The Second Doctor in Review

Patrick Troughton did something amazing with Doctor Who:  he replaced the former lead actor, and sold viewers on the replacement.  This is absolutely astounding, yet I think we (Doctor Who fans) often take this for granted.  How many shows have successfully replaced the lead actor?  Watching Patrick Troughton, however, I never once doubted that he was The Doctor.  Granted, some of the clowning around in later episodes (splashing in the water in The Enemy of the World, for example) seemed decidedly un-Hartnell, but for the most part, I accepted Troughton.  He was a good follow-up to William Hartnell and I shall miss them both.

Prior to starting the Second Doctor era I would have listed Jamie McCrimmon as my favorite companion every time I was asked.  Having viewed this era sequentially, I’m not uncertain.  I enjoyed Jamie early in his run, particularly in Evil of the Daleks, where he would question and challenge The Doctor.  By the sixth season, however, I felt he was more of a joke and less of a character.  Jamie seemed to have stayed with The Doctor too long.  Honestly, appearing opposite Zoe and The Doctor, the juxtaposition leant itself easily to comedy.  But this seemed the easy option.  I would have preferred to see Jamie struggle with insecurity beside these two geniuses, or perhaps help make Zoe more human and less computer-like.  In this final year, however, character development seems to have been less important.

Based on how I feel at the moment, I would say that, despite enjoying The Second Doctor, I preferred the Hartnell Era.  The previous era was unpredictable and innovative, even when it failed to realize its ambition.  The Troughton era, however, was often too formulaic, especially in season five.  It became a struggle to finish the fifth season.  I may revisit the occasional stories from that season, but I doubt I will watch it sequentially any time soon.

Favorite Story:  This is actually quite hard, but in the end I will choose The War Games.  I had never seen this story prior to this experiment, but upon finishing it I feel it was one of the most amazing episodes of Doctor Who thus far.  The introduction of the Time Lords fired my imagination in ways that the show hasn’t done since The Hartnell years.  Yet, the awe I felt in this story is probably due to having spent six seasons with the Time Lords never seen, never named.  In a season of episodes that I didn’t always feel engaged by, The War Games left me wanting another year of The Second Doctor.

Least Favorite Story:  This one is also hard as I feel so many episodes were of comparable quality.  In the end, I may just go with The Ice Warriors, although I still love the world-building and acting in this story.  It just lacked in engaging plot.

Favorite Companion Enemy:  I’ll mention The War Chief and The War Lord in passing, but I feel that I must give full credit to The Cybermen.  As far as I am concerned, The Cybermen were best in the Troughton era.  They have never been as chilling and disconcerting as they were in The Moonbase or Tomb of the Cybermen.  I will miss this portrayal.

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5 thoughts on “The Second Doctor in Review

    • Even though I will miss the Troughton era, I find myself missing the Hartnell era more. While there are certainly stories I enjoy in upcoming eras, part of me feels like giving up because I know the show will not quite get back to the diversity of those first few years. However, if I had not been watching the show sequentially, I never would have felt this way. It makes me wonder what other ways my perception of the show will change.

  1. I am going to commit the ultimate heresy, and say that I prefer Pat Troughton.

    Not merely because I was too young to have seen Bill Hartnell’s stories, for I do recall some of them. And not merely because I actually met Pat, at various show business events (on one occasion, I was in the same audience as him for a marathon 5 hour screening of all ten episodes of ‘The War Games’, at the NFT on the South Bank in 1982).

    I’m moved by some of the previous feedback to offer a word of support for Season 5, probably the best single season of Dr Who there has ever been. It’s a season which can be difficult to recapture today, because it is the one which suffered the most from the junkings of b/w material in the 1970s; but it was Troughton’s strongest season, containing his very best serials.

    My particular favourite is ‘The Web of Fear’, and in a strong second place ‘The Abominable Snowmen’, both written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. Two spooky, atmospheric tales of alien invasion, directed by Douglas Camfield, and featuring the first appearance of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

    Among fans who remember the Troughton era, season 5 is a firm favourite. The wonderfully erie ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’, long lost but then unexpectedly rediscovered, is another highlight of that season. Only the two Dalek serials from season 4, and ‘Invasion’ and ‘War Games’ from season 6, can stand comparison with the Yeti in the Underground.

    I think that, on audio CD, ‘Web’ holds up very well, because so much of the serial consisted of low-lit interiors, with the characters unable to see their hands in front of their faces in the gloom of the deserted London Underground; and the CD recaptures the menace of being unable to see the foes lurking in the darkness.

    There is a dramatic strength to season 5, with its strong scripts and strong characters. It was the loss of the strengths of that period which led Pat to decide to leave the show, when a replacement producer foisted on him the terribly weak scripts for ‘The Dominators’ and ‘The Krotons’, which were little more than run-arounds, with no acting involved.

    Season 5 is the reason why I would always opt for Troughton over Hartnell. I don’t dislike the earlier Doctor, but more of my favourite stories are Second Doctor serials.

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