Doctor Who: The Doctor of the Month — The Second Doctor

Jason Stives and Michael Dworkis continue their monthly look at the incarnations of Doctor Who by closing out 2011 with the man who closed out the 1960s with a bang, the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton …

PROFILE

The second Doctor was played by Patrick Troughton (3/25/1920-3/28/1987) from the years 1966 through 1969. His portrayal of The Doctor was considered comical and child-like. His happy demeanor often concealed his methodical and cunning plans to defeat his foes.

Continuing the theme of The Doctor catering to the younger audience, the second Doctor has a number of quirks, one being his need to occasionally play the recorder, a popular musical instrument. He also would wear different hats in various episodes, each one with a funny twist.

This version of The Doctor saw more in-depth and faster paced serials. Most of the episodes featured more monsters and alien villains. Of note, this show came under scrutiny for having more violence and horror-themed episodes.

SIGNIFICANCE

While William Hartnell may have been the original Doctor, Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor was the first modern-day Doctor and was the template for many incarnations that followed. Indeed, Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor) and current Doctor Matt Smith have cited the Second Doctor as the basis for the characters they so legendarily created.

Much of the Second Doctor’s appeal lies in the manic and whimsical sense of excitement that followed his every move. With a cosmic hobo-like appearance and a pension for recorder-playing, the Second Doctor could appear buffoonish to the average person, but behind his mop top and broad smile was a man with a plan. The Second Doctor always finding himself facing unstoppable forces during his era like the Cybermen, the Yetis, and the Ice Warriors was always playing the master chess moves under everyone’s noses and would pull ahead defeating every evil in the universe.

He was also a pseudo father figure to many of his companions, taking on a patriarch role for unique individuals who felt there was more in the world than just what they had in front of them. From the knife wielding Scotsman Jamie McCrimmon to the Edwardian orphan Victoria Waterfield to the bright eyed astrophysicist Zoe Herriot, the Doctor always surrounded himself with people who enjoyed the notion of exploration.

For many new viewers to the classic series it is very difficult to view the majority of Patrick Troughton’s era due in part to the great BBC junking of the early seventies, where the BBC wiped many of the sixties Doctor Who stories thinking there was no use for them beyond overseas sales. For that, there is only one season that is practically intact, his third and final season from 1969, but while many of Troughton’s classic stories from this era are missing in their entirety, what remains gives a glimpse into someone who behind the scenes was a true human playing a incredibly fascinating alien. His performances in existing stories (several of which we highlight in this article) showcase a jack of all trades who could be the performing clown, the dignified scholar, and the enigmatic hero who believed in right from wrong.

ESSENTIALS STORIES

‘Power Of The Daleks’

The TARDIS lands on the Earth Colony, Vulcan where a factory ship has been left crashed and unattended to by the colonists. On board, Ben and Polly have witnessed The Doctor change before their eyes going from a frail old man to a younger short dark haired fellow in checkered overalls and a hobo’s coat. They don’t know what to make of this strange man who insists he is the Doctor but venture out into the swamps of Vulcan. After seeing a scientist killed before their eyes they are whisked into the colony where they learn that their lead scientist Lesterson has unearthed something disturbing from within the abandoned factory ship, the Daleks!

It’s very hard to judge the overall visual quality of “Power Of The Daleks” since this is one of the many stories that suffered from the BBC’s junking of Doctor Who stories in the ’70s, but from listening to the soundtrack, reading the novelization as well as viewing some of the surviving clips, Power is not your typical Dalek story. This story began the practice that most great subsequent Dalek stories always took on which are not the pepper pots themselves but how the people around them react. Lesterson thinks he is doing a great deal of good reviving the Daleks in hopes of making them servants to humans, but when he realizes it’s a ploy to reactivate their assembly line and build a new army, his fears get the best of him.

For posterity reasons, this story is monumental for being the Second Doctor’s first story and the first instance of a regeneration (explained here as a renewal). It’s also the only time that the Doctor’s clothes change with him, something that was never repeated. It’s worth reading this story’s novelization and listening to the audio track because you really get a sense of Doctor Who in a state of transition but one that is quite exciting and regrettably not available for today’s audiences. Below is a selection of the surviving clips of this story:

‘The Mind Robber’

This five-part weekly series took Doctor Who into a different realm, a realm of pure whim and fantasy. The second Doctor with companions Jamie and Zoe are in the midst of escaping danger after defeating the Dominators. Using an emergency unit to propel the TARDIS away from danger, they are thrust into a void located outside of reality. The Doctor attempts to make repairs to the TARDIS, but strange white robots confront the trio. Before they could return inside, an explosion erupts from within the TARDIS and the three travelers and hurled into the unknown.

They land in a world comprised of fiction where its inhabitants are mythical creatures or storybook characters. The Doctor is separated from his companions, but in order to find them, he must go through a series of perplexing riddles. Encountering mythical adversaries like Medusa and The Minotaur, denying their existences turns out to be the solution for escape. The plot unfolds where all these mythical creatures are somehow being fashioned into a reality.

