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The Real Reason Jon Pertwee Left Doctor Who

"Doctor Who" is perhaps one of the most noteworthy science fiction shows of all time. Though the television series took a break from 1989 to 2005, the franchise has existed in one form or another since 1963, surely a notable achievement in storytelling. One of the show's gimmicks that has allowed it to enjoy such longevity is the process of Doctor Who's resurrection, a tool that allows the show to change lead actors every few years or so. Since the first "Doctor Who" actor, William Hartnell, left the show in 1966, this process has occurred a total of 12 times.

Since the beginning of the series, the standard time for a Doctor to remain on the show is three seasons. Indeed, when Hartnell announced his departure to fans, he said, "Three years in one part is a good innings" (via DoctorWho.tv). Because of such routine turnover, this has become known as the "three-year rule" among members of the "Doctor Who" community. 

Of course, like many rules of show business, this rule was meant to be broken. Jon Pertwee, the actor who played the third Doctor, appeared on the show for a whole five seasons before his departure. Over the years, there has been much speculation about the exact reason Pertwee chose to leave when he did. Luckily, we found an answer straight from the horse's mouth.

A number of factors led to Jon Pertwee's Doctor Who departure

It would appear there were a variety of reasons that Jon Pertwee decided to leave "Doctor Who." According to "The Final Curtain," a short documentary that was included on the "Planet of the Spiders" DVD release, the sudden and tragic death of the Master actor Roger Delgado was a major blow to Pertwee and the rest of the show's tight-knight crew. 

"Roger being killed and I was very upset about that," Pertwee said when asked about the timing of his departure (via Classic DW). "I wouldn't want to really work with any other actor playing the Master." During this same interview, Pertwee also referenced the similarly timed exits of producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. According to Pertwee, "It seemed to be the end of an era." 

However, Pertwee also admitted that he had some fear of typecasting after so much time playing the Doctor. "I did realize that I'd stamped myself with this 'Doctor Who' image and I was probably never going to get out of it," Pertwee said (via Classic DW). According to the February 8, 1974 edition of the UK newspaper Evening Chronicle (via Newspapers.com), the thespian quickly signed on to a number of television and stage play productions after his departure from the series, perhaps as a method to move on from the role.

Interestingly, Pertwee also admitted that he offered to stay for one more season if the BBC paid him more money. In response, Shaun Sutton, then-Head of Drama at BBC Television, insisted the budget for the production would not change, simply replying, "I'm terribly sorry to see you go" (via Classic DW).