Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life Depends on Change, and Renewal.

So said the Doctor in 'The Power of the Daleks', following an astounding physical and mental transformation. With William Hartnell's health in question and his fluffs of dialogue on the increase, 'Doctor Who' producers and some dandy writing and acting pulled off possibly the cleverest transition in sci-fi TV... the regeneration.

Following a low-key but exhausting battle with his new enemy the blood-chilling Cybermen at Earth's south pole, the Doctor keeled over and when he rose again, it was as a different, younger man. His alien physiology and wondrous time machine had somehow provided him (and the series) with a brand new life and personality.

Patrick George Troughton was a WWII Navy Commander, but foremost an actor. He made over 70 films, including Olivier's 1948 production of 'Hamlet'. In 1953, Troughton was the first person to portray Robin Hood on TV. Billy Hartnell recommended him as his replacement, and Pat became the Second Incarnation of the Doctor from 1966-1969.

The Second Doctor is usually described as 'a cosmic hobo', comedically rushing about, making funny faces, and generally ensuring the survival of 'Doctor Who' for all time by being all-round splendid.

His character became more of a Puckish anarchist, thumbing his nose at the monsters and tyrants and mutants (oh, my giddy aunt!) for all he was worth. He once declared 'Bad laws were made to be broken.' Although physically fairly harmless, his cunning brain tended to save the day. As in this exchange with his companion in 'The Abominable Snowmen':

"Have you thought up some clever plan, Doctor?"
-"Yes, Jamie, I believe I have."
"What are you going to do?'
-"Bung a rock at it."

Sad, then, that many of his 21 stories were taped over in the seventies. These MISSING STORIES are the stuff of fan legends, resurfacing now and again in the trunk of somebody's car, but mostly existing only as a few scraps of snapshots, audio recordings, and mouldering scripts.

Yes, he's got the most lost tales, but he also holds the record for most re-appearances after his own final demise in 'The War Games'. He returned as the second Doctor for the 10th and 20th anniversary special episodes, and a 1985 romp called 'The Two Doctors'.
It was in the 20th anniversary show 'The Five Doctors' that I saw him first, nearing the end of his life. He was fascinating to me. He stole the show. Things might have been different if Tom Baker had shown up for that one, but luckily Pat got to shine as the kookiest banana in the bunch.

He's so appealing that fans like Paul Cornell proposed a mysterious, hypothetical, and all-too-awesome not-to-be-true Season 6b. It's the postulated gap between his sentencing to death-by-regeneration in season 6, and the arrival of the THIRD Doctor the following season. A gap in which The Doctor Mark Deux had unspecified years or decades of adventures (including the aforementioned anniversary specials as well as some of his novel and comic book exploits.)

The second Doctor was the first to embrace his alien side, admitting to his traveling companion that he is 450 years old. He was also the first to use (and probably built) the sonic screwdriver, an advanced piece of technology useful for... well, in this case, unscrewing things.

Favorite Troughton Story: 'The Tomb of the Cybermen'

Least Favorite Troughton Story: 'Fury From The Deep' (Both are conjecture. I surely do like 'Tomb' and was bored stiff by the audio for 'Fury', but I ain't seen 'em all and I prolly never will!)

Favorite Troughton Quote: "Our lives are different to anybody elses'. That's the EXCITING thing! Nobody in the universe can do what we're doing."

As his companion Ben once said of him 'He ain't normal, is he?'

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