From the Beginning: The Second Doctor

Doctor Whoovie's picture

Doctor Whoovie - Posted on 07 July 2009

Having just completed watching all the Hartnell episodes in order, I am progressing onto the Troughton Era. Last night I watched the first episode of the 'Power of the Daleks' (going to avoid Podshock 155 for a few days more).

I know even less about Troughton's Doctor than I did of Hartnel. Other than the multi-Doctor stories, I have only seen 'the Seeds of Death' and 'the Invasion" though I have read "Doctor Who and the Cybermen' (which is 'the moonbase') and ' The abominable Snowmen'. I am a little dissappointed to see that there are a lot less stories (21 versus Hartnells 30) but many more missing episodes. I guess,  Traughton's stories must be much longer than Hartnell's,since he only made 13 less episodes (counting their original runs only).

So probably another 5 months to watch all of these stories, sigh. Well it's a way of getting a 'new' Who fix in this 'gap' year. 

Idiom's picture

The Krotons was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t the best story of the Second Doctor’s tenure by any means and is overshadowed greatly by the stories that were broadcast immediately prior to this (the Mind Robber and the Invasion) and the stories which come after (Seeds of Death, The War Games – we’ll forget about the Space Pirates for the moment). But, on the other hand, it was nowhere near as dire as I’d expected it to be. In fact, my worries were laid to rest the moment I saw Robert Holmes’ moniker on the screen.


·         Robert Holmes – he really is very good, isn’t he? For me, it is the interaction and dialogue between the characters (most notably the regular cast) which lift the Krotons from being  a rather mundane  story (which felt a lot like this season’s Dominators) to an above average story.

·         Great to see Philip Madoc. I believe that this was his first part in the series and he emanates moral ambiguity (if it is possible to do such a thing). He is an excellent actor whose accent reminds me of a young Richard Burton. My one complaint is that I would like to have seen Eelic get his comeuppance.

·         Zoe, still working very well as a companion. Again we see the sheer joy at her own genius as she performs excellently on the Krotons’ teaching machines. A very funny scene was when we see the Doctor’s competitiveness with her, and the fact that he gets many of the answers wrong. That’s thinking outside of the box for you.

·         The fabulous irony that the Krotons capture Jamie rather than the two brain boxes of Zoe and the Doctor.

·         The Krotons themselves were alright-ish (except for some very dodgy  accents). However,  I finished the story not being entirely sure what they were – were they robots, crystalline or filled with something? And what was the Dynatrope? Was it their space ship?

Not terrible. 6 out of 5.

Idiom's picture

Another strong story for what has shaped up to be Troughton’s best season. Although another base under siege-ish type of story, I found it much more interesting than some of the other Troughton siege stories due to its fresh take on an old foe and the double locations of both earth and the moon utilised. With a very strong supporting cast, I have to say that I really enjoyed the Seeds of Death.

·         The story made good use of its six parts with the first two concerned with how the Doctor and co would manage to reach the moon, the middle two focussing on the battle with the ice warriors on the moon, and the last two changing focus again with the introduction of the seeds themselves.

·         Very stylishly directed with the use of some rather psychedelic patterns superimposed over the cast’s faces at various points throughout the story. Served to heighten the tension and make the story visually more interesting.

·         I felt that this story compared extremely favourably to the original Ice Warriors. Here, we were introduced to a new element of Martian society: the Ice Lord. I also felt that the idea behind their plot to use Transmat to starve the population in order to weaken it and create anarchy, and then to send their alien fungus in to finish the job was a credible and intelligent story line.

·         I am, however, a little confused about the name: ice warrior. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this how they were described when they were originally dug out of the ice in the Ice Warriors. I do believe that the discoverer described them as being ‘some kind of ice warrior’. It wasn’t a name they used to describe themselves. Do they ever start referring to themselves as ‘ice warriors’ rather than Martians?

