A Thankyou: This article would not have been possible without the aid of the Doctor Who Reconstruction Video Team, who supplied telesnap tapes of the wiped episodes. The people responsible, were, namely: Stephen Baker, Andrew Barrett, Simon Simmons and Steve Woolfall. Also helping to provide source video material of existing episodes was Robert Bradley. Massive thanks to all!
Depending on whom you listen to, there are purported to be just five, seven or nine possible plots for drama. None of which was likely to have troubled the producers of the Patrick Troughton era, who got away with using the same story at least a dozen times. Ditching the historicals and making all aliens enemies to be defeated, the show was streamlined into a pretty singular view for a three-year period.
You might think that such a move would be boring. It isnt. What helped was that Troughton was almost undeniably the best actor in the lead role. Intellectual Studywork The Unfolding Text praises his "invisible acting" and some of the earlier stories give him plenty of chances to show his versatility, both in disguise (The Highlanders) and in a dual role (The Enemy of the World).
Yet what really compels is how sadistic some of the stories of this period can be. What makes them stand up remarkably well today is that they are still so full on scary. The Phillip Hinchcliffe years? Forget it! These are a collection of stories with no remit other than to scare kids silly. Look again at even an average story like The Faceless Ones to see the cliffhanger where a man with no flesh on his head sits menacingly on a bed, breathing heavily as the end titles fade above him. Or look at the Hammer-inspired spookiness of The Web of Fear. Better still, have a look at the whole lot with me now...
The Tomb of the Cybermen
The Ice Warriors/Missing Years Box Set
The Mind Robber
The War Games
It must be noted that whatever the quality of the stories, the second Doctors era never really attracted the publics imagination in the same way as Tom Baker would after him, or a bloke with a big nose that had a lot of fight scenes. Faced with the depleted audience of Hartnells once mighty reign, Troughton kept it more or less on an even keel, and the ratings did even jump back up slightly around the time of The Moonbase. (and The Underwater Menace, though fans wouldnt like you to know it).
Ratings for Troughtons part of season four were his best, averaging at 7.62 million, or 52.71 in the top 100. In fact The Macra Terror was Troughtons highest rated story with an 8.2/41 average. Season five suffered slightly at 7.23/57.23 average, while season six slumped to 6.54/67.59. Contrary to popular myth, this decline in ratings towards the end of Troughtons run did not cause the BBC to considering cancelling the series. This occurred at the end of the higher-rated season 7. In fact, it should be noted that the majority of season sixs poor viewing figures were down to dissatisfaction with the 10-part The War Games, with its eighth episode slumping to a late-80s style 3.5 million. Ratings for the season were still generally okay, with The Krotons being the second most watched Troughton tale with an 8/49 average. The first episode was also the highest rated out of the whole era, with 9 million.
The most successful episode in terms of the top 100 placings was the fourth part of The Wheel In Space, which reached 28 for that week. All of Troughtons episodes stayed in the top 100, as did all Doctor Who episodes until part two of The Leisure Hive. The two lowest rated stories were The War Games (4.95/81) and The Space Pirates (5.9/82).
The most depleted from the BBC Archives, the Troughton episodes currently missing are: The Power of the Daleks, episodes 1-6; The Highlanders, episodes 1-4; The Underwater Menace, episodes 1-2, 4; The Moonbase, episodes 1 & 3; The Macra Terror, episodes 1-4; The Faceless Ones, episodes 2, 4-6; The Evil of the Daleks, episodes 1, 3-7; The Abominable Snowman, episodes 1, 3-6; The Ice Warriors, episodes 2 & 3; The Enemy of the World, episodes 1-2, 4-6; The Web of Fear, episodes 2-6; Fury From The Deep, episodes 1-6; The Wheel In Space, episodes 1-2, 4-5; The Invasion episodes 1 & 4 and The Space Pirates, episodes 1, 3-6.
As the Troughton era is the least represented in the BBC archives, with only six of his twenty-one stories existing in their entirety, most of these reviews have been compiled using videos of the telesnaps and the soundtrack. As a result its impossible to tell just how good The Power of the Daleks would really have looked. One of the surviving clips the cliffhanger to episode five shows four Daleks standing in front of cardboard cut-outs, then the same four going round and round a doorframe several times in order to create the illusion theres a whole army of them. And would the studio-bound exteriors really have convinced? So too its reported that Troughton played up the comedy in the story to a ludicrous extent, at one point standing up with a chair still stuck to his bottom! All of these things are lost, probably forever, and so with a still frame/audio recreation they can only be guessed at.
