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When Jon Pertwee came to tea

Tuesday 24th July 2012

April 1995 saw the culmination of many months of frantic activity.

A week before and we had held our final run-through of the scene we were to film with Jon Pertwee - the legendary actor comedian and entertainer known for his many roles on stage screen and film. This great personality was to come down to Worthing in under a week and hopefully film a scene featuring a conversation with our own Doctor - local amateur actor Tony Garner.

At the time I guess we were nervous although the pressure of the looming date ensured we "upped our game" and tried to ensure everything was right for the day.

We recall that Stephen rang David and later Ashley with a question on the lines of "you know we wanted an actor to play the part of the Third Doctor for the final scenes of Devious - well I think we have one - Jon Pertwee!" - well at first David didn't believe him!

Stephen had been friends with JNT and Gary for some time and it was as a result of a conversation that the possibility of Jon being asked to reprise the role was mooted and readily accepted by Stephen. Only afterwards we all sat down and assessed what needed to be done.

Raising our standards was key. We took one look at our console model and our walls and decided we had enough time before the intended filming date to construct a new set to be put up in Stephen's main living room at his house in Worthing. We built seven new Tardis walls - 4 with roundels, 1 scanner wall, one with assorted controls on it and a door section. Ashley and Stephen designed the construction and then the rest of the team joined in with the construction to the pattern.

