After reading Elisabeth Sladen’s autobiography, I was curious to hear what Jon Pertwee had to say about his time with the show. Jon Pertwee wrote two autobiographies, both of which are currently out of print. The first was Moon Boots and Dinner Suits, published in the mid 80’s, which covered his life up to his involvement with Doctor Who. The second, I Am the Doctor, covered his time on the show and his subsequent career; it was cowritten by David J. Howe. Jon Pertwee died before the book was published, and, although he supposedly finished the memoir just days before his death, it felt kind of unfinished to me.
The book begins with an introduction by Doctor Who producer Barry Letts and brief outline of Jon Pertwee’s life and career that was covered in his first memoir. This background information was written by Howe, before getting into the autobiographic writing of Pertwee. Pertwee’s account begins with a bit of information about his time on the radio in The Navy Lark and contains brief sections about his work on the film The House That Dripped Blood and bringing Worzel Gummidge to television, but the rest of the memoir deals with his time on Doctor Who.
Jon Pertwee covers his time on Doctor Who chronologically, covering each story in order. He does have interesting stories and his voice comes through quite clearly at times, but I felt that it was nowhere near as strong as Elisabeth Sladen’s autobiography. When reading her autobiography, I felt that her voice came through clearly, at all times. This book felt more scattered to me, as if it didn’t quite fit together into one cohesive story. I guess that’s what I meant when I stated earlier that it felt as if it wasn’t quite finished. It felt a bit like a rough draft at times, not quite polished.
However, this does not mean that I didn’t enjoy it. It was particularly interesting to compare Jon’s version of events with Lis Sladen’s. For instance, Lis’ version of Jon’s departure from the series is quite different from his. She claimed that he felt that he deserved a raise and when he was told he couldn’t have one, he rather impetuously decided to leave the show (and regretted it later). Jon’s account was much different. He claimed that he felt it was time to leave, especially since the production team was leaving. He even lined up another job, in the play The Bedwinner before he told anyone of his decision. He eventually told Barry Letts that he felt it was time to leave, and received a call from someone higher up the ladder, asking him to stay. He offered to stay if they could give him a twenty percent raise, but the money wasn’t in the budget, so they agreed that he would leave. After reading about Jon Pertwee, I have to admit I lean a bit more towards Lis Sladen’s version of events because he did seem to be rather emotional.
It was interesting to read what Jon Pertwee thought of his companions, as well. He seemed to get along with Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw, but he did not care for her character. He felt that she was too capable and intelligent; in his mind the Doctor’s companion should be the perpetual damsel in distress. He definitely got what he wanted in Katy Manning’s Jo Grant, his favorite companion. You can tell from the way he writes about her exit from the show in his memoir that she was his favorite of the actresses that played his companions as well. Perhaps they bonded over a love of wild 70’s fashions! He obviously did not feel the same bond with Lis Sladen, although he doesn’t actually have anything bad to say about her. In fact, he doesn’t seem to have too much to say about Lis at all, which is probably a bit telling in itself.
He also covers his time doing “The Five Doctors,” as well as the conventions and other Doctor Who related experiences in the years after leaving the show. An interesting story from the later years involves Patrick Troughton. According to Jon, it was he who got Patrick Troughton involved in Doctor Who appearances and conventions. Apparently, Patrick was rather shy and had never gotten involved in making appearances as the Doctor. Jon took him with to one of his schedules appearances, and he found that he had a good time. But what sold him on the experience? Being given gifts!
Overall, I would say that the book was a worthwhile read. In the interests of full disclosure, however, I must confess that Jon Pertwee is my favorite Doctor, so I love learning about his time on the show. It’s more of a coffee table book, in that it is filled with pictures and insets written by Jon Pertwee’s costars. Still, it does give some idea of what when on behind the scenes during Jon Pertwee’s run, which was interesting to read. If you’re a fan of Jon Pertwee’s era, then you will definitely find something of interest in this book and it does provide a glimpse of Pertwee’s personality, even if it’s not as detailed as I might have hoped.