Doctor Who - Documentary s10e11 Episode Script

Stripped for Action - The Third Doctor

You came to Doctor Who in 1970, and it really felt, in every sense, like a new series.
It had a new title sequence, it had slightly revamped music.
It was colour.
It was a new Doctor, obviously.
He was exiled to Earth, all the outer space stuff was gone.
ALAN BARNES: The early Third Doctor series on the telly are noted for an increased sophistication and a sense of real world danger.
But theTV Comic strips are still slightly stuck in a fantasy land.
Slightly stuck in Avengers land.
And that's, I think, why don't really quite cut the mustard.
When the Third Doctor comic strips started in TV Comic, John Canning was still the artist.
John Canning had actually started as the artist, way back at the end of the Hartnell strips, and had gone all the way to the Troughton period, and did the first batch of Pertwee strips.
He's again doing quite a sort of a big, gurney boggle-eyed type character.
But that works, in terms of the stories they're telling, which are these slightly juvenile stories but still more sophisticated than the Second Doctor ones, I think.
John Canning's depiction of the Doctor, and the Brigadier and, later, Liz Shaw, were like all his illustrations, in that, they were quite caricature versions and the Brigadier, in particular was, didn't really look like Nicholas Courtney.
Initially, in the Third Doctor comic strips, the Brigadier and UNIT appear, and, after a while, we even have the companion, Liz Shaw.
She's also in there, alongside the Doctor.
But, after a while, they were all dropped suddenly.
No more UNIT, no more Brigadier, no more Liz.
And it appears from correspondence that's survived, that the Doctor Who production office had a problem with the way they've been portrayed in the strip.
It's not explicitly stated what the problem was, but one can suspect that it's, maybe they were just being used as too much of a military force, who were just blasting monsters and killing them.
And I think they probably wanted the strip to have more of a sense of that, exploring the moral issues, I suppose.
And I think they felt UNIT, as in the strip, wasn't helping that.
Whereas Canning was absolutely spot on, as the person to draw Patrick Troughton's run, he never seemed to get a firm grasp on Jon Pertwee's physiology at all.
Because the TV series was now much sort of harder edge to it, and far more serious, far more adult, the comic strip art seem to jar with it quite badly.
As a reader looking at those strips, you do get the impression that it's not his favourite job any more.
And that's a terrible shame, but that said, the stories still carried it, they still brought it alive.
Roger Noel Cook was the first writer on the Jon Pertwee stories and he had written a lot of the Troughton comic strip stories as well.
And I think he just carried on with the same sort of, very whimsical, quirky style of story.
Quite early in the run of the Third Doctor's comic strip adventures in TV Comic, Roger Noel Cook was taken off the strip or no longer wrote any more and Alan Fennel was chosen as his replacement.
Probably because he had a better feel for the TV series, as it had now become more of a thriller style.
And it's interesting reading his first few strips, he's clearly watched that first Pertwee series and has been influenced by the stories.
Each of his stories seems to echo one of the recently screened television stories.
We've actually got stories which are very similar to Spearhead from Space, Doctor Who and The Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death.
SCOONES: There's a story where lava bubbles out of the Earth, just like it does in Inferno.
In 1971, the Doctor Who comic strip made quite a jump, it left TV Comic, and was transferred to a brand-new comic still published by the same company called Countdown.
As soon as Countdown launched, there was something that you always thought, "Wow.
Yes.
Now we're here.
" Now we're starting to get a Doctor Who strip that you'd waited, (CHUCKLING) probably since 1963, to really see.
And Countdown was created and edited by Dennis Hooper, who had previously worked on the TV Century 21 magazine with Alan Fennell.
And Hooper asked the editor ofTV Comic at the time, could he take Doctor Who.
He felt Doctor Who was more suitable for an older readership than the readership of TV Comic.
Permission was granted and Doctor Who started out in issue one of Countdown.
It was almost as if, he'd looked at the TV Comic run of Pertwee strips and said, "Yeah, they're good, but they're not actually Doctor Who.
