Friday, 4 September 2009

The Troughton Era

It's goodbye to the Second Doctor, the 1960s and black and white! Here are my final thoughts on the Troughton era.

Complete Troughton era rankings:
1. The War Games 10
2. The Mind Robber 10
3. The Web of Fear 10
4. The Power of the Daleks 10
5. The Tomb of the Cybermen 10
6. The Invasion 9
7. The Enemy of the World 9
8. The Macra Terror 9
9. The Evil of the Daleks 9
10. The Highlanders 8
11. The Seeds of Death 8
12. The Faceless Ones 8
13. The Dominators 7
14. The Wheel in Space 7
15. The Moonbase 6
16. The Krotons 6
17. The Ice Warriors 6
18. Fury from the Deep 6
19. The Abominable Snowmen 5
20. The Underwater Menace 4
21. The Space Pirates 2

Season averages:
Season 4 Troughton portion / 1966-67 7.71
Season 4 overall 1966-67 7.44
Season 5 1967-68 7.57
Season 6 1968-69 7.43

A good spread of scores with about the same average as Hartnells era, managing the same number of 10/10s with fewer stories. With Marco Polo, however, Hartnell still claims the top spot, and overall I'd say despite the growing pains, Hartnell's era is still the superior one, as Troughton's arrival coincided with an increasing sameyness to the stories, and a growing dependence on returning monsters.

It's interesting to note that Troughton's Doctor was poorly received by the audience at the time and viewing figures from his episodes never reached the heights of Hartnell's, despite received fan wisdom now telling us that Troughton is the real prototype for the Doctor, and his era is where the "behind the sofa" meme came from. I think - and I hate to say this - that if all the missing episodes were found, the era would be not be held in such high esteem. Seeing (or listening to) it all in context, immediately following the Hartnell era - as the viewers did at the time - makes it noticeable how formulaic the storytelling is, and that's a massive disappointment by itself, which I made an effort to get over before I considered the merits of each story. Much as I appreciate the strengths of the era - and the few stories which weren't a base-under-siege - at times it feels like the massive universe of the Hartnell era has turned into quite a small universe in the Troughton era, with the same events recurring endlessly with the same few monsters.

If held that against it, I wouldn't be able to see the great things about the era, and there were loads. The base-under-siege format gave us The Power of the Daleks, The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Web of Fear, which alone makes it worthwhile. The two finest stories of the era, The Mind Robber and The War Games, survive in their entirety, which is just fantastic.

The best thing about the era is undeniably Patrick Troughton himself. It pains me to admit it but he is a better actor than William Hartnell, and he creates an entertaining and fascinating character in the Second Doctor. There's a kernel of truth in the notion that future Doctors would follow his example, if only because all three 1980s Doctors cite him as their favourite. The writers have decided on the Docter's heroism as his defining characteristic, and Troughton has the absemindedness of Hartnell's Doctor and combined it with a greater dose of silliness (which I'm sure the kids loved), a greater rapport with his companions (especially Jamie) and a greater sense of the vast intelligence that lies beneath the harmless exterior. Cosmic hobo indeed. Troughton too shows on the whole a better understanding of the scripts, however far-fetched.

For all the reasons I listed in my Hartnell era summary, though, Hartnell is still my favourite. Troughton comes in a close second.

Favourite companion: Jamie McCrimmon
Favourite alien: Ice Warriors
Favourite actor: Patrick Troughton, but Kevin Stoney gives him a run for his money!
Favourite actress: Wendy Padbury
Favourite cliffhanger: The War Games Episode 9 - stunning!
Favourite soundtrack: The Tomb of the Cybermen, I think
Favourite writer: David Whitaker
Favourite villain: Tobias Vaughn! "Packer!"

And the Troughton special category…

Favourite comedic scene: Any of Doctor Von Wer's scenes in The Highlanders

Modes of transport
My quest for a full account of the travels of the Doctor continues with the Troughton era:

As the driver
On foot (all stories)
TARDIS materialisation (all stories)
Climbing (The Underwater Menace, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Mind Robber, The Invasion, The Space Pirates)
Swimming/paddling (The Enemy of the World)
Car (The War Games)
Helicopter (Fury from the Deep)
Space rocket (The Seeds of Death)
Canoe (The Invasion)

As a passenger
Sailing ship (The Highlanders)
Row boat (The Highlanders)
Elevator (The Underwater Menace, The Invasion)
Aeroplane (The Faceless Ones)
Dalek time machine (The Evil of the Daleks)
Car (The Enemy of the World, The Invasion, The War Games)
Being carried (Fury from the Deep, The Wheel in Space)
Helicopter (The Enemy of the World, Fury from the Deep, The Invasion)
Space rocket (The Wheel in Space)
Dulcian travel pod (The Dominators)
Being transported to the Land of Fiction (The Mind Robber)
T-Mat (The Seeds of Death)

Favoured mode of travel: Anything! Seemed to particularly enjoy paddling.

Reverse the polarity... colour begins in the Pertwee years :D.

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