First broadcast in 1972, Doctor Who Season 9 saw the Third Doctor and Jo battle Daleks, Sea Devils and the dreaded Master across 26 action-packed episodes.
The Third Doctor Jon Pertwee was at the peak of his popularity by the time Doctor Who Season 9 came around. Now into his third year as the eponymous Time Lord, Pertwee’s era was regularly pulling in 8 million viewers, and when Doctor Who Season 9 began in June 1972, the ratings shot to new heights.
Undoubtedly, this was down in large part to return of the Daleks in the season opener. ‘Day of the Daleks’ was the first full Dalek story in five years, and indeed the metal mutants hadn’t been seen on screen since 1967, bar fleeting appearances in ‘The Wheel in Space’ and ‘The War Games.’ Penned by Louis Marks, this new adventure saw a band of soldiers travelling back from the 22nd century to try and alter the events that led to a dystopian future ruled over by the Daleks.
And although it quickly became a fan favourite, it wasn’t overly liked by some of the cast members – Jon Pertwee chief among them, who later revealed that he found the Daleks “boring.” Moreover, with the budget only allowing for three of the metal mutants to be seen on screen, some of the ‘large scale’ attack sequences were less cinematic than hoped.
That being said, the DVD special edition of ‘Day of the Daleks’ updated this serial with brand new footage and CGI sequences, and it also replaced the Dalek voices with new ones provided by Nicholas Briggs. This was because the originals provided by Oliver Gilbert and Peter Messaline were somewhat different to the more classic Dalek sounds, perhaps because neither of the actors had ever delivered Dalek dialogue before.
None of this seemed to deter Doctor Who Season 9’s viewers, though, and by the time the next serial ‘The Curse of Peladon’ began, the ratings rose to a new high of 11 million. Again, this adventure is frequently cited as a fan favourite, despite its off-beat nature; it centres around a disparate group of alien delegates who are meeting in a castle with a murderer in their midst – not to mention the dreaded Ice Warriors, who appear to have turned over a new leaf.
This tale from Doctor Who Season 9 is also notable for starring Patrick Troughton’s son David as King Peladon, plus the iconic Alpha Centauri who would make a return appearance in 1974’s ‘The Monster of Peladon’ plus – remarkably – in 2017’s ‘Empress of Mars’ where the character was voiced by the same actor Ysanne Churchman at a mere 92 years of age. This highlights the ongoing legacy that Doctor Who Season 9 left behind, such was the impact of characters such as Alpha Centauri.
And speaking of legacy, the next story saw the introduction of the Sea Devils, who would make many more appearances in future episodes. ‘The Sea Devils’ was a sequel story to 1970’s ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians,’ with the titular monsters being the distant relatives of the cave dwellers that the Third Doctor had previously encountered. In this adventure they have a similar goal to their ancestors – to reclaim the Earth as their own.
But perhaps the real star of this Doctor Who Season 9 story is the Master, making a return appearance after his imprisonment at the end of ‘The Daemons.’ And he is not going to let a little thing like jail get in the way of his plan for world domination, and he is aiding the Sea Devils from his prison cell-cum-headquarters before his escape.
And if you’ve been following the Thirteenth Doctor’s adventures, you will know that the Sea Devils made a return in the 2022 Easter special ‘Legend of the Sea Devils‘ – their first appearance in some 33 years. But the original Doctor Who Season 9 story is perhaps best known for the quirky scene in which the Master watches an episode of The Clangers, a moment that was referenced when the Master returned in 2007’s ‘The Sound of Drums.’ On this occasion, though, he was watching an episode of Teletubbies.
After this was the oft-overlooked Doctor Who Season 9 story ‘The Mutants’ – not to be mistaken with the similarly-named adventure from the First Doctor era (which was later renamed ‘The Daleks’ to avoid confusion.) This adventure is notable for its subtle political commentary, something that occasionally reared its head during the Third Doctor era; the producer Barry Letts was keen to riff on topical issues and would later make a much bolder statement with 1973’s ‘The Green Death’ which tackled the evils of big business and pollution.
But in ‘The Mutants,’ the central themes are oppression, slavery and the misuse of power, with the inhabitants of the planet Solos suffering beneath the iron rod of the Earth administrators who, quite literally, rule from a castle in the sky as Overlords.
It’s a Doctor Who Season 9 adventure that is peppered with strong ideas, although some have argued that there isn’t quite enough story to justify the six episode length. Indeed, the viewing figures did take a dip during the serial’s original transmission, with episode one pulling in 9.1 million viewers and episode six pulling in a much lower 6.5.
But the story that followed was altogether more epic in scale. ‘The Time Monster’ saw the return of the Master who, whilst disguised as the mysterious Professor Thascales, conducts experiments on a time crystal as part of his plan to summon the dreaded monster known Kronos, who quite literally feeds on time.
It seems that the Master’s endgame is complete mastery of the universe, and ‘The Time Monster’ sees the Third Doctor and Jo travelling back to the city of Atlantis in an attempt to stop him. This was the first time the mythical sunken city had been seen since 1966’s ‘The Underwater Menace,’ although there is little similarity between the two versions.
And speaking of returning locations, this Doctor Who Season 9 adventure also saw a rare appearance of the TARDIS console room, and indeed a brand new console room that had been specially-designed for this adventure. The hope had been that this new set would become the permanent interior for the Third Doctor’s travels, although it was almost unanimously disliked by the production team and was never used again. But love it or hate it, we can be sure that Idris has the room archived somewhere (and that’s a ‘Doctor’s Wife’ reference, in case you’re wondering.)
Looking back, it’s incredible to think how much of an impact Doctor Who Season 9 had on the programme’s future, with characters like Jo Grant, Alpha Centauri, the Master and the Sea Devils all making return appearances in the years that followed.
Which is your favourite adventure from Doctor Who Season 9? Let us know in the comments below.