James Bond and Doctor Who

Above: the third incarnation of the Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee (1919-96), with his companion Jo Grant behind him (played by Katy Manning).

The James Bond film series and the science fiction TV programme Doctor Who have many strange similarities. They're both longrunning British cultural institutions, they are both based around their charismatic, mysterious lead characters and their pretty female sidekicks (Bond girls vs. companions), one began only eleven months after the other, they both constantly reinvent themselves (for example, they both regularly replace their lead actors who nevertheless play the same character), they both have interesting abstract title sequences (and compare the iconic James Bond gun barrel to the Doctor Who title sequence's iconic time vortex), their lead characters use quirky sci-fi gadgets that work as get-out-of-trouble cards (e.g. Bond's ejector seat in Goldfinger or his mini-rocket cigarette in You Only Live Twice, vs. the Doctor's sonic screwdriver or slightly psychic paper) and iconic vehicles (Bond cars vs. the TARDIS). They both feature exotic locations (either tropical islands in the case of James Bond, or alien worlds in the case of Doctor Who) and iconic disfigured/insane villains (Blofeld vs. Davros).

However, Bond and Who were never so similar as they were in Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee years (1970-74).

Above: the Third Doctor's Whomobile.

Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor, instead of being the gentle peacemaker the Doctor had been before and has been ever since, was a dashing action hero - truly the James Bond of the Doctors. The show at the time often portrayed him using "Venusian aikido" to beat down his enemies, and depicted him and other members of UNIT (the Third Doctor's MI6) dodging bullets, vehicles, and explosions. He even, at one time or another, used a sword or a gun. The commonplace use of the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor's primary gadget, came about in the Jon Pertwee era, the Doctor started flirting with his companions - a very Bondish trait (Jo Grant, I'm looking at you), and it should not be neglected to say that the Third Doctor, like Bond, had an immaculate dress sense (his clothes being especially comparable to those worn by George Lazenby's Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a style later appropriated by Austin Powers). The Doctor, being stranded on Earth in this period, also got his own Bond cars - the charming Bessie, and the awesome Whomobile (as well as a motorcycle, etc.). This period also marked the introduction of, and employed frequently, the stereotypical Bond villain the Master - the Doctor's archnemesis (played by the sinister-looking Roger Delgado).

Above: the Doctor's archnemesis, the Master (played by Roger Delgado, 1918-73). What he's wearing quite resembles Blofeld's signature costume.

Above: the Third Doctor duelling the Master in an advert for "The Day of the Doctor", referencing a scene in The Sea Devils.

But what I love most about Jon Pertwee's James Bond persona is that it was genuine. Pertwee always claimed, after all, that with the Doctor he was just playing himself. Pertwee had actually been a spy in WW2 for Naval Intelligence. In this role he worked alongside fellow secret agent and future Bond-creator Ian Fleming. They both answered directly to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee. He even had his own quirky gadgets, as he later recalled, "I did all sorts. Teaching commandos how to use escapology equipment, compasses in brass buttons, secret maps in white cotton handkerchiefs, pipes you could smoke that also fired a .22 bullet. All sorts of incredible things".

So, to celebrate Jon Pertwee, the James Bond Doctor, I'll end this article with a wonderful montage of said Doctor beating up baddies and generally being an all-round hero. Enjoy!

Footnotes: A tattoo from Pertwee's time in the Navy can be seen on him in his first serial, Spearhead from Space. Also, while the Third Doctor's personality was Pertwee's own, I'm not so sure the character's dress sense was; when asked to attend a Radio Times photo-call in 1969, Jon Pertwee arrived in what he thought was "a suitably eccentric outfit" from his family wardrobe, and the flamboyant image stuck with producer Barry Letts. This is where the Third Doctor's clothing style derives from. Lastly, I mentioned in this article that the Third Doctor used a sword or a gun in some instances. I'd like to clarify that these were pretty much one-off occasions; Pertwee's Doctor did not fundamentally challenge the character's core trait of being unarmed. If he had to fight, he used Venusian aikido barehanded (barehanded except for fine leather clothes, of course!). He was not warlike either - he frequently criticised UNIT's militarism. So I don't want my article to give off the impression that the Third Doctor ruined what makes the Doctor as a character so interesting. Far from it - Pertwee's Time Lord was the Doctor as an action hero done right. Pertwee came as close to being a James Bond Doctor as he could without, at all, damaging the integrity of the character. And this is what makes him so great and unique.

Thanks to my father, who contributed to the creation of this article.
Extra Footnote (05.07.18): Pertwee, like a true action hero, also did the great majority of his own stunts.