Clownish and Clever

Review of the Second Doctor's era

1966 - 1969
The Power of the Daleks*
The Highlanders*
The Underwater Menace*
The Moonbase*
The Macra Terror*
The Faceless Ones*
The Evil of the Daleks*
The Tomb of the Cybermen
The Abominable Snowmen*
The Ice Warriors*
The Enemy of the World*
The Web of Fear*
Fury from the Deep*
The Wheel in Space*
The Dominators
The Mind Robber
The Invasion*
The Krotons
The Seeds of Death
The Space Pirates*
The War Games
*Partially or completely missing

When Patrick Troughton took up the role of the Doctor, he had a huge task ahead of him. Not only did he have to make the character his own (a challenge every actor since him has also faced), but he also had to convince the entire viewing audience that he was the same person. Had the gamble not worked - or had Troughton been less brilliant - our favorite show would have died an early death. Lucky for us all, Two was a wonderful Doctor.

Not much remains (since so many of these episodes were wiped and remain lost, presumably forever) of Two's time on screen. However, the scripts and the audio recordings are still out there. Some wonderful reconstructions that at least get the general stories across are readily available (I highly recommend the BBC's photonovels). One of the quirky characteristics of Two that has been lost in the æther is his frequent use of his recorder, which seems to diminish with time, just as the percentage of extant episodes increases.

Another disappointing loss is the opportunity to experience the scope of Troughton's acting skills firsthand in The Enemy of the World, in which he plays a dual role as both the Doctor and the main antagonist Salamander. The first time I saw the one remaining episode of this story, it was a real wake-up call. Troughton may play the Doctor quite naturally, but the Doctor is not Troughton. Seeing both roles side by side, we can clearly see what's so easy to forget as we are immersed in the stories: the Doctor is a character being deliberately and thoughtfully portrayed in a specific way, just like any other character.

So what does Troughton bring to the Doctor's persona? Stealth. On the surface, Two is silly, clownish, unkempt, scattered, and prone to alarm ("oh no!"). Watch him long enough, though, and the unwary adversary will discover that he's still fiendishly clever, calm in the face of adversity, and fiercely loyal to his Companions. It's a classic clown maneuver - the antics disguise something deeper.

Two didn't have nearly as many Companions as his predecessor (only five), and one of them (Jamie) was with him for all but his first story. Here they are in order, with the stories in which they first and last appeared and how they left the Doctor:

  • Ben Jackson & Polly Wright [essentially a unit]
    One's era to The Faceless Ones
    Stayed behind in London on the very day they first left
  • Jamie McCrimmon
    The Highlanders to The War Games
    Stripped of memories/returned to own time
  • Victoria Waterfield
    The Evil of the Daleks to Fury from the Deep
    Tired of the lifestyle; stayed behind in "near future" England
  • Zoë Heriot
    The Wheel in Space to The War Games
    Stripped of memories/returned to own time

These three seasons introduce several memes that persist to this day. For example, the good ol' sonic screwdriver makes its first appearance in Fury from the Deep - as a screwdriver (go figure). And it's Jamie who, when pressed for an identity, first tells someone the Doctor's name is "John Smith" in The Wheel in Space. (Never let the Trekkies tell you Trek came up with the Borg, either - at least as early as The Moonbase, Cybermen were declaring that "Resistance is Useless!")

There's some truly classic stuff here - I'd recommend The Tomb of the Cybermen to pretty much anyone, and The War Games to anyone willing to sit through ten episodes. On the other hand, there are also some real stinkers. The Underwater Menace, Fury from the Deep, and The Wheel in Space are all pretty bad in their own ways. In essence, the show was still trying to figure out what it wanted to be, and how to be that within its monetary and temporal constraints. Whatever its challenges, the show did something right, because when it was time for its wonderful leading man to move on, it was clear to everyone that the right thing to do was cast someone else and keep going.

Summary
Two's era brought the show more clearly into itself. No longer quite the awkward teen, it's more the young adult out to spread its wings and explore the world. Sometimes it falls flat, and sometimes it soars. The Doctor himself, though, provides a steady hand at the metaphorical tiller throughout, sailing gracefully across both calm and stormy seas. The best part of Troughton's episodes is Troughton himself. If you've never seen him in action, go find Tomb or War Games to watch. You'll be glad you did.

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PaulGreaves's picture

I commented on this post yesterday and it's vanished. Hope you got a chance to read it before it went as I'm afraid I haven't got the patience to type it out again! :)

By PaulGreaves --

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http://thetimevault.wordpress.com

mrfranklin's picture

Sadly, I did not. :( The fact that these comments require you first to "preview" and then to "save" your entry before it will post them makes for a less-than-user-friendly experience, on occasion... :\

By mrfranklin
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