Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Order of Rassilon #6: Patrick Troughton, The Doctor Who Did The Impossible

Patrick Troughton next to two men in Yeti costumes, demonstrating the ridiculousness of Troughton's fur coat
There are a lot of Doctors who had big shoes to fill, most notably Peter Davison and Matt Smith.  But none had a more impossible task ahead of him than Patrick Troughton.  While the show had already survived a replacement of every single companion, Troughton had to sell the idea of a completely new actor playing the Doctor!  Think of how many television shows you've seen that have had major cast changes after being on the air for years and building up a large fan base.  Now think of how many of those survived.  From Scrubs to The Man Show to That 70's Show to The Profiler to All in the Family to Happy Days, almost no television show can survive a radical change in cast members.

The only franchise I can think of that survived such a radical change is James Bond, and let's face it, they didn't do it as successfully.  Sure, the franchise survived after George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery and is still highly successful to this day, but how many people actually think Lazenby, or any of the other Bonds, surpassed Connery.  In fact, I had to look up on Wikipedia who the second Bond was because, of course, nobody fucking remembers him.

Additionally, it should be remembered that, in the regeneration from the First to Second Doctor absolutely no explanation was given for why the Doctor changed!  None!  The Doctor just laid down really tired, and woke up looking younger.  It was said that the Cybermen, as they left, took the Doctor's energy with them somehow, but no explanation was given as to why he turned into a new guy instead of dying.  Sure, the Doctor's companions at the time, Ben and Polly, certainly thought it was strange, and continued to comment on it throughout the entire episode.  But the word "regeneration" wasn't even used on the show until the Third Doctor regenerated into the Fourth, and the phrase "Time Lord" wasn't used until the Second Doctor's last episode.  So not only did Troughton have to sell this impossible idea, he had to do so without any explanation being provided in the script.

The fact that he pulled this off was a miracle.  Perhaps a good deal of it can be attributed to Troughton's likability.  Troughton was about 180 degrees from Hartnell's Doctor.  While this could have been a reason for the transition to fail, it somehow succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  Where Hartnell was brash and hostile, not really being very kind to anyone including his own poor granddaughter, Troughton's Doctor had a lust for life and a love for all creatures.  He was whimsical and kind.  His trademark recorder playing made him such a quirky, strange old man that you couldn't resist.  If Hartnell was your mean old grandfather, Troughton was your grandfather on the other side of the family who always had candy in his pocket for you and loved to play "got your nose."

I'm not sure what's happening here, but it looks completely heterosexual.
And if Hartnell's dedication to the show should be praised, Troughton's should be moreso.  The upcoming 50th Anniversary special will officially be the first, full-length multi-Doctor episode to not feature Patrick Troughton, and, if he wasn't dead, he'd be in it in a heartbeat.  Nobody was game to come back for future episodes as much as Troughton.  Few were as proud of their time on Doctor Who as Troughton was.  He became a model for many of the later Doctors, including both Peter Davison and Matt Smith.  It is because of Troughton that future Doctor's were known for their sense of humor, because we know for damn sure that Hartnell's Doctor didn't have one.  Troughton made the TARDIS more fun.

Sadly, when the BBC purged their archives and threw out a lot of the old black and white Doctor Who episodes, they mostly threw out Troughton episodes.  Very few of his serials remain fully in tact.  But of those that do, I highly recommend "The Mind Robber" (which is available on Netflix), "The Tomb of the Cybermen," and his appearance opposite the 6th Doctor in "The Two Doctors."

No comments:

Post a Comment