Peter Bryant produced many of the later Patrick Troughton stories, and was partly responsible for the creation of UNIT, as well as the casting of Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. In this old DWM interview, he talks about giving Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks their big breaks, and about hiring Jon Pertwee to play a singing, dancing Doctor…
“I had a marvellous telephone call – I’ve never forgotten it – the morning after one of the episodes of ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ went out. It was from Sydney Newman, who rang me to say how great he thought it was. It was the sort of thing Sydney Newman did, but for me, as my first job in television production, it was absolutely marvellous and very nice of him.
“I’d known Victor Pemberton since our days together on radio when he, like me, was an actor and a writer, so I was quite pleased when I could bring him onto the show. Bob Holmes got his big break with ‘Doctor Who’, and I greatly enjoyed working with Terrance Dicks, who I also brought onto the programme as my story editor. We only ever had one major fuss and that was with Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln over their monsters the Quarks. Ever since the Daleks, copyright on a monster has been a very tightly controlled thing, and so when Haisman and Lincoln said they wanted to take out sole rights to the Quarks, there was quite a fuss.
“I couldn’t get Pauline Collins to play a companion. We had her in ‘The Faceless Ones’ and I asked her later on if she’d do a regular part. But she said no, which I thought was a great shame. We were lucky to get Wendy Padbury, who has this incredible talent for never looking her age. Even now, she can still play a fifteen-year old schoolgirl. But I would like to have had Pauline Collins – such a sparkling personality. She could make every line dance off the page.
“I kept a tight reign on the show, but I was always for making the show more realistic to get the best out of it. With UNIT, for example, that appeared to work very well and so it seemed to me a good idea to extend it. I had always wanted to bring the show more down to Earth so that the kids could identify with the action and the characters. If you set a story on the London Underground, it added an extra thrill you perhaps didn’t get with the stories set in outer space. I think in all my time time we only had one really harsh letter from a parient, who said her child had been badly scared by the Cybermen. So I wrote back and invited her to bring the child along to the studios, and when they came I arranged for one of the Cyberman actors to take his mask off. After that, (the child) was quite happy.
“I remember being there for the filming of ‘Spearhead From Space’ up at the BBC training centre at Devesham. They were doing this scene of Jon Pertwee in a wheelchair. It was running away with him in it and he had this look of absolute horror on his face. To me, it was a sign of the kind of comedy I wanted to use in the series. One of my ideas they kept in the series all the way thorugh after I’d gone was this little yellow banger Jon Pertwee used to drive around, Bessie. I felt it gave him exactly the right kind of eccentric look, to contrast with the military set-up we were going to have in those shows. I cast the other regulars to go with Jon Pertwee – Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John, although I don’t think Caroline stayed with ‘Doctor Who’ long after I’d left.
“Jon Pertwee wasn’t my first choice for Patrick Troughton’s replacement. Ron Moody would have been tremendous for the part. He would have brought in extra elements of comedy I felt were missing from the show at that time. I know Patrick had been cast as this kind of Chaplin-esque figure at the beginning but I think towards the end we were beginning to take the whole thing a bit too seriously.
“However, Jon could do everything. He could act. He had those marvellous range of voices. He could sing. He could even play the guitar! In effect, he had all the qualities I was looking for to bring out a more light-hearted approach to ‘Doctor Who’. In the end, of course, he went and did completely the opposite – played it absolutely straight – but that too was very successful.”