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Whoblogging 2

I was born during the Second Doctor era (between episodes 3 and 4 of The Faceless Ones, to be precise), so as with the First Doctor my early experience of the Troughton stories was through the novelisations (which were, on the whole, better) and the reference books and DWM articles. In 1981, the BBC showed The Krotons on the basis that it was (then) the only surviving four-part Second Doctor story; Troughton popped up again the next week when they repeated The Three Doctors. Both were rather disappointing; the former is a rare misfire from Robert Holmes, and the latter, which must have delighted fans back when it was first shown, suffers badly from the fact that the Terrance Dicks novelisation, which we all knew well by 1981, is far better than the TV original.

But then Troughton came back again for The Five Doctors, in which he totally stole the show from the other members of the cast; and on that basis I was prepared to forgive The Two Doctors, a rather odd story which I liked much more on rewatching it this year than I did first time round. The next I heard of him, he had died, appropriately enough while attending a Doctor Who convention.

Some time over the next two decades I managed to see and enjoy Tomb of the Cybermen and watch with some bemusement The Seeds of Death. I also read Invasion of the Cat People, still my only Second Doctor spinoff novel, an early Gary Russell effort which did not impress.

Getting back into Who two years ago, I decided to get the audios of the 1967-68 "monster season", but started - wisely as it turned out - with Power of the Daleks, one of the strongest opening stories for any Doctor. After I'd got through the first few audios, I also watched The War Games which must be surely the best closing story for any Doctor bar The Caves of Androzani. My scientific judgement is that there are more distinctly bad Second Doctor stories than First Doctor stories, but the high points (most mentioned already, plus also The Mind Robber) are very good indeed. This seems to reflect the circumstances of a talented production team trying their best in straitened circumstances and quite often managing to pull it off.

Troughton's own performance is quite unusual. One of the unfortunate things about the loss of so many of his stories is that we miss the contrast between his scruffy appearance and his very posh diction - I now regret listening to so many of the "missing" stories first, before I had formed a good mental image of what I was missing. (The Second Doctor has now returned vicariously and invisibly in the Companion Chronicles, which have at least been fun if not always great literature.)

There is a perennial and rather pointless debate about who was the "best" actor ever to play the Doctor. There can be little doubt that Troughton was the most versatile, the one who slipped most easily into the biggest variety of other parts elsewhere (I remember him also from Treasure Island and The Box of Delights, for instance). I think he may also have been the actor who delved least deeply into his own personality for his portrayal of the Doctor. Hartnell, Pertwee and Tom Baker were all pretty clear that their Doctors were extensions of their own personalities. For Troughton it was different - if you have seen the home movie footage of the location filming of The Abominable Snowmen, there's a strikingly visible difference between his being in character and his being Pat the lead actor, even though the film itself is silent.

His Doctor was also markedly more human than Hartnell, indeed warmer to his companions than any others (except perhaps Davison, who consciously drew from Troughton; and to a lesser extent Tennant, who consciously draws from Davison). He is, I think, the Doctor who we most often see being actually frightened - it is impossible to imagine any of the others ejaculating "Oh, my giddy aunt!" The Second Doctor somehow seems more knowable than most of the others; and though it's not what I want from the Doctor, I have to admit that Troughton does it well.
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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
Hey-we're watching The Mind Robber with info text as I type this. It's a strange episode.
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:49 am (UTC)
The thing I respect Troughton for more than anything else was that he brought me to Dr Who. As a teenager I became fascinated by him as an actor, and through that sought out the 2nd doctor stories. He was a great Doctor but he was also so much more.
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:55 am (UTC)
As somebody who's only seen the 9th and 10th Doctors...I'm really enjoying these writeups. :)
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:00 am (UTC)
I love the mighty Trout
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)
except perhaps Davison, who consciously drew from Troughton

It's possible that that's why I like Troughton so much I guess. Not just the undoubted liberal nature of his character, but also Davison is the first Doctor I remember (I'd watched some late Tom, but the first episode I know I watched is the regeneration into Peter).

I've always liked what Trought I've seen, including The Two Doctors, and it's a great shame that they destroyed so much.

Oh for a time travel machine, go back and save it all.
Dec. 16th, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC)
While Hartnell started things off, I think that the phenomenon that Doctor Who became is down in large part to Troughton. The audacity of recasting the lead needed a class act to make it work. They got that, and the template for the future was set.

I loved the Target novelisations of his era - The Abominable Snowmen was one I borrowed from the library and read into a tape recorder to keep it. The first I saw of him was in The Five Doctors - but the more I've seen and heard of him the more impressed I've been (as indeed I was with Hartnell - whose stories were aside from the first three novelisations, not as good when I was 7 and 8 (the pre-Cotton days). I think chunks of the Troughton years are as good as anything that came after - and The Mind Robber remains my favourite story (having been the one I was most intrigued by way back when as a 7 year old I read the little synopsis in The Making of Doctor Who).


PS loving these essays and looking forward to the others.
Dec. 17th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
Here from who_daily; and I was greatly pleased to see this, as Patrick Troughton is my favorite Doctor (narrowly edging out Tom Baker and David Tennant).

And I agree with loveandgarbage that I think that Troughton is where Doctor Who really becomes what we think of as Doctor Who, and I'd even go so far as to say that he's where the character of the Doctor really starts to crystallize...Hartnell was fabulous, but Troughton is where we get so many traits that I, at least, now associate with "the Doctor" (a tendency to impulsive action, a more equal level of friendship with his companions, a general love of humanity and an interest in doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing, all of which were either absent or very rarely present in Hartnell).

(For the record, my first Troughton was The Invasion, which amusingly means that I was exposed to toon!Troughton before real!Troughton. But I've since gone back and seen most of the surviving highlights of his tenure, and some of the lowlights, though I still have yet to go through most of the audios.)
Jun. 9th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)

I met Mr. Troughton at a convention here in St. Louis just a few months before he died in Atlanta -- he was friendly and generous with his time, willing to have casual conversations in a hotel hallway with random fans and no sense of self-importance or need to keep apart that some actors have. Your sense that his Doctor was more "knowable" came from the man himself, as he was that way in person.

I wasn't there but I've been told that the Atlanta convention organizers realized that having Anthony Ainley, who also was at that particular convention, make the announcement that he had died would be taken as a sick joke or in incredibly bad taste, so it fell upon Star Trek's George Takei to do it instead.

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