Today’s Guest Blog comes from Simon Meade, a fan who had the good fortune to enjoy Patrick Troughton’s adventures when first broadcast:
Despite what some members of the younger generation may say, there are some advantages of being aged 50-plus. One of the biggest, from a Doctor Who viewing perspective, is that you can remember the joy that the Patrick Troughton era brought you, before the BBC embarked on a course of cultural carnage!
In fact my first memories of travelling with the good Doctor, are vague, hazy, but oh-so frightening images of the Mondassian Cybermen advancing through the snow in William Hartnell’s final story The Tenth Planet. Although I have no recollection of the first regeneration, this could be why, to this day, that menacing assembly of spare parts remain my favourite nemesis. So I consider Patrick Troughton to be my first Doctor, my formative Who years you might say 🙂
In today’s era of YouTube, BBC Iplayer, DVD’s, streaming and social media, modern fans are spoiled for riches. In between episodes or season breaks, if you so wish, you can find information galore on what’s coming up, or in production, while feasting on a 52 year back catalogue of TV stories, books, audio adventures, comics and magazines. However, in the 1960’s we had next to nothing to fill the void, during season runs we were rationed to 25mins every Saturday teatime, of which we’d devour every second, even staying glued to the screen until after the end credits, just in case the announcer would give us a crumb of information about what was coming next Saturday.
Thursday was always a much-anticipated day, when the new Radio Times weekly schedule would appear and we’d get a morsel, perhaps a small feature if it was a new story, occasionally even a cover! Target books were still years away, let alone a regular Doctor Who magazine.
Apart from the yearly Dr Who annuals (I stared at that wonderful 1969 cover of a Cyberman breaking into the TARDIS for hours, possibly days!), and a few comics and toys here and there, there was never enough to satisfy my thirst for all things Who!
One highlight I’d like to share with you, the toy company Chad Valley had some William Hartnell ‘adventures’ on slides that you pulled through a plastic projector and my bedroom wall was suddenly a portal back in time to a glimpse of the First Doctor. Thanks to the wonders of the internet you can see those slides today.
The 1967 adventure The Evil of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who story ever to be repeated, and the only one from the Troughton era to have been given a second screening, that’s how starved we were. Usually once a story had been transmitted, we thought that was it, we’d never see it again. Ironically that would come to pass with the destruction of many 60’s episodes but more of that in a moment.
Very rarely we might have been treated to an advanced photo or something resembling a trailer. There was one teaser for Web of Fear in 1968, alas only the audio survives but some creative soul on YouTube has done a splendid animation to go with it 🙂
I just want to try and convey the joy of watching Doctor Who during the Patrick Troughton era, through my years aged 4-7, when I believed he could be out there for real. It was a time of magic and wonder, fuelled by the reality that genuine police boxes could still be seen on various streets in and around London. Oh how my imagination went into overdrive when my parents drove past one!
I also remember going to my first Doctor Who exhibition, well it was the Daily Mail’s “Boys & Girls Exhibition” at the Olympia in 1968, but there I got to see Daleks, Yeti, Ice Warriors and Cybermen up close – I was in heaven! The TV stories themselves were a constant source of joy, thrills, scary moments, funny scenes and later in bed, nightmares! We had monsters galore, Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Krotons, Quarks, and yes the Macra – they do exist, I saw them! 🙂
Fury From The Deep is the one story I remember the most, in terms of how it made me feel – I was totally petrified for weeks! I think it was because there were no robotic or humanoid shaped visitors this time around, but an alien being that looked like your regular beach seaweed, that rose up from the seabed, through the pipes of a gas refinery, attempting to take over humanity! I’ll never forget those sound effects, the eerie music, and most of all the terrifying Mr Oak and Mr Quill! However no matter how intense the fear, you couldn’t stop me watching the next episode, even if I was hiding behind my Dad for many scenes.
