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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One thought on “Whoblogging 2

  1. Certainly with a challenged economy, and massive commitments to NATO, pragmatism was the wisest path.

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