The Men from the Ministry
"Experience, though noon auctoritee
were in this world, is right ynough for me"
- Geoffrey Chaucer, 'The Wife of Bath's Prologue'
To suggest that Pertwee's Doctor was analogous to Chaucer's Wife of Bath might at first
seem strange, not to say a little perverted. Nonetheless, in their attitude to authority,
they have a lot in common. The Wife argues that experience is better than blindly obeying
the precepts of written/spiritual authority, but at the same time she'll quote authority
if there's any likelihood of it justifying, however obliquely, her sexual escapades. For
the Doctor, reliance on Earth's figures of authority during his exile was a necessary
evil, but like the Wife, he too could use it when it suited him :
BROWNROSE I must say Brigadier that I'm far from satisfied that you've grasped the
urgency of the matter.
BRIGADIER I assure you I have.
BROWNROSE It's not something to be shuffled off onto some stray boffin, you know.
DOCTOR Now just a moment, my good man. We at UNIT are very busy with a number of
extremely urgent matters.
BRIGADIER Doctor, please ...
DOCTOR The Brigadier has a great deal on his plate. You cannot expect his exclusive
attention for your petty concerns.
BROWNROSE Oh, can't I, sir? Now I'll have you know that my -
DOCTOR Who's in charge of you pen-pushers these days? Old Tubby Rowlands, isn't it?
BROWNROSE Lord Rowlands is head of our department, yes.
DOCTOR Yes, I was saying to him in the club only the other day. 'Wrong sort of chap is
creeping into your lot, Tubby,' I said.
BROWNROSE Oh, well of course, I didn't mean to imply anything offensive.
DOCTOR No ... no, of course not. We'll say no more about it.
Terror of the Autons, episode three
It was more convenient, of course, for the Doctor to rage at those bureaucrats who
blocked his freedom, although it was still a pointless exercise. As much as anything, it
was a verbal trial of strength, and an opportunity for the production team to indicate
that the Doctor retained his disestablishmentarianistic tendencies. This is apparent from
Terror of the Autons, because there is no other reason for the argument. Brownrose has
simply come to UNIT to point out a series of deaths that eventually turns out to be linked
to the Autons. There is no question of him challenging the Doctor's free hand at UNIT.
Brownrose from the Ministry is simply an Aunt Sally for the Doctor to knock down.
Pertwee was inheriting from his predecessor a noble tradition of cutting through red
tape. For Troughton, this had largely been on the Earth of the future, but when the Tardis
and its occupant were exiled to the twentieth century, it was at the right time for the
expression of concerns at the power of anonymous civil servants. In the first flush of
British demands for a Bill of Rights, the civil service had become the symbol of hidden
excesses of power, uncontrolled and unanswerable to Ministers.
In Doctor Who, the most interesting example of this was to be Chinn, the head of a
Ministry of Defence investigation of UNIT's British activities. Chinn is the typical
buffoon we expect of a senior civil servant, his incompetence matched only by his
obsession with detail :
CHINN Brigadier, as head of this committee of enquiry, I must remind you of the Defence
Ministry ruling -
BRIGADIER Mr Chinn, as head of UNIT, I must remind you that we're not in the Ministry
CHINN All personnel must be properly screened -
(The Brigadier finishes the sentence with him)
BRIGADIER ... and scrupulously filed.
CHINN As an elementary security procedure, I must insist upon a file for this Doctor
BRIGADIER I'm sorry, Mr Chinn. I am personally responsible for the Doctor.
CHINN Typical, absolutely typical. That's the kind of high-handed attitude one's come
to expect from the UN recently.
The Claws of Axos, episode one
What the Doctor fails to do, however, is to distinguish between the politicians and the
bureaucrats. Brownrose and Chinn are two of the three administrators that he encounters.
The rest that he rages at are the political masters. Chinn again provides the most
interesting example since he is the only one whoe Minister we meet. This particular
Minister, however, is an astonishingly conniving figure, and as such redresses the image
of civil servants out of control. After the resignation of Sir Thomas Dugdale, Minister of
Agriculture, over the Crichel Down affair (when civil servants acted beyond their powers
without their Minister's permission), this wholly underhand Minister is a joy. He uses
Chinn as a fall guy to arrange the British control of Axonite without dirtying his own
name with the ploys to prevent other nations finding out about this wonder food developer.
As a consequence, he has Chinn's resignation ready should the man fail, as well as warning
him with the occasional display of wit : "After all, you are our man on the spot,
Chinn. In more ways than one."
The Brigadier's attitude as head of the British section of UNIT is to urge caution when
the Doctor launches into one of his frequent tirades. Although he himself is not averse to
challenging those in authority (as in The Invasion), he is also aware that UNIT's autonomy
from the host nation's government is limited. The Brigadier is curtly reminded of that
fact by the Minister of Ecology :
MINISTER ... Nevertheless, I strongly suggest that you put yourself and UNIT at the
disposal of the director of Global Chemicals. He is in by far the best position to handle
BRIGADIER May I remind you that I answer to Geneva. Under article 17 of the Third
Enabling Act, the United Nations -
MINISTER I helped draft that Act, Brigadier. May I remind you of article 18, 'Matters
of Domestic Concern', uh ... paragraph three if I remember rightly, "will place
itself at the disposal of the host nation in all respects".