" And he seemed determined with Countdown to say, "Right, we're gonna make a Doctor Who comic strip, "that absolutely feels like Doctor Who on TV.
" It was going to aimed at an older readership.
The production values would be higher, it was printed on good quality paper.
And they used a process called the photogravure process which, I think helps the colour pages look more vibrant and stronger.
Suddenly John Canning had gone and we had the far more photo realistic and sometimes beautifully painted artwork of the likes of Harry Lindfield and Gerry Haylock and Frank Langford.
Much more serious, much more of a thriller really, a thriller adventure strip.
Dennis Hooper was the editor of Countdown as well as the writer, main writer of the strips.
He got to go on location a few times.
We know this because, occasionally the comic would run little features about the filming of a story and you'd see Dennis Hooper in with the cast and things.
SCOONES: One of the comic strip stories, The Celluloid Midas actually features some of the photos from that recording session.
And you can actually see Dennis Hooper actually standing in the shot, as one of the characters in the comic strip.
And here's a photograph of him.
And here's a photograph of Jon Pertwee with Dennis Hooper, "Oh my God, this is fantastic.
" You realised, therefore, that there was that extra level of love that was going into these strips.
The kind of love that, if you were in charge of the strips, you would want to put in, and these guys were doing it.
I'd really loved Harry Linfield's style of artwork for Countdown, because he really perfectly captured in his beautiful use of fine line art, the hard edge which I'd associated very much with the first Jon Pertwee series on television.
I know he didn't write the strips at that time, but he really got that sort of, um, techno-porn side that was so much a part of the Sherwin/Bryant vision of Doctor Who in the 1970s.
There were big bases, lots of heavy technology, large rockets.
And, of course, they had the Doctor's car, although misnamed Betsy, put in an appearance.
And he caught the flavour of Jon Pertwee.
You can almost imagine Pertwee's doctor, immigrating out of the London capital to some little, some little cottage out in the Welsh countryside, to complete his repairs to the TARDIS when he wasn't working for the Brigadier.
RUSSELL: Why did he drive a car called Betsy? And why did he live in a cottage down in Devon or something? Is Betsy a mistake? Did Dennis Hooper really think it was called Betsy? Does this mean that once upon a time, maybe the production team were gonna call it Betsy, before it was Bessie.
Or is there some bizarre copyright reason why it had to be called Betsy? Who knows? Frankly, who cares.
The Doctor Who car in the comic strip was called Betsy and the Doctor lived in a little cottage and he'd phone the Brigadier up and say, "Hi.
What do you want? I'm in my cottage in the country.
" I didn't care.
I loved the fact that the Doctor wasn't at UNIT.
He could go and work for UNIT, he could pop up to London, he could pop anywhere.
That didn't matter, he could drive in Betsy.
But the point was that he had his own life in Countdown.
SCOONES: Frank Langford took over from Harry Lindfield for one story.
And Langford had a very similar style.
He was a good match for Harry Lindfield.
RUSSELL: Frank Langford, uh, was perhaps the most traditional artist of all of them.
He'd got a very good background in both comic strip art and real art, as it were.
BENTHAM: He was a worthy successor to Harry Lindfield.
And he was the one that started getting the artwork in tune with what Barry Letts was doing on the television series, by starting to develop the UNIT family.
The Doctor was more avuncular than you'd seen.
He started to get the permed hair a lot more.
RUSSELL: Langford, I think, is very Frank Bellamy-esque in places.
He's very thin-lined, lots of bleached-out colours.
Lots of odd colours.
He'd use a lot of purples in grading and things.
If ever there was an artist that was doing, uh, the sort of the American avant-garde artwork that I'd come to love in the American Marvel comic strips.
People like Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, it'd be very much Gerry Haylock.
It really had the whole sort of actions and spirit.
And it was very distinctive style, and it had lots of little sort of quite surreal, strange, little sparks going at the sides of frames, odd-shaped frames.
Haylock's widely regarded as one of the best comic strip artists to work on Doctor Who in the 1970s.
