It’s February, so it’s the Second Doctor theme here on Red Rocket Rising, and how better to discuss the cosmic hobo than to ask the Monty Python Romans question: What did the second Doctor ever do for the show? It’s 2019 now and Patrick Troughton’s main run as the Doctor was 1966-1969, almost 50 years!
If pushed, the Second Doctor is my Doctor (whatever that means) and I think he cemented the show in our hearts and minds. I’ll explain why…
The Second Doctor
The most important thing was to manage the transition from Tenth Planet to The Power of the Daleks. Patrick Troughton stamped an identity and the producers were cunning in starting immediately with the Doctor’s greatest enemy. This is really a production note not am in-series point, so I’ll move on. I’d like to pick up the idea of judging him by the quality of his enemies (with apologies to Oscar Wilde).
The enemies of the Second Doctor
Let’s just list them, story by story:
|The Power of the Daleks||Daleks|
|The Highlanders||English soldiers|
|The Underwater Menace||Atlantean Priests|
|The Macra Terror||Macra|
|The Faceless Ones||The Chameleons|
|The Evil of the Daleks||Daleks|
|The Tomb of the Cybermen||Cybermen|
|The Abominable Snowmen||Great Intelligence, Yeti|
|The Ice Warriors||Ice Warriors|
|The Enemy of the World||Salamander|
|The Web of Fear||Great Intelligence, Yeti|
|Fury From the Deep||Intelligent Seaweed|
|The Wheel in Space||Cybermen|
|The Dominators||Dominators, Quarks|
|The Mind Robber||Land of Fiction characters|
|The Invasion||Vaughn, Cybermen|
|The Seeds of Death||Ice Warriors|
|The Space Pirates||Space Pirates|
|The War Games||The War Lord|
I’ll gloss over the Krotons and Quarks, and focus on what I think are the three key villains: Cybermen, Great Intelligence/ Yeti and Ice Warriors.
The First Doctor‘s time was heavily punctuated by Dalek stories, and while the Second Doctor faces them as well, it’s more than fair to say his major opponent was the Cybermen. Many people (me included) list Tomb of the Cybermen as a favourite episode, a plaudit given to other adventures as well. The Cybermen have been a major part of the series return in 2005, alongside the Daleks. They’ve yet to meet Jodie Whittaker but they did cause Capaldi’s regeneration.
The Web of Fear is another notable story and gave a second outing for the Yeti and Great Intelligence. Yeti have yet to come back and we’ve had one Great Intelligence thread in modern Doctor Who leading to the events of Name of the Doctor. It’s a villain best used sparingly but noted all the same.
Finally the Ice Warriors, noble warriors of Mars, one of the few villains to be allowed to evolve in the show’s history and become goodies under the Third Doctor (tbc). Modern Doctor Who has been varied for the Ice Warriors: perhaps the only strong story being Empress of Mars.
The Mind Robber was brilliant though a one-off and I’d love to see the missing intelligent seaweed episodes restored.
So my thought is the Second Doctor gave room for the Cybermen to develop and in a short burst of notable episodes brought us other great villains.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments!
12 Comments Add yours
Got to love some ol’ Troughton.
To speak off the cuff, what sticks out most about Troughton is how there’s a sort of grappling with the weight of Hartnell’s moral stance towards the Elders in “The Savages” – that he will stand against any menace to common humanity. It’s one that Troughton’s Doctor reiterates in “The Moonbase”, but as a more wearied resolution: that there are “some corners of the universe that have bred the most terrible things… they must be fought”.
It’s curious, then, that across Troughton’s first season there’s something of an arc which brings the Doctor to this point. The Daleks, flitting around the margins of the Vulcan colony much as the Doctor does, are as good a starter villain as any. Indeed, Hartnell’s Doctor had previously compared the menace presented by the Elