Doctor Who: Looking Back At The PATRICK TROUGHTON Years - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Looking Back At The PATRICK TROUGHTON Years

The era of Patrick Troughton as the Doctor in "Doctor Who," spanning from October 29, 1966, to June 21, 1969, is often heralded as a transformative period that defined much of the show's enduring appeal. This retrospective delves into the origins, legacy, and the significant contributions of the Troughton years to the "Doctor Who" series. Through examining notable adventures, character development, and the behind-the-scenes magic, we uncover the essence of what made this era a pivotal chapter in the show's history.

Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Second Doctor introduced audiences to a character vastly different from his predecessor. Troughton's portrayal was whimsical, cunning, and sometimes enigmatic, setting the precedent for the character's ability to change not only in appearance but in personality. This era saw the Doctor as a cosmic hobo, a traveler with a keen sense of justice, and a penchant for playing the recorder in times of contemplation or distress.

Notable Writers, Producers, and Directors

The Troughton era benefited from the creative talents of writers like David Whitaker, Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln, and Derrick Sherwin; producers Innes Lloyd and Peter Bryant; and directors such as Douglas Camfield and David Maloney. Their collective efforts pushed the boundaries of science fiction storytelling on television, introducing complex narratives and iconic adversaries like the Cybermen and the Ice Warriors. The influence of these creatives extended beyond "Doctor Who," contributing to the landscape of British television with their work on other series and establishing standards for engaging, thought-provoking science fiction.

Notable Adventures

The Power of the Daleks is significant not only for introducing Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor but also for its exploration of themes such as identity and the nature of evil. This story sees the newly regenerated Doctor arriving on the planet Vulcan, where he discovers a group of Daleks that have been found dormant and are being reactivated by a human scientific team. The Daleks feign servitude to manipulate the humans for their ends, leading to a gripping narrative about trust, manipulation, and the underestimation of one's enemy. This serial is a masterclass in suspense and political allegory, reflecting Cold War tensions and the fear of sleeper agents within society.

In The Tomb of the Cybermen the Doctor and his companions land on the planet Telos, where an archaeological expedition aims to uncover the remains of the Cybermen. This story combines elements of horror with science fiction, delving into themes of curiosity and the dangers of seeking power over others. The resurrection of the Cybermen from their tombs serves as a cautionary tale about the hubris of believing one can control ancient and powerful forces. The serial is notable for its atmospheric storytelling, memorable imagery, and the Doctor's complex relationship with the story's moral dilemmas, showcasing Troughton's ability to convey depth and empathy.

The War Games presents a ten-part epic that concludes Troughton's tenure as the Doctor. The story involves the Doctor's discovery of a planet where soldiers from various Earth wars have been kidnapped and forced to fight in an endless conflict orchestrated by the War Lord, with the help of the alien Time Lords. This serial is a powerful commentary on the futility of war and the ethics of intervention. It introduces the Time Lords, revealing the Doctor's origins and setting the stage for future stories. The Doctor's forced regeneration and exile to Earth by the Time Lords for his interference in the affairs of other worlds is a poignant exploration of authority, punishment, and the price of doing what is right.

The Web of Fear is a follow-up to "The Abominable Snowmen" and sees the return of the Yeti and the Great Intelligence, menacing London through the Underground tunnels. This story is a blend of science fiction and horror, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that plays on fears of invasion and the unknown. It also introduces Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, who would later become Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a key figure in the Doctor Who universe. The serial's use of familiar London landmarks, combined with the suspenseful plot, makes it a fan favorite for its effective storytelling and character development.

The Highlanders marks Jamie McCrimmon's first appearance, a companion who would become one of the longest-serving and most beloved characters in the series. Set during the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden in 1746, this story combines historical drama with the series' science fiction elements, exploring themes of loyalty, bravery, and resistance against oppression. The Doctor's role as a mediator and protector of the innocent is highlighted, as is his cunning and humor in outwitting the English soldiers. "The Highlanders" not only provides a vivid backdrop for adventure but also deepens the series' exploration of history, showcasing the Doctor's influence on historical events and his companions' lives.

