Spurred on by TV Years sharing this late seventies audioclip of Jon Pertwee rubbishing K9, I’ve been having another ponder about the state of Doctor Who during that time. Personally, I love this era of the show – but I’m aware that not everybody shares this view.
At least today it has more love amongst fans than it did at the time (although the general public, fools that they were, seemed to enjoy it). At the time, as can be evidenced from that short clip, it wasn’t just Pertwee who was dissatisfied. Mind you, I’ve always had the strong sense that Jon Pertwee never forgave Tom Baker for being more successful than him in the role ….
But it’s true there was a vocal section of Doctor Who fandom who were convinced that Tom Baker and Graham Williams were ruining the show. Everything was just too silly for them – if only DW could recover its gritty roots, then all would be well.
This viewpoint lasted well into the eighties. Having leafed recently through a number contemporary fanzines, it’s not uncommon to come across articles which write off all of Graham Williams’ three years as a total disaster. By the early nineties the balance had changed though – Williams was in and JN-T was out.
That’s the way fandom worked – if you disliked S17 then you liked S18, if you liked S18 then you disliked S17. Liking (or indeed disliking) both or bits of both didn’t seem to be an option. You had to nail your colours to a mast (Williams for ever, JN-T never, etc).
It always surprises me when somebody today vouchsafes the opinion that humour in late seventies Who ruined the programme. This rather ignores the fact that DW light-heartedness didn’t begin in 1977 (Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee all had their comic moments).
Also instructive is the way that certain Hinchcliffe stories (The Android Invasion, The Brain of Morbius) display a wisecracking Doctor very similar to the later Williams model. Slicing DW into discrete eras depending on when the various producers arrived and departed is something we’ve always done, but it doesn’t always work (see also Meglos, something which easily could have slotted into S17).
I’ve never bought into the assertion that S15-S17 are total gigglefests from start to finish. There are plenty of gags and comic moments, but there’s drama as well. I sometimes feel I’m ploughing a lonely furrow when I declare my love for the likes of The Creature From The Pit or The Horns of Nimon but that’s okay. Who needs to be popular?