Skip to main content

When I say run, run! The Second Doctor

(Part 2 from LJ)

General note for this entire series: this will, obviously, be a terribly subjective analysis. Firstly, because I'm me, and my ideas of good and bad will certainly vary differently from those of others. Secondly, because I will be basing my musings on an incomplete assemblage of sources. This includes all of the classic serials on DVD, but no others--I know, I know, but I'm fairly new to Who fandom, and I am not buying VHS tapes that won't even fit anywhere in a year or so. It also includes selected Big Finish audios, which are delightful on the whole. A parting note before I dive in to Doctor number 2: I love the new series, I love the old series, I love all the Doctors, and I love pretty much every companion, so, any criticism or picking which follows, comes from a place of love.

When talking about Patrick Troughton’s time as the Second Doctor, one quickly has to acknowledge the biggest travesty in Who history: the lost episodes. The details are well-known, so I’ll skip them, but, due to the BBC’s ridiculously stupid and short-sighted wiping of master tapes, huge swaths of the show’s history are simply missing. The First Doctor’s era is marred by the loss of several milestone serials, including most of the epic “Dalek Master Plan,” but it is Troughton’s era that bears the brunt. The Second Doctor featured in 23 serials over 3 years. 6 survive in their entirety. Repeat…6. Sure there are episodes here and there and serials, like “The Invasion” which are almost complete, but only 6 survive intact. His first year, where he first met Jamie and traveled with Ben and Polly has no complete serials. His second series has one complete story, “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” the only complete story to feature Victoria Waterfield. From his last season, it is a miracle that five stories survive intact, plus a sixth “The Invasion,” which has had its two missing episodes animated. The loss to future Who fans is almost incalculable. Complaining over.

I love, love, love Pat Troughton's Doctor. Take the First Doctor, lower the crankiness factor and the pretentiousness know-it-all-ness, add a higher level of comic genius, plus a splash more anarchic spirit, and you get the Second Doctor in broad stokes. Like the First Doctor, the Second is largely a man of mystery--there is still no Gallifrey, no Time Lords. Only in his last story does the mystery start to be explained. More than the First Doctor, though, the Second is a bit of a schemer, the one who keeps his eyes open and his mouth shut. There are often occasions where the Second Doctor seems to grasp the full scope of a situation well ahead of anyone else and proceeds subtly to influence events, all the while hiding behind his clownish image. Usually, though, he is caught up by events, stumbling into them in much the same manner as the First Doctor. Whereas the First Doctor fought the Daleks four times, the Second Doctor's most recurring and enduring foe is the Cybermen. In many ways, he was the perfect Doctor to struggle with these human monstrosities. The Cybermen represent many of the worst elements of humanity--the quest for survival at any costs, the callousness, the trend toward to conformity. The Second Doctor, with a seemingly perpetual glint in his eye, is slapdash, non-conformist, possessed by a spirit of zaniness and an intense compassion for life. The Second Doctor is a modern and alien reinterpretation of the Shakesperean Fool. The clown. The cosmic hobo. He's the most human of the Doctors, often prizing gut instinct over logic, even telling Zoe that logic merely enables one to be wrong with authority. Moreso than any Doctor (perhaps save Peter Davison,) he's easy not only to respect and admire but also to love as a person, not as a hero.

No discussion of the Second Doctor, however brief, would be complete without mentioning his companions, especially Jamie, played wonderfully by Frazier Hines. After the show shifted focus during Hartnell's era away from the ensemble and strongly onto the Doctor himself, the companions became much less memorable. No offense to Vicki, Steve, Dodo (poor Dodo), Ben, or Polly, but they were almost non-entities compared to the three first companions, especially Ian and Barbara. Jamie McCrimmon, however, is a Doctor Who legend, the first superstar conpanion. Joining the show in "The Highlanders," the Second Doctor's second story, and the last historical for many years, Jamie remained with the Doctor until sent home at the end of "The War Games." Only a few other Doctor/companion pairings even enter the same realm as that of Jamie and the Doctor. They work wonderfully together and share a great chemistry. Honorable mention must be made of Zoe Herriot. While Victoria Waterfield worked well with the Doctor and Jamie, it's in Zoe that the pair finds the third that really completes the set. The three of them together are sheer magic.