Ashley and Stephen built the Tardis console, whilst Stephen constructed the central column. Chris and Stephen then motorised the console rotor using a combination of a washing machine engine and a hugh lead-weighted flywheel. When put together we felt we had an accurate representation of the Tardis control room.
We had a couple of rehearsals and then a final dress rehearsal with Anthony standing in for Jon Pertwee - this was filmed so we could rehearse the movement. We thought we had the action - such that it was - worked out until come the day Jon Pertwee said "that's a terrible move" when we walked him through the part where he changes places with Tony our Doctor! In the end we worked that out satisfactorily although Jon still commented on it, and of course he was right, but then we had to work out a way for him to be on screen right for the hands-touch after he had been standing on the left earlier - maybe he should have stayed on the right all along after his vision appeared but we wanted some movement.
And then the day came. Seven of us were staging the day - the seven of us who had made the agreement via JNT for Jon's services on the day. We had arranged a fee and split into seven. Three of us went up to collect him from his house south of the Thames whilst the others plus more from the team (Arthur, Ian, Anthony, Tony, Tim, Neil, Mark, Chris, Lynette and Claire) ensured all was ready - including a sumptuous buffet. Three of the daleks were positioned in the garden in case there was any time for photos at the end of the session.
Travelling in Stephen's vehicle we followed our list of directions and entered the gated close and found his house - we were shown in and sat in his lounge chatting for a while. He showed us around and told us of his love for antiques: there was a splendid Spanish chest as a centrepiece in the main room which looked as if it had come from the Armada. To the right of his favourite armchair was a set of audio cassettes - The Navy Lark and Dad's Army. Realising we had a busy day we curtailed our cup of tea (or whatever) and made our way south. To this day, Stephen still recalls the faces in the mirror (David and Ashley - in the backseat) as Jon suddenly curtailed a tale and said "I mustn't say too much as I won't be able to do the talk". Blimey. Had he forgotten what the day was for? He was getting on a bit (evidenced by his need for a stick) and we were starting to wonder if all was going to go wrong. Stephen judged his time and reminded Jon that he was filming as per his arrangement with JNT. "Oh yes of course" - and we were back on track again. Nonetheless we still had misgivings about whether what we had prepared was suitable for someone perhaps showing his age as he was.
These fears were compounded when we arrived in Worthing. His walk from the car - captured on our documentary camera which filmed the whole day (by agreement) - seemed hesitant and difficult. He came in and was immediately impressed by the set and looked around the console (phew - one hurdle over - he liked what he saw). We then showed him the lines which we had also prepared as boards to be held aloft. David talked him through the scene. He had arrived in costume (as agreed) and so that was another hurdle passed successfully.
And then we just got on with it - there were two cameras on all the time - linked to monitors at the back of the room, whilst the documentary camera filmed here and there. For what turned out to be a twelve minute scene we had an awful lot of footage afterwards!
The whole process seemed to go very well - our preparations paid off - even the "bad move" was worked through. There were a few interruptions with stories, especially when filming the opening scene after the vision of the Third Doctor arrives - "I remember when Pat was in MTBs in the war..." and so on - priceless stuff! No eye-patches though.
A lot of these asides and chat during the filming we included in our tapes we sent to Big Finish for their Zagreus 40th Anniversary story - we felt that just the seven sets of dialogue were insufficient for Big Finish to do much with. (And they did a great job too - cleaning up some of the sound accordingly from those extras and turning the whole scene into a great surprise for the 40th).
Actually as part of our agreement with JNT and JP there were only a short number of lines - which led to one rather extended/contorted sentence - although on the day we realise we could have altered the dialogue and made it flow better just by adding another line or so. Jon actually said to us "you should flog this" although our agreement was for the scene to be privately owned by us - this was to protect his reputation etc in case what we had done was a load of old rubbish. We were subsequently honoured to have the scene showed at the first convention after his death and later its release on DVD. At that convention Carolyn John said she was very moved by it. We were glad to share a Jon Pertwee Doctor Who moment with Doctor Who fans. After an introduction by JNT David and Tony presented the scene at the convention.
Back to the filming on the day - and after a break for lunch - where he regaled us with more stories and some in-character Worzel - we filmed the regeneration. We had sourced a pair of trousers and shirt and bowtie to match those of Tony as the Two-And-A-Halfth Interim Doctor although the trousers were somewhat inaccurate in size! To this day Arthur has the dubious honour of saying "I helped Jon Pertwee with his trousers" should he ever appear on a panel game... We had already shot Tony's regeneration scene so we could line Jon up on a monitor to get the positioning right. If this had not worked well then we would simply have filmed Tony's scene again to match that of Jon. In the regeneration itself you can see the hands changing as well as the build (and even the check design on the trousers) whilst we felt that the face worked extremely well. You can pause the face regeneration at any time and see a halfway face (Jon Garner or Tony Pertwee?!?!) - we didn't want the face to be obscured with effects - just see the face actually change!
And then we wanted the newly-regenerated Third Doctor to stand up, go to the console and hear the voice of the timelords (Voix (hence the name) played by Peter Tuddenham) telling him he is now exiled etc etc. We wanted him to react accordingly and we wondered how he would do this - whether he would be able to follow David's demonstration of the scene in the same manner. We need not have worried - ever since he said the first lines as the Doctor earlier in the day he instantly transformed into the Doctor! Bolt upright, grand and fully inhabiting the part! When he said "no, no" and did that scene where he falls forward onto the console it was perfect - the face he pulled was spot on and the scene spectacular. The only problem was that in his exuberance he had knocked the wall behind him and one of the wedges had come loose and we had to film that scene again. Second time was just as good. "One take Pertwee" had temporarily become "Two take Pertwee" on that occasion! He then had to stagger towards the camera (with braces coming loose - as you'd expect with a new body in old trousers!) - where you can see the outline of the Tardis key under his shirt! We then transferred outside where we shot the police box scenes - with Jon hamming up being locked in at one point. The only flaw was one camera failed to track him properly as he fell out of the doors.
And no - he didn't actually fall out - rather he stooped and then walked quickly on which worked for us. Tim Pieracinni later filmed the shot with the police box up at Greatham near Pulborough. We had just enough time for one set of photos next to the Police Box and the three daleks. We opted for a lot of back-to-back shots starting with Tony's Doctor and then the rest of us in turn - with Jon in great form, especially with Arthur being taller than him!

And then after some signing of photos and books etc it was time for him to go and Stephen, Ashley and David took him back up the A24 home.

A day we shall remember for the rest of our lives. The 12 minutes or so on the BBC DVD War Games are for everyone to enjoy, and we hope a fitting finale to Devious. The trailer on that DVD extra showing some scenes from Devious had to be edited so as not to include the daleks which was a shame as Devious is a dalek story but understandable due to the likely costs involved with rights etc just for an extra. However, we hope it gives some sort of context for the Jon Pertwee scene. But for us lucky few we had a day to remember - filming Doctor Who with a real Doctor.

A real star.


8th July 2012 - note - we have just located our VHS documentary footage of the day and we will attempt to extract some still shots from it for the site and maybe some video !

24th July 2012 - as you can see we have uploaded some screen-caps from the (sorry, VHS) documentary footage to illustrate this article and we'll be adding them to a new gallery soon!