This post consists of my recommendations for Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.
One recommendation for watching Classic Doctor Who, which I forgot to mention last time, is that because many of the stories are quite long (4-6 half hour parts is average, some stories run to 7, 8, 10, even 12 parts), I recommend not using the Play All feature on longer stories, but watching the longer story over two or more nights. In general, any story that is six or more episodes long I plan on watching over two nights. For example, for a seven-parter, I’ll watch episodes 1-3 the first night and 4-7 the second night. And, of course, if you are really pressed for time, watching the classic stories one episode a night is perfectly OK – after all, the original presentation was one half-hour episode a week!
I quite like Patrick Troughton’s Doctor – and he has to be given a lot of credit, if Troughton hadn’t been so successful in taking over the role, both providing his own interpretation and creating a continuity of the character of the Doctor, Doctor Who never would have lasted 50 years, and would have, instead been a footnote in British SF history. Fortunately, Troughton did a brilliant job. Second, the Troughton era, especially when I originally saw Doctor Who on PBS in the 1980s, really was missing a lot of episodes – I think only about six survived to be shown. The Doctor Who Restoration Team has managed to rescue some stories, by completing them with the original audio tracks and animation. Also, on rare occasions stories are found in odd places. Still, out of three years of stories, back when a season was much longer as well, there are only eleven Troughton stories left.
Now, on to the recommendations.
The Tomb of the Cybermen is an excellent Cyberman story and a great Doctor Who story. The scene of the Cybermen breaking out of their Ice Tombs on Telos is iconic, and was referenced in the Peter Capaldi story, “Dark Water”. It’s a great, and creepy, Cybermen story.
The story introduces another iconic Doctor Who monster, though not one that is as prevalent as the Daleks or Cybermen. This story has the Doctor and his companions landing at a remote scientific base, where a frozen Ice Warrior was found in the Ice, revived, and then wrecks havoc. It’s an atmospheric story, and the Ice Warriors have a great sibilant voice.
The Enemy of the World was found 2013, after being missing since the 1960s. More on the recovery of this story and The Web of Fear, can be found here in a story from The British newspaper The Mirror.
The Doctor and his companions, Victoria and Jaime, land on a planet for a vacation – only to discover they are on a future Earth, where the Doctor is the exact double of Salamander – who some see as the saviour of the world, who is actually a ruthless dictator who is causing natural disasters and food shortages. Once a shortage occurs Salamander steps in to “help” – but requires absolute loyalty as his price for his “help”. He’s also keeping a group of scientists hostage in an underground bunker by telling them the world has been virtually destroyed by Nuclear War. The bunker triggers the disasters. The Doctor falls in with the Resistance movement – and his resemblance to Salamander is used to gather information and defeat the villain of course. Though the plot sounds complicated and confusing – the story sparkles in large part due to Patrick Troughton’s acting chops in a dual role, and a strong supporting cast. Though the DVD has no special features, it’s well-worth getting.
The Mind Robber is one of my top favorite Doctor Who episodes ever because it shows that an innovative and thought-provoking plot can make a story work without effects – or even a set to start. Caught by the lava explosion from the previous story, the Doctor uses the emergency dematerialization procedures. As a result, rather than moving through time and space, the TARDIS lands in the Land of Fiction. The first episode of the story only uses the TARDIS set, and a blank white room, yet it still manages to draw you in to the story. The story has the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë encountering fictional characters such Gulliver (from Gulliver’s Travels), Rapunzel, the Minotaur, the Karkus (a future comics character), etc. It’s a bright, creative, unique story.
This story brings back the Cybermen – invading the tunnels below London, introduces UNIT which will be a big part of Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor, and brings back Nicholas Courtney – now The Brigadier we know and love, as well as introducing Sgt. Benton (John Levene). It’s an excellent tale, and really sets the stage for what Doctor Who will become for the first couple of Jon Pertwee seasons. The still-missing episodes are reconstructed with animation and the original audio recordings.
The Seeds of Death brings back the Ice Warriors, and their second story is stronger than their first one. On 21st Century Earth, all travel is by T-mat, an instantaneous travel system for goods and people controlled by a relay station on the moon. The Ice Warriors take over the Transmat Station and use it to send seed pods that emit a deadly fungus to the Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, Ice Warriors use a weather control system to create more trouble. The Doctor and his companions take over the weather control system and use it to destroy the oxygen-eating fungus and defeat the Ice Warriors. This is a fun story, especially as the fungus was made by using excessive amounts of dish soap bubbles. But the Ice Warriors and their plots are menacing – and it’s just fun to watch!
Ah, The War Games. The War Games is, I think, the longest Classic Era story that still survives. At ten half-hour parts, it’s of truly epic length. However, even though there’s a lot of running around – gathering information to figure out what’s going on, getting captured, escaping, the TARDIS crew getting separated then finding each other again, the story has it’s moments. Not only that, but the last episode establishes new background information for the Doctor, including his home planet and his people – as well as his reason for running off in the TARDIS. It’s a regeneration episode also, with a bittersweet ending. I highly recommend watching it.
Finally, a couple of book recommendations – these books are invaluable resources for the fan of Classic Doctor Who.
Doctor Who the Programme Guide by Jean-Marc Lofficier is a priceless reference book. I use my original (1989) copy all the time. Because I’m actually pretty bad at remembering titles, dates, and even the spellings of actors and writers names – I use this book often, and it sits on the hutch above my computer desk with my dictionaries and other reference books. My original copy is a standard paperback size. The new Fourth Edition (by Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier) is a trade paper. Both however list every classic story, the story codes, the individual episode titles for the older episodes that had them, the complete guest cast per story with the actor’s names, and a brief, factual, knowledgeable summary of the story. There’s no editorializing about the stories, no pointing out costume zippers being visible, or boom shadows in shots, no snide comments – basically, it’s just the facts, which makes for a great reference book – and I really, really, really wish a similar non-opinionated, factual book was available for the new series. Anyway, Doctor Who the Programme Guide is a book I cannot recommend highly enough – you’ll going to want to buy a copy for yourself.
Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium Every Disc – Every Episode – Every Extra by Paul Smith, is exactly what it says on the tin – and it’s extremely useful. I’ve used this to determine – Is there a regular and a Special Edition version of a story? If so, what’s the difference between the different versions? Also, I’ve used it to figure out where a particular DVD extra is. The Doctor Who DVDs are loaded with extras – commentaries, making of specials, commercials featuring the actors, in character, from other countries, parody shorts, then and now location visits, etc. This wonderful, and well-researched book lists all that information in a large-format paperback that’s easy to flip through. It must have taken many, many, many hours of research to compile. My only gripe, is the Compendium, is organized alphabetically. Though I understand why it’s organized that way (it is, after all, a reference book) – I would have preferred to see it organized chronologically (by the date the episodes aired, not the DVD release date), but that’s just me. It’s a wonderful book, and should be on every Classic Doctor Who fan’s shelf.