Monday, September 8, 2014

The Troughton Years - An Overview

As part of my efforts to get better acquainted with some of the older Doctors I missed pieces of, I started with Hartnell and have moved on to Patrick Troughton. Oh, I've seen all the extant episodes of both the first two Doctors many times, but this is only the second time I have gone through every episode - including the missing ones. Fortunately all the audio survives thanks fan made recordings and most episodes have stills that allow for slide show type reconstructions. A fan group, Loose Canon, have gone the extra mile and gone beyond static slides and added motion and really made many of these episodes come alive. They also put a lot of work into creating something for the episodes that lacked much of any visual reference. Photoshop is a wonderful thing.

Yesterday I finished War Games, concluding my second viewing of Troughton's episodes. In general I have to say that while I find his Doctor fascinating, I am not quite enthralled by the stories. They are good solid stories, but the tendency to default to much longer episodes tends to give them a slower pace. There are some damn good cliffhangers so there is plenty of excitement, but they don't quite get to the point very fast. Oddly, Troughton's longest (and last) story, The War Games, is one of his best.

I should point out that initially, Troughton's series were hardest hit by missing episodes, but various recoveries have given us much more that we had the first time I watched these stories back in the early 90's.

The Power of the Daleks - Replacing the main actor was a bold choice. How they did it was genius. This story starts of with some interesting scenes of the Doctor examining his new face and his two companions wondering what has happened. Troughton eases into the role, by being very understated before he gradually reveals his slightly more comic take on the character. The way the Daleks were handled was masterful and the story really makes you wonder if they could have changed, but only for a moment as they reveal what was probably their most cunning and subtle plan to date.

The Highlanders - A stirring historical drama with a good share of mystery and deception. It is most notable for introducing Jamie McCrimmon who joined the Tardis crew at the end and stayed on for the rest of Troughton's tenure, becoming the longest serving companion (by number of episodes - Sarah Jane Smith served as companion for more seasons (just over 3) but fewer episodes).

The Underwater Menace - Sometimes it is hard to see past the effects to the story itself. This is one of those times. There might be a good story here, but it doesn't seem executed very well. But as usual, the cast did a magnificent job.

The Moonbase - The Cybermen return. A much better story than their first outing in The Tenth Planet earlier in the season. Better costumes as well.

The Macra Terror - Something is lurking in the dark but no one knows what it is. This was a well done episode, one I would love to see, but even in reconstruction, the story comes off nicely.

The Faceless Ones - A well written, complicated, alien invasion story with some interesting twists. By this point Troughton has a good stride and his performance seems effortless. It is a good story to see Ben and Polly go because it puts them back in their own time. They see the story through to the end before they decide to leave. A nice touch considering the last departure (Dodo) was so abrupt.

The Evil of the Daleks - Daleks again, this time they are playing with time travel again. Definitely a high point to end the season on. Daleks, misguided allies, and a hostage to hold someone else in line mark just some of their evil workings. The Doctor does his best, but can't save Dr. Waterfield. His daughter, one freed, would rather travel with the Doctor than remain alone.

The Tomb of the Cybermen - The Cybermen are back, a third time in less than a year. This time it starts as the innocuous exploration of a Cybermen tomb. The Doctor can sense the danger and he turns out to be more right than he really likes. Once again deluded humans wreck havoc and lead to all the challenges in the story. The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria each show their strengths in bringing the story to a close.

The Abominable Snowmen - The first of Troughton's well known adversaries. The Yeti are robots controlled by a disembodied intelligence. The remoteness of the location does not east the danger and the Doctor and his companions pull out all the stops.

The Ice Warriors - The second of Troughton's well known adversaries. Set in the future, this story is probably one of Troughton's best. The ice bound Ice Warriors are few in number but pose a real threat to a world teetering on the bring of climate disaster.

The Enemy of the World - Newly recovered, this story is amazing. Not quite as good as the preceding story, and probably one that would be better if it was shorter, but still outstanding.

