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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 506 > TAKE TWO: 50 YEARS OF THE SECOND DOCTOR

TAKE TWO: 50 YEARS OF THE SECOND DOCTOR

In November 1966, Doctor Who undertook its trickiest challenge yet. Could it survive with a brand new lead actor? Half a century later, we celebrate the lasting legacy of the Second Doctor’s era...

In November 1966, Doctor Who undertook its trickiest challenge yet. Could it survive with a brand new lead actor? Half a century later, we celebrate the lasting legacy of the Second Doctor’s era...

This November, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the début of the Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton. It’s the moment when Doctor Who completes its first cycle of change and renewal, with the departure of the final original cast member.

But to understand how Doctor Who changed when Patrick Troughton took over the lead role, you first need to consider what Doctor Who was before. With William Hartnell as the Doctor, Doctor Who had been two shows. Firstly, it had been a moderately successful educational series for children, in which the Doctor and his friends visited colourful moments from history and learned improving moral lessons on visits to far-flung worlds and the future. And, secondly, it had been a wildly successful sci-fi series written by Terry Nation in which the Doctor fought evil alien monsters. These two series co-existed, but when Innes Lloyd took over as producer in 1966 he quickly came to the conclusion that Doctor Who was at its best when it was an adventure series of “thrill and horror” aimed at 14-year-olds, and by the time Troughton took over the role Doctor Who was all about the monsters.

Troughton’s Doctor Who was all about the scares…

It was all about covert alien invasions, giant crabs and robot yeti lunging from the shadows, Daleks devising devious deceptions, Cybermen and Ice Warriors emerging from entombment, and seaweed monstrosities writhing in the foam. It was all about possession, about neurotic authority figures on the brink of a nervous breakdown, about isolated bases being besieged or infiltrated or, usually, both. The show now had one single raison d’être; to scare.

That is the fundamental difference with the Troughton era. It has what Lloyd termed “added menace”, while, interviewed in 1982, script editor Gerry Davis confirmed that his goal was to “make the programme frightening”. Both Lloyd and Davis were opposed to the show depicting violence or anything related to children’s lives (Lloyd considering the injections in The Underwater Menace a mistake) while the budget limited how effective the monsters could actually be, so the formula they adopted, which is the essence of the Troughton era, was to tell stories where the focus is on a creeping sense of dread. Nearly all his ‘monster’ stories are about something dreadful lurking off-screen; something terrible which is yet to happen. It is all about the anticipation, the fear created in the viewers’ imaginations. The Power of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks are both played out as waiting games, anticipating the moment when the Daleks will revert to type and start exterminating everyone.

The Cybermen stories are all based around deferring the moment when the Cybermen appear for as long as possible, making that first appearance as striking as possible, and avoiding any scenes where they actually talk if at all possible. It could be argued that the stories The Faceless Ones, The Web of Fear and Fury from the Deep are not exactly the most rigorous in terms of plot logic, but they are not exercises in logic, they are exercises in suspense and creating shocking moments of nightmare-fuel. And that sense of dread is central to the characterisation of the Second Doctor. He spends much of his time in a state of nervous apprehension, giving warnings that go unheeded, out of his depth, overawed, and genuinely afraid of his enemies and their intentions.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

DWM 506 celebrate 50 Years of the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton. Contents include: behind the scenes on the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks; the Second Doctor's era is explored in a feature by Jonathan Morris; 1968's Fury from the Deep is reviewed; showrunner Steven Moffat answers readers' questions; a biography of Peter Brachacki, the man who designed the TARDIS back in 1963; The Fact of Fiction looks back at 2005's The End of the World; directors Ed Bazalgette, Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel O'Hara and Daniel Nettheim reveal more secrets of their work on Doctor Who in the second part of DWM's exclusive interviews; Comic Strip - Bloodsport Part 2, written by Mark Wright and illustrated by Staz Johnson; The Time Team watch 2010's The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang; plus reviews, previews, prize-winning competitions, the latest official news, fun and nonsense with the Watcher and much, much more.
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