Doctor Who: Eleventh Series and Third Doctor Summary
The Eleventh Series bounces back from the slight dip in the Tenth Series, but that’s not without caveats. Two of the stories were easy marks: The Time Warrior was a straight-up 5, and The Monster of Peladon – rest in peace, brave Aggedor – was a solid 4. But each of the other ones in this series took a little, shall we say, extra consideration. Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Death to the Daleks benefitted from optimistic mathematics, but Planet of the Spiders only scored well because of the regeneration handicap and the addition of franchise mythology in an already heavily padded story.
This season heralded the passing of the torch for the Third Doctor’s run: UNIT is phased out more and more as one of the strongest companions so far gets introduced. Sarah Jane Smith is so fantastic, from her journalistic inquisitiveness to her proactivity and fiery nature. She definitely has not let me down.
Out of the Third Doctor’s run, this one was the second highest rated behind the Ninth Series. It’s also the second highest rated for the entire Timestamps Project to date, barely edging out the Fifth Series. But I think a lot of the turbulence for me in this series has a lot to do with one major component of the Third Doctor’s era: Convenience.
Series Eleven Average Rating: 4.2/5
Remember how I referred to William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton as anchors for the audience? I think it still holds here. Jon Pertwee’s introduction ushered in a lot of changes for the franchise, and it meant that the Doctor had to change a bit as well. If the First Doctor is the Wise Grandfather and the Second Doctor is the Sly Jester, then the Third Doctor is the Secret Agent Scientist.
The James Bond influence is strong in Pertwee’s run, from the Lazenby-style ruffles to the ad hoc gadgets and super-powered vehicles. Unfortunately, those efforts to appeal to modern audiences come at the price of adding convenience to the franchise. I wanted to know how often I called out the convenience in the stories, so I searched the Timestamps Project for the term and came up with sixteen hits. Of those, half of them were in the Third Doctor’s run alone.
In The Ambassadors of Death, it was the antagonist’s communicator and a gadget on Bessie. In The Curse of Peladon, it was the plot device that removed the TARDIS as an escape vector and the Time Lord interference that sent the Doctor there. In Carnival of Monsters, it was Jo’s skeleton keys. In Frontier in Space, it was the quick clearing-of-the-stage appearance of the Daleks. In Planet of the Daleks, it was the secret information that the Time Lords provided to the Doctor about the large Dalek force. In Invasion of the Dinosaurs, it was the selective nature of the time bubble machine. In Planet of the Spiders, it was both the Whomobile’s sudden flight mode and the ability of Yates and Tommy to survive a blast that essentially killed a Time Lord.
In the one that I can excuse, The Three Doctors kept an infirm William Hartnell confined to a time eddy.
But that’s still seven occurrences in five series related to one Doctor. Hartnell and Troughton each had four hits on my search, and I’m willing to admit that it’s probably more prevalent, the fact remains that it really stood out during this Doctor’s run. To me, that represents a substantial change in the franchise overall. This isn’t the same Doctor Who as it was under Hartnell and Troughton.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Doctor Who had been running for seven years before the Third Doctor, and those seven years were, for the most part, pretty consistent. Television shows these days are lucky to get three or four years unless they’re medical procedurals (ER, Grey’s Anatomy), crime procedurals (Law & Order, Bones), or Supernatural. Star Treks generally got seven seasons (arguably, four of which were consistent). Babylon 5 ran for five years (and some extras) and Farscape ran for four years (and a miniseries). Closer to the 1960s, the original Star Trek only got three years, and depending on who you ask, it was consistent for two.
With those odds, it made sense that Doctor Who would have to evolve (regenerate) in order to survive. It will likely happen again.
So, what did I think of the character? I liked him, though not as much as the scores would indicate. In my opinion, the Third Doctor’s episodes were generally superior to those of his predecessors, but the character himself suffered from his exile. He was frequently snotty, condescending, and downright rude, and while that made sense to the story, those aren’t character traits that I admire. I loved that he brought science back to the forefront with his constant experimentation and exploration, but he didn’t really start to shine for me until he got his keys back.
He’s a man defined by his wheels – Bessie, the Whomobile, the TARDIS – and that makes him kind of shallow.
And I seriously hope that one of those, the Whomobile, stays in the garage.
The Third Doctor’s run consistently has some of my favorite work in the series, and it scores the highest as a result, but outside of the numbers I still favor the Second Doctor as a character.
Series 7 – 3.8
Series 8 – 3.4
Series 9 – 4.8
Series 10 – 3.8
Series 11 – 4.2
Third Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.00
Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
3 – First (3.41)
Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – First Doctor
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Robot
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.