Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Nine Days Of The Doctor - Day 2

In honour of the return of Doctor Who to CBC on April 5, I present Day 2 of Nine Days of The Doctor

Patrick Troughton 1966-1969

Companions: Ben Jackson (Michael Craze), Polly Wright (Anneke Wills), Jaimie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling), Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury).

Commentary: When it finally became clear even to William Hartnell that he couldn't continue as the Doctor, his choice for a replacement was Patrick Troughton. Troughton was a veteran character actor who had done a number of TV series including playing Robin Hood in a 1953 series as well as being the Player King in Olivier's 1948 Hamlet. The question became how to replace the tall and white haired Hartnell with the short and dark haired Troughton. The answer that the writers came up with was to simply change the actors right in front of the audience. Thus was born the Doctor's ability to regenerate. When a member of the Doctor's race reached the end of their life they had the ability to regenerate and acquire a new body. The new body had a new voice a new way of thinking and a new taste in just about everything. Thus, Troughton wasn't locked in to Hartnell's portrayal of the Doctor as a doddering old grandfather type, he could recreate the Doctor in his own image.

It's difficult to right much about the Troughton period in Doctor Who because most of it is lost. Of the 21 serials that Troughton did, only about six survive in more than fragments. Virtually all of the fourth and fifth seasons don't exist except for one episode Tomb of the Cybermen which is Deborah Watling's first real episode as the Doctor's companion. (The only episode in which we ever see Ben and Polly is the Hartnell episode The War Machines in which they are introduced and we see very little of Polly in that. Virtually all we know about the Troughton period therefore is his interactions with Jamie and Zoe. What we can see from these episodes is that the show has become a lot less studio bound. They do a number of location shoots. This also results in the episodes being a lot less difficult to watch since they don't appear to be filming them off of the monitors anymore.

The Doctor that Troughton created owed a bit to Charlie Chaplin, although Troughton called him a bit of a "cosmic clown". He wore baggy clothing and was nowhere near as authoritative or decisive as Hartnell's Doctor. He is still eminently effective in dealing with his opponents however. Unlike Hartnell's Doctor, Troughton didn't need his companions to fulfill the action parts of a particular episode. The male companions - which really means Frazer Hines as Jamie since he appeared in the second Troughton serial and was there through to the end of the Troughton period - were relegated to the role of holding younger male viewers. Troughton's period as the Doctor also saw the last of the historical episodes as a regular feature of the series. It became almost exclusively science fiction after the serial known as "The Highlanders".

When Patrick Troughton decided to leave the series at the end of its sixth season they needed a way to take him out of the series. The producers decided to reveal a little more about the Doctor and introduced the concept of the Time Lords. The Doctor was a renegade Time Lord, one who believed in intervening rather than just watching. As part of his sentence for breaking the Time Lords' laws, Troughton's Doctor is forced to regenerate.

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