Category Archives: second doctor

The Two Doctors

Oh my giddy aunt! What the bloody hell did I just watch? You might think, from the name, that The Two Doctors would be a team-up of Time Lords on a lighthearted adventure against some iconic bad-dudes, particularly with the inclusion of Patrick Troughton as the jolly and childish second Doctor. What I didn’t expect was this utterly bizarre trip through cannibalism, torture and some the darkest and weirdest themes Doctor Who has ever tackled. Was this even considered a kids’ show by this point? The decline into dark themes has been gradual, I admit, but this is a world away from the sort of story The Five Doctors was, just a year or so prior.

Dastari and Chessene try to discover the secret of Time Lord symbiotic nuclei.

Dastari and Chessene try to discover the secret of Time Lord symbiotic nuclei.

Things start off strangely in the second Doctor’s Tardis. Now, it’s great to see Frazer Hines back as Jamie, one of the longest-serving companions, but it is quite obvious that he’s nearly twenty years older. Even Patrick Troughton’s wig is now grey, and in addition to the clearly modern design of the control room, it suggests this version of the Doctor is set along some parallel timeline in which he never regenerated. He’s even on a mission for the Time Lords, which did not happen in the original timeline, and moreover the sixth Doctor has no memory of this adventure. But this is all completely ignored, and we’re supposed to accept that this all happened in the past (presumably between the points where Victoria left and Zoe joined). I gather there are some woolly ‘fanon’ explanations around for this, but it’s difficult to accept at face value.

The black-and-white opening catches you off-guard, before the colour (and wrinkles) return to their faces.

The black-and-white opening catches you off-guard, before the colour (and wrinkles) return to their faces.

I like Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, and he’s still a pleasure to watch here, but it’s just not the sort of story that suits him. I won’t even get into the bizarre restaurant scene towards the end, because I’m not entirely sure I didn’t just dream the whole thing. Remarkably, though the villains of the piece are the Sontarans, the scariest villain here is undoubtedly the cannibal chef, Shockeye. I have to give credit to the performance; his heavy breathing and leering gaze as he eyes up his prey and sharpens his blades is truly unsettling. The script is dripping with descriptive prose about tearing tender human flesh from the bone and so on, it’s hard to believe that Robert Holmes wrote this as a vegetarian; it comes across more like he was just really hungry. Well, intentionally or not, he’s created one of the scariest villains in Doctor Who, ever.

Dressed for dinner, the Androgum-mutated Doctor and the chef head into town to sample the local cuisine.

Dressed for dinner, the Androgum-mutated Doctor and the chef head into town to sample the local cuisine.

Almost everything about this story has a wicked tone, from the computer that tries to casually murder them on the space station, to the repeated capture of the heroes. Poor Peri is attacked by Jamie, chased through the Spanish heat and knocked unconscious by Shockeye, is literally seconds away from having her throat cut, and goes through the whole ordeal in a skimpy little outfit. Jamie doesn’t fare much better; in fact no-one really comes away well. The poor lady of the villa gets casually offed in seconds, the truck driver is killed and so is Oscar the restaurateur when Shockeye stabs him. Yes, this is a Doctor Who story where a cannibal goes around bludgeoning an elderly woman and stabbing people. What the actual flip?

Peri and Jamie meet in less than ideal conditions. In fact, I think he tries to hump her.

Peri and Jamie meet in less than ideal conditions. In fact, I think he tries to hump her.

And it’s another story where the Doctor blithely goes along with it. He puts Peri in danger repeatedly (the bit where he tells her to go into the dangerous house on her own is almost laughable; it’s like a horror parody), and he once again has little regard for life as he kills Shockeye with some cyanide(!!!). Although I can’t say he didn’t have it coming, did we really need the Doctor to offer another witty quip afterwards?

Continuing the theme of grotesque deaths, Stike the Sontaran gets burned by acid and then blown up.