So it must be said that on those terms The Power of the Daleks is a classic, the greatest Dalek story and, barring Hartnells first episode, the greatest debut story of any Doctor. In the second Doctor handbook, David J.Howe criticises it slightly with "the story is perhaps a little predictable viewers all know that the Daleks are up to no good, but it takes ages for anyone other than the Doctor to realise this." This seems to be completely missing the point. The creepiest Dalek story, it relies on just two simple but effective psychological precepts. The first is that we, as viewers, have foreknowledge of the Daleks that the characters in the story do not. This fills the entire production with a sense of pervading menace as we see the Daleks stealthily gather in strength and numbers. Somehow seeing the creatures serving drinks like waiters and indulging in conversation makes them seem all the more fearsome. The second cliffhanger - where the Doctor tries to warn the colony what they will do, only to be drowned out by a Dalek shouting "I AM YOUR - SERRRRRV ANT!" - is one of the best in the series history. The programmes best villains are never more cunning than here, and as the first non-Terry Nation Dalek script, it ably illustrates just how much potential they really had.
The second psychological aspect is, of course, the Doctor himself, a much more thoughtful and reasoning interpretation. The end of the story sees him practically admit that he allowed the entire colony to be exterminated just so he could get the Daleks out into the open. As far as cold-hearted manipulation goes, thats up there with McCoy, though implied with much more subtlety. The mystery surrounding the new Doctor is carried off with aplomb and ably allows the six episodes to be carried forward without dragging. Troughton is, of course, fantastic.
The Highlanders was Frazer Hiness debut story and possibly a good one. Again without any surviving episodes its a little difficult to tell does the Doctor really bang a mans head on a table in episode two? Written under tight pressure by Gerry Davis (though Elwyn Jones still got a writers credit for coming up with the idea) it contains a lot of action, the existing clips of which look pretty good, but with just a soundtrack this is hard to judge. The script doesnt exactly flow off the page, though there are some nice moments, such as a sidelined Polly constantly putting her foot in it by revealing future history. Despite every single Doctor Who fact book trotting out the tired old "cosmic hobo/Chaplin" nonsense Patricks Doctor was a lot more serious than hes given credit for, with a lot of depth. This is one of the few stories where he does get to play up to the stereotype by donning a variety of disguises and silly voices.
With its commentaries on slavery, The Underwater Menace could be a metaphor for the Watts riots of just two years earlier, while Troughtons disguise as a beatnik could be an allusion to the 60s counterculture. Actually, its neither, I was just kidding. What The Underwater Menace is, is a pile of pants. Dont get me wrong, Im all for re-appraising purported "turkeys" as a look at some of the other articles on this site will prove. But with possibly the most outlandish storyline in the whole history of Who, this one is just too camp and too silly to even be funny. What it does contain is possibly the most original episode three padding with a dance of the fish people, and incidental music so loud it often drowns out the dialogue.
Going under the working title of The Return of the Cybermen, The Moonbase is clearly the least-inspired Cyber story of the era. A thinly disguised rehash of The Tenth Planet, it features some childish anti-grav sound effects, clunky exposition and gaping plotholes. Yet despite this it is still fun, featuring a bragging (sarcastic?) Cyberman who chides "Clev-er, clev-er, clev-er!" and the introduction of the macho crap between Ben and Jamie. Intriguingly, it features the incidental music synonymous with The Tomb of the Cybermen (and later used again for The Web of Fear). However, the bombastic Cybermarch seems out of place with this more low-key event and so its often forgotten that it was used first here. The pat resolution is the real sore point though, a climax that stays just this side of reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. Perhaps the only real innovation it provides is the first of four examples - the sole ones in the whole series - of us being allowed to hear a character's "thoughts". Whereas the previous three years had been Hartnell looking to camera and hamming his own, hmm, eh? thoughts on the pro eh Chesterton, proceedings, here we get the dubbed-over "thinking" of two Timelords. The last time this happens is in Troughton's final story, The War Games. Edward Brayshaw as The War Chief looks into the distance, with an overdubbed "Time travellers... I wonder...". It's quite a disconcerting moment, unusual for television drama and something that was only attempted again once in the remaining twenty years of the programme. But the first use of this was for the Doctor himself, in The Moonbase. The Doctor works out how to solve the situation by talking to his own subconscious mind. Hence we get a scene where the Doc speaks half his lines aloud, the others overlaid onto the soundtrack, as follows: "Funny... Funny... Go to all that trouble to make the men do the work... why?... Do it themselves, easy... They're using the men as tools... why?... Don't know ... Yes, I do, though... There must be something in here they don't like... Pressure?... No... Electricity?... No... Radiation?... Maybe ... Grav... Gravity... now, there's a thought... Gravity!... Oh yes... Gravity". And, of course, let us not forget the Doctor mentally conversing with The Master in The Mind Robber. For the fourth and final example, look to the Peter Davison story, Mawydryn Undead.