Sadly only a few clips from Fury From The Deep survive, which brings me onto the butchering of the Hartnell/Troughton stories. While I can get my head around the fact that broadcast video tape was very expensive at the time, why was there no archive system in place? Why didn’t they do film transfers of at least a couple of episodes from each story, especially the most important, those being episode four of The Tenth Planet and episode one of Power of the Daleks. We don’t have the 2nd Doctor’s opening story – that’s a disgrace!
It’s not all doom and gloom however, compared with many 60’s shows and serials we at least have a complete set of audios, and production stills and telesnaps.
Anyway I’m far from an expert on all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that went on, but if you’re interested in learning more, there are loads of resources out there for you to delve in to. Three places I recommend to begin with:
- The Destruction of Time is an excellent starting point, in great detail this website explains what happened, when, and the chronological recovery of certain individual episodes and complete stories from around the world. The gaps I have in my knowledge about the whole saga is because I still haven’t put aside time to read every page here, it’s that detailed, and yes I know – I should do my homework!
- Members of the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club found the opening episode of The Crusade – The Lion. Read their fascinating story of how that came about at: http://doctorwho.org.nz/archive/tsv57/lion.html
- If you’re on Facebook, The Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group is run and frequented by various knowledgeable people in this particular field, so if you have any questions, or want to indulge in the latest news and speculation do check them out!
Oh and if you’re wondering which completely missing stories I would like back, obviously I want all of them, but if I was limited to five, it would have to be:
- Power of the Daleks
- Fury From the Deep
- The Savages
- The Macra Terror
- The Highlanders
And for incomplete stories, as mentioned earlier, part 4 of the Tenth Planet, plus The Faceless Ones, The Moonbase, The Daleks’ Masterplan, The Evil of the Daleks and The Abominable Snowmen please Santa!
Let me wrap up this trip down memory lane, that Dan has so kindly let me share with you, with two Patrick Troughton related anecdotes. Alas I never got to meet the great man himself; however I did meet Frazer Hines at the second DWAS convention in 1978. Ah the days of the simple, less-crowded events, when photos and autographs were free 🙂
As for Deborah Watling, I watched episode one of The Pirate Planet in her house! Now as for the specific date of that encounter I cannot totally recall, yes part one of The Pirate Planet was originally broadcast Saturday 30 September 1978, but it was repeated Thursday 12 July 1979.
I can recall feeling rather warm that day but that could have been purely because of her company. 😉 A good friend of mine (Steve Cambden – who went on to be “K9 assistant operator” 1979-80) and I decided we were going to put together a fanzine, so we wrote to a few Doctor Who stars asking for an interview.
Deborah wrote back saying, sure, come round for tea, sandwiches, a good chat, and we’ll watch Doctor Who together! So we did, and what a pleasant time we had, I still recall Deborah remarking on how “advanced” the effects were in The Pirate Planet compared with “my day” 🙂
My second anecdote is about an encounter which took place much earlier, in 1969. When The War Games was being broadcast my folks were looking to move, we were living in Buckinghamshire, and a house nearby came up for sale so we went to take a look. It was owned by actor Noel Coleman, who played General Smythe in The War Games. I was six years old at the time and when he invited us in I was captivated and a bit confused! General Smythe wanted to sell us his house? It was about three episodes into the story and I remember defiantly telling Noel Coleman – “You’ll never beat The Doctor!” My folks didn’t buy the house, maybe I scared off General Smythe 😉
In conclusion, watching Patrick Troughton as The Doctor was a total delight from beginning to end. Like many of you I miss him terribly, on the other hand I’m so happy that many of the new generation of fans, who discover the show through the modern stories, are then digging in to the past and buying the DVD’s/downloads. They are discovering what a brilliant actor he was, and at the same time getting a flavour of what is was like for my generation, to travel through time and space with the Second Doctor and his companions.
Simon co-runs The Ark in Space, a place for Classic Who chat