WHO's the Doctor? Jon Pertwee

Jon Pertwee in 1971's The Sea Devils Jon Pertwee's era was mined for inspiration for the 2005 revival

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Bouffant hair, beaky nose and an actor's voice - Jon Pertwee looked, sounded and acted the part, argues Jonathon Ruffle, senior operator, NW Operations team

Watching television as a seven year old growing up in Australia in 1986, two things struck me.

Firstly, the blonde lady in the music video, Papa Don't Preach, looked and moved nothing like my mum or any of my female teachers, and this was somehow a good thing.

Secondly, my favourite tv characters were all played by the same actor. Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee, Worzel Gummidge - Jon Pertwee, Spotty from SuperTed - Jon Pertwee. The man practically was television!

As The Doctor, Worzel and Spotty, Pertwee captured my imagination - and those of millions of other children - with his charisma, presence (at 6ft 3in with a beaky nose and silver bouffant hair he was hard to miss) and wonderful vocal range.

Velvet smoking jackets

The saying you never forget your first Doctor could've been coined for Pertwee's portrayal; an authoritarian figure lightened by moments of charm, dressed in frilled shirts and velvet smoking jackets with an actor's voice, the Third Doctor was nothing if not memorable.

Jonathon Ruffle Jonathon Ruffle: When I was seven, all my favourite tv characters were played by Jon Pertwee

According to son Sean (who followed his father and grandfather into acting), his dad wasn't immune to an actor's insecurities, which perhaps explains Pertwee's keenness throughout his career to forge close-knit teams with fellow actors.

Over five seasons, Pertwee's UNIT 'family', as they became known, (after the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, a military organisation which enlisted the Third Doctor as its scientific advisor in battling extraterrestrial threats) helped transform Doctor Who from a programme threatened with cancellation due to dwindling audiences to essential family viewing for upwards of 11 million.

Since its revival in 2005, modern Doctor Who has looked to the 20th century series, and Jon Pertwee's era in particular, for inspiration.

'Best idea ever'

Shop window dummy killers, the Autons, whose jerky mannequin movements and impassive faces first sent children scurrying behind the sofa in 1970, were chosen by showrunner Russell T Davies as his opening night monster because they were 'the best idea ever'.

In their murderous wake followed renegade Time Lord and Moriarty figure, The Master; baked potato-headed warriors the Sontarans; and prehistoric intelligent reptiles the Silurians, all of whom first did battle against the Third Doctor.

In 2006 erstwhile Pertwee companion, Sarah Jane Smith, was brought back by Davies to investigate strange goings on in a school alongside David Tennant and, in her own spin-off series, Sarah met up with UNIT 'family' regulars Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Jo Grant.

Happily, fans can still watch Jo and the Brig in their early 1970s mini-skirted and fake moustachioed heyday, as BBC archives hold a complete run of Third Doctor stories. But, we haven't always been so lucky.

Seven lost episodes

The BBC's policy of wiping its Doctor Who master videotapes for reuse continued right up until the very end of Jon Pertwee's time in the role, leaving seven episodes missing altogether and 62 out of the era's 128 instalments surviving only in black and white form.

Just as last month brought news of the remarkable discovery of nine missing Patrick Troughton episodes in Nigeria, copies of missing Pertwee episodes were traced to overseas broadcasters and returned, following a change in the Corporation's archiving policy.

The last remaining missing Pertwee episode, Part 1 of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, made its way back in 1983. The project to restore the colour to Pertwee's cheeks and smoking jackets took slightly longer, however.

Earlier this year, work on the final serial to be colourised, The Mind of Evil, was completed and it was selected by the BFI to represent the Third Doctor's era for their Doctor Who at 50 season of screenings.

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