Doctor Who for Newbies: The Second Doctor
By Kyle Anderson on September 20, 2010
When it came time for William Hartnell to leave the show, due to failing health and an inability to remember his lines, there was talk of simply letting the show end. After all, three years was a decent run by BBC standards. Still, the ratings were very good and it was decided to liven things up with a change of lead actor. So, at the end of the fourth episode of “The Tenth Planet,” the second story to season four, after defeating new enemies the Cybermen, the First Doctor claimed his old body was wearing thin and lay down on the floor. A few flashes of light and a decent dissolving effect – even by today’s standards – and the Doctor was now Patrick Troughton.
About twenty years younger than Hartnell, Troughton’s Doctor has been described as a cosmic hobo, allowing his unkempt appearance and silly behavior to lull his enemies into a false sense of security before switching on the magic and defeating them with his mental prowess. He would often trick his enemies instead of using force. He was also much warmer and playful with his companions. If the First Doctor was a stern grandfather, the Second Doctor was a spry uncle. He’d often play his recorder to think or pull random toys from his pocket when in a bind. Troughton is a favorite of mine and his characterization is top notch. Fans of Matt Smith will see a fair amount of the Second Doctor in the Eleventh Doctor’s performance.
The BBC in its infinite wisdom did not foresee the need or desire people would have to watch old television shows years down the line. As such, they enacted a policy of “junking” old master tapes of shows, thinking no one would ever miss them. Recently I’ve heard the story that the BBC was going to junk “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in its entirety in the mid-70s and it was only due to Terry Gilliam catching wind of this and purchasing all of the master tapes that we even have them today. God bless you, Mr. Gilliam. Doctor Who in the 60s wasn’t so lucky. In our last installment, I mentioned that the bulk of William Hartnell’s third and final full season as the Doctor fell prey to the junking, with only a scant few episodes still around, and only three full stories. Only six Patrick Troughton stories exist in their entirety at all, from his entire three-year run; all but one of the complete stories coming from the final season. We no longer have Troughton’s first story. It was only due to the intrepidness of fans, who scoured the globe for international distribution copies, that we have any of the ones we do. Random episodes from nine Troughton stories have been released on a “Lost In Time” box set DVD along with the few we have from Hartnell’s era.
There are only five stories on DVD in their entirety currently, with a sixth set for release next year, so it’s easy to get through them all and they are, hence, all essential.
Story 37 – Tomb of the Cybermen
The earliest Second Doctor story in existence, it was believed lost forever until it was found in 1991 at the Hong Kong-based ATV television company. This story opened season five and was already the third to feature the Cybermen. The Doctor and his companions, the stalwart Scotsman Jamie McCrimmon and young Victorian orphan, Victoria Waterfield, materialize on the planet Telos where an archeological dig is set to unlock tomb. Not everyone in the excavation knows what’s inside, but it soon becomes clear it’s the silver creeps themselves. Trapped in the tomb, the Doctor and his companions must ensure that none of their party fall victim to the Cybermen, and make sure the Cybermen don’t escape.
Why it’s important:
As previously stated, the story is the earliest Troughton outing we have, which is truly a miracle. It’s a great story and really sums up why the Second Doctor is so beloved. It introduces the concepts of the Cyber Controller, the ostensible leader, as well as the insect-like Cybermats which spread the Cyber infection. In the first episode, the Doctor mentions he’s around 450 years old, which is the first concrete statement of age the series gives.
Story 45 – The Mind Robber
After getting the TARDIS trapped under a volcano eruption, the Doctor is forced to use the emergency unit to take them all out of danger, and indeed out of reality itself. They land in a white void, which the Doctor tells his companions, Jamie and cute little genius from the future Zoe, not to leave the TARDIS while he fixes it, but they are individually lured out by seeing their homelands on the view screen. Something causes the TARDIS to explode and sends the three off to different parts of the strange land. They end up in a forest where the trees look like letters if seen from above. They encounter Lemuel Gulliver, Rapunzel, and a unicorn and slowly realize they are in a land where fiction has come to life, and they are unable to leave.
Why it’s important:
During filming, actor Frazer Hines who played Jamie suddenly came down with a case of chicken pox and had to be rushed to the hospital. He was replaced for episode two by Scottish actor Hamish Wilson, necessitating that a scene be written to explain his change of face and subsequent return the following week. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the explanation is pretty genius. After all, they are in the land of fiction. Episode one also features a famous shot of Wendy Padbury (Zoe)’s rear end in a silver cat suit. That’s something special for sure. All in all this is a fun story which exemplified the production team’s innovativeness and ability to make something out of nothing.