The Macra Terror was the story to introduce the all-new title sequence, the one where Patricks face dissolves into the wall of feedback. Its a superb sequence, as is the story, one that constantly threatens to be an all-out classic. The Prisoneresque tale never quite manages it, but its still excellent and easily among the best half-dozen or so of the era. The Faceless Ones, meanwhile, isnt the best Doctor Who story ever made, but then neither is it the worst. A pleasantly average tale padded out to a six-episode duration, it has a daft plot and mincing aliens, but its reasonably diverting. It is, of course, a lousy last story for a sidelined Ben and Polly, though maybe this is intentional as it thrusts the Doctor/Jamie relationship into the foreground. Look out for Troughton enigmatically talking about his (then unseen, unnamed) home planet as Polly states that Earth is her world. "Yes..." he says, "youre lucky... I never got back to mine." The first of many Who stories to pay homage to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the aliens may give up too easily at the end, but the final episode displays a truly impish second Doctor. Just one small complaint: isnt it a bit of an obvious cover for a race of shape changing aliens to call their airline Chameleon Tours? And just think we nearly had Pauline Collins as a regular companion. Phew!
The Evil of the Daleks forms the end of Troughtons first season, a wonderful tale yet also an overrated one. As with David Whitakers other Dalek script; the creatures are presented as intelligent tacticians, and more conversational than usual. Excellently directed and with deeper, more grating voices, this is one of their best appearances. With the three humanised Daleks Whitaker again produces an unnerving effect by having the enemy acting out of character.
What really helps the appreciation of this story (Ive seen it top some fan surveys) is the surviving episode, which is absolutely superb. Sadly not representative of the tale as a whole, its a magnificent piece of work, full of neat little touches such as the expanding circle to break between a scene. Combine this with dark, gloomy lighting and Marius Gorings German Expressionist appearance and youre pushing genius. Troughtons multiple facial reactions when he meets the Dalek for the first time should have been played in a continuous loop to Pertwee to show him what acting is. This combination of a complex plot and literary referencing is what makes the serial a great deal more sophisticated than other examples of the era.
However, one of the flaws is its much-praised structure. Basically a two-, three- and two-parter, its unfortunate that the middle three episodes are also the least essential. With the Daleks using Jamie to study the human factor, hes set the task of trying to rescue Victoria... in screen time this takes him twenty minutes spread over three episodes. Its spelt p-a-d-d-i-n-g. Incidentally, for the action-hero type, Jamie spends an awful lot of season four being bashed around. Other oddities include the mute Turk strongman (the next story features a monosyllabic black muscleman), a curiously dated characterisation. The final two episodes on Skaro are also lacking, largely due to extremely obvious toy models used to recreate a climactic Dalek civil war. The Emperor Dalek is impressive, despite having breasts, though the notion of humans being reprogrammed with "The Dalek Factor" seems like something straight out of one of the Peter Cushing films. The Doctors excuse for not being infected "I dont come from Earth, Jamie" feels like a feeble get-out clause and threatens to bring the entire unscientific script crashing around its ears.
Wonderful sets, exemplary direction, first-rate performances but a script that is at least an episode too long. A classic, possibly, but not one without flaws.
Following on from one of the more sophisticated stories, The Tomb of the Cybermen is perhaps anything but. Yet while its basic plotline is a little childlike in construction, it scores hugely by its iconography. The opening of the tombs and the set design are classics of the programme. Combine this with Troughtons devious, manipulative characterisation and it more than transcends any shortcomings. The story also highlights one of the many advantages of black and white. In The Faceless Ones stock footage could be combined with studio shoots with no great discernible difference. Here the planet Telos is yet another quarry, but the monochrome makes it look genuinely alien. Even the "ice" in the tombs looks slightly convincing in this regard. Yes the direction is staid, and some of the guest actors arent first-rate, but the imagery contained within the story and the motivation of the central character make this more than worth watching.
The Abominable Snowmen is a beautifully shot little story, surprisingly improved by having no incidental music. This really adds to the authenticity of the Tibetan monastery, even if some of the monks do have Welsh accents. Sadly, the only flaw in the adventure is a simple yet vital one: for a monster story the Yeti just arent scary. Like great fluffy teddy bears with stumpy legs and childbearing hips, they amble ridiculously around the countryside trying to look frightening. Its forgivable, though, as this is one of the maturer stories of the period and has a splendidly metaphysical enemy in the Great Intelligence.
