Jon Pertwee: Always setting new trends

Nowadays, when you see the name of a celebrity trending on Twitter, it can often herald bad news. They’ve either died or said something really stupid.

But when I saw the name of Jon Pertwee trending today, I knew it would provoke only happy, nostalgic memories.

After all, Jon Pertwee died in 1996, and the only really stupid things he ever said were in character as the lovable scarecrow Worzel Gummidge.

The reason his name was trending was because today would have been his hundredth birthday, and legions of fans of daft ol’ Worzel had joined forces with fans of Jon’s other iconic TV creation, the third incarnation of Doctor Who to share their memories and sing his praises.

So, in addition to giving life to two legendary characters who brightened up many a childhood in the 1970s and 80s, in true Time Lord fashion Jon Pertwee also managed to travel forward in time and suck the poison out of Twitter for a day.

As achievements go, that has to rank up there with having a cup o’ tea an’ a slice o’ cake with Aunt Sally, or reversing the polarity of the neutron flow to see off the Daleks.

My earliest memory of Jon Pertwee is also my earliest memory of Doctor Who.

It was 1973, I was 7 years old, attending a school friend’s birthday party. After a Saturday afternoon treat of fish and chips and party games, we had all settled down inside to watch the latest episode of my friend’s favourite TV show.

I’d heard of it, but never seen it myself, some science fiction thing called Doctor Who.
And if I didn’t enjoy it, well, it was only on for half an hour, though when you’re seven, half an hour is pretty much like a whole afternoon.

I needn’t have worried.

The episode (part of a story called Planet of the Daleks) flew by and by the time it had finished, I was hooked. And I mean hooked!

From that day onwards, I haven’t missed a single episode of Doctor Who on television, and there have been a lot of those since that Saturday evening in 1973 when Jon Pertwee changed my life (well, if not quite my life, certainly my viewing habits).

I would also get one of the biggest shocks of my young life when a year later, during a particularly thrilling adventure involving giant spiders, my new hero, the Doctor, died at the end.

Hang on a minute…that’s not supposed to happen! What’s going on? And to make matters worse, suddenly, the Doctor’s familiar features changed into someone completely different.

It was my first experience of seeing a regeneration in Doctor Who – I had no idea it was an established feature of the show at this point – and let me tell you, I was not happy about it at all.

In an illustration of the fickleness of children, coupled with the sheer brilliance of Tom Baker, it wasn’t long (ten minutes into his first episode, actually) that this new Doctor had won me over completely and to this day remains my favourite, but without Jon Pertwee first grabbing my attention, I might not have even been watching the show at all to find out.

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