Continuing the theme of grotesque deaths, Stike the Sontaran gets burned by acid and then blown up.

Frankly, this is one of the strangest pieces of television entertainment I think I have ever watched. While there is an interesting central plot, lots of it is just weird tangential filler (possibly because the runtime is 50% longer than the current norm) and it’s just filled with really dark humour and unsettling scenes throughout. I can’t say it’s entirely without merit, because I’m all for pushing boundaries and trying new things, and I would much rather it be bizarrely interesting and darkly comic than, I dunno, boring and bland. But, just, wow. I’m lost for words. And I really fancy a shepherd’s pie.

The Five Doctors

Following on from the 20th season is this remarkable anniversary special, originally broadcast to celebrate the show’s 20th year on the air. To replicate the original experience, I would have preferred to have seen the originally broadcast version, but circumstances led me unwittingly to the special edition released much later, with some of the visual and audio effects updated, so I can only comment on this version.

The Doctors meet!

The Doctors meet!

Much like The Three Doctors, the story is little more than an excuse to get the previous incarnations of the Doctor together, plucked out of time and placed inside an elaborate ancient war game. It’s a shame that Tom Baker decided to opt out and that William Hartnell was no longer alive, as this special really ought to be called “The three and a Half Doctors (plus friends)”, but that’s not as catchy. Nevertheless, it’s a delight to see Patrick Troughton (does that man not age?!), and Jon Pertwee back again, while Richard Hurndall takes over as the first Doctor, and some previously unseen footage from Shada is used to explain the fourth Doctor’s absence. Clever!

Trapped within a maze of mirrors, the first Doctor and his granddaughter Susan are reunited. How's that non-existent pocket of 22nd century post Dalek-invaded Earth been keeping you, Sue?

Trapped within a maze of mirrors, the first Doctor and his granddaughter Susan are reunited. How’s that non-existent pocket of 22nd century post Dalek-invaded Earth been keeping you, Sue?

Despite the absentees, The Five Doctors is a glorious celebration of the show’s history, using every available cast member, reference and villain it can reasonably squeeze into its 100 minute runtime. I genuinely had no idea that a 20-year older Carole Ann Ford would return to play Susan, nor the cameos by Jamie, Zoe, Liz and Yates. And that’s on top of a bright yellow Bessie, Lethbridge-Stewart, The Master, Yetis, Cybermen and a Dalek all running around the battlefield (there’s even time to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!). It’s a smorgasbord of nostalgia, a who’s who of Who, and it’s quite amazing that it all works so well.

Turlough doesn't have much to do in this story, but Tegan accompanies the first Doctor into the tower, while Susan remains in the Tardis.

Turlough doesn’t have much to do in this story, but Tegan accompanies the first Doctor into the tower, while Susan remains in the Tardis.

Essentially, the story splits and jumps back and forth to follow each Doctor and a companion as they each take a different route up to the tower of Rassilon. This allows them some breathing space (as well as time to reminisce with old friends), but it does make the story a little scattershot, never settling in one place for very long, until a satisfying culmination towards the end. The lack of arbitrarily dramatic cliffhangers is a blessing; this is just one epic feature without cuts.

Sarah Jane is still Sarah Jane, panicked and often hyperventilating. The third Doctor is still the third Doctor, determined and confident. I swear he cops a feel of her boob at one point.

Sarah Jane is still Sarah Jane, panicked and often hyperventilating. The third Doctor is still the third Doctor, determined and confident. I swear he cops a feel of her boob at one point.

The fifth Doctor is the anchoring point, but he spends much of the story on Gallifrey, outside of the Death Zone, where he uncovers the President’s secret plans for immortality. Yes, sadly, there is corruption on Gallifrey yet again. This is becoming an embarrassing cliché and I can’t blame the Doctor for not wanting to stick around as President. He does get a brief moment to meet his past selves, which is nicely done. You can get a good sense of how the different versions of the Doctor vary. Davison is definitely the least eccentric of the bunch, a normal and level-headed type by comparison. Pertwee and Troughton play their roles much as they ever did, despite the years in between, and Richard Hurndall does a reasonable job of approximating some of Hartnell’s performance, although it would have been more authentic if he’d fluffed his lines a few times and ended all his sentences with “hmm?”.

