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Media Essays: The Legacy of the Doctor

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Written by The Wandering Fox

The Legacy of The Doctor.

Hello everybody, its me, The Wandering Fox, back with an essay for you guys to sink your teeth in. For a franchise like Doctor Who we have lots of eras, characters, companions, and monsters to remember, some brought back to fight the current Doctors. Yet if there’s a Doctor who’s era I feel has contributed the most to the series outside of Big Finish’s stories, its the Third Doctor era, or better yet, the UNIT Years.

Well everybody, I’m going to reverse the polarity by going back to the very roots of what I consider is the Modern series of this franchise.

The Beginning of UNIT

Okay, obviously UNIT did not begin with the Third Doctor, it began with the Second Doctor in the Cybermen story The Invasion, but UNIT cemented itself tightly with Doctor Who’s lore with the Third Doctor’s debut in 1970 Spearhead from Space.

The most iconic face of UNIT, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, debuted in the Second Doctor story the Web of Fear, yet UNIT wasn’t formed then. Sergeant Benton would debut in the Second Doctor era as well, though he was a Corporal then.

UNIT since then has been a core part of the franchise with it boasting several characters like Captain Mike Yates, Oswin Osgood, and the Brigadier’s very daughter Kate has taken up command of the group, with her reaching out to past companions of the Doctor to join and help her. UNIT has also seen the introductions to Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry O’Sullivan, something which UNIT is continuing to do in the Gatwa era of the franchise.

With UNIT talked of, let's get to the badass old guy himself, the Third Doctor.

The Third Doctor’s Impact On The Series

With Doctor Who, you will straight away think of the Fourth or Tenth Doctor’s, with the Fourth’s colourful long scarf, crazy curls, or the Tenth Doctor’s blue suit and converse trainers. While it cannot be denied those Doctor’s are the faces of the franchise which has the entire world know how they know Doctor Who, it cannot be denied however that the Third Doctor’s years have stayed with us since he graced our boxes in 1970.

For starters he was the first Doctor to have a colourised television broadcast. He did have a few episodes which remained in black and white but thanks to the Third Doctor we had the creativity and the world of Doctor Who come to life with the colourised screens letting us see the Third Doctor in his smart colourful jackets and capes, his yellow car, the Antimatter monsters of Omega, the TARDIS’s blue box finally coming to life on screen. Without this colourisation, I think most would find Doctor Who uninteresting.

The era’s tone is somewhat still relevant to the current day of the series. It introduced a more grounded, gritty and action packed era with several action set pieces involved, UNIT troops in gunfights with Autons, mercenaries, car stunts and chases, the Doctor becoming more hands on with the action with him either beating up military men or driving his cars in a chase sequence. While the Doctor doesn’t physically fight much in the current era, he’s still this guy who gets in on the action with him in a epic stare down, facing off against hordes of monsters or taking up a sword to protect others. The Second Doctor era did have its share of fight scenes but not exactly on the scale of the Third Doctor’s. This led to several stories being gritty and action orientated like The Caves of Androzani or Remembrance of the Daleks or Dalek or The Doctor Falls. But it still had its camp charm here and there which the series still has.

The Doctor’s character to this day I think still heavily is inspired by the Third Doctor, with his morality complex in his belief of fighting for peace on both sides but will fight if he has to, his dislike for the military more openly obvious but has his understanding of how he has to work with something he doesn’t like. The Silurians debut story is a example of this, for the Doctor hoped to revive the Silurians and peacefully help them live beside humans only for the Brigadier to kill them. Its only amplified more in the modern series with how the Doctor is almost desperate to not use a gun, for while the Classic Doctors did use guns they did it only out of desperation or practical uses, yet the trauma of the Time War only made the Doctor hate guns even more as well as only darkening his relationship with the military, not wanting salutes or being compared to a warrior, though he did have a softer side for other figures like Kate.

Let’s not forget as well the Third Doctor era gave us the Master, who is still here (as a tooth but hey), the Autons, Silurians, and introduced multi Doctor stories in the Three Doctors which saw William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton return as the First and Second Doctors and delving more in Time Lord lore in introducing the crazed Time Lord villain Omega, the concept of multi Doctor stories done for anniversary specials though less so these days. The Sonic Screwdriver was more familiarised though it debuted in the Second Doctor era, yet its multi function was more known in the Third Doctor era. It helped give us more as well with how the Doctor is a scientific genius with his creations and gadgets, therefore making him more of a bigger hero.

The Third Doctor era began to cement the Doctor Who legacy not just with its characters but with its actors, Patrick Troughton’s son, David, had his most famous role in the show as King Peladon, David returned to work alongside David Tennant in Midnight. Sean Pertwee, Jon’s son, was there on set watching his dad do his work as the Doctor, taking the cars the Doctor drove to funfairs. This opened up the whole family ties over the years, with Georgia Tennant and Jake McGann getting to have their roles in the franchise while Sadie Miller would voice her mother’s character. Then there’s Liz’s actress, the late Caroline John, marrying Geoffrey Beevers, who plays an incarnation of the Master. The Pertwee era certainly branched Doctor Who out not just in the years it would encase on TV but also those who worked on the franchise before and after it.

The Earth based story also gave us a chance to have the human characters connect with the Doctor more intimately, be it either Liz as his equal, Jo as his assistant or Sarah as the woman who was ready to jump in action, something which continues to this day in the series whether it’s the young Ruby Sunday looking to the Doctor as her friend and guide, Donna as the friend he trusts to ground him, Rose or Amy as the starry eyed girls who escape the everyday life with him. It helped to also give us how alien the Doctor could be, he could be so easily distracted by a sandwich, wasn’t interested in the day-to-day life of others, which only amplified with the likes of the Smith and Whittaker Doctors.

My Own Personal Views On This Era

I have said it, the Eighth Doctor is my favourite of the Classic Doctors, yet the Third Doctor comes a very close second. While I grew up watching the Tenth Doctor onscreen, UK TV GOLD had begun broadcasting the Third Doctor stories and I’d happily spend every weekend watching it on TV, watching this old man drive his car, kick butt and meet characters who still have lots of love from the fans to this day. It’s odd to say the Third Doctor was a Doctor of my childhood, but he was. What I love about his era as well is how it was definitely its own time, seeing the 1970s nature and structure, the way how everybody behaved, it made me feel closer to my mum and dad knowing this was not only what they grew up watching, but what their own time was like, seeing more greenery, old dresses and suits and cars, it just has that rich old feeling I am drawn to with the Third Doctor era. Like my mum and dad, its impact is still strong and grand on me as it is on the show itself, and also to the younger newcomer Ncuti Gatwa who loves the Jon Pertwee Doctor.

If you ask me, if there was no UNIT years or Big Finish, Doctor Who wouldn’t be the show it is today with its tone and characters and intriguing creativity with its universe.

I’m the Wandering Fox and I will catch you guys in the vortex.

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