3. THE COSMIC HOBO

"Doctor Who indulged my passion for clowning." - PATRICK TROUGHTON

Patrick Troughton's interpretation of the Doctor was very well received by the viewing public, who found his comedy antics a great improvement of William Hartnell's brusqueness. Tom Baker, who played the Doctor from 1974 to 1981 explains Troughton's appeal:

"Pat was like a pixie, bouncing around with his recorder and waving underwear all over the place. Bill was very austere and grandfatherly, but Pat was like a friend to the children, who would look after them. A lot of women liked him as well, but that is understandable, isn't it? Like me. Ha ha ha ha ha ha."

With his companions Jamie McCrimmon [1] and Victoria Waterfield, the second Doctor took the late Sixties by storm, moving away from the historical stories of old and battling against evil all over the cosmos. However, the dreaded Daleks made just two appearances, and , were killed off for good in the epic The Evil Of The Daleks. The reason for the end of the monsters which had cemented Doctor Who's success was simple - Terry Nation had withdrawn his copyright on them, hoping to launch them in their own TV series in America. To compensate, the Cybermen, the Ice Warriors and the Yeti were brought in, terrifying the viewers and keeping them glued to their televisions every Saturday night.

However by 1968, the programme's popularity was on the wane, and producer Peter Bryant decided to set several stories on near contemporary Earth, as he felt it was more frightening to think of "a Yeti sitting on your loo in Tooting Bec" [2]. The Yeti made their first "contemporary" appearance in The Web Of Fear, which also featured the debut appearance of Colonel Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney. Later promoted to Brigadier, Lethbridge Stewart was to become a staple figure in Doctor Who, and his next appearance, in The Invasion, introduced UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, which was headed by the newly promoted Brigadier. UNIT was, according to Peter Bryant, "set up to prevent Earth being attacked by aliens", and was quite successful, prompting the production team to decide that from 1970 the Doctor would be exiled to Earth and forced to help UNIT as their Scientific Advisor. Patrick Troughton was very excited by this idea, but problems arose for him whilst working on The Seeds Of Death, when William Hartnell arrived unexpectedly in the studio, thinking that he was still the Doctor and began ordering people around. In an American book about the series [3], Peter Bryant recalled what happened:

"Pat was very irritated by Bill's mad behaviour, and went over and told him to get out, but Bill started telling everyone about the time he said, 'One day, I shall come back', and explained that the time was now. Things got worse and worse, particularly when Bill saw Wendy Padbury [who played companion Zoe], as she was wearing a very sixties 'dolly bird' costume. He called it explicit porn, and said we were all cursed. The BBC security men then threw him out, but I was saddened by such a great man being reduced to foolishness by his illness."

This incident disturbed Troughton greatly, and he announced that he wanted to leave the programme, as did Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. This caused a great deal of consternation, as Peter Bryant was also bent on leaving to work on more adult drama programmes. Despite a lot of persuasion from the BBC chiefs, Troughton refused to acquiesce and the Head of Serials decided that Doctor Who had reached it's natural conclusion, and that The War Games would be the last ever Who story. It seemed that the good Doctor was doomed never to appear again.

However, Peter Bryant was unable to come up with a decent alternative to the programme for the early Saturday evening slot, and Doctor Who was given a last minute reprieve. It was decided by BBC chiefs that the Doctor would be put on trial by his own people, the Time Lords at the end of The War Games and then exiled to Earth in the storyline planned for Patrick Troughton. However, now a new actor would be playing the role of the Doctor, and it was left to Peter Bryant to find the new leading man. His eventual choice, Jon Pertwee, recalls what happened:

"Now when Pat decided to quit, I rang my agent and asked him to put my name forward. There was this terrible silence, and he said, 'Are you sure? I don't think you're quite what they're looking for'. I said, 'Fine, but do it anyway'. So he did, and rang the BBC and suggested me as Doctor Who. There was another long silence, and my agent said, 'Quite right, that was my reaction',  but the person at the BBC said, 'No, it's just that we're flabbergasted. Jon is second on our short-list', and I had been for months, and none of us ever knew!" [4]

With a new Doctor found, Bryant and incoming script editor Terrance Dicks began to look for companions. Nicholas Courtney had already signed up to reprise his role as the Brigadier, and a handsome young actor called John Levene had been installed as one Sergeant Benton, but Bryant and Dicks wanted a girl, but not, as Dicks recalls, "a typical dolly. We wanted someone with a bit of a brain as well". They found her in Caroline John, a glamorous beauty who would play the role of Liz Shaw, the Doctor's scientific helper. The new team was in place, for the start of a new decade of Doctor Who.


 


[1]  Played by Frazer Hines, Jamie was one of the Doctor's most popular companions. Hines even released a pop single, entitled "Who's Doctor Who?" but unfortunately it flopped dismally, prompting the intended follow-up, "Jamie's Awae In His Time Machine" to be axed.

[2]  This concept of a Yeti using a lavatory in a London borough was initially used by Jon Pertwee.

[3]  Doctor Who In The Swinging Sixties by Eric Luskin (Star Books, 1988).

[4]  Jon used this anecdote on many occasions during his life, perhaps one of the reasons why he became known as a great raconteur.