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The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback

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1986-04-09 Sydney Morning Herald.jpg



Let joy he unconfined. Jon Pertwee is back (sadly, briefly) in his right and proper place as the greatest of all Dr Who!, and the previously censored The Mind of Evil is judged suitable for the eyes of Australia. What on earth can have possessed the ABC to ban this in past times is a matter for the keenest speculation. since the shocking and gruesome sight of the Australian cricket team was then thought suitable for young viewers with who-knows-what effects on their impressionable young minds.

There are those in the community, regrettably, who do not understand that 6.30 pm on Channel 2 is now a time for devotions. There are even wretched persons who think that stories about a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey with a body temperature of 60 degrees. two hearts and a lifespan of a thousand years are fanciful, even fantastic. Why would they think that? Brian Henderson has been reading the news for at least that long.

The Mind of Evil comes from the Third Doctor dynasty (like Chinese porcelain. Dr Who adventures are listed in eras which greatly affect their value). This is to say, it comes from a time when Dr Who was a Time Lord of decent gravitas, white hair and the manner of a sprightly senator, if that is not a contradiction in terms.

This was also the era in which the Smark children were young and turned their father into a raging fan. To me, adventures like The Deamons, Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons are like the tied test with the West Indies, a memory of fused drama and pleasure. At their centre was Jon Pertwee, who always seemed to me much more real than the British politicians Harold Wilson and Edward Heath whose doings filled my day as a London correspondent. Now that I think of it, Charles De Gaulle would have made an excellent Dr Who; I never thought to ask about his blood temperature but on longevity he certainly qualified.

The thing about Dr Who is that, like The Goons on radio, it will be repeated forever if the fans have their way. And they are very determined. Strong men fell back from the bar, fit women fainted when I attended an auction of BBC clothing in Britain a couple of years ago and paid 140 pounds for a large sackful of old costumes which included articles of Cybermen gear. But who's the favourite uncle who laid himself up a store of presents for years ahead? My mistake was in not buying more.

I confess that I have riot been able wholly to believe in Dr 5 and Dr 6. Their youth has led me to suspect that Peter Davison and Colin Baker have been a mite young for the job, and that they might only be 200 or 300 years old, whippersnappers and callow youths for whom saving the universe from the latest wave of evil might ber hard work rather than a doddle before tea as was the case for Pertwee and the almosty as admirable Tom Baker.

But even a young Dr Who is better than no Dr Who at all. Whereas Captain Kirk of Star Trek is at heart a wimp (though the same can't be said of the stalwart Spock) your Dr Who is businesslike, doesn't carry on about his undoubted bravery and has no discernible sexual nature. The last quality is admirable because it stops the quite young booing, hissing and yelling demands for the soppy bits to be got over with.

But above all, he is a force for optimism in a Britain whose hopes often founder. Readers (and viewers) will recall that the machine in which the various doctors have whizzed through time and space, the Tardis, is a traditional British telephone call-box, looking for all the world like the party room of the Australian Democrats. In the darkest days of the total of 10 years I spent in Britain. I kept telling myself that while it was true that the Tardis was the only item of British Telecom equipment I ever knew to work even sporadically and erratically, it did sometimes function (well, a bit) and all hope for connections in the Falklands War should therefore not be abandoned.

Some writers have pointed out that many of Dr Who's characteristics are very similar to those of Sherlock Holmes — eccentric bachelor, avid curiosity, delight in problems, brilliance of mind delivered with un-English arrogance softened by lovable quaintness.

These days, Dr Who is not as deliciously dotty as once he was. And this is why the return of Pertwee in The Mind of Evil is such a joy. In fact, it's not one of the absolute best of his era, but HI angrily attack anyone who suggests that even lesser Pertwee is not better than just about anything else on television.

It is a matter of pain that the great American television critic, James Woolcott, once savaged the show as one "in which a Jonathan Miller look-alike in a floppy hat and anaconda scarf (Tom Baker) confronts extra-terrestrial creatures that look like crawling lasagne carpeted with fuzzy green felt".

That's like saying D. K. Lillee was an ill-tempered, hirsute and necklaced creature who mis-spent his prime hurling bits of leather at grown men who should have had more imaginative and socially useful ways to spend their time. It leaves out the magic. And isn't that what love, or wit, or beauty, or great sport or good television does for us? It brings a little magic into a too often dreary world.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Smark, Peter (1986-04-09). The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback. The Sydney Morning Herald p. 18.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Smark, Peter. "The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback." The Sydney Morning Herald [add city] 1986-04-09, 18. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Smark, Peter. "The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback." The Sydney Morning Herald, edition, sec., 1986-04-09
  • Turabian: Smark, Peter. "The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback." The Sydney Morning Herald, 1986-04-09, section, 18 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback | url= | work=The Sydney Morning Herald | pages=18 | date=1986-04-09 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 March 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The greatest Dr Who of all makes a comeback | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 March 2023}}</ref>