If a Who story contains the mad chef from Crossroads and one of the old gits from Last of the Summer Wine then it doesnt fill you with hope. However, The Ice Warriors is a solidly entertaining story with some interesting metaphors and formidable enemies. If nothing else then the Ice Warriors guns are really cool. There are some unusual touches of realism here and there, such as Peter Barkworths bigoted Clent ("They would!" he snaps when a computer reports "Asia... some improvement claimed.") and a horny Jamie suggesting Victoria should wear mini-skirts. What really makes it is Patrick clearly enjoying himself and being completely comfortable with the role. His rapport with Barkworth is particularly good, and Derek Martinus once again proves himself to be one of the best directors the series ever had. With lines like "We know your kind of freedom... freedom to run away" it seems to comment on dropout society and the Martian warriors are an obvious red menace. The only disappointments in the serials slim subtext are the humanity vs. machinery debates, which are somewhat overstated. Any other criticisms are few and far between, with some dubious future fashions only items of note. And whats with all that choral singing in the ice sequences of the first few episodes? Its also notable that after her relatively gutsy first two tales that Victoria is being denigrated into an insipid screamer. Incidentally, when you see portly old Malcolm Taylor ranting in the sixth episode, dont you think hes the spitting image of Ian Levine? And just one last thing... how come the Tardis is upright at the storys end?
The Enemy of the World is no masterpiece, but certainly underrated, while The Web Of Fear is perhaps sadly overpraised. It opens with a magnificent first episode (the only one still in the archives, explaining its high regard), utilising Doctor Who as pure horror. Who director David Maloney once said "Pat had a marvellous, craggy, photographic face" and its true. The first cliffhanger takes full advantage of this, having all the lines and contours of his face swathed in blackness as the Yeti tower above him. Its a wonderful image, and could easily come from silent cinema, just as the rest of the episode homages Hammer in its direction. Another great moment is the old-style Yeti inexplicably transforming into the updated version. Whereas the originals were as scary as a vicars tea party, these mark twos are so frightening Troughton had to record a special trailer to warn small children. With sleeker heads and bodies, large glowing eyes and a more savage nature, this story sees them rightfully upgraded to classic Who monster status. Some of the scenes, such as the one with the decayed corpse, are uncompromising in their portrayal, and this is a story pitched a little higher than the usual age range. Direction is excellent, with extremely dark lighting, and sets so convincing that London Underground thought theyd filmed there without permission. Each end title sequence (except for the last) concludes with a pulsating, groaning mass, almost as if to ensure that children not already wetting the bed would be guaranteed a sleepless night.
The first UNIT story (although they would not be designated that until The Invasion the following year) it seems to take its cue from The Faceless Ones, which had Troughton aided by authority. Also, as every sad fan knows, John Levene (Sergeant Benton) made his debut here as a Yeti. Bearing in mind the Pertwee years saw him reduced to an incredulous Colonel Blimp, its strange to see Lethbridge-Stewart instantly believing the Doctor about the Tardis. And having Jack Travers make a return appearance lends a nice slant to the time travel element hes aged thirty years, the time travellers have aged just weeks.
However, Jack Watling is less proficient in portraying the Great Intelligence than Wolfe Morris was, while Driver Evans has to be one of the most shallow comedy characterisations ever. Like the Jewish Silverstein, hes a stereotype, and its the only time in 26 years that the Doctor made a racist remark when he calls him a "blithering Welsh imbecile" in episode six. Still, if the only racist remark hed ever make was about the Welsh, I guess thats fair enough. (Kidding, I was kidding!!) Sadly, I have to commit heresy and say that some of the middle episodes drag slightly. Episode two also misses Patrick, who was on holiday for the week. Okay, theyre supposed to build a claustrophobic atmosphere, but often theyre just treading water. This could have been a classic four-parter, yet as it stands its a merely very good six-parter. The conclusion also feels a little flat, though having one of the second Doctors up-his-sleeve masterplans not come to fruition was a novelty, I guess... and the thought of the Great Intelligence somewhere out there in the universe would give many of those watching nightmares for years to come...
Fury From The Deep is a much-revered story and it very probably lives up to its reputation. However, with just eight small clips existing in the archives its again difficult to tell. The fact that one of these is one of the most original Tardis landings, another arguably the scariest moment in the series history lends some weight to its high reputation. None of these, sadly, show the touted "weed creatures", the full appearance of which can now only be guessed at. But the fact that the clips are all classics tend to make me think the whole thing could be too.
For a story it contains many important points: the introduction of the sonic screwdriver, a small gadget used to the point of plot device tedium in the Baker, and, particularly, Pertwee years; the departure of Victoria, perhaps overly signposted, but certainly better handled than the previous three exits from the show; and a direct reference to the series Surrey quarry fixations. ("Do you always seem to land on this planet?" questions Victoria. "Aye," answers Jamie, "Its always England.")
The foam machine gets put through its paces, and theres some padding in the final episode. And while the theme of possession is disturbing, having the creature defeated by Victorias screams is a little silly. So ultimately it comes down to guesswork. Im guessing that this is probably the greatest story of season five.
The Wheel In Space rounds off season five, a story I really liked the first time I saw it, thinking it a lot of fun. Sadly, while a reasonable time passer, repeated viewings reveal its poor reputation to hold true.
