I Am The Doctor

I Am The Doctor

I Am The Doctor is very different from my other Doctor Who books simply because, rather than it being a purely factual look at an aspect of the series, it is a very personal view, through the eyes of just one person. This collaboration with Jon Pertwee on the second (and, as it happened, final) volume of his memoirs came about simply because, as a great fan of Jon’s time as the Doctor (it was when I really started to watch the series in earnest, and hated missing an episode), I wanted to see them written.

Jon had written the first volume of his autobiography, Moon Boots and Dinner Suits, back in 1984 and, over the years, whenever the subject of Jon writing another volume of his life story came up, he would always respond to the effect that he would do it when he wasn’t busy. But Jon was always busy with one project or another.

For The Seventies, one my my tasks was to research and write the chapter on Jon’s life and I really enjoyed delving into his career. I felt that there was so much more that could be said about Jon Pertwee than had been, and I began to really want to see the story of his Doctor Who years told as only Jon could.

Therefore I decided to approach Jon about the project, and suggest to him that maybe we could work together on it. The opportunity to talk to Jon came when we were both invited to be guests at an event to mark the 21st anniversary of the Doctor Who exhibition at Longleat House. At the end of a long, hot and gruelling day, I mentioned the idea to Jon and he suggested I pop over to speak to him further about it. A week later saw me doing just that, and after about half an hour, Jon agreed to work with me on the project.

I was, of course, delighted, and somewhat apprehensive. What had I let myself in for?

The next problem was to try and sell the book to a publisher. Jon and I initially wanted to continue the story from where Moon Boots and Dinner Suits left off and bring it up to date. Therefore we conceived a book which had numerous working titles - one that I quite liked was A Cup of Tea and a Slice of Life while Jon came up with Before I Forget.

We hit a major snag when Virgin (who had published all my Doctor Who titles) turned the book down. They didn’t consider that a book of Jon’s life would sell, especially since the recent Who’s There?, Jessica Carney’s biography of her grandfather, William Hartnell, had done poorly. A further three publishers also turned it down. Because there was no current scandal or gossip relating to Jon’s life, and that this was, by Jon’s firm insistence, not a ‘kiss and tell’ book, publishers were not prepared to go with the book. A sad intictment of the UK’s publishing industry.

After several months of my pushing and probing, Peter Darvill-Evans at Virgin eventually said that they would be interested, but only if the book was a Doctor Who book. Boxtree were also interested in publishing it, but again, only if it was a Doctor Who book.

To get to this position had actually taken around eight months and I was getting very worried. Although I had first spoken to Jon around September 1994, I was busy with other projects and had agreed with Jon that work wouldn’t start on his book until April 1995. Therefore we had started on the book, but I still hadn’t found a publisher.

Eventually Boxtree made an offer, but Virgin, in the same week, after nine months of me pushing them, also made an offer. I decided to go with Virgin as they wanted an illustrated book (as did I) but Boxtree wanted a more traditional autobiographical hardback, with simply an eight page photographic section. If Virgin had not come back to me when they did, however, the book would have gone to Boxtree as I was getting desperate.

The process of actually writing the book was long and time consuming. The core was around 20 hours of taped material, recorded during sessions at Jon’s house during which we watched every one of his Doctor Who stories, and talked about whatever Jon wanted to talk about.

These sessions then had to be transcribed, put into English (the spoken word is never the same as the written word), ordered and augmented with links, introductions and endings to make the text sound natural and to make it flow. I also pulled in information from other interviews Jon had done going back to the fifties, stories and notes from the BBC files, material from other sources - the list was endless.

The writing took the best part of a year and was very stressful. One whole chapter had to be written from scratch as Jon was unavailable and we hadn’t yet spoken on the subjects covered. Luckily by this time, I had become used to writing ‘as Jon’ and hopefully you can’t tell which chapter it was.

Once the text was written, Jon then went through it and made whatever changes and alterations he saw fit, and he was very diligent. These changes were then made after discussion, and then Jon went through the second draft - and so on. In no way was this a simple ‘transcription of an interview’ which some have claimed. The process was time consuming and difficult, and resulted in a book which was very much co-written.