His style is just very, very precise and the particular benefit with Haylock is that he captures Jon Pertwee's likeness absolutely superbly, much better than any other comic strip artist.
BENTHAM: My own personal favourite strip was one called the Vortex, which is, in style, very close to Claws of Axos in place.
But if you look at the way in which Pertwee's likeness was so perfectly captured, and the style in which he did them with.
There was a lovely, one I remember from the Vortex, it was a close-up shot of Pertwee looking almost directly to the camera, where he's only illustrated one side of his face and left the rest of it as bleeding into white.
But it's absolutely, it's a super use of, I know you can't say light, but, in terms of lighting, he was a brilliant lighter of the Pertwee style.
It sort of slightly broke the traditional comic strip style, I think.
And I think that's why it sticks in people's memories, really.
But, yeah, it was well suited to Doctor Who.
BENTHAM: He was probably one of the best artists ever to illustrate the Master.
He caught Roger Delgado perfectly.
And some of their sort of profiles, yes, they were probably done with the use of reference photographs, but beautifully stylised.
BARNES: The Master is used really well in The Glen of Sleeping in which he is trying to resurrect a load of entombed Jacobites to do his dirty work, like breaking into military bases and so on.
And it's a really great outre, you know, Master idea.
Uh, executed really well.
It's only a shame that it didn't feature him more.
RUSSELL: I don't think any Doctor Who artwork, and there's been some beautiful stuff subsequently, there's some marvellous stuff in the later Doctors.
But for me, Lindfield, Haylock and Langford, are the best Doctor Who comic strip artists of all time.
Countdown was quite an expensive magazine to produce, because of the high quality paper and the colour processing etcetera.
And it seems that it wasn't selling enough to actually justify that.
So it did go through a little bit of a reinvention.
It becameTV Action plus Countdown.
And then latterly after that, it just went toTV Action.
Around that time that it became TV Action and Countdown, um, the comic ran a competition to design a monster.
Readers would actually write in with their ideas for a new Doctor Who monster.
And this monster was going to appear in the comic strip, and readers would win a colour television.
I do remember being very, very jealous, that somebody called Ian, I think it was, won with his creatures called The Ugrakk.
Um, actually it was brilliant.
Great design.
And sure enough, months later, it turned up in this strip.
A cross between an elephant and a squid, with a very sort of Mekon-like bulbous head.
And as well as the television prize, the monster would be used in the strip.
And indeed there was a story called Doctor Who and the Ugrakks, who featured prominently.
RUSSELL: They masterminded the three-page story, and that degree of storytelling and to keep it going, and to keep the readers coming back week after week after week, that's what good comics publishing is all about.
Unfortunately, Countdown and, subsequently, its TV Action guise, didn't actually last that long despite Dennis Hooper's attempts.
It had a lot of features about the Apollo space program, had a lot of science fiction, space-based comic strips.
And then what seems to happen is, with falling sales, the perception seems to have been from the publishers that "Hey, we need to go more action oriented.
" So, eventually TV Action had to fold, and Doctor Who returned to TV Comic.
Doctor Who, as a comic strip doesn't really suffer, from moving from TV Action to TV Comic.
The only way in which it is degraded in any sense, is that we no long have any colour, they're all black and white.
Eventually when Jon Pertwee left the series on television, of course, the Third Doctor had to come out of the TV Comic strip as well.
There was no explanation, there was just one final story, which just ended with the Doctor alone in the TARDIS.
And, then the following week, it was replaced with Tom Baker, basically.
BENTHAM: It was very sad when it got merged and, ultimately, the strip got relegated back to TV Comic.
Because although it's still well written, it's still well illustrated, you suddenly have this feeling that you'd perhaps taken a step back a bit.
Overall, the Third Doctor strips is very interesting period, because it went through so many transformations you had the early TV Comic strips, you then had the move into Countdown and TV Action, and then back into TV Comic.
But once it went in to Countdown and TV Action, that really became the golden age of those early strips.
And, I think it's an era that people are quite nostalgic about.