Virtually nothing at all happens for the first two episodes, the second seeing Troughtons boots sticking out from under a sheet as he was on holiday. The serial introduces one of the programmes oldest gags: Jamie is forced to invent a name for the Doctor John Smith. Also debuting is lovely Wendy Padbury as Zoe Herriot. She might be a little stagy at times, but, whereas Victoria had dimensions only rivalled by Nicola Bryant, Padbury has the finest derriere in the whole of Who. The sight of her pear-shaped bottom spinning around the console in a sequinned catsuit (The Mind Robber) fuelled many a fanboy fantasy. With her bob haircut, dimples and pinched nostrils, shes one of the cutest companions. She might be cocksure but that only adds to the appeal: shes the posh girl at school who needs taking down a peg. Er, yes, anyway, back to the story...
Cyberwise, its really only a four-parter, the silver buggers not appearing until right at the end of the second episode. Their design is quite nice; especially the new teardrop eyes, but their voices are a problem. More audible than before, they sound too human. The removal of the mouth lids also mean they have to wave their heads to indicate which ones talking, meaning they lose their unemotional façade slightly. Things arent helped by the fact that one of the Cybermen is about a foot taller than the other. Combine this with their padded crotches and youve got the campest Cybes in the history of the programme. I used to think slagging off this story just because theres only two Cybermen was shallow, but its quite right I mean, its rubbish, isnt it?
The production values point towards season six, while the support actors are chronic. Direction is flatter than a cat after Ian Levines sat on it. All the scenes set in outer space are particularly childish and ineptly staged. Occasional lines are quite nice "I think youll find my psyche is in very good order" but they all sound very self-conscious. Rather shocking for David Whitaker, this was probably the weakest Troughton script, certainly up until that point. The climax is another pat resolution leading into an innovative/fourth wall breaking (delete as applicable) tagged-on ending where Patrick shows Zoe a mind projection of The Evil of the Daleks. This was used as a repeat to paper over the gap between seasons... the only time a repeat has been linked in to the continuity of the series.
Season Six has always got a bad press, not helped by untrue rumours that the series was almost cancelled after its falling figures. Things arent helped by the heavy number of abandoned scripts, causing the ones used to be completed in a hurry and often extended past their natural length. For this final season Patrick was said to have gained a bad reputation after regularly speaking out against the weak material. However, one thing the season has going for it is diversity. Whereas season five is regarded as the definitive Troughton season, its also unvaried. Apart from The Enemy of the World it was the same story six times over, very well done to be sure, but the same story nevertheless. Season six tries something new, which might not always be successful, but is, in its own way, commendable.
One bonus is that, save for two episodes of The Invasion and five of The Space Pirates, all of season six is complete in the archives. Some might cruelly wish that the BBC had burnt The Krotons, but imagine how much more annoying those stories would have been if you had to watch them as telesnaps. Okay, lets get the worst out of the way first, shall we?
I like to think of The Dominators as a quaint homage to those old Saturday morning adventure serials of the 30s and 40s. It probably isnt, but it makes looking at the rubbish spaceship effects more bearable. Whats most laughable is the way it keeps the Quarks Whos most useless monsters left over until the first cliffhanger. After seeing them 200,000 people didnt bother tuning back in the following week. Heavily edited from scripts by the Yeti writers (Who asked for their names to be removed) it is at heart a reasonable take on 60s counterculture. The hippyish Dulkians are faced with extinction, and must work out how to defend themselves while keeping their pacifistic nature. Its a situation that is sidestepped, and Ive never been comfortable with the Doctor laughing his head off as he murders the Dominators. Mind you, how can you feel sorry for a race so stupid they leave an enormous gun lying around the enemy camp? And what happened to the series production values since the end of the fifth season? Directed with so little flair you can see the windows at the back of the Tardis prop when it opens (a close-up of Troughtons location double in the final part isnt that hot either), this really is quite poor. Look out too for ill-advised costumes and lame painted "exteriors". Never has so much polystyrene been put to service in the name of Who. The sonic screwdriver, incidentally, now becomes "a little more than a screwdriver" and takes on Pertwee-like properties to get the writers out of a hole.
But is it really so bad? Yes its so boring and clunky it could be a Hartnell story, but it is superficially enjoyable. Certainly not the twelfth worst story as the recent DWM poll alleged. Favourite moment is when Jamie pulls on the Doctors arm at the end of the first episode, a quite amusing moment. Also a surprise is Playaways Brian Cant, who is actually reasonable in a minor role. Rubbish but fun.
I first saw The Krotons when I was ten years old, which was, lets face it, the ideal age to see it. Filled with so many sloppy shots and poor effects it goes beyond amateur and into pure incompetence, The Krotons is a pulp SF dirge. The guest cast are lame (not helped by this being the last story to not feature incidental music), with even the excellent Philip Madoc falling to make an impact under the disinterested direction. The Krotons themselves have effectively shaped heads, but unwieldy bodies with skirts and... Brummie accents!
