Pertwee is a British comedy character actor credited with an extensive
list of stage, screen, radio, and cabaret appearances. The one-time
spouse of Upstairs, Downstairs star, Jean Marsh, Pertwee is best
known for his turn from 1970 to 1974 as the Doctor in the long-running
British Broadcasting Corporation program, Doctor Who. A master
of accents, voices, sounds, and comical walks, Pertwee perfected
his multiple comedic personae on the radio series The Navy Lark
and supporting roles in various films beginning with his appearance
in 1937's Dinner at the Ritz.
by producer Peter Bryant in 1969 to take over as the Doctor from
Patrick Troughton, Pertwee brought to the program a radically different
interpretation of the title character. Aired initially in 1963,
Doctor Who was produced by the drama department at the BBC
and was not intended primarily for children. The first Doctor, as
portrayed by William Hartnell, was a renegade Time Lord from the
planet of Gallifrey who exhibited a strong moral sense, an aggressive
curmudgeonly attitude, and impatience with his various earthly companions'
comparative mental slowness. Hartnell was replaced in 1966 by Patrick
Troughton who played the part as a "cosmic hobo" in the tradition
of Chaplin's Little Tramp.
Sean Hogben asserted in "Dr. Who: Adventure With Time to Spare"
in TV Week, however, "Doctor Who won its reputation as a top science
fiction series during Jon Pertwee's time in the role." Reacting
to the popularity of the early James Bond films, and determined
to move away from the clownish depiction Troughton gave the Doctor,
Pertwee played the character as an action-based interplanetary crusader
exhibiting the characteristics of a folk hero. Pertwee was thus
able to draw on his considerable ability to perform his own stunts
resulting from his love of skin-diving and water-skiing, along with
his habit of driving fast vehicles, to give a harder edge to his
The Pertwee era began with the serialization of "Spearhead From
Space," which also introduced the program's fans to the series'
first broadcasts in color. Pertwee's adoption of his grandfather's
evening suits as the foundation of the Doctor's garb allowed him
to switch among different colored velvet smoking jackets to mark
each passing season of episodes. With this change in the Doctor's
apparel, the producers began to publicize the series as providing
"adventure in style" due to Pertwee's penchant for a similar type
of life outside the studio, and partly to cash in on the liberated
"Swinging Sixties" ambiance still prevalent in early 1970s Great
Britain. The fact the program was attracting a considerable audience
among upscale 17 to 19 year olds also contributed to this change
in character depiction and promotion.
love of fast vehicles and gadgets prompted him to suggest the Doctor
travel from trouble-spot to trouble-spot in an Edwardian four-seat
roadster eventually named "Bessie." During most of Pertwee's term,
the Doctor was banished to Earth by the Time Lords of Gallifrey,
thus necessitating a different mode of transportation than his predecessors
enjoyed with the Tardis, the Doctor's police-box-styled time machine.
Thus "Bessie" and (in 1974) the "Whomobile," a flying-saucer shaped
custom three-wheel car built for Pertwee by Peter Faries, became
the Doctor's primary transportation during the four years Doctor
#3 assisted UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) and its
indefatigable leader, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)
as they saved the Earth from a variety of monsters, aliens, megalomaniacs,
and other menaces.
In early 1974, Pertwee announced he would step down from his stint
as the Doctor following that season's shooting in order to resume
his stage career in The Breadwinner. His final appearance
came in "The Planet of the Spiders" which dovetailed with the initial
episode the following season, "Robot," during which Tom Baker took
over as the regenerated Time Lord. Pertwee returned in 1983 to share
top billing with his fellow Doctors in "The Five Doctors," a 20th
anniversary celebration and one of the stories best received by
the series' fans. The plot found all five incarnations of Doctor
Who taking on their most memorable enemies who attempted, but failed,
to destroy the five Doctors for good.
Jon Pertwee returned briefly to British television in 1979 for the
short-live comedy series Worzel Gummidge. His post-Doctor years
found him performing primarily on stage and in motion pictures.
He continued his association with the Doctor Who character from
time to time with appearances at Doctor Who conventions worldwide.
Jon Pertwee at Doctor Who
DEVON ROLAND PERTWEE. Born in London, England, 7 July 1919.
Attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (expelled). Married: 1) Jean
Marsh in 1955 (divorced 1960); 2) Ingeborg Rhosea in 1960; children:
Dariel and Sean. Toured with the Arts League of Service Travelling
Theatre prior to World War II; film debut, 1937; after service with
the Royal Navy, worked in BBC radio comedy and also appeared in
films; achieved fame as television performer as third actor to star
in Doctor Who, 1970-74; also starred in Worzel Gummidge
and made many other television appearances. Died 20 May 1996.
1970-74, 1983 Dr Who
1975-78 Whodunnit? (host)
1979-81 Worzel Gummidge
1987 Worzel Gummidge Down Under
A Yank at Oxford, 1937; Murder at the Windmill, 1948;
Mr Drake's Duck, 1951; Will Any Gentleman?, 1953;
A Yank in Ermine, 1956; It's a Wonderful World, 1956;
Carry On Cleo, 1964; Carry On Cowboy, 1965; I've
Gotta Horse, 1965; Carry On Screaming, 1966; A Funny
Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1966; The House That
Dripped Blood, 1970; One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing,
1975; Adventures of a Private Eye, 1977; Wombling Free,
1977 (voice only); The Water Babies, 1978 (voice only); The
Boys in Blue, 1983; Carry On Columbus, 1992.
Up the Pole; The Navy Lark.
Worzel's Song, 1980; Worzel Gummidge Sings, 1980.
HMS Waterlogged, 1944; Waterlogged Spa, 1946; Knock
on Wood, 1954; There's a Girl in My Soup; Oh Clarence;
Jeremy. Doctor Who: The Early Years. London: W. H. Allen,
Terrance, and Malcolm Hulke. The Making of Doctor Who. London:
W. H. Allen, 1980.
Peter. Doctor Who The Key To Time: A Year-by-Year Record.
London: W. H. Allen, 1984.
Sean. "Dr. Who . . . Adventure With Time to Spare." TV Week
(London), 25 September 1982.
John. Doctor Who: The Tardis Inside Out. New York: Random