Finally, I have to touch on Troughton's appearances in the multi-Doctor stories. Discounting, the tragically/comically awful "Dimensions in Time," and the new special "Time Crash," Pat Troughton appeared in every multi-Doctor story: "The Three Doctors," "The Five Doctors," and "The Two Doctors," all of which are far better for featuring him. The perpetual rivalry between him and the Third Doctor is a sheer delight. No two Doctors have less in common that the Second and the Third, one of the many the many things that makes the transition between "The War Games" and "Spearhead from Space" such a massive one.

More on that anon...

P.S. -- I just realized that I hadn't mentioned my favorite stories of each era: for Hartnell, I think it's currently "The Time Meddler," though I also strongly encourage that everyone watch the first three serials, packaged together in "The Beginning" boxed set. For Pat Troughton, my personal favorite is "The Mind Robber," though it's such a bizarre story that it's rather unrepresentative. For something more mainstream, watch the restored version of "The Invasion." I also have VERY high hopes for the epic "The War Games" which is coming out on DVD in the USA this year. Yay!


Popular posts from this blog

Prague Blog: Preliminary -- Why?

Since I decided to uproot my entire life, move to a country I have never visited, and train in a career I have no experience with, people have often asked me, "Why?" I'm sure that many of them likely were wondering 'WHY?!?!?!" but, if so, they were polite enough to hide that fact. So, here, as the first (unofficial, preliminary) installment of my Prague Blog, I thought I would try to make the case for why this isn't a completely ridiculous thing to do.

The first starting premise for this is probably a key facet of my personality: I don't like things. Not, "there are things I don't like," but rather, on the whole, I don't care about physical things. I am not a thing person.* To a lesser extent, but still worth mentioning, I am not a creature comforts person. It is true that I go a bit stir crazy when I don't have access to walkable shops, etc., and I do have a great fondness for hot and cold running water and HVAC , but my needs in t…

Prague Blog: Preliminary -- What I Leave Behind

This post if pretty melancholy, and more personal than I often get. If you want more like this (or less), one way to ask is to go to, become a Patron, and then exercise your right to request something more cheerful in the future.


When I first made the decision to move to Prague, I focused solely on the opportuity it presented. Once the decision had been made, however, I started to think of practicalities. Like, how good is their internet speed? (About the same as the USA's, if not better.) How much are smokes? (About $4.50 USD--yes, I know I should quit, but I would rather quit because I want to rather than because it's too expensive.) What's the gay scene like? (So thriving the NYT did a piece on it.) Do they have Pizza Hut? (The chain is returning to Prague this year after a 13 year hiatus.)

Generally, the things that make my life not just tolerable but enjoyable will be available in abundance. Oh, to be sure, t…

Prague Blog: Preliminary -- The Things I'm Carrying, in Video Form

In Book II of the Iliad, Homer (let's just call the author that) enumerates the forces that sailed from Greece to lay siege on Troy, and then does a similar, smaller listing of the Trojan force. The "Catalogue of Ships," as it's known, stops the forward momentum of the epic to make sure the reader understands the scene on the plains outside Troy. At the same time, it establishes a great deal about the power dynamics at play, and provides us greater insight into the characters involved. Sometimes, what (or who) you own can speak volumes about who you are. In that spirit, but with none of the grandeur, I'm making a list of all the things I kept when I left my apartment and, more to the point, all the things I am taking to Prague with me.

The first category is things I'm keeping but not taking. This includes about a hundred books, mostly from my time at St. John's; a Johnnie chair, a college graduation present from my mother; various small items of sentiment…