The continuity is so lame that Beta (James Cairncross) appears in two places at once during the third episode, while even Patrick seems a little bored at times. (Notice how he always seems to have trouble with the name Zoe in the first episode of this story he calls her Joey). The whole thing is such a ropy b-movie homage, with Jamie even getting an irrelevant fight sequence in the first episode, a la Pertwee. I even hate the HADS (Hostile Action Displacement System) which seems such a plot contrivance its untrue.
Along with The Space Pirates and The War Games, this was one of the Season Six stories written in a hurry to cover over disbanded scripts. Famously, it shows the production teams ability to develop writing talent, as Robert Holmes (also behind The Space Pirates) would go on from this terrible debut to be the series most revered writer. Significantly, The Krotons and The Underwater Menace were the only two Troughton stories where the viewing figures decreased every single week. By far the worst second Doctor story, its only saving grace is seeing Wendy Padburys legs throughout.
The Space Pirates is the only Troughton story I havent seen more than once so Im a bit reluctant to stick my neck out for it. However, I do like to say at least one radical thing about Who stories, and as the rest of my second Doctor views have largely mirrored fan opinion Ill say this: is it really that bad? To say fans dont like it is an understatement. The largest survey conducted saw only The Twin Dilemma prevent it from being named as the worst story of all time.
Some early signs of Holmes humour come through, such as Milo Clancey (Gordon Gostelow) with his egg and toast. To be honest, Ive always been left a bit cold when it comes to the majority of Holmes comedy scripts, thinking them generally self-conscious. So this is no worse than most, and shows a writer developing his talent. His ear for dialogue and characterisation has clearly advanced since The Krotons, a commendably rapid improvement. Keeping the regulars separated from the Tardis for five episodes also shows an understanding, albeit a rather obvious one, of dramatic situation. The model effects while not brilliant (theres no stars in space for a start) are probably the best of the period. Okay, parts of it are cheap (the "monitors" are just old style TV sets), the "American" accents are dire, and it makes the Doctor a gueststar in his own series. And having just three stories take up twenty-two weeks shows the production team was clearly treading water. Zoe is uncharacteristically thick this story, needing the Doctor to explain everything to her in bite-sized chunks of exposition. Only in part three does she get to do anything clever, with the maths calculation.
"I wouldve put him through the mind probe" is a lousy line, and Clanceys discussion of "floaters" has now taken on a new meaning. Ending the story on a decent joke, but one in which the whole cast laugh heartily for what seems like an eternity, is also a bad move. I still put this one in with the stinkers as it is clearly a very silly story and overlong. But as for its lowly place in fan affection, then I can think of at least twenty stories off the top of my head that are worse. And as far as poor stories from season six goes, thats it. Three misses out of seven may not seem a great ratio, but there have been many, many seasons with a weaker average.
The Mind Robber has always struck me as being a story of immense contradictions. There are brilliant bits, such as the genuinely scary clockwork soldiers, while Gulliver only having lines that he said in Jonathan Swifts novel is a work of genius. And considering it was rush-written by Derrick Sherwin and hastily tagged on to Peter Lings script the first episode is one of the spookiest and strangest in Whos history. Theres also a nice shot of the regulars filmed through a spiders web and the scene where the children laugh sadistically at a caged Doctor is also nicely macabre. Perhaps best is a rare post-modern moment in the final episode where the Doctor worries about being turned into a fictional character.
However, on the other hand some of it is unremittingly childish. The word games are like some kids quiz show, the stop motion like a poor mans Harryhausen, and Cyrano de Bergerac just plain daft. Companion-wise, this is one of the few times Jamie got to use his knife, while Zoe is reduced to a screamer for the first and only time. Probably worst of all is Christopher Robbie (later to be the most derided Cyberman of all in Tom Bakers Revenge) as the teleporting cartoon superhero The Karkus. Padburys fight with The Karkus (for which she had five days of judo training) is possibly the silliest, most embarrassing sequence in the whole series. Still, its kind of okay if you concentrate on her arse, and who wouldnt like a wrestle with the lovely Zoe? Emrys Jones is quite good as the Master, but has a distracting white glob in the corner of his mouth during the fourth week in the fifth he gobs everywhere during one of his speeches. The nature of the rushed production can be ascertained by the short episodes, none of them reaching 22 minutes, the last a meagre 18 minutes long. When I first saw the story some of it was so silly I just hated it. But despite the extremely variable content and limitations of its origins, The Mind Robber emerges as one of the most inspired and original stories of all.
