Bigger On The Inside: A Quick Start Guide To… The Second Doctor
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR MEDIA BLASPHEMY.
It can’t have escaped your attention that Doctor Who is about to celebrate its landmark 50th anniversary. The world’s longest running sci-fi show began in 1963, and has run on and off to this day. After thirty-three seasons, its 800th episode or so will be simulcast to 75 countries and hundreds of cinemas nationwide on November 23rd. Clearly, there’s a lot going for it, but the sheer size and scope of the show can make it impenetrable for first time viewers.
So if you’ve never seen an episode, or you only started watching it because David Tennant was a bit dishy, here’s the first in a twelve part series giving you a quick over-view of each Doctor, each companion, big name monsters and stories to snog, marry and avoid. We’ll even throw in the spin-offs that ran (mostly) in recent years, to let you know if they’re worth a look. So get your sonic screwdriver at the ready, and delve into articles which we hope… are bigger on the inside…
THE SECOND DOCTOR: PATRICK TROUGHTON 1966-1969
There’s an old adage that always seems appropriate to Patrick Troughton’s tenure as The Doctor: absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Certainly, the news this that a batch of previously lost episodes have indeed been found, and made available to fans quite possibly by the end of the month, has put the hearts of many fans in their mouths. Could arguably the most important Doctor of all be due for a glorious return?
Looking at the statistics before any more details are revealed as to exactly what has been returned, it is Troughton’s time in the series that feels the most pain from the BBC’s archive purges in the late 1970s. At a time when video tape prices were at a premium, sales of film copies had fallen as more and more stations worldwide began to embrace colour television, and archive material simply littered every nook and cranny of BBC Enterprises, it seemed logical to the powers that be that the hundreds of hours of material they were sitting on had no further use than to be taped over.
And that’s exactly what happened. The Beatles appearances on Top Of The Pops. Dad’s Army. Hancock’s Half Hour. Nobody saw the potential in all of this old material, and that included Doctor Who. As it stood until this week, 106 episodes remained missing from the archives – 62 of which were from Patrick Troughton’s era. From 21 serials, only six remained complete, and all but one of those were from his final season in the role.
What does survive, however, are audio recordings of every missing episode, and telesnaps (literally, photographs of a television screen which actors/directors would use to get work in the days before showreels) of the majority. Piecing these together has been the only way to enjoy most of this era since it first aired, and whilst this is far from convenient, it has at least allowed fans to concentrate less on the cheap visuals, and more on storytelling and performance.
And the latter is where Troughton flourishes. The decision to recast the role of The Doctor as someone completely different to William Hartnell could have fallen flat on its face, but it works because he is mesmerising from the off. At first eccentric to the extreme, with a penchant for funny hats, as he grows into the role he becomes the eternal outsider: a socially awkward little man in funny clothes who tricks those in positions of power into believing he is an ineffectual babbler, until the moment comes when he saves their lives by being magnificent. The parallels to Matt Smith’s incarnation are obvious, and it’s no surprise that Smith cites Troughton’s first surviving story, The Tomb of The Cybermen, as his favourite story.
The dynamic of the show changed considerably during Troughton’s tenure too, further enhancing the show’s ability to survive for five decades. Whilst he began travelling with First Doctor companions Ben and Polly (Michael Craze and Anneke Wills), the Second Doctor found his groove with the arrival of 18th century Highlander, Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines). First appearing in Troughton’s sophomore story, he stayed with the show until Patrick decided to hang up his recorder and sonic screwdriver in 1969, and later returned to the series twice in the 1980s to pick up where Hines and Troughton left off.
If Jamie became the Doctor’s best mate for the first time, the arrival of another companion from the show’s past, Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) formed a tight knit trio, and offered the first real (and possibly, only) damsel in distress for the boys to rescue. The Victorian orphan was phased out after a year, and replaced by a far more interesting character – futuristic genius Zoe Herriot (Wendy Padbury), who differed from superficially similar Susan and Vicki by being bubbly, full of life, and able to give as much as she got when it came to out-clevering The Doctor. Though in her spangly silver catsuit and a variety of miniskirts, she was a favourite with the dads perhaps even more than she was with the kids watching.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and when Patrick Troughton decided to leave the show, so too did Hines and Padbury. The threesome went out in a blaze of glory at the end of the epic ten-part adventure The War Games – Jamie and Zoe being returned to their own times, and The Doctor being put on trial for his meddling by his own people, the mysterious Time Lords. A forced regeneration and a drop into the abyss, and the show was about to come down to earth with a bang…
STORIES TO START WITH:
The Tomb Of The Cybermen: Matt Smith’s favourite story, and a close as you can get to a science-fiction version of the Hammer Horror style Mummy movies. Taught the Borg everything they know.
The Mind Robber: Scripting nightmares, budget problems and even cast illness were overcome with great style and imagination by setting a story in The Land of Fiction, where anything could happen!
The Power Of The Daleks: Possibly the missing story fans want to be returned more than any, The Second Doctor’s debut sees the return of his deadliest foes in one of their most dastardly schemes yet.
The Web of Fear: The first story to feature UNIT, who would go on to make a huge impact on the series, and the debut of Nicholas Courtney as (then Colonel) Lethbridge-Stewart, this one sees robot Yeti invading the London Underground on sets so realistic, the real London Underground tried to take legal action for filming in a tube station without permission!
The War Games: Yes, it’s ten episodes long. Yes, the bit in the middle is a bit of a runaround. Yet somehow, this is never less than thrilling, the time flies by, and when it comes to saying goodbye to all three series regulars at once, you’ll tell everyone something just got stuck in your eye…
STORIES TO AVOID:
Received wisdom is that The Space Pirates could possibly be the very worst Doctor Who story ever, and judging by the surviving audio, it’s not hard to understand why. The Dominators may survive in its entirety, but most fans would happily swap it for any of the missing tales. The Krotons fares better, but when the likes of Fury From The Deep and The Evil Of The Daleks are missing, it does feel like the wrong episodes got junked when stuff like this one survives.