·         Interesting to see the reversal of sexual stereotypes as Jamie is side-lined by Zoe. The Doctor has no hesitation in taking her on the rocket due to her intelligence and experience, but Jamie has to fight for his place. A similar situation arose in the Krotons.

·         Not sure where  this story fits in with the Moonbase? In the former story, the weather is controlled from the Moon itself, here there are weather control centres on earth. Which one happened first chronologically?

A good watch overall that maintains the high quality of Troughton’s last series. 8 out of 10.

Idiom's picture

I love it when a story surprises you and this one was much better that I’d remembered. Again and again with Troughton, it is the stories which break the mould which I am enjoying the most. Here we have a pure space opera (of which there have been surprisingly few so far) with no robots, no monsters, no sieges – just human interaction and it makes for an engaging story indeed. It played out like an old western in space with the pirates as bandits, the space corps as cavalry and Dom and Milo as the old prospectors.

Some thoughts:

·         Again the companions are served well and act, on the whole, true to their characters. Jamie tells Zoe that she should eat more porridge when she can’t open the door. Zoe doesn’t understand what a candle is and needs the Doctor’s explanation (and why should a girl from the future recognise one). It is the little touches like this which lift the characterisation and the story above the average.

·         The rearing of sexism’s ugly head once more. Zoe has fared better than most but finally yet again they have the female character in the kitchen making the tea. What a waste for the human computer.

·         Milo Clancy was a great character (dodgy accent aside – or was this just an interesting future accent?) and his relationship with the Liz (cooking eggs on board/ bashing the instrument panels to make them work) looked a little like the template which would come to exist more frequently of the Doctor’s relationship with the TARDIS.

·         General Hermack took overacting and shoutiness to new heights. He reminded me of a muppet and I kept expecting him to scream out: “Pigs in Spaaaaace!” And then of course there was Ian. Why does the name strike me as so funny? Maybe it just seemed so out of place when boomed by Hermack.

·         I felt that overall the six episodes worked well. There was a good set up in episode one with the TARDIS not arriving for the first fifteen minutes. Then the idea of the split up space beacon was a good one in episode two. Then we finally settled down to the main storyline in episodes three to six.

A credible 6 and a half out of 10. An excellent season so far (with the exception of the Dominators). And suddenly there’s just the War Games to go!

          Captain Link                         General Hermack

Idiom's picture

I love the War Games. It has always reminded me somewhat of one of my favourite books: To Your Scattered Bodies Go. The idea of people from many times and places finding themselves together somewhere else, the playthings of some god-like alien creatures. The tone is set here, I feel, for much of Doctor Who to come and echoes of which reverberate right up until The End of Time. Because it is here that we meet the Doctor’s people for the first time. The distant, arrogant alien race who make judgements about the rest of time and space without the blink of an eye. And if they are god-like, then it is an cold god who does not feel or see life in the same way as mortals, but instead manipulates and orders and destroys with an unseen plan of its own. Except, of course, for the Doctor who understands the beauty of mortality and feels a need to exist alongside this beauty. He has come a long way since Ian and Barbara stumbled upon the police box in the junk yard, and still he has a very long way to go, but this Doctor is a very different person indeed. This is not a Doctor who would kidnap two innocents just to protect his own liberty and nomadic way of life. No, this is a Doctor who would surrender his freedom to the people from whom he has been running for so long as he knows that there is no other way to defeat the War Lords and save the innocents stolen from their own time streams. In so many ways, this story is the fitting end to an era and the beginning of something completely new.

·         Excellent first two episodes with one of the greatest cliff hangers of the story to date. Took its time to reveal but without feeling too slow. Loved the teaming up of Highlander and Redcoat early on. Then the build up through the rest of the story is just as good, the introduction of the other zones, then the centre, then the resistance and finally the Time Lords. This is how a long story should work. So many six-parters during the Troughton era have left me huffing and puffing and wishing they’d been one or two episodes shorter, but I just wanted the War games to go on and on.

