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The Return of Doctor Three

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Jon Pertwee is amused. A journalist has telephoned and asked if he is enjoying playing the Doctor for the first time. Jon thinks they've missed the point somewhat. Almost twenty years after he made his Doctor Who debút he is back in the rôle. This time he is on stage, touring the country with Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure.

The man behind the play is Mark Furness, who brought 'Allo 'Allo! to the West End, and plans to do the same with the hit television series Bread. The original idea was to start with an Australian tour, for which Mark Furness approached Jon Pertwee. It was with deep regret that Jon had to turn the tour down. "I love Australia, but I just wasn't available to do it. Sometime later the offer came up again but to do the show in Britain, and it fitted into my schedule rather neatly."

There was a slight hesitation on Mr Pertwee's part before agreeing to the show. He left Doctor Who in 1974, and only returned once for the twentieth anniversary story The Five Doctors. In that time he had moved on to Worzel Gummidge, among other work. "I did feel it was a retrograde step. Then I thought that the fact it hadn't been done much on stage made it something new. I have agreed to do the first three months of the tour, but to do more would be too exhausting. I gather they are keen to go for six months, and take it to the West End. and possibly Australia and Canada. I'll take a rest after the three months. but if it does go abroad I would love to go with it."

The play was written for Jon by Terrance Dicks. who was script editor during his era of the programme. "Terry also wrote a Doctor Who play for me during the 1970's called The Seven Keys To Doomsday. At the time I wasn't able to do it because of my commitment to the television series. They found someone called Trevor Martin to play the Doctor, Who got very good reviews. The show was a success, but the stage crew were inexperienced and the props and scenery were far too big. They couldn't get the stuff out of the London theatre, and they wouldn't fit into the theatre in Manchester where they were heading. In the end, the tour collapsed. There has been talk of an American production being staged. and I shared the stage at a convention with the man they had cast as the Doctor. He didn't go down at all well, even with his own countrymen. The Americans are used to the Doctor being British. '

The Ultimate Adventure will capture the flavour of the television series. but Jon hopes that it will be more 'high tech'. "We are using lasers. which you cannot use on television. We have excellent lighting effects. It will be a straight adventure. not particularly a Science Fiction story as such. I'll be playing it as I did on television. keeping the irascibility and the Venusian karate. Inevitably the performance will have to be larger because stage technique and television technique are totally different. The costume will be the same style, although a new one is being made for the show."

Terrance Dicks has been able to include the two most popular monsters from the television series in his script. Jon has appeared with the Cybermen once before. but is none too keen on the Daleks with which he has worked three times. The Daleks for the play have been specially made, and are much taller than their television counterparts to give them a greater presence on stage. "I've never been fond of the Daleks. I could never see how these things could be so brilliant with a lavatory pump and an egg whisk sticking out of them. In this show they are attempting to pull my TARDIS console to pieces."

One of the most intriguing elements of the play is its musical content. It comes as a surprise to learn that there were serious negotiations to secure Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan for the roles of the companions, but their vast popularity meant they were too busy. The songs written for them remain. but Jon is adamant that they are not conspicuous. "They are very cleverly brought in. The first song is in a nightclub, where the female companion is making her debut as a singer. An American peace envoy also happens to be there, and is kidnapped by the Cybermen. She makes her escape but rushes into the TARDIS by mistake. The other companion is a Marquis from the French Revolution, and he later hears her humming the song again and they do a duet on an alien planet. Later we arrive at the Bar Galactica where the mercenaries hang out. This is owned by Madamme Delilah. who entertains everyone with a song before I do my bit with the Venusian karate." There are no plans as yet to release a soundtrack album.

The cast had a three week rehearsal period in a West End Synagogue before they took to the stage in Wimbledon. "I've been trying to persuade everyone not to come in the first week. It is such a high tech show that we will inevitable have the most awful teething problems. I'm sure after that we will have a tightly-paced show."

If anything does go wrong, the cast will not be afforded the luxury of going for a second time as they would in a television studio. "That is true, but you have to remember that we worked under tremendous pressure in the studio. If we had to go back and re-shoot a scene it did not go down awfully well. In fact, the only time fell out with the producer. Barry Letts. was when I was unhappy with a scene and felt that it should be done again."

Jon's future is looking very busy indeed. Aside from the play, there is the possibility of an 'alternative' Science Fiction series called Starwatch. Christopher Leech is the mastermind behind the project, a man who has worked with Gerry Anderson and in films. "Chris called me three days ago and was very optimistic. We have already made a promotional pilot. which consisted of my narrating the story which sets up the series. We have sent out promotional brochures. and even distributed scripts to interested parties. We did have a slight setback when we discovered that HTV were doing an Anglo-American project starring Pamela Stephenson which stepped on our toes a bit."

Jon refers to Starwatch as "ecological Science Fiction. The basic premise of the series is of a mad professor discovering a crystal beneath Stonehenge which is controlling the climate of Earth. This crystal is linked to others throughout the galaxy. but it is breaking down. As a result, the planet is being devastated by natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. The professor decides upon repairing the crystal, but he lacks the knowledge to do so. He must travel across the galaxy to find another crystal and observe how it operates. Jon Pertwee is cast as Jason Javlin. who is in charge of organising the rescue operation.

"The series is in the hands of an independent production company which is seeking finance. The plan is to make a series of twenty six episodes. and shoot it mainly in a beautiful village in Cornwall. Most of the casting has already been done, and there is one very famous actor in it. It will be an international set-up, with Polish members, Swedes and a Norwegian. It is doubtful that anything can be started until next Spring as the preproduction on it would be massive."

