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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!

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