One of my aims was that the book should be 100% factually accurate. That all of Jon’s anecdotes would take place at a time and a place that was correct, and that all the cast and crew mentioned in them were right. This actually resulted in few changes, but a lot more work for me in checking. For example, when Jon related an event, but didn’t know during the making of which story it had happened, I then had to play detective, do the research and pinpoint where it should be included in the book.

One example of this (which was ultimately cut due to constraints of space) was that Jon remembered a scene where the top of a Dalek was removed and you saw the Dalek creature inside - created from cooked macaroni and spaghetti with green washing up liquid mixed in. There is no such scene in any of Jon’s stories, so what was he remembering? Maybe a cut scene from Planet of the Daleks? In the end, I realised it was actually the view of the mind parasite from The Mind of Evil when the lid is taken off the Keller Machine.

Another example was Jon’s old school song from Sherbourne. I don’t know any Latin, and so had to try and find out what the Latin words were that Jon was able to sing from memory, and how they were all spelt. It was thanks to a current Master at Sherbourne that we hopefully got it right for the book.

My role in all this was to act as the voice of accuracy. Questioning Jon on certain anecdotes as to their placing, prompting him of things he might have missed. It was a part of the job, if you like, to get the book to a stage where all the facts were correct and we had sufficient information to construct an interesting narrative.

The cover was a nightmare. We knew we wanted a photograph of Jon, but all the ones I suggested Jon didn’t like, and the ones that Jon liked were not suitable for the cover. There was a dummy cover produced using the photograph that appears on page 80 of the final book, but the results were too dark to be really eyecatching. The image that we eventually used was found through complete serendipity. Jon had in his collection some portrait shots taken by a photographer called Ian Cook, and we wanted to use one of these as the author photograph on the inside back flap. Therefore I contacted Ian to gain his permission and while on the ‘phone to him, we started talking about the cover. Ian explained that he had some shots taken for an Australian magazine that had not been used, showing Jon with a Dalek and the TARDIS.

Because time was very short, I arranged over the ‘phone for Ian to go in to see Virgin the next day, and to show Peter the shots. If Peter liked them, then we’d probably go with them. This happened and Peter did like them, and there, as long as Jon agreed, was our cover. I didn’t see the picture chosen by Peter until I received it to take to show Jon.

The last time I saw Jon, was to take him the cover photograph to gain his approval. He liked it, and so it was used. This was on the Wednesday before he left to go on holiday to America (8th May).

With an illustrated book, the writing is just one aspect of the job. The design is equally important and I was very happy with the design of this book. I had suggested the designers to Virgin on the basis of another book they had done, and Virgin were happy to use them.

In creating an illustrated book, I feel that it’s important that the designer and the author work together to produce the final work. In that way the designer can suggest, for example, using quotes as headings, and the author knows to supply them. I already knew roughly how I wanted the book to look and so I had already supplied text for specific areas and for specific uses. My ideas were picked up and developed by the designer.

The idea of including pieces from those who had worked with Jon on Doctor Who was mine. The designers suggested using facsimile signatures after the pieces (an idea I thought worked particularly well).

In preparing for the design process, I had to consider the photographs - how many and of which subjects, black and white or colour etc., all of which have to be located and clearance obtained if necessary - the layout, what was to go in the side bars (which also all had to be researched and sourced), then there’s proof checking, writing all the captions - easily another three or four months of work after the main text had been completed.

After Jon died, Virgin felt that the book needed a subtitle of some description. There was also a slight problem with the cover photograph in that the space immediately above Jon’s head looked wrong and it needed something to cover it up. Virgin came up with the line ‘Jon Pertwee’s final Memoir’ and I had no problem with it.

Ultimately, I wanted all along to capture Jon on the page. I wanted all his stories, his anecdotes, his sense of humour and the incredible array of what he had achieved throughout his life to come through.

This was the reason for the opening chapter. Jon and I, despite Virgin’s preference for a Doctor Who book, wanted to include Jon’s other work. Hence the additional sub- chapters on The Navy Lark, Worzel Gummidge and The House that Dripped Blood. Had we had more room, we would have liked to have included more of this material.

The book also had to appeal to Doctor Who fans and I wanted it hopefully to be the record of Jon’s Doctor Who years that fans had been asking for. Whenever I do a book, it’s always the book that I would like to see myself. You have to care about it, and always try your hardest to do the best job you possibly can, given all the many constraints that occur during the writing and publishing process. If you’ve done that, then hopefully others may like the book too.