·         An excellent set of supporting characters drip fed slowly into the story: Fabulous villains. The War Chief exuded alien-ness, and the look between the Doctor and the him when they first see each other speaks volumes. Phillip Madoc again in such a short period of time, but I would hardly have recognised him. A real tour de force of how to act quiet menace – he positively dripped controlled violence. Then there were the other assorted generals and the Security Chief  - each memorable in their own nasty way. And the Goodies: I absolutely loved the idea of a resistance made up from soldiers from all the different time periods – shame we didn’t see more of the Romans though.

·         Wow! Alien bases with pop art concentric circles and surreal designs? If only the War Lords could have concentrated more on their obvious artistic side, they wouldn’t have needed all those soldiers to express their repressed creativity. However, maybe it was the War Ladies who decorated the bases.

·         The box that the Doctor sends off to contact the Time Lords was used again in Vampire Science.

·         The Time Lords are more like the God-like creatures that we occasionally saw in Star Trek than the puffed up and corrupt bureaucrats that we meet later. Here you have the real feeling that they are unbeatable and that the rest of creation would be theirs to play with if only they could even be bothered. I just checked out the chief Time Lord on Wiki as I knew I recognised him from somewhere. Of course! He was Lemuel Gulliver in the Mind Robber.

·         The sight of the Doctor stepping from the TARDIS on Gallifrey for the first time, looking like a scolded school boy. Patrick Troughton positively exuded vulnerability and you really began to feel as a viewer that the stakes were much higher than they have been before for the Doctor. Such a touching scene when Zoe and Jamie say goodbye. Such a feeling of injustice as the Second Doctor whirls away into the vortex powerless to stop the Time Lords from controlling his destiny.

A brilliant ending. I can’t believe that it was written on the hoof by Terrance Docks and Malcolm Hulke to fill in for two stories that fell through. It is a real classic from a classic season. Added to the fact that a lot of it was filmed just up the road from me...well, you just gotta love it. 9 out of 10. Just lacking a few Romans and a bit more of a punch during the Doctor’s trial (would like to have seen Jamie and Zoe testifying) and it would have been perfect.

Idiom's picture

In my opinion, the strongest of the Troughton seasons. Started off with my least favourite Second Doctor story, The Dominators (a turgid and just plain weird story of badly designed robots and cross dressing). But then picked up big time with the fabulous surrealism of the Mind Robber (did well what the Celestial Toymaker so failed to do), the second best of all the cybermen stories, the Invasion, Robert Holmes’s (how can you fault him?) interesting Krotons, the Seeds of Death giving the Ice Warriors a true place in Doctor Who lore, the refreshingly different Space Pirates and finally the epic and fitting end for the second Doctor that is the War Games.

My thoughts:

·         The inclusion of Zoe as the first credible female companion in a long time, along with the chemistry of Jamie and the Second Doctor helped to build the best TARDIS crew since Ian, Barbara, Susan and the First Doctor. For the first time in a long time, it really felt as if the characters had real personalities (rather than just the same parts being inhabited by a stream of different actors) which were used and at least to some extent explored. I used to think Zoe an irritation but now she’s has shot right up into my list of favourites. Big Dave you were right! Also she could stand as the living personification of pertness.

·         Lots of mould-breaking stories – unlike the previous season in which the Enemy of the World was the only story which stood out as being different from the Base under siege formula. Here we have some very different stories and an attempt to do some things which hadn’t been done in Doctor Who up until this point.

·         One of the main reasons that I liked the first Troughton series (and didn’t like the second series so much) was the fact that it seemed to have found the optimum length of a Doctor Who story: 4-parts. Ironically, then, this series which I like so much more has only two four-parters (one of which is the story which I find hardest to like). No, here we have a 5-parter, six-parters, a 7-parter and even a 10-parter, and yet it feels as if the production team have really found their feet with the longer stories and understood that there needs to be a change of pace or scene or style to break the larger whole into more acceptable plot-pieces.