Lord President Borusa gets more than he bargained for when Rassilon grants him immortality.

Lord President Borusa gets more than he bargained for when Rassilon grants him immortality.

The Five Doctors is hardly a masterpiece of imagination, then, but it’s nevertheless well made and a lovely tribute to the history of the show. The sort of silly-but-fun “why the hell not” exercise I can easily get behind. As it’s a one-off special, the budget would appear to have allowed for better production and visuals. One scene in particular is genuinely great, as a robot ninja busts up a legion of cybermen, teleporting around and lobbing arrows at them, causing them to explode and fall to pieces, arms and heads everywhere. Earlier, a rogue Dalek shoots itself in a hall of mirrors and within its exploded remains is its rarely-sighted grotesque embryo. Marvelous!

Total carnage.  I bet Hideo Kojima was a fan

Total carnage. I bet Hideo Kojima was a fan.

Sometimes logic has to fly out of the window, though. For instance, the second Doctor tricks the illusion of Jamie and Zoe by recalling that they shouldn’t know who he is, since their memories were wiped when they were returned to their time zones. But by the same reasoning, how would the Doctor have remembered that, as it happened almost immediately prior to his regeneration and exile on Earth. He would have had to have been pulled from the past moments before this, but there’s no indication this is the case when he turns up to visit the Brigadier. Similarly, why exactly is K-9 with Sarah Jane? Mk.I was left on Gallifrey with Leela and Mk.II was left with Romana (in a black-and-white photograph). I suppose it doesn’t matter, really; some questions are best left unanswered for the sake of a bit of fun, and this was a lot of fun. Job done.

The Three Doctors

So, ten years. I’ve managed to watch nearly ten years’ worth of Doctor Who in under ten months. This calls for an anniversary special…

When the very universe itself is threatened by an antimatter-spewing blackhole controlled by an ancient ex-Time Lord called Omega, who can the council of Time Lords turn to to save the day (and every other day)? By breaking the laws of time itself, they pull the Doctors of the past into the present. When one Doctor isn’t enough, it’s time for the power of three!

Omega, the man with no face.

Omega, the man with no face.

This is a very silly premise, purely an excuse to get William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton back for a special event… but I can’t help finding it a lot of fun. Frankly, any excuse to get Patrick Troughton back is fine with me, and he’s absolutely the highlight of this particular serial. He plays it perhaps a tad more jovial than he used to, exaggerated for effect I suppose, but he’s superb.

The Doctor's recorder quite literally saves the universe.

The Doctor’s recorder quite literally saves the universe.

William Hartnell is another matter. In 1972/73, he was very ill, and whatever role they had planned for his character was downsized to some pre-recorded segments, the idea being that he was trapped outside in a vortex and couldn’t join the other two in person. But this does suit his character well enough, as he is able to offer his wisdom and advice from afar. His eccentricities are largely absent here, understandably so – he gives quite a sober performance. I was sad to learn that this was the last bit of acting he did, and he sadly passed away a couple of years later. Quite remarkable that he managed this role one last time.

Trapped outside while in transit, the first Doctor can only offer advice through the Tardis monitor.

Trapped outside while in transit, the first Doctor can only offer advice through the Tardis monitor.

Still, it’s Pertwee’s Doctor that does most of the heroics, but he plays off of Troughton well, and their little arguments are amusing to watch – Troughton obsessing over his lost recorder and Pertwee losing his temper, it really shows the difference between the two of them. Naturally, the Brigadier is mightily confused by the whole ordeal, refusing to believe to reality of the situation happening before his very eyes. But meeting the Doctor he recognises from years ago, and trying to explain to headquarters, is fun. I hadn’t realised, but none of the UNIT lot had been inside the Tardis before this… and presumably, this is the last time they will.