Jon has had a chance to promote the new series while making many personal appearances across the country. He even took the organisers at the National Film Theatre's Doctor Who weekend by surprise and turned up on the day asking to be interviewed. He still attends a large number of Doctor Who conventions in England and America. He enjoys meeting people, but loathes signing autographs. "I find the English fans are very polite. If I was walking down Oxford Street avoiding eye contact people would not dream of stopping me. In America they are very demanding - the fans are fanatics in the true sense of the word."

Nevertheless, he is surprised that his time on Doctor Who remains so popular. The video releases are selling tremendously well, with a promise from the BBC of more to come. "I did an appearance at the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street to promote Death To The Daleks and I couldn't believe it - there were people coming out of the woodwork! The manager told me that we were beating Madonna in the charts by two hundred tapes. It was the biggest sale of videos they'd had up to that time."

As The Ultimate Adventure kicks off on its British tour, an audience seems almost guaranteed. There couldn't be a better time for the third Doctor to be back.


Kevin Davies Draws-up animation artwork to appear on the Dalek console screen

The Tardis is set-up for filming on a turntable draped in black velvet

Chris Ratcliffe of Finchley Light & Magic! melts the surface of an asteroid model before it is painted Photo by Tony Clark

The storyboard for the TARDIS sequence whilst being tracked by the Daleks

Dave Hicks of Gateway Audio-visual keys the TARDIS onto a space background

Kevin Davies fits an Astoid to its stand for filming by the motion control system at Cine-Motion. Photo by Tony Clark

The stage play's Emperor Dalek

The Ultimate Production?

Doctor Who - The Ultimate Adventure is the most gloriously awful piece of nonsense you're ever likely to see performed on stage.

If any member of the first night audience was expecting a serious drama, their hopes must've been dashed the moment Jon Pertwee strode impressively from the TARDIS, inspiring a show-stopping round of applause. It was to be fast fun and frolics all the way, with ex-Who writer Terrance Dicks using his vast knowledge of the series to drag in every cliché the good Doctor had ever encountered. This time, the Daleks and Cybermen team up, melodramatically assisted by David Banks (recently escaped from his Cyberman costume) as Karl the leather-clad space mercenary.


An American peace envoy has been captured, and that means only one thing! The Doctor has to go time-space hopping around the galaxy, encountering planets populated by smoke machines, flying insects in leotards and a variously positioned piece of plastic rock - and all because of Mrs Thatcher!?

"I know the Tardis is a time machine," says the Doctor's French aristocrat assistant Jason, "but time's still running out back on Earth?-. "Argh," mutter some cynics in the stalls, whilst Crystal, the all-singing/dancing companion notices the TARDIS is bigger on the inside! Furry little alien Zog, cunningly upstaging everyone, simply burbles nonsense and polishes the Doctor's boots. The Daleks, for their part, expertly avoid bumping into each other (although there are a few close calls) whilst both they and their Evil of the Daleks styled emperor intone dialogue with all the dramatic quality of a British Rail tannoy announcement, very nearly getting excited about Kevin Davies's animated asteroids on their large video screen.

Jon Pertwee is excellent, skilfully picking the more jargonistic of his lines from the cunningly scribbled notes on a rather squashed looking Tardis console. His Doctor is as

charming and watchable as ever, holding the show together with a beautiful balance of total conviction and comedic skill.

Problems solved

My second outing to the show confirmed rumours that it had undergone some rewriting and more rehearsal. Thankfully, this process has removed the somewhat clumsy qualities of the first night. It was obvious from the start that Terrance Dicks had written far too many scene changes, almost as if he was writing for television. This had caused problems for an unrehearsed stage crew, and made the whole experience even more hilarious for the audience than did the farcical plot. As scenary crunched and crashed in the darkness, the lonely keyboard couple in the orchestra pit vamped desparately through long passages of their TV test card incidental score.

The Ultimate Adventure is now, however, as polished a production as its designers have allowed it to be. The scene shifts are swiftly bridged, with the drama moving seemlessly on as each new location materializes. The Daleks are still oddly outsized parodies of their television counterparts, looking as if they've been designed from a 6 year old's crayon drawing and built by Blue Peter - but they glide about wonderfully!

There's never a dull moment, there are plenty of laughs and it even gets exciting at times. Terrified kids love it, parents look bewildered and the Doctor Who fans laugh their heads off as Pertwee brings the house down with his revelation that the Daleks have "reversed the polarity of the neutron flow".

Catch up with it on its current national tour!

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  • APA 6th ed.: Briggs, David Richardson, Lee Matthews, Nicholas (issue 129 (May 1989)). The Return of Doctor Three. Starburst p. 32.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Briggs, David Richardson, Lee Matthews, Nicholas. "The Return of Doctor Three." Starburst [add city] issue 129 (May 1989), 32. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Briggs, David Richardson, Lee Matthews, Nicholas. "The Return of Doctor Three." Starburst, edition, sec., issue 129 (May 1989)
  • Turabian: Briggs, David Richardson, Lee Matthews, Nicholas. "The Return of Doctor Three." Starburst, issue 129 (May 1989), section, 32 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Return of Doctor Three | url= | work=Starburst | pages=32 | date=issue 129 (May 1989) | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 May 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Return of Doctor Three | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 May 2024}}</ref>