Doctor Who: The Patrick Troughton Years, 1966-69

Patrick TroughtonDoctor Who

    Season 4: 1966-67

  1. Power Of The Daleks
  2. The Highlanders
  3. The Underwater Menace
  4. The Moonbase
  5. The Macra Terror
  6. The Faceless Ones
  7. The Evil Of The Daleks
  8. Season 5: 1967-68

  9. Tomb Of The Cybermen
  10. The Abominable Snowmen
  11. The Ice Warriors
  12. The Enemy Of The World
  13. The Web Of Fear
  14. Fury From The Deep
  15. The Wheel In Space
  16. Season 6: 1968-69

  17. The Dominators
  18. The Mind Robber
  19. The Invasion
  20. The Krotons
  21. The Seeds Of Death
  22. The Space Pirates
  23. The War Games

After weeks of persuasive offers from the BBC, Patrick Troughton took over the lead role of Doctor Who mere weeks into the series’ fourth season on the air. The public was mystified and intrigued, as even TARDIS travelers Ben and Polly didn’t know what to make of the Doctor’s transformation. But the Doctor didn’t leave much time to ponder the issue: he was plunged into a sinister Dalek plot immediately after the change, and quickly made it clear that, even with a slightly different personality, he had the same mind as the Doctor. The following adventure, The Highlanders, had two major distinctions: the introduction of Scotsman Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), one of the longest-serving companion characters in the series’ history (he stayed until Troughton’s final episode); and the last story for many years to meet the historical mandate that Sydney Newman had originally devised for the show.

Frazer HinesPatrick TroughtAs the fourth season carried on, it was clear that the scales had now been tipped solidly in the direction of science fiction, modern-day thrillers, and the occasional heavily-embellished trip into Earth’s history – usually only to discover that aliens had been influencing humans for decades and centuries. The Cybermen returned immediately in The Moonbase, a story structured almost exactly like their debut in The Tenth Planet, but with relatively sleek redesigned costumes for the Cybermen and a much more futuristic setting. Also by this time – actually, having begun with the William Hartnell story The Gunfighters – Doctor Who stories were no longer known by individual episodes titles, but as [overall story title] [part 1/2/3/etc.]. Troughton quickly cemented his portrayal of the Doctor as a genius who knew full well that he was a genius, and though this new Doctor was generally more amiable than Hartnell’s portrayal, he was fully capable of exploding into temperamental rants, belittling those who insulted his intelligence. And behind it all was the occasional feeling that the Doctor was, if not actively scheming, then gently manipulating events to his favor – all the while pretending to be little more than a buffoon.

Deborah WatlingAt the end of the season, Ben and Polly bid the Doctor and Jamie farewell when events in The Faceless Ones gave them the opportunity to return to modern-day Britain, but the following story, The Evil Of The Daleks, introduced an enduring new companion in Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling), the daughter of a 19th century scientist whose primitive time travel experiments brought him into contact with the Daleks. As had been the case with their very first story, The Evil Of The Daleks was intended to be the end of the road for Terry Nation’s metallic creations – they were a source of great nostalgia, but the current team of producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davis favored the continuing use of the Cybermen, not least of which was because a fee had to be paid to Nation for any use of the Daleks; Davis had co-created the Cybermen, and the series therefore had free use of them while he was serving as script editor.

With the team of the second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, Doctor Who entered what many fans felt was its golden age; new villains were introduced which would recur through many future stories and even future Doctors: the Ice Warriors, the Yeti, and more appearances by the all-conquering Cybermen. It was during this period also that Doctor Who became a target of TV violence watchdogs, complaining about the classic horror-movie-inspired elements and even what passed for gore in that day (a scene from the 1967 classic Tomb Of The Cybermen was much criticized for the destruction and apparent disembowelment of a Cybermen, represented not by blood, but by shaving cream and foam). These early concerns over Doctor Who’s increasingly adult direction seemed to blow over quickly – the show was now more popular than ever before, especially with children.

Nicholas Courtney1968’s The Web Of Fear was a sequel to the previous year’s The Abominable Snowmen, bringing back that story’s robotic Yeti in an even more frightening form. This story introduced a new character, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney (who only got the role in a pinch when another actor had to back out at the last minute). Unsure of the Doctor’s origins or motivations, Lethbridge-Stewart quickly came to trust the quirky scientist during a Yeti siege of London’s Underground. What few people realized was that this character’s appearance planted a seed for the show’s future. The cost of the Doctor’s more futuristic travels were becoming prohibitively expensive, and plans were being made for a yet-undecided story device that would limit the TARDIS’s traveling range to modern-day Britain. Locations were plentiful and convincing, while studio-bound spaceships and alien worlds were difficult to design and build, and sometimes didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Wendy Padbury Victoria left the TARDIS crew in the following story, Fury From The Deep, another episode which raised eyebrows for some of its scarier scenes. In the following story, closing Doctor Who’s landmark 5th year on the air, Wendy Padbury joined the cast as Zoe, a brilliant but naive mathematician from The Wheel In Space – a space station where the Doctor and Jamie thwarted a Cyberman invasion with her help.

As the sixth season began, Patrick Troughton made it clear that three years were enough for him in the role of the Doctor. Despite his insistences, new producer Derrick Sherwin continued making plans for the future, including a return of Lethbridge-Stewart, now promoted to Brigadier and placed in charge of the top-secret United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), a military force devoted to repelling alien invasions from space and paranormal threats from the Earth itself. That story, The Invasion, pitted the Doctor and his friends, with UNIT’s help, against yet another Cyberman incursion (and once again, the metallic invaders underwent a major costume change with no explanation). The show’s atmosphere made it an instant classic, especially in a scene in which hordes of Cybermen marched down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of London. With the return of Lethbridge-Stewart, the creation of UNIT, and a second successful foray into the modern-day-Earth-invasion genre, The Invasion laid the groundwork for much of the reign of Troughton’s successor.

But just making it to the end of the sixth season proved to be a major challenge. Two major scripts had fallen through, and new script editor Terrance Dicks teamed up with writer Malcolm Hulke to embark on the script for a massive ten-week epic, The War Games. Not completely plotted out from the beginning, The War Games certainly plodded in the middle, until episode eight, in which the Doctor admitted that he would have to call his home planet for help. With little of the Doctor’s origins explored, the ninth and tenth episodes of The War Games added thick layers of new mythology to the series: the Doctor was a Time Lord, a member of a race devoted to observing in history – but never interfering. The Doctor’s escapades in time and space made him a criminal on his own world, as if the theft of his TARDIS didn’t already merit that status. When finished dealing with the threat of the War Lords, the Time Lords turned their attention to the Doctor himself, putting him on trial.

Found guilty of meddling in the web of history, the Doctor was sentenced to exile on Earth, a plot device fulfilling Derrick Sherwin’s budget-mandated directive to strand the series in modern-day England. Jamie and Zoe were returned to their points of origin in space and time, their minds wiped of all but their first adventures with the Doctor. And before being sent to Earth, the Doctor was also sentenced to a forced change of appearance. Patrick Troughton’s seminal reign as the Doctor was officially over, and the way was paved for the show to be produced less expensively – if the BBC’s changeover to all-color programming in January 1970 didn’t negate the savings. And in any event, Doctor Who’s return in 1970 was far from certain.

Introduction written by Earl Green

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