Story 46 – The Invasion
This picks up directly where the last one ends, with the TARDIS being returned to normal space, in fact above Earth near the moon. They are attacked by a mysterious spaceship and the travelers land the TARDIS in a cow pasture outside London where they find the ship’s visual stabilizer has been damaged and is now invisible. They go off to seek the help of a professor friend of theirs only to find that he is abroad. They do find a young photographer named Isobel whose uncle is also a professor and a former colleague of the Doctor’s friend. Isobel hasn’t seen her uncle for weeks as he’s working for the mysterious International Electromatics. The Doctor and Jamie go to IE to investigate and meet with the sinister head of the company, Tobias Vaughn, and Vaughn’s long-suffering henchman, Packer. Vaughn is in league with some alien force heard over a radio who are planning a full-scale invasion. Luckily for the Doctor, his old friend Col. Lethbridge-Stewart is now a Brigadier and the head of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or simply UNIT. Still, this isn’t just any alien menace; this is constant nemesis, the Cybermen.
Why it’s important:
This is a serial that was affected by the tape junking, with episodes one and four being lost to time. However, 2 Entertain, BBC’s video-releasing arm, commissioned animators to recreate the missing episodes using the original off-air audio. The result blends almost seamlessly with the rest of the story and allows us to view one of the best stories of all time. For being eight episodes long, The Invasion zooms along at a terrific pace, which I put down to the masterful direction of Douglas Camfield, one of the classic series’ most prolific helmers. It also sees the second appearance of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the first of UNIT, both of which would become major parts of the series’ next five years and beyond. In many ways, The Invasion is the template by which the bulk of the Third Doctor’s stories would be, which we will discuss next time.
Story 48 – The Seeds of Death
In the late 21st Century, the technology known as “T-Mat” has replaced all forms of transportation and manned spaceflight, allowing people to travel anywhere instantly. After something has caused the T-Mat station on the moon to malfunction, the Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie volunteer to check it out via a rocket. On the moon, the station has been taken over and several members of the crew are dead. It is revealed that the perpetrators are the militant Martian race known as the Ice Warriors who want to use the moonbase as an outpost for an invasion of earth (go figure). It becomes apparent that the Ice Warriors have a deadly plan: they have seeds of a fungus, which they send to various parts of Earth using T-mat. This fungus will multiply and suck all the oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere, making it more comfortable for the Martians but uninhabitable for humans. The only way to defeat the fungus is by causing a rainstorm, as the fungus is used to the dry conditions of Mars.
Why it’s important:
Of these stories, Seeds of Death is definitely the weakest and silliest. Still, it’s the Second Doctor doing what he does best, which is defeat aliens. And since there are so few existing Troughton stories, it’s pretty important. It features the Ice Warriors, who were the subject of an earlier, eponymously-titled serial, but this remains their earliest in-tact story.
Story 50 – The War Games
The Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie land in what is apparently the middle of World War I – but is it? It turns out they are on an alien world where soldiers from various wars from Earth’s past (WWI, the American Civil War, the Roman legion, etc) are taken out of their respective time zones and forced to fight in never-ending recreation of the wars from whence they were taken. The ultimate goal of the man behind it, the diabolical War Lord, is to create a super-army from the survivors. How can a man such as he remove people from time? The War Lord’s second in command, the War Chief, just happens to be a member of the Doctor’s race, the Time Lords. The Doctor, knowing he cannot defeat this evil by himself, is forced to call the Time Lord elders to intervene, even if it means surrendering his freedom. As their prime directive is to observe but never get involved, the Time Lords put the Doctor on trial for interfering and steal his TARDIS. Zoe and Jamie’s memories are wiped and they are returned to their own times and places and the Doctor is exiled to his beloved Earth without the ability to pilot the TARDIS and is forced to regenerate.
Why it’s important:
The War Games is full of firsts and lasts. It’s the first mention of the Time Lords by name, the first time their true nature as watchers of the universe is explained, and the first time Gallifrey is shown, though it would not be named for a few more years. It’s also the final regular appearance of Padbury as Zoe, Hines as Jamie, and Troughton as the Doctor. It’s the last episode filmed in black and white, and is the 50th story in total. It’s a long story, the longest still intact, but it’s a fitting swan song to the Second Doctor, who in many ways is the most important Doctor of them all, and it ensured the series’ longevity.
Jon Pertwee had not been cast at the time this was filmed so the final shot of the War Games is Troughton falling into blackness, screaming, which, after the forced exit of Zoe and Jamie, acts as a very bleak ending to the serial, the season, and the era. Lucky for us, the Doctor would not be gone for long, and when he returned, he’d be in color and would be entering its most popular era yet.
Enjoy some Troughton and get revved up for Pertwee.