The Green Death, episode three
The Brigadier was well aware of the delicacy of the situation, particularly because as
a politician and not a bureaucrat, the Minister was motivated by the political value of
Global Chemicals' research into alternative energy sources. The difficulties of being
subject to the vagaries of the government of the day were also indicated in The Claws of
Axos by the ease with which Chinn could get the regular army to lock up the UNIT men.
Ministerial motivations have varied from story to story, from political needs - as in
Sir James Quinlan in The Ambassadors of Death - to the moral concerns underlying Charles
Grover's behaviour in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Quinlan was misled into believing that
the Martian ambassadors were carrying a contagious form of radiation (Pertwee-science
strikes again!), while Grover had been seduced by the simplicity of a mystical 'golden
age' that has obsessed both pastoral playwrights and the early nineteenth century
socialists like Fourier. In both cases, the Doctor was a good deal less aggressive towards
The most balanced portrayal in the era - bearing in mind the liberal ethics underlying
Letts and Dicks' work - is that of Edward Masters in The Silurians. As Permanent
Under-Secretary (we may assume at the Department of Energy), Masters is an extremely
senior civil servant. Unlike Chinn, he embodies the classic Weberian view of the anonymous
and impartial servant obedient to his Minister. His impartiality is indicated by his
refusal to be swayed by the arguments of his old friend Doctor Lawrence until he has heard
the full facts, whilst his loyalty to the political authorities is indicated when he
replies to the Doctor's demands for action :
MASTERS Doctor, whether I believe you or not, I cannot go back to the Minister with a
story like this. There's no proof.
Doctor Who and the Silurians, episode four
As for anonymity - important for preventing decisions from becoming too personalised
and arbitrary - Masters indicates it by not going for the high profile actions that Chinn
would indulge in. Asked to flood the caves with troops, he refuses until he has seen a
report from the Brigadier who's actually been down there. Yet in seeking to be the model
servant of the Crown, he doesn't forget personal loyalties :
LAWRENCE What do you want me to do?
MASTERS This could be a national disaster. I must get back to London.
LAWRENCE What about the research centre?
MASTERS I'm sorry Charles, but I intend to recommend that this centre be closed
LAWRENCE But all my work. The delay will be crippling.
MASTERS My report will of course exonerate you completely. I'm sure you've done
everything in your power.
Doctor Who and the Silurians, episode five
Masters is the product of a Malcolm Hulke script determined to make clear that no one
is black or white. He is the consumate and intelligent professional. By contrast, Hulke's
next creation was an amateur, a politican called Walker, sent down to deal with the
sinking of ships in The Sea Devils. As a Parliamentary Private Secretary, he is the lowest
of the low within his government, and clearly too old now to expect that he will ever
become a minister. Walker arrives one morning underlining the contrast with the bureaucrat
Masters in a very obvious way. Whereas Masters travelled through the night to reach Wenley
Moor and asked only for a cup of coffee as he set to work, Walker immediately demanded
breakfast ("Nothing very elaborate, my dear. Just eggs, bacon, toast, coffee. Oh, and
a little rough-cut marmalade if they've got it") and acted as if he were on a tour of
Not surprisingly, Walker is an instant source of irritation to the Doctor, whilst his
obsession with food is continually emphasised by the close-ups of his mouth and by the
dialogue - "Well this is war, my dear, and war calls for sacrifice. Any chance of any
more toast?" The Doctor is shrewd enough to play on Walker's ego in order to win his
way ("Wouldn't you like to be the man behind a peaceful settlement? Walker the
peacemaker, they'd call you"). Indeed, the Doctor's usual righteous invective has a
field day when faced by the obfuscating Walker :
DOCTOR You ordered the attack?
WALKER I did.
DOCTOR Did you give any thought at all, sir, as to what you were doing?
WALKER Our duty is to destroy the Queen's enemies. Don't you know your national anthem?
'Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks.'
DOCTOR That, sir, is an extremely insular point of view. At the precise moment of the
attack, I was negotiating a peace.
WALKER Peace? What, when they've been attacking our shipping and heaven alone knows
what? I think you've got it all wrong, old man. Seek and destroy, that's what you chaps
say, isn't it?
DOCTOR But the point, Mr Parliamentary Private Secretary, is that you have not
destroyed. You have just made them angry - very, very angry!
The Sea Devils, episode five
It isn't difficult to fathom why the Doctor developed such a hostile attitude without
any good reason towards Brownrose because it reflects the dichotomous position that he
finds himself in. On the one hand, he is used to the challenge of a verbal joust as he
convinces those doubters around him that he is right, but on the other hand, as scientific
adviser to UNIT, he is as much a part of the establishment as any of the men from the
ministries. Aware of this fact, his raging vocal fury against these symbols of the system
remained his only defence. The Doctor was trapped in the system whether he liked it or not
DOCTOR My dear Mr Chinn, if I could leave you I would - if only to get away from people
BRIGADIER Doctor ...
DOCTOR And your petty obsessions! 'England for the English', good heavens man.
CHINN I have a duty to my country.
DOCTOR Not to the world?
The Claws of Axos, episode one
The Doctor's duty, of course, would continue to be to the universe.
Issue five contents
Five Hundred Eyes index