Third Doctor

Third Doctor


portrayed=Jon Pertwee
period_end= 1974
start="Spearhead from Space"
finish="Planet of the Spiders" (regular) "The Five Doctors" (guest star) "Dimensions In Time" (charity special)
series_list=Seasons 7 to 11
companions=Liz Shaw
Jo Grant
Sarah Jane Smith
preceding=Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)
succeeding=Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

The Third Doctor is the name given to the third incarnation of the fictional character known as the Doctor; seen on screen in the long-running BBC television science-fiction series "Doctor Who". He was portrayed by actor Jon Pertwee.


After the Doctor was found guilty of breaking the Time Lord laws of non-interference and forced to regenerate, he began his third incarnation in exile on 20th century Earth. The Third Doctor immediately formed a working relationship with the British contingent of UNIT, an international organisation tasked to investigate and defend the Earth against extraterrestrial threats.

It was a partnership initially born out of convenience — the Doctor required facilities to try to repair his TARDIS to break the exile, and UNIT needed his expertise in combating the threats they encountered. There is some disagreement about when the Third Doctor's UNIT stories were set, with some evidence that they were contemporary stories set at the same time they were broadcast (the early 70s) and some evidence that they were set in the near future. According to the production team, there was an intention to set the stories in the near future, but the writers did not always remember this and set the stories in the present.

The Doctor also developed a good working relationship with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, whom he had first encountered, in his previous incarnation, as a Colonel in command of troops fighting Yeti and the Cybermen. As well as the Brigadier, he developed friendships with other regular UNIT colleagues including Sergeant Benton and Captain Mike Yates. When meteorites were seen falling to Earth in Essex, the Doctor together with a UNIT scientist named Liz Shaw were to face the Autons for the first time. The Autons were to be one of the Doctor's recurring foes. At the conclusion of this adventure, the Doctor became UNIT's scientific advisor. After facing Silurians, the so-called Ambassadors of Death and the Inferno project, Liz was replaced as the Doctor's assistant by a feisty but slightly scatter-brained young woman named Jo Grant.

After meeting Jo, the Third Doctor encountered his greatest nemesis (next to the Daleks) — the Master. A renegade Time Lord, the Master plagued the Third Doctor with his diabolical schemes, including the summoning of an ancient Dæmon, and unleashing the terrifyingly powerful Kronos, a Chronovore. The Doctor's exile continued until it was lifted by the Time Lords after he helped save them from destruction at the hands of Omega. The Third Doctor, free to roam space and time again, soon ran into the Master and an even older enemy — the Daleks. Although the Master was a criminal genius, the Doctor was always able to outwit him in all his schemes. Whilst facing the ecological destruction wrought by Global Chemicals and the super computer BOSS, Jo met and fell in love with Dr. Clifford Jones. Marrying Jones and following him to the Amazon on an expedition, Jo left a saddened Doctor.

The fiercely independent investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith became the Doctor's new companion after stowing away in his TARDIS. The Third Doctor's final adventures saw them defeating the Sontarans in medieval England and the Daleks on the planet Exxilon. The Third Doctor contracted radiation poisoning on the planet Metebelis 3, during the events of "Planet of the Spiders". When the TARDIS brought him back to UNIT headquarters, he collapsed, regenerating into the Fourth Doctor.


The Third Doctor was a suave, authoritative man of action, who not only practiced Venusian Aikido (or Karate), but who enjoyed working on gadgets and riding all manner of vehicles, such as the Whomobile and his pride and joy, the canary-yellow vintage roadster nicknamed "Bessie" which featured such modifications as a remote control, dramatically increased speed capabilities and even inertial dampeners.