One of the valid criticisms of Season Six is the slight lessening of the second Doctors character. Less manipulative, more petulant and childish, this is thankfully put on hold for The Invasion, which again shows him at his best. Troughtons psychology is great here, and his "accept the situation" scene is one of my favourites. The tale shows him at his most wily and resourceful, the level of inventiveness making what could be seen as padding so involving. It also shows a rare physical role for him, driving a jeep, rowing a canoe and even pushing Packer (Peter Halliday) down a corridor.
This applies to the whole production. As Ive said, the Troughton Cyberstories are fun, but lack density. The Invasion is head and shoulders above them all, a high-tech upgrading with more involved characterisation. The UNIT element is dealt with nicely, and this seems more adult in tone than usual. The direction is great, all upward angles, and there are some genuinely scary moments. My favourite is the yampy Cyberman who wanders around the sewers going "Yeeeeeeuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh!" Isobels lying on the floor with a skirt up to her knickerline, taking glamour shots of Zoe is purely Dad appeal, and all the better for it. Her inclusion, all "Got it off a barrow in the Portobello Road" is pure 60s Carnaby Street; a canny way to keep the youth interest since Patricks mop top was no longer in fashion. Jamie even listens to pop music on a transistor radio. Wouldnt that freak out an eighteenth century piper?
Rather ironically for what is arguably the best Cyberstory of all, the Cybermen have such a small part. Yet theyre better presented here than ever, with genuinely chilling, jittery body language. Despite being eight episodes long it never gets boring, and has some tremendous cliffhangers. The majority of the period settled for stock music, but Don Harpers score is wonderful. Particularly brilliant are the scenes where the Cybermen emerge from the sewers. Having them walk in front of St. Pauls Cathedral is an obvious attempt to repeat the success of the Daleks in front of Parliament (The Dalek Invasion of Earth) but works even better. A real classic image of the series.
The lack of brightness touches noir stylings (though this could be the faded quality of the prints) and Kevin Stoney is excellent as Tobias Vaughan. Sadly, there is one significant problem with the story, which holds it back from the full-out classic it should be: the budget. Budget-wise, the average expenditure on a Patrick Troughton story was £2991.88 per episode, with The Invasion averaging at a considerable £3150.88 per instalment. (For the record, the most costly apart from The War Games, accurate records of which were not kept was, bizarrely, The Krotons, averaging at £3329 per episode. Bare in mind compound inflation over the three years, though, with The Macra Terror being the cheapest at an average £2551 per part) Yet despite costing so much, Derrick Sherwins scripts require even more cash thrown at them. Doctor Who could never be an action-packed series for this reason, and although The Invasion does it better than most, seeing Nicholas Courtney pointing up to the sky with "Theres the chopper!" and stock helicopter sound effects playing (Not the only time in the story a character claims to see an off-screen helicopter) is quite sad. Some of the budget saving can be amusing, such as the "Its exactly the same as your office in London" scene, though its significant because the climax hinges on these lapses in finance. Seeing the conclusion to a gripping, well-made story as a man sitting in front of a radar screen claiming to have blown up multiple spacecraft undermines the credibility, and dramatic potential of the piece. A shame, and I guess we could have done without the dummy Cyberman falling off the roof. I really like this story a lot; its just a great pity that all the major action is relayed second-hand, the programme too limited to present it. But if nothing else, then it does present a great Cyberbattle in the final part, and you get to see Zoes knickers in the fifth episode.
The Seeds of Death is the decidedly average sequel to The Ice Warriors. Its an entertaining pile of fluff and the first to really introduce the (cheap-looking) Transmat. (Though it was used unnamed in The Evil of the Daleks). Theres lots of running around and some silliness with a foam machine, but Troughton (who is sporting a natty pair of sideburns throughout) gets some nice characterisation here and there. A glance down at the quotes section proves the reasonable dialogue in this one.
One unsettling moment is Fewsham (Terry Scully) claiming he would be executed on Earth. So the 21st century will bring back capital punishment? Not particularly a great story as far as rapport between the regulars goes they spend much of the story apart but a watchable, throwaway entertainment on most other levels. This is also probably the only real "base under siege" story of the season, a flaw with season six as a whole, perhaps: the drama is lessened when the heroes have somewhere to run. Some evidence of 60s psychedelia can be witnessed; including a Grand Marshall covered in tinsel. Just two last observations: isnt it a shame that the Doctor has to resort to mass murder to resolve the situation, and just why did the Ice Warriors want to invade Earth in the first place?
The War Games did quite well for itself in what was probably the largest fan survey ever held, in DWM Issue 265. (For the record, nearly 60% of Patricks stories were in the top half of the poll, with three of them The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Evil of the Daleks and The Web of Fear reaching the top ten. Only four Troughton stories were in the bottom fifty). However, despite reaching a lofty 31, the story has taken plenty of knocks over the years. People say that its too long, the characters and situations are clichés, the Tardis crew has only a reactive role throughout, and it sags with no monsters. All of which are almost certainly true, but... I LOVE it!