The trick was to deliver a book that was obviously Doctor Who but which also gave a good flavour of Jon’s other work. I hope we succeeded.

A photograph taken as part of a promotion for the book. This was taken at The Museum of the Moving Image's Doctor Who exhibit in London.


When I was asked by David Brunt of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society to write something for a special tribute magazine to Jon Pertwee that the Society were publishing, I decided to do something that emphasised that Jon had done much more than just Doctor Who. The piece is based on when Jon and I sat down to go through Jon's vast collection of photographs in order to choose what to include in the book and what to leave out. What could have been done in an hour stretched over three hours and the piece fairly accurately describes the tone of that session. Someone said to me after the tribute magazine had been published, that my contribution made them cry. I cried as well while I was writing it. Jon may no longer be with us, but he will never be forgotten.


‘Now, will you look at that -’

Jon has just picked up a photograph from the top of the pile which rests on his lap.

‘That was at Billy Smart’s Circus, and the lady under the elephant is Jayne Mansfield. I was ringmaster at the time.’

Another picture.

‘That’s me scuba diving. The water was simply marvellous. Clear, blue - you could see for miles.

‘Now that - that is me, and David Jason, and Ed Stewart, and a famous motorbike racing driver whose name I can’t currently recall. We’re all lined up at the start of a race for charity.

‘Ah - there’s old Worzel. The warts were made from halved breakfast cereal that they stuck on my face. I had a grand time with Worzel, he’s like the Doctor, timeless.

‘Ah ha. That’s Ingeborg and myself with Phil Silvers. It was taken on the set of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I had appeared in the stage show on Broadway but the producers of the film wanted more ‘names’ in their production and so they got Phil Silvers in to play my part. I was given the part of a sea captain as a sop. Shame really.

‘Now that’s me outside the front door of my old house in Chester Row. I used to nip across the road to use the showers and one day the press caught me at it.

‘These two pictures are from an advertisement I did for Sharwood’s pickle. I was playing Mr Sharwood, who was visiting various restaurants and other food emporiums testing the various pickles - it was a little like the Man from del Monte, or that woman who tests the coffee. John Bluthal was in it and we had hoped it would turn into a series of advertisements all on the same theme, but it didn’t.

‘That’s me in the vampire cloak and teeth from The House that Dripped Blood. They had me hung up on a harness to film that end scene. Very uncomfortable.

‘You remember we spoke about when I was touring the Music Halls with my one man variety show -? Well that’s a picture of me with the dummy that I used to pull out of the pit with a pitch fork, pretending it was a member of the orchestra, before hurling him across the stage.

‘That’s Ingeborg and myself on our wedding day - was it really thirty years ago?

‘And that’s me skiing on the slopes in Kitzbuhel. As you can see, I hadn’t yet busted my leg.

‘I had the first Vespa scooter in London and that picture was taken in Chester Row. I remember being so proud of that scooter, but then I’ve always loved bikes.

‘There’s me and Sean on our bikes outside our house in Barnes. I had a new bike and Sean, as you can see, had a smaller version for himself. Like father like son!

‘That’s me and Bill Maynard in our tank during the Korean war. We lost it you know? The tank. It ended up at the bottom of a river that was too deep for us to cross although we didn’t realise it until it was too late.’

The pictures kept coming. The memories flooding back. What should have taken an hour or so was taking the best part of a whole morning. Jon kept stopping at images as they kicked off his memory, here there were more motor bikes, here was a picture of Jon with Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, here was a picture of Jon waterskiing at a charity do on the south coast. Worzel meeting the Queen; Jon with Frank Bruno; with Thora Hird; with Roger Moore and Joan Collins; with Bob Hope; Jon in cabaret in Australia; Jon at Doctor Who conventions all over the world; Jon with Patrick Troughton, water pistols drawn; Jon as the Doctor; Jon as Jon.

Eventually I had amassed a huge pile of pictures and an even larger number was returned to the musty boxes from which they had emerged. Jon seemed enlivened, enthusiastic. Our going through of all the images, snapshots of his life, had recalled so many memories. Some vivid, some dulled by time.

Eventually, armed with a bulging envelope full of images, I bade my farewell and promised to speak to Jon as soon as I could regarding the next stages of putting the autobiography together.

The date was Saturday 4 May 1996.