While this incarnation had spent most of his time exiled on Earth, where he grudgingly worked as UNIT's scientific advisor, he would occasionally be sent on covert missions by the Time Lords, where he would often act as a reluctant mediator. Even though he developed a fondness for Earthlings with whom he worked (such as Liz Shaw and Jo Grant), he would jump at any chance to return to the stars with the enthusiasm of a far younger man than himself (as can be seen in his frivolous attitude in "The Mutants"). If this Doctor had a somewhat patrician and authoritarian air, he was just as quick to criticise authority too—having little patience with self-inflated bureaucrats, parochially-narrow ministers, knee-jerk militarists or red tape in general. His courageousness could easily turn to waspish indignation. It is thus no surprise that another catchphrase of his, perhaps less well-known but more common overall, was "Now listen to me".

Despite his arrogance, the Third Doctor genuinely cared for his companions in a paternal fashion, and even held a thinly-veiled but grudging admiration for his nemesis, the Master, and for UNIT's leader, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, with whom he eventually became friends. In fact, even when his much resented exile was lifted, the highly moral and dashing Third Doctor continued to help UNIT protect the Earth from all manner of alien threats.

In general, this incarnation of the Doctor was more physically daring than the previous two, and was the first to attack an enemy physically if cornered (both of his previous incarnations would nearly always attempt to dodge, flee or attempt to persuade hostiles to stop their attack rather than directly defend themselves). This often took the form of quick strikes, with the occasional joint lock or throw - usually enough to get himself and anyone accompanying him out of immediate danger - but usually not to the extent of a brawl, in keeping with The Doctor's non-violent nature. He would only use his fighting skills if he had no alternative, and even then generally disarmed his opponents rather than knock them unconscious. Indeed, his martial prowess was such that a single, sudden strike was usually enough to halt whatever threatened him, and at one point he reminded Captain Yates (physically as well as verbally) that he would have a difficult time removing him from somewhere, when he did not want to be removed ("The Mind of Evil").

Perhaps due to his time spent on Earth, or maybe just as a function of his pacifistic and authoritarian tendencies, the Third Doctor was a skilled diplomat (keeping talks going in "The Curse of Peladon", for example) and linguist, as well as having an odd knack for disguises - all of this, combined with his formidable galactic experience, often allowed the Third Doctor to play a central role in the events he found himself in.

In Time Crash the Fifth Doctor and Tenth Doctor apparently include the Third Doctor in their discussion of how his earlier incarnations tried to be "old and grumpy and you do when you're young." Fact|date=August 2008


Occasionally camp but always charismatic, this Doctor had a personal manner of dress which is the most ornate of his various incarnations, favouring frilled shirts, velvet smoking or dinner jackets in blue, orange, green, burgundy or black, evening trousers, formal boots and opera and hunting cloaks for his regular outfit, with variations and accessories including bow ties, cravats and leather gloves, earning him the nickname "the Dandy Doctor". In "The Three Doctors", the First Doctor, commenting on the Third and Second Doctor respectively, disparagingly referred to them as "a dandy and a clown".

tory style

The Third Doctor stories were the first to be broadcast in colour. The early ones were set on Earth due to cost constraints [Brief | id=rrr | title=Three Doctors ] on the series. To explain this, the Second Doctor was banished to Earth by his race the Time Lords, and forced to regenerate. On Earth he worked with the Brigadier and the rest of the UNIT team. However, as his tenure progressed he had reasons to leave Earth, on occasions being sent on missions by the Time Lords. Eventually, after his defeat of the renegade Omega in "The Three Doctors" he was granted complete freedom by the Time Lords in gratitude for saving Gallifrey.

The Third Doctor's era introduced many of the Doctor's more memorable adversaries. The Autons, the Master, Omega, the Sontarans, the Silurians and the Sea Devils all made their debut during this period.

"Reverse the polarity"

The catchphrase most associated with the Third Doctor's era is probably "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow". The phrase was Pertwee's way of dealing with the technobabble that he was required to speak as the Doctor. He wanted something all purpose and easy to remember instead of myriad made-up dialogue, and Terrance Dicks provided him with .