The Web of Fear - This newly recovered nearly complete story is a worthy sequel to the Abominable Snowmen. Set some 40 years later, Dr. Travers is now the unwitting vehicle of the return of the Great Intelligence. This story sees the first appearance of the longest running companion/guest character, Allister Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, starting out as a mere colonel.

Fury From the Deep - Deadly foam, intelligent seaweed, and possessed worker make up the bulk of this story. Some wonderful moments with the Tardis crew and an emotional departure for Victoria

The Wheel in Space - The Doctor and Jamie land on a drone space ship after a fluid link in the Tardis releases mercury vapors. The ship turns out to be part of a Cybermen plot. The Doctor and Jamie meet Zoe, a young technician and genius. She helps them out and leaves with them when the Cybermen are defeated.

The Dominators - The Dominators themselves are annoyingly arrogant characters and their Quark robots are a bit silly. The rest of the characters are well done and the concept is interesting.

The Mind Robber - This fun story features the only episode where Jamie is not played by Frazier Hines and they worked it into the story quite well. This is a very well done story.

The Invasion - Very similar to The War Machines, but with Cybermen and the Doctor meeting people he knows. This is the first Unit story and was done to test the concept for the next season. It comes off well and is probably the best of Troughton's Cybermen stories.

The Krotons - A mysterious space ship and the robots within have enslaved the natives of a planet. The Doctor and his companions arrive and disrupt the long parasitic relationship and free the natives. Not the best story, but the Doctor and his companions carry the day.

The Seeds of Death - The Ice Warriors return and try to destroy life on Earth with strange pods. Earth has put all its transportation energy into T-Mat and abandoned rockets. This nearly proves their downfall. The Doctor is there to save the day. I rather enjoyed this story.

The Space Pirates - The last story with missing episodes. It is quite interesting and the character of Milo Clancy is quite memorable. The level of double crossing and secrets that are revealed it quite fun to see unfold. Definitely high on my wish list.

The War Games - Here we meet the second member of the Doctor's people (well, fourth if you count the Doctor and Susan). The War Chief has given Tardis technology to an alien race who are using it to steal soldiers from Earth and make them think they ares still fighting the same war in order to build a formidable army. The slow reveal from the initial WWI battlefield to the full scale of the operation is well executed. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe each have their own adventures before the Doctor is forced to call in his people, the Timelords. This is probably the longest single cohesive story in Doctor Who history and it is incredibly well done and a fitting exit for Troughton's Doctor and his companions.

What we get with the Second Doctor are the majority of things that have remained throughout the rest of the series. The series departs from the historical dramas (sad because those are some of the best written stories) and focus's primarily on science fiction stories. That's not to say that the Doctor doesn't go into the past, he does quite frequently, but there is always some alien invasion or the like to deal with. Only in the Fifth Doctor story, Black Orchid, do we again (and apparently for the last time) have a purely historical story with no science fiction content.

So really the pattern of the stories is now set, but the last piece of what has become quintessential Doctor Who won't appear until Pertwee takes over. Jamie was the last male companion of any significance for quite some time. Most of the time post The War Games it has been the Doctor with a female companion.

The Second Doctor poses a lot of continuity problems. He starts out at around 450 years old, according to what he tell his companions. Then he has continuous human companions for his entire tenure and the third Doctor is 700. Troughton has the record for the most returns to the main series at three. He came back for The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, and The Two Doctors. Yet the return of he and the First Doctor in those stories brings up interesting issues. In particular, the opening of The Two Doctors breaks continuity with the series as the Second Doctor cannot maneuver the Tardis so would not have left Victoria and he did not tell Jamie about the Timelords until The War Games. Still, it was great to see him back those three times.

Next up are the 5th and 6th Doctors and maybe the 7th. I've seen Peter Davison's first seasons very often, but not his last season or the following season with Colin Baker. I missed recording them from PBS so I had all of the 3rd, 4th, and 7th Doctors, but not the 5th and 6th.

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