The Brigadier is confused, often. He's great, though.

The Brigadier is confused, often. He’s great, though.

Having put their collective heads together, Omega is tricked into releasing them all and destroying his blackhole. Having saved the Time Lords, they grant the Doctor his freedom, ending his exile, and the Doctors of the past are returned to their time zones. Omega is a tragic character, revered for his work in making time travel possible, but abandoned by the very people he helped, and trapped forever in a world he created but cannot leave. It’s the sad side to this rather fun coin.

And it was fun. I got a kick out seeing these three versions of the character together, as I’m sure fans did back in the day as well. For once, I would have actually liked the story to be longer!

[The Second Doctor: Summary + Best Episodes]

A remarkable thing happened when Patrick Troughton took over the leading role on Doctor Who – the show changed from ‘occasionally good’, to ‘often great’. I can’t put that entirely down to the character, because it seemed to me a result of the writing and the types of stories that they wanted to tell. Half of William Hartnell’s run were historical type stories, where our heroes would be temporarily trapped in the past. The other half would be futuristic or science-fiction based. After the Doctor’s regeneration, this changes – there is only one ‘pure history’ story (probably a leftover script) and that’s it, not a single other. Every story from then on is either set in the future, or set in the present day, or has some sort of alien threat or science-fiction element to it. Oh, and monsters. Lots of monsters. The start of The War Games is even more stark, then, since it seems like the first historical episode in three years, and even then it turns out it isn’t!

Basically, I want to point out that the improvements made (and they were massive improvements – I was tempted to give up during some of Hartnell’s more boring episodes) are not purely down to the change in actor, nor just the stories, but both of these things combined. I can appreciate the difficulties Hartnell had, but also the writers, in pinning down exactly what sort of show they wanted Doctor Who to be. Arguably, that’s something that is still happening to this day.

There were some other series mainstays introduced during Troughton’s run. For one thing, the title sequence changed (finally!) and introduced ‘the face’. We also got the first use of the Sonic Screwdriver, first use of the alias John Smith, and first appearance of the Earth unit… er… UNIT. And, of course, there was a new Doctor himself.

Thoughts on the Second Doctor

Immediately after regenerating into his new appearance, it’s clear Troughton’s portrayal of the character is markedly different. It’s a confident character, more on top things, more capable. He’s still a little self-involved and weird, but ultimately compassionate. He has a few quirks of his own (a recorder!) and manages to make the character something new.

Troughton gives a thoroughly consistent performance. Whether he’s shouting panic-stricken commands to people or engaging in more solemn discussion about the wonders of time/space travel, so long as the writing it good, he’s always enjoyable to watch, and he becomes what the show needed him to be – a strong leading character. Nonetheless, he’s almost always helped out by the supporting cast, and at times even Jamie has to help set him back on the straight path.

Episode Highlights

It’s difficult to pick out the best episodes of Troughton’s run. Firstly, because the quality is more consistent, so few stand out as remarkable against the rest. Secondly, because so many of these serials are incomplete or missing that I may favour a completed serial over a reconstructed one, despite its quality. That said, I have managed to choose what I think are the best examples, which I now list below.

The Power of the Daleks (6 parts, all missing)
The Tomb of the Cybermen (4 parts, all complete)
The Web of Fear (6 parts, only part 1 complete)
The Invasion (8 parts, 2 missing but animated)
The War Games (10 parts, all complete)

The War Games

I must admit, I don’t know what the fate of Doctor Who was in June 1969, whether it was set to return for a new series, or if this was the end of the line… but watching this now, The War Games feels to me like a finale. A culmination of six years of time and space adventures, where the themes of the show – history, aliens, companionship – all come together in an epic conclusion. And where, six years after Doctor Who first appeared on television screens, someone finally utters those immortal words… “Time Lord”.