Many fans of the show believe that this is a scientific impossibility. In actuality, it is possible for neutrons to flow and, since neutrons have a magnetic moment, [] it is possible in theory (although difficult in practice) to have a stream of neutrons polarised along or against their direction of motion. Given this, such a polarity could presumably be reversed. However, the phrase is still meaningless in the contexts in which the series uses it.

Pertwee did not use the phrase as often as popular belief has it. The Third Doctor only said the full phrase "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" once on screen during his tenure — in "The Sea Devils" — and also in the 1983 20th Anniversary special "The Five Doctors". Pertwee did use the phrase again in 1989 when he acted in the stage play "Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure". (When Colin Baker took over the lead role in the play he amended the line to "Reverse the linetry of the proton flow.") In the radio play "The Paradise of Death" the Brigadier asks "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow?" and the Doctor proceeds to explain that the phrase is meaningless.

On four other occasions on screen, the Third Doctor simply "reversed the polarity" of other things. He tells Ruth to reverse the temporal polarity of the TOMTIT device in "The Time Monster"; reverses the polarity of his sonic screwdriver in "Frontier in Space"; reverses the polarity of some dismantled circuitry in "Planet of the Daleks"; and tells Osgood to reverse the polarity of the diathermic energy exchanger in "The Dæmons".

The full phrase was used in several Target novelisations. It was subsequently used by the Fourth Doctor (in "City of Death") and the Fifth Doctor (in "Castrovalva" and "Mawdryn Undead"). Together with "The Five Doctors" this resulted in the phrase being used as a nostalgic reference three times as often as it was originally said. In the Tenth Doctor episode "The Lazarus Experiment" the Doctor, while hiding in Lazarus' machine, comments that it had taken him too long to reverse the polarity due to being out of practice; the Tenth Doctor uses the full phrase in "Music of the Spheres".

The phrase has entered geek culture, although this has been more through its use as technobabble. It appeared before "Doctor Who" in the "" episode "That Which Survives" and later in the "Stargate SG-1" episodes "Learning Curve" & "200", the film Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, "South Park" episode, "Cancelled", in "Lab Rats" episode "A Snail", . The phrase appears in various "The Real Ghostbusters" episodes, such as "Egon's Ghost". The phrase has also featured in the dialogue of the musical "We Will Rock You", amongst other references to popular culture.

Title sequence and logo

The original title sequence for the Third Doctor's seasons was an extension of the animated "howlaround" kaleidoscopic patterns used for the previous Doctors, incorporating Pertwee's face and adding colour to showcase "Doctor Who" being broadcast in colour for the first time. In the Third Doctor's final season, a new title sequence was introduced, designed by Bernard Lodge. Partially inspired by the slit-scan hyperspace sequence in Stanley Kubrick's "", one portion of this sequence is the prototype for the classic time tunnel sequence of the Fourth Doctor's seasons. The Third Doctor's final season also introduced the equally classic diamond logo which would remain in use until 1980.

The series logo introduced in 1970 and used for the first four seasons of Pertwee's tenure would later be used again as the logo for the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie and subsequently once again became the official "Doctor Who" logo, most notably with regards to products connected to the Eighth Doctor. With the introduction of a new official series logo in 2005, the Pertwee era logo continued to be used by Big Finish Productions as the logo for all pre-2005 series material including books and audio dramas, and by the BBC on DVD releases of episodes from the 1963-89 series.

Later appearances

The Third Doctor would appear once more officially in the 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors", broadcast in 1983. However, where it takes place within the Third Doctor's chronology is unclear. Pertwee played the role on screen one last time in the 1993 charity special "Dimensions in Time".

Other appearances

See List of non-televised Third Doctor stories.


External links

* [ The Third Doctor] at [ "The TARDIS Index File" website]
* [ The Third Doctor on the BBC's "Doctor Who" website]
* [ Third Doctor Gallery]
* [ Third Doctor's theme music Quicktime file]
* [ Third Doctor title sequence]
* [ Interview with Jon Pertwee conducted in March 1996]

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