Whilst many people in the UK celebrate the suppression of conspirator Guy Fawkes, in 1605, there is another anniversary I would like to acknowledge! Forty years ago to the day, BBC1 broadcast episode one of “The Power of the Daleks”, the first story to star Patrick Troughton in the title role of “Doctor Who”. Pat’s successful continuation of the part made famous by predecessor William Hartnell, “the original, you might say”, ensured the survival of this family-orientated science fiction drama series through successive generations. His contribution to the legend that is “Doctor Who” shouldn’t be underestimated simply because his era of the programme isn’t well-represented in the BBC archive. A great number of programmes replace one actor with another, in the same role, without explanation simply because, in story terms, it’s unexplainable! “Doctor Who” built this necessity into the ongoing narrative, turning something potentially disastrous for the show into something positive.
Patrick also made the role his own. From being a grumpy old man, and I use the phrase with the greatest affection, used to dusting the TARDIS console with his handkerchief, the Doctor regenerated into an impish, recorder-playing, vagabond of the skies, whilst still retaining the respect of the programme’s many followers. Critics maintain that the Doctor you see first remains your favourite. My first was Bill but I’ve always found it hard to choose between him and Pat due to the fact that Pat’s middle season of three, season five, remains my favourite year of “Doctor Who”, and “Fury from the Deep”, from near the end of that season, my all-time favourite story. So many of my favourite “Doctor Who” stories emanate from the Patrick Troughton era. Another, “The Invasion”, raising the Cybermen out of the sewers to march against the backdrop of St Paul’s Cathedral, is out on DVD tomorrow.
Troughton confronted the Cybermen no less than four times so that his era became synonymous with the period of “Doctor Who” when those monsters of logic were at their most powerful in capturing the nation’s imagination. Of the twenty-one stories he recorded for television, between 1966 and 1969, ten featured what are now regarded as the four most popular monsters of the Sixties. The second Doctor battled the Daleks twice, both in his first year, and other “classic” confrontations pitted him against “The Ice Warriors” and “The Abominable Snowmen”. His second meeting with the Cybermen, in the Tombs on Telos, presumed lost forever, was miraculously discovered and returned to the archive for the benefit of enthusiasts everywhere, whilst his second meeting with those furry Yeti, in the London Underground, in “The Web of Fear”, is much loved by most fans blessed with a reasonably good memory! The aforementioned final black and white encounter with the Cybermen, as well as the second Yeti story, were directed with elegant precision by Douglas Camfield. In a month which also sees the collected DVD release of recent material featuring the Cybermen, if you could only choose one or the other, Troughton’s eight-part “Invasion” or the four Tennant Cybermen episodes, which would you prefer?