Yes, the war metaphors are ham-fisted, Dudley Simpsons score (just one of eleven Troughton stories to get a specially arranged score) is repetitive and the plot is screwy. An alien race want to lead the finest army by kidnapping soldiers and then letting them kill each other off? Why not just use all the soldiers youve stolen instead of killing off half of them? But this just goes to prove the old adage that applies to 95% of Doctor Who stories: never analyse the plot too closely.
Some top direction from David Maloney (we dont see the Tardis materialise, we see its reflection emerge in a puddle cool or what?) combine with a genuinely epic feel. The recreations of the various time zones are understandably modest, but effective nevertheless. The illusion is further carried off by the location filming, which is suitably dark and muddy.
Despite being ten episodes the story moves at a fair rate its less than nine minutes in before Smythe reveals some alien technology. The second gives us Sidrats and another time zone. Even the padded third gives us the first real look at the alien HQ and introduces the War Chief (Edward Brayshaw, excellent). Some absolutely classic moments include the Doctors trial and final silent film homage when hes forcibly regenerated. My favourite though is the electrifying moment when its revealed Timelords can recognise one another even after their appearance has altered. Episode four sees a heart-stopping moment as the Doctor and the War Chief see one another for the first time. In fact, its the rapport between Troughton and Brayshaw that produces some of the storys best moments. Troughtons early momentary removal of his disguise just to bewilder the crowd also shows his reckless nature.
A word on Frazer Hines. While theres signs all the regulars were getting a little tired towards the end (Frazers "Oh, no" at the end of episode four of The War Games is particularly bored), Hines gives a lot better performance than I remembered. With his weak recreations in The Five and Two Doctors and most of his b & w episodes wiped its possible to forget just how good he could be. Together he and Zoe get the best send-off since Ian and Barbara four years earlier.
In a rare moment of Timelord lip contact, the Doctor gives Zoe a smacker on the head in the first episode. Also on a note of continuity the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver for the third time, this time using it as a power source. The Timelords are first named in episode eight, though their planet wasnt named in the series until 1973.
Criticisms from me are few. Okay, the American civil war zone is obviously filmed in a studio, the fight choreography is limp and James Bree talks like hes gargling with diarrhoea. God knows why they asked him back twice. But this is more than counterbalanced by Brayshaw, and then, later, the superb Philip Madoc as the War Lord. I can accept people who dont like this story; I can see all the flaws as being perfectly valid. But I cant help it, I just think this wonderfully imaginative tale with time zones, Sidrats, Timelords and forcefields is a classic.
The wisdom of The Trout
Patrick Troughton had many great lines during his time, or at least so it appeared. In black and white some of them dont seem as hot you might think, so its clearly the way he tells 'em. Here are my favourite lines from the era, all of which were delivered masterfully by the man himself: "You cant arrest us now weve given ourselves up... thats against the rules." (The Macra Terror); "I use my own special technique... keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut." (The Tomb of the Cybermen); "Well now I know youre mad... I just wanted to make sure." (The Tomb of the Cybermen, again); "Sad, really, isnt it? People spend all their time making nice things and other people come along and break them." (The Enemy of the World); "I imagine you have orders to destroy me." (The Wheel In Space); "Your leader will be angry if you kill me, I ... Im a genius." (The Seeds of Death); ['They were receiving my signal'] "Not your signal... ours." (The Seeds of Death, again); [To three armed guards] "Dont worry, Im not going to hurt you." (The War Games) and "Theyll forget me, wont they?" (The War Games, again)
Post Season Six
The future appreciation of the Patrick Troughton era is always in doubt; indeed, even amongst the fans he had become known as the forgotten Doctor until the early 90s. Its unlikely such a thing would happen again, though with less than a third of his stories existing in the archives then the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria probably wont be doing the rounds on UK Gold to any great extent. Also disappointing are Patricks three return appearances in the role, where, as mere guestslots, he seemed to deliberately send up the part. His performance in The Three Doctors, particularly, is unapplied and gives little of the idea of how much depth he had. No wonder people who grew up with Pertwee sometimes remember Patrick as the "silly old man". The Five Doctors saw a similar daffy caricature, and although he tried in The Two Doctors, does one sensible performance in 23 years really count for anything with the viewing public? Sadly, the largest audience that were ever aware of Patrick Troughton believed him to be a rubber floating head for Dimensions In Time. Patrick could never control the Tardis, so its perhaps sadly apt that he is now forever lost in time.
The Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who was far from sophisticated and almost singular in its intent. However, while the stories had limited ambitions, they were generally well produced and steered with a confident, subtle and truly outstanding lead performance. Taken on their own terms, and with an assured central actor, the Troughton stories make up one of the two essential eras in Doctor Who.