The Tardis lands in the middle of World War I... or does it?

The Tardis lands in the middle of World War I… or does it?

I must also admit that I really liked this. I don’t want to go through the intricacies of the plot, as it’s one that’s worth discovering fresh, but it was extremely good sci-fi that reminded me of The Matrix (and other similar concepts). Alongside that, mysteries of the Doctor and his origins are finally revealed, friends depart forever, the Doctor is put on trial, and it all felt like the writers were going all-out on making this one epic conclusion.

The War Chief and The Doctor - Time Lords must run out of names pretty quickly.

The War Chief and The Doctor – Time Lords must run out of names pretty quickly.

I really liked the slow reveal of information, seeing the Doctor react to the realisation of who could be behind all of this, an insight into his character that we haven’t seen until now. Even at ten parts long (nearly four hours), it rarely felt like it was dragging, as each episode ends in some sort of cliff-hanger and I always felt compelled to watch the next part. Truly exciting stuff. Yes, some of the action is still laughably bad, the fights are often badly staged, but overall this had a compelling quality to it, enjoyable performances, a well-paced mystery and ended with the rarest of events… a regeneration.

Shhh... the Doctor sneaks into a 3D film.

Shhh… the Doctor sneaks into a 3D film.

Much of the plot whizzes by amidst the action, but towards the end things slow down, the Doctor reflects on his adventures and says goodbye to his friends.

As it appears this is where Jamie and Zoe are leaving the Doctor, it’s time to reflect on their characters.

Zoe wasn’t with the Doctor for all that long, and mainly served to replace Victoria as the obligatory young female companion. Her defining personality trait was her intelligence, which was occasionally (but rarely) used in the story to their advantage, not least of which in this story, where she is able to memorise the locations and names of the resistance fighters at a glance. When they first met, she was almost devoid of emotion, but it did seem like she developed a sense of humour and a friendship with her companions over time.
She ends up back where she left. The Time Lords send Zoe back to where she first met the Doctor and erased the memories of their adventures together. While she remains safe, I can’t help feel she’ll have lost a certain something… but from the way she looks back one last time, she has a vague recollection of what happened.

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe make one last break for freedom before the Time Lords get them.

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe make one last break for freedom before the Time Lords get them.

Jamie has got to be the longest-running companion yet. He came aboard alongside Ben and Polly, so I expected him to always be something of a third wheel. But somehow, despite everyone coming and going, he stuck it out until the end. He is fiercely loyal, morally-grounded and closer to the Doctor than any of his companions yet. Despite his 18th century highlander origins, he showed remarkable adaptability to whatever situation he was thrown into. He retains some mild misogynistic qualities, but his heart was always in the right place.
Like Zoe, the Time Lords returned him to his own place in time and space, with no memories of having joined the Doctor. I can only hope that something of their time together remains within him.

Awaiting his trial, the Doctor plays clock patience. Brilliant!

Awaiting his trial, the Doctor plays clock patience. Brilliant!

Now, with the trial over, the Doctor is exiled to Earth. Stripped of his visage and the use of his Tardis, he is forced to undergo a transformation. This is not the end… but a new beginning.

The Space Pirates

At first, this story is only tangentially related to the Doctor and his companions. The writer seems more interested in setting up this new sci-fi universe, filled with history, politics, corporations and… pirates.

The evil space pirates doing evil piratey things... in space.

The evil space pirates doing evil piratey things… in space.

Attacks on government satellites have finally caught the attention of the Space Corps, who track down a band of pirates who have set up an argonite smuggling operation with a seemingly legit mining company. The Tardis lands in the middle of a raid on one of the satellites, and the Doc and co find themselves shuttled back and forth, caught up in a sting operation, facing death at the end of each episode (although miraculously surviving, the big teases!), and eventually averting atomic disaster and stopping the pirates.

Captain Posh and Commander Yank. Maybe, I can't remember.

Captain Posh and Commander Yank. Maybe, I can’t remember.

A colourful cast of characters helps flesh out the story, with a bizarre mix of accents. The captain of the Space Corps cruiser sounds either ridiculously posh British or German. Or both, I’m not sure. The old timer space trucker Milo Clancy has one of the worst American accents I’ve heard since… well, since the wild west Doctor Who episode! Then there’s the woman in charge of the mining company, whose father is secretly still alive, and the evil pirate boss uses him as leverage to ensure her cooperation, because, y’know, he’s so evil. This sort of self-involved storytelling reminds me of some of the older William Hartnell episodes, except this has the advantage of being futuristic instead of some boring historical setting.

Milo Clancy sits down to eat breakfast in his cockpit.

Milo Clancy sits down to eat breakfast in his cockpit.

The ships and sets and practical special effects are impressive for their time. The show seems to be using more miniatures recently, daring to be a bit more ambitious with its scenarios, which is good. I think Clancy’s old rocket ship might be the same one from The Seeds of Death, but I can’t be sure.

Only one of the six episodes remains complete – the rest are reconstructions and therefore a little harder to follow. If they were all complete, I think the story would be more bearable, but as it stands, it’s difficult to fully recommend it.

This is, thankfully, the last reconstruction I will have to watch. Every episode from here on is complete. This is quite a relief! Next is the final serial of Patrick Troughton’s adventures as the Doctor…

The Seeds of Death

Facilities on the moon are also becoming a ‘thing’ in this series. This makes sense, given the era it was made. The idea that all of Earth’s transport, communications or weather is controlled from an isolated point orbiting the planet is a compelling one, full of hope for the future.

The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie fly to the moon in a rocket ship. The Tardis is no good for short trips.

The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie fly to the moon in a rocket ship. The Tardis is no good for short trips.

In this case, it turns into a weakness. It’s the 21st century (wow!) and Earth has not only developed teleportation technology (called T-Mat), but relies on it for all forms of transportation. So when the central control junction on the moon is attacked by martians, mankind is thrown into disarray.

Unlike the transporters from Star Trek, the T-Mat booths instantly teleport whatever is inside them without any theatrics or sparkles. It's cheaper.

Unlike the transporters from Star Trek, the T-Mat booths instantly teleport whatever is inside them without any theatrics or sparkles. It’s cheaper.

Yes, the Ice Warriors (from The Ice Warriors) are back, and they have their eyes set on conquering the Earth, using the moon as a jumping in point for their invasion. These heavily armoured reptilian creatures may be slow, but they are powerful and deadly, and easily take control of the moon base control centre. Using T-Mat, they teleport deadly fungus spores (seeds) down to Earth, which spread across the world and threaten to transform the atmosphere of Earth into a Mars-like one, killing all human life!

The Martian commander, because he has a different helmet. Same hissy voice, though.

The Martian commander, because he has a different helmet. Same hissy voice, though.

I quite liked this story. It has its contrivances, though. I find it highly unlikely that the entire planet would rely so heavily on this one miraculous teleportation technology. When the world’s food starts running short, I just had to wonder “where are your aeroplanes? Where are your boats and trucks?” They have to bring an old rocket out of retirement just to get a team onto the moon to fix the T-Mat system. Additionally, the entire weather control system for the country appears to be located in an unsecure area, with an unlocked door, manned by a single person, with the controls freely accessible to anybody who enters. Madness!

The suds of death. The Doctor is engulfed in deadly spores.

The suds of death. The Doctor is engulfed in deadly spores.

My only other problem with this serial is the villains. Just like their last appearance, they’re one-dimensional single-minded creatures, lacking any complex motives. However, this suits the plot perfectly well, and on the whole, I found this very watchable and didn’t feel like it dragged on unnecessarily. It was also visually interesting, with good use of special effects for its time.