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Doctor Who for Newbies: The Second Doctor

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.

SECOND DOCTOR
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.

It's Hollywood Cybermen!

Story 37 – Tomb of the Cybermen
4 episodes
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.

I don't know what that dude's into...

Story 45 – The Mind Robber
5 episodes
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.

Vaughn tells the Doctor his dog is dead

Story 46 – The Invasion
8 episodes
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.

The Doctor meets a fungi...fun guy

Story 48 – The Seeds of Death
6 episodes
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.

I don't think this war's all that great.

Story 50 – The War Games
10 episodes
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.

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21 comments

  • The Invasion is a fascinating episode. The animation is actually really cool to watch. One of the characters is first introduced in one of the animated episodes and it actually threw me a little when they switched back to the filmed versions and I actually saw what she (the photographer Isobel) looked like. As far as I can tell, they did a great job matching the original visuals. Thank god so many people had a habit of recording the audio of these shows!

  • @Azza: Actually, the daleks were the daleks of the 1960s.

    @Chat: YES. They so need to do that.

    @Oluutaa: Matt Smith is great! Great, I tell you! He had huge shoes to fill but he totally won me over by the third episode (then I went back and watched the first two again and saw how great he was in those). He’s great!! Joel Robinson was better than Mike Nelson, though. What?

  • First, I just want to make a blanket statement that I’m sick of people hating on Matt Smith. If you’re not a fan of Matt Smith, you’re not a fan of Doctor Who. Period. The appeal of the show is its vast unpredictability: the possibilities for where, or when, The Doctor can have an adventure of endless. As if that weren’t enough, the possibilities for who the Doctor can be are just as endless (which makes the name of the series all the more poignant). So change is what the show is about, and if you don’t like it, then I don’t see how one could really enjoy the show.

    That aside, Kyle, great job with the Doctor Who posts. Although I vied for this job, I will admit, you know your stuff! Troughton’s role in keeping Who alive can’t be overstated – if he had dropped the ball, people would have stopped watching, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I can’t wait to your post about Pertwee (who is my favorite classic Doctor, btw).

  • The Cybermen! I had to hide behind the couch whenever these guys were on the screen back in the day. Pretty sure my inner child still has cold sweats thinking about them.

    Thanks for the refresher Kyle, it is greatly appreciated

  • Great article for one of the best Doctors of the program. Matt Smith is definitely ‘channeling’ Troughton as well. I cannot easily decide which of the first three Doctors are my favoirite.

    The ‘junking’ of old eps was for legal reasons as well. Apparently the BBC had only retained the rights to play a program for a limited number of times and was concerned about obtaining the rights from the staff/talent for additional showings. But there is just no excuse for not having Power of the Daleks, Web of Fear, Abominable Snowmen, Evil of the Daleks and many more . Fans not old enough to have seen these stories when they were initially transmitted really missed out.

    By the way, I have been reviewing Doctor Who for a while, you may find my articles interesting: http://dailypop.wordpress.com/?cat=29918

  • I don’t remember there being so few Troughton shows, watching it as a kid on PBS all the doctors seemed like they had a ton of stories. Pertwee’s my second favorite Doctor, after Peter Davison, can’t wait to see what you have to say about him.

  • Thanks for this post it’s really awesome. I’m actually new to Doctor Who as I’m only on season three and getting really interested in all things Doctor Whoy. Keep ‘em coming lol

  • Not at all to be hatin’ on Terry Gilliam, but I think it was the Other Terry, aka Terry J, aka Terry Jones, aka Margaret Thatcher (all true except for that last bit) who discovered that the Python master tapes were in mortal peril and took steps to rescue them. He also, in a very rare move for the time, managed to convince the Beeb to sell the ownership of the masters outright to Monty Python, giving them full control of the original tv series.

    Oh… and the stuff about the Doctor was nice too. :D

  • I recently decided to give Doctor Who a chance, since it seems so popular. This newbie series is just what I need! I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. Thank you!

  • Actually, as of the time this blog was published, there were TWO complete serials unreleased. You counted The Invasion as being among the six complete ones, but it’s not, since two episodes had to be animated; both The Dominators and The Krotons exist in their entirety.

  • Ah, the classic “Best Doctor” snobbery.

    Well, I’ll add my own.
    Tom Baker.
    I really started out with Dr Who somewhere around the Ark in Space (with the Wirrn) and as such, when Peter Davison started years later I loathed him.
    Tom Baker’s Doctor had been so decisive and commanding that I perceived Davison’s Doctor as a total wimp.
    So complete a wimp that he actually was the first Doctor to have a companion who was actually plotting to kill him.
    Years later, I can finally enjoy Peter Davison’s Doctor, though I still find them quite weak.
    Lamentably weak to the point where Colin Baker had to go much too far in the opposite direction.