When it was announced that veteran actor William Hartnell was leaving Doctor Who, it must have seemed like the end of a program. The series had run for three years and had seen numerous young actors and actresses enter and exit the TARDIS, that magical doorway to adventure that had so enlivened the imagination if Britain since the series began, but through it all there was the constant ‘Father Christmas’-type Hartnell presiding.
With the hero gone, hoe could there be a future for the series?
Enter character actor Patrick Troughton.
Known for heroic roles on TV (Pat was the first actor to play the role of Robin Hood on TV in 1953), Troughton‘s take on the Doctor was very different to his predecessor’s. While Hartnell’s Doctor was harsh and cranky, Troughton‘s was giddy and jocular. But under it all, a strange and alien brain was churning ideas around, plotting schemes and traps for his enemies. It was this ‘master planner’ element that is often overlooked by Doctor Who historians who accept the ‘cover persona’ that Troughton‘s Doctor portrays and are quick to label him as the ‘cosmic hobo.’This is hardly the case. Against the Cybermen, Yeti, Daleks and countless other threats, the second incarnation of the Doctor was perhaps the most deadly and cunning (with the 1980′s homage to Troughton in McCoy‘s Doctor the possible exception).
It is also important to note that the second actor to play the Doctor was the most important. This has been pointed out by many actors to play the part, but chiefly by sixth Doctor Colin Baker who remarked that ‘without Pat, I’d be out of a job.’ It was the mission of this new persona to extend the life of the program that had survived several changes but retained a leading man… until 1966.
The experiment was a roaring success and the program has enjoyed a long life that has somehow lasted until today!
There are several traits that were introduced in the late 1960′s that have lived on throughout the lifespan of the series. To name but a couple of inventions from Troughton‘s era… the quirky and somewhat oddball humor that Patrick Troughton introduced can be seen in every actor to take on the part after him, including Peter Davison and current Doctor, David Tennant (though I think he’s going for the Tom Baker angle, obviously). Also, the sonic screwdriver, thought up on the spot by Pat during the story ‘Fury From The Deep’ has become a staple of the program and one which David Tennant’s Doctor (who handles the device like a magic wand) would be lost without.
During his run on the series, Troughton saw several companions come and go, but his main right hand man was Jamie McCrimmon played by the young Frazer Hines. It was this pairing that proved to be magical, with the two actors just as jovial on screen as they were off-screen. In fact, they were known for playing pranks on the lovely actresses unfortunate enough to be stuck in the wooden TARDIS-prop with them.
One key trick was the pair of them pulling the skirt off of Deborah Watling right before she exited the Police Box to begin her scene. Luckily, everyone involved enjoyed the joke! …unluckily, no photographs have surfaced.
The second Doctor‘s run ended with the most ambitious of serials since the Dalek’s Masterplan, The War Games. Clocking in at 10 parts, it tells the story of a war being fought in several different time zones by humans lifted out of Human history to create a galactic army. In the end, the Doctor was forced to call in the assistance of his people to take care of the mess created by these War Lords. This lead to the Doctor telling the story of his exile for the very first time. After the villains were put to rights, his companions were returned to their respective time periods as if they had never left to begin their adventures with the strange visitor called the Doctor. The Doctor himself was then exiled to Earth and forced to regenerate as a kind of penance for his rebellious actions.
Sadly, many of the second Doctor’s stories are unavailable in complete form. While many loose episode were released in the excellent ‘Lost in Time’ box set, many more are still only available in audio form.In 2006, The Invasion was released with two episodes replaced by fully animated versions. Many fans hold out hope that this will be tried again to animate other ‘lost’ stories from Troughton‘s era.
To date, no plans have surfaced.
During his time on the program, Troughton was a very private man and chose to limit his interviews to maintain the ‘magic’ of the character that he portrayed on screen. After he left the series, he was a proud ambassador of Doctor Who and appeared at many conventions on both side of the pond. He later returned three times to the series in the Three, Five and Two Doctors Specials to reprise the role of the Doctor.
In many ways, the most important actor to play the role of The Doctor since Chris Eccleston bore the weight of the series’ success in 2005, Patrick Troughton is viewed by many (including actors who have played the part) to be ‘the’ Doctor above all others. I couldn’t agree more.
Doctor Who – The Invasion
Doctor Who – The Tomb of the Cybermen
Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death – Episode 48
Doctor Who – The Two Doctors (Episode 141)
Doctor Who – The Three Doctors
Doctor Who – The Five Doctors (Episode 130)
Doctor Who Lost in Time Collection of Rare Episodes – The Patrick Troughton Years 1966-1969