yes, I admit, she bungles things terribly, but I find his tendency to explode at her very off-putting.)  At one point, he calls her a “ham-fisted bun vendor!”  I don’t know what that means, but it certainly doesn’t sound very nice.

This story was a strange mix of things that made me smile and things I found downright boring.  There was a circus!  With elephants!  Elephants with bracelets!  But somehow I didn’t really care.  There was nothing particularly circus-ey about what was going on, and it seemed a bit of a waste of a location.  Though I must say, the Doctor did fit right in there with his cape and all.

I enjoyed much of the dialogue, as I mentioned earlier, but the story itself didn’t draw me in.  For every line that made me smile (Jo: “Where are they taking us?  It’s some sort of a quarry!”), there was an entire scene where I didn’t particularly care what was happening.  Some of the directorial choices left me baffled and bored too.  When the Doctor is “poking around” in the plastic doll, we see a close up on the Doctor’s face the whole time so we see nothing that’s actually happening.  And UGH, that creepy doll itself!?  Why?  Why?!

Then there’s the Master.  I enjoy Delgado as the Master quite a lot, and he didn’t disappoint here—until we reached the end of the story.  To be fair, it’s not Delgado that disappoints, it’s Holmes.  The Master’s sudden change of heart at the end very nearly pissed me off, it seemed so out of character.  (Though to be fair, this was the Master’s first story, so the character that I’m used to may not have been fully developed yet.)  I like that the Master is a diabolical genius.  I hated that he didn’t bother to think his plan through well enough to even consider the possibility that the Nestenes would cast him aside once they’d reached the planet.  I think the Master is better than that—or he really should be.

I have to give this story credit for some nice eye candy.  Michael Wisher, who played Rex Farrel very much reminded me of Guy Pierce.  Can’t complain there.  And I’m certainly a fan of Mike Yates—especially when he tells Jo she’s acting like a child.  Her tantrum made me roll my eyes so far it gave me a headache.  Incidentally, this is Mike Yates’ first story too, though I had no idea until I heard that at the Tavern.  Sadly, the story also provided whatever the opposite of “ear candy” is.  I did NOT like the incidental music.  It wasn’t quite as harsh as that of The Sea Devils, but it grated on my nerves more than just a little.

So overall, Terror of the Autons was not a winner for me.  I really wish I hadn’t started off my Pertwee-watching with The Curse of Peladon ‘cause maybe I’d’ve enjoyed this more if I hadn’t gone into it right off the heels of a story I liked so much.  Oh well, I didn’t know.  If you’d like to hear some fine folks talk about how much they liked this story, then I encourage you to download the latest TARDIS Tavern!

Now, a quick mention of Gally!  My first time at the world’s oldest and largest Doctor Who convention is mere days away.  I can’t even begin to convey how excited I am!  My bags are pretty much packed already.  All I have to do is make it through the intervening hours…somehow.  As I said before, if you’re at Gally this coming weekend, please track me down and say hi!