This series was fascinating with its incorporation of fictional characters, and the first time any sort of travel outside of time took place. During the travel around the planet, The Doctor and companions had to believe that its pursuers were all fictional, denying their existence which made most of them vanish. To note, one character they encountered, the Karkus was unable to be defeated since it was a character claimed to be from the future, and The Doctor was unable to ascertain if the Karkus was indeed fictional or real. It was presumed The Doctor had traveled throughout time and space, yet did not know if this being was real or not. The Master encountered in this serial is not nemesis we all know of. This serial is a fun ride in the imaginary world of what-could-be and highlights the characteristics of the Second Doctor.

‘The Invasion’

The title is exactly as it implies, an invasion is afoot in London, and it is none other than the mechanical menace of the Cybermen! Taking place right after their escape from the Land of Fiction, arriving in the late 20th century. There, they are tapped to assist UNIT to investigate a man named Tobias Vaughn, who is suspected of illegal operations. While investigating, The Doctor’s is taken prisoner as his companions get assistance to find a way to free him. With each escape attempt The Doctor and his companions are stopped. Even with the help of the Brigadier from UNIT, they are unable to escape the clutches of Vaughn and his entourage.

Up until the third episode, we see no sign of the metallic antagonists. In the fourth episode, we finally see the Cybermen and their plans to invade and conquer Earth are revealed. We learn in the fifth episode that Vaughn is using advanced technology to hypnotize and mind control the population, allowing the Cybermen to invade with ease. The plan goes as designed, the implanted devices around London activate, sending its population into unconsciousness.

A longtime Who villain — Cybermen

The Doctor and UNIT devise a plan of attack intending to not only reverse the signal but to repel the Cybermen away from Earth. The Doctor pleads with Vaughn to stand alongside humanity and not with the metal monsters. Vaughn wants glory and power, blinding him to the cold plot of the Cybermen. The Cybermen announce at the end of the seventh episode they plan to unleash a weapon that will annihilate the human race.

This serial was likely one of the most intense story-arcs in Doctor Who history. For the first half, you did not even know who the main villain was. Hints were dropped, shadows seen, but when the revelation took place, only the sounds of shock could be heard. We see the cunning and passionate side of The Doctor, siding with UNIT in order to preserve the human race. Speaking of which, this was the first major appearance of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) shown here as a special operations unit to investigate advanced technology and extraterrestrial activity. This serial had viewers at the edge of their seats, unsure who would come out alive.

‘The War Games’

Patrick Troughton’s final story as the Doctor is basically two stories, one that is nine episodes long and one single episode story. While the bloated 10-part length of the story comes from the abandonment of a previously proposed six-parter it served as being a pseudo end of an era and a template for the development of the show for the rest of its run.

The Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe land in the middle of no man’s land in World War I. Unbeknownst to them, they are part of an elaborate set of games where famous battles between converging time zones are being played out on an alien planet, under the watchful eye of the mysterious Warlord and his disciples. With no real solution to ending the conflict, The Doctor must call upon the very people who he ran away from to aid in the safety of these soldiers, the god-like watchers known as the Timelords.

Even though it seems to drag by the middle of the story, “The War Games” has a lot of great historical moments in its context, with The Doctor and company constantly running and escaping from some of the most well known armies from Earth’s history. Ultimately, they end up running away once again, this time from the Doctor’s own people who make their epic entrance during the final installment of the story. This was the first time since the First Doctor story “The Time Meddler” that we actually meet another one of The Doctor’s people, but this time it leads to a far worse ordeal than The Doctor really needs.

Besides being the last Doctor Who story of the ’60s, “The War Games” is also the last black and white story as the BBC would transition into color formatting the following year in 1970. This would also be the last time for quite awhile that The Doctor would greatly explore space on his own as he is seen to be exiled to Earth at story’s end and forced to regenerate. This was done for budgetary restraints, allowing fewer sets to be built and the production to focus more heavily on location shooting. In a way, the forced regeneration could easily be the worst punishment The Doctor could receive and had the show been canceled after this season it would have been a bittersweet end to the show and to the overall narrative. The same people The Doctor spent six seasons running from as an act of defiance finally caught up with him and is banished to a life of aimless wandering on one planet. The final shot of The Doctor spinning into the black as he prepares to face his punishment is quite startling and sad end to one of the more charming and loved incarnations of the traveling Timelord.

HONORABLE MENTION

‘Tomb Of The Cybermen’

During one of the adventures, The Doctor and company find themselves on the planet Telos where archeologists from Earth have come to uncover the lost Tombs of the Cybermen. Disaster strikes fast when human-allies turn to villainy as a number of humans desire to wake the Cybermen and use them for power. This results in the reawakening of the Cybermen who rebel against their human saviors. It turns out the Tomb is designed to lure adventure-seekers into a trap where they are transformed into Cybermen. After catastrophe strikes and causalities mount, The Doctor unites everyone together to put an end to the heinous plot. Although they escape, a cybermat, a cybernetic creature is seen lurking about, showing us the Cybermen are not yet defeated.

 

All Photos Credit: BBC America

Comments are closed.