·         And what a way to finish. So many other series would have been tempted to shatter the mystery of their main character a lot sooner and here we are six series in and we only just begin to learn about the enigma that is the Doctor (in fact, here we are forty odd years later and the mystery remains intact).

So, unsurprisingly – Best story: the Invasion (with the War Games a very close second). Worst story: the Dominators. Overall, an excellent 8 out of 10.

Idiom's picture

In many ways, the adventures of the second Doctor are quite hard to judge, what with the main legacy of the BBC’s policy to junk tapes of early stories falling here (in particular series 5). Without the actual video footage, we have only the audio, the reconstructions and the early Target novels to go on. If it were down to the latter, then this would remain one of my favourite periods of the show’s history – Yetis in the Himalayas and the London underground, ice warriors during the second ice age, Cybermen in tombs, on the moon, in space stations and finally coming out of the sewers and attacking London – there is much to love here in terms of exciting ideas. However, whereas the novels always had the ability to inspire one’s imagination, the audio by themselves with no video suffer. For the longer stories such as the Abominable Snowmen, I found myself loving the existing footage but struggling to concentrate on the reconstructions. It was the stories whose novels I had so greedily consumed when I was younger, which suffered the most (how could anything live up to a seven-year-old’s imagination?), and therefore, disappointingly some of the stories weren’t as good as I’d imagined them to be.

But there is a flip side and that is the stories which I knew little about and which I had always assumed wouldn’t be as good but which exceeded my expectations: the Highlanders (a fantastic historical – such a shame that it was the only one during Troughton’s reign) and the Enemy of the World being examples in case.

Some thoughts:

·         Just as there was a distinct change in the character of the First Doctor, who began to soften and take on the characteristics of the humans that he surrounded himself with, so we see an evolution to Troughton’s Doctor – at first he is very oddball with the recorder, the accents and a penchant for hats. This is slowly toned down, however, throughout the three series, revealing a darker side (this foreshadowing of the manipulative seventh Doctor is shown particularly in Evil of the Daleks), a strength of character and a willingness to do the right thing even if that does result in sacrifice. This latter aspect is not something that we ever saw with the First Doctor but has come with exposed contact to human beings. The long time spent with Jamie and the taking on of the role of Victoria’s guardian have helped to bring out the ‘humanity’ of the Doctor.

·         The companions, for me, stood out more than the latter years of Hartnell’s Doctor. I particularly liked Ben, Jamie, Zoe (for whom an attempt was made to round them out as real characters from a particular time and place and with the knowledge and beliefs which they have brought with them from their previous lives). It was a shame about Victoria and Polly, who reverted to the screaming girly template. Polly put the Kettle on, indeed.

·         When we talk about the base under siege type of story, although it really started with the Tenth Planet, it is the Troughton years which are very strongly characterised by these types of stories. This is especially true of series 5 in which we see a Monastery, the London Underground, a space station, an outpost on Telos and a refinery all under siege at one point or another – mainly by Yeti and Cybermen.  However, this is not as true of series 4 or 6, and there are some real gems which try to do something new: look at the Mind Robber, the Highlanders and the War Games for excellent examples of this. My biggest wish about this era is that there had been more pure historicals.

Overall, then, although I prefer the stories of the First Doctor, I love what happens to the Doctor as a person during Troughton’s era. After Ian, Barbara and Susan left the show became solely about the Doctor and not so much an ensemble piece. Maybe we would have still watched and liked it if the Doctor had retained the cold, selfish persona that was initially given to the time lord. However, without the compassion and humanity that is slowly introduced (and much more during his second incarnation), I doubt very much that we would have loved the programme and the doctor as much as we do.

It is often said that of all the Doctors, the hardest job was Patrick Troughton’s. Without his excellent portrayal, the programme may not have survived much past its fourth series. I wholeheartedly agree.

Oh my giddy aunt. It’s John Pertwee next and in glorious, glorious colour (well, mostly)!

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