Character Development and Companions

Troughton's Doctor was a figure of mystery, often using his playful demeanor to mask a sharp intellect and deep emotional complexity. His interactions with companions like Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury), and Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) showcased a range of dynamics, from paternal guidance to genuine friendship and teamwork. These relationships allowed for rich character development and provided audiences with relatable figures through which to experience the wonders and dangers of the Doctor's adventures.

Behind the Scenes Production Details

The production of "Doctor Who" during the Troughton years faced numerous challenges, including budget constraints, the limitations of technology, and the need to produce compelling science fiction on a weekly basis. The creative solutions developed by the production team, such as innovative use of special effects, set designs, and narrative devices, contributed significantly to the show's visual and thematic depth.

The Influence of the Sociopolitical Context

The late 1960s were a time of social change and technological optimism, reflected in the themes of exploration, understanding, and the questioning of authority that permeated the Troughton era. "Doctor Who" tapped into contemporary concerns about the Cold War, the space race, and the counterculture movement, using its narrative to explore complex ethical and philosophical questions.

Comparative Analysis with Contemporary Shows

During the Troughton years (1966-1969), television was undergoing significant changes, with genres expanding and audiences becoming more sophisticated in their tastes. Shows like "Star Trek" (1966-1969) in the United States paralleled "Doctor Who" in their exploration of moral and philosophical issues through the lens of science fiction. While "Star Trek" offered a more utopian view of the future with its diverse crew and emphasis on diplomacy and exploration, "Doctor Who" retained a distinctly British perspective, often focusing on historical adventures and encounters with alien threats. Both shows, however, shared a common interest in addressing social issues of the time, such as war, race, and the potential dangers of technology.

Another contemporary, "The Avengers" (1961-1969), blended spy-fi with eccentric characters and whimsical plots, somewhat reflecting the whimsical nature of Troughton's Doctor. However, "Doctor Who" differentiated itself with its unique approach to time travel, allowing for a broader and more varied exploration of both historical and futuristic settings.

Legacy and Reception

The Patrick Troughton years solidified "Doctor Who's" place in the pantheon of classic science fiction, with high viewing figures and critical acclaim for its innovative storytelling and character development. This era's influence is evident in the continued popularity of the characters and stories introduced, as well as in the narrative and thematic directions the series has explored in subsequent years.

Fitting into Today's Television Landscape

In today's television landscape, characterized by complex narratives, high production values, and an emphasis on character development, the Troughton era of "Doctor Who" remains remarkably relevant. Modern shows such as "Black Mirror" and "Stranger Things" echo the blend of science fiction and horror that was prominent in Troughton's tenure, exploring the implications of technology and the supernatural on society and the individual. However, the episodic nature of "Doctor Who," with story arcs spanning multiple episodes, contrasts with the current trend towards serialized storytelling.

The character-driven stories and moral complexity found in Troughton's "Doctor Who" can be seen in contemporary series across genres, demonstrating the timeless appeal of these narrative elements. Moreover, the introduction of regeneration during the Troughton era laid the groundwork for the series' longevity, allowing "Doctor Who" to reinvent itself repeatedly, reflecting changes in societal values and technological advancements over the decades.

The current success of "Doctor Who," with its diverse cast and exploration of contemporary issues, owes much to the foundations laid during the Troughton years. The series' ability to balance light-hearted adventure with thought-provoking themes continues to resonate with audiences, demonstrating the enduring relevance of its early years. The Troughton era, with its emphasis on the fluidity of identity, exploration of the unknown, and the moral dilemmas posed by science and technology, provides a template for modern storytelling in science fiction and beyond.


Reflecting on the Patrick Troughton years offers insight into the enduring appeal of "Doctor Who." This era established key elements of the series' mythology, explored new narrative possibilities, and introduced a more dynamic and complex portrayal of the Doctor. As "Doctor Who" continues to evolve, the Troughton years remain a touchstone for creativity, imagination, and the timeless adventure of exploring the unknown.

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