Patrick Troughton: The Doctor, The Clown
To celebrate Patrick Troughton’s birthday we have posted an excerpt from Dave Thompson’s new book Doctor Who FAQ. Please enjoy!
The Clown was the Second Doctor, formally introduced to his audience still lying on the TARDIS floor, where he fell at the end of the previous adventure.
In what we might call “the real world,” that in which BBC writers, pro- ducers, directors, and crew fuss around to bring the Doctor’s adventures into our living rooms, it was a moment of unparalleled drama, anticipation, and probably fear.
The outgoing William Hartnell was more than a popular actor, after all. To everybody and anybody who had any awareness of the show, he was the Doctor. White-haired and wrinkled, smartly attired and condescending. Whereas now he was dark-haired and shorter. Craggier, with the kind of face that could be described as lived-in. Kindly but a little lugubrious. The eyes sparkled, and the cunning of the First Doctor was a lot less pronounced. Politely, the Second Doctor looked a bit of a bumbler.
Who ever would accept it was the same man?
Certainly not Ben and Polly, his latest companions. And the man who called himself the Doctor didn’t seem too sure, either.
“You’re the Doctor!” said Polly, in answer to one of his rambling remarks. “Oh, I don’t look like him,” replied the Doctor. And the introductions could have gone on all night were it not for one slight problem. There were Daleks about, and if the Doctor had learned one thing over the past three years of television, it was that Daleks—his oldest and most lethal enemy—did not have time for small talk.
That was how this new man was to be introduced, not through the force of his personality, or the delight of his sense of mischievous humor, but through the sheer populist weight of his most implacable foe, the single most popular creation in the show’s entire history and still, all these years later, one of the most beloved (if a metal tin packed to bursting with unrepentant malice could ever be described as “beloved”) aliens in science- fiction history. We will get to know them better later in this book; for now, suffice it to say that the very inclusion of the Daleks’ name in an episode title was worth a million or so extra viewers every week, and The Power of the Daleks did not disappoint.
It still doesn’t. With hindsight, it’s difficult to say which future story was most heavily influenced by The Power of the Daleks: the Ninth Doctor’s Dalek, in which the time traveler’s pleas for an inactive Dalek to remain inactive are ignored, or the Eleventh Doctor’s Victory of the Daleks, in which stupid humans (Britain’s wartime hero Winston Churchill among them) convince themselves that it is they who call the shots, and that the Daleks are simply theirs to command.
Either way, in terms of storytelling, action, and excitement, the Second Doctor’s debut is at least the equal of the former and effortlessly superior to the latter, with the Daleks seemingly even more sinister than usual simply by virtue of behaving so helpfully.
Of course, they will soon be at their screeching, screaming best as well, but what is important here is less the manner in which the Doctor, Ben, and Polly defeat them than in the nature of the understanding that quickly comes to bind the three of them so closely. After all, this Doctor is still a total stranger to them, and while Polly is willing to accept that he might be the same man, Ben is considerably more suspicious. And it will take more than a silly hat and an annoying recorder to win him around.
But somehow, the Doctor succeeded. Yes he was a clown, and in sharp contrast to his prickly predecessor, a lovable one as well. But by the end of his first season, which concluded with another encounter with the Daleks, the Doctor was again the Doctor, and memories of his past personality were just that.
Doctor Who is indisputably the most successful and beloved series on UK TV, and the most watched series in the history of BBC America. Doctor Who FAQ tells the complete story of its American success, from its first airings on PBS in the 1970s, through to the massive Doctor Who fan conventions that are a staple of the modern-day science fiction circuit. Combining a wealth of information and numerous illustrations, Doctor Who FAQ also includes a comprehensive episode guide.
Posted on March 25, 2013, in Film & TV and tagged Applause Books, Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, BBC, Dave Thompson, doctor who, doctor who faq, excerpt, FAQ, Patrick Troughton, patrick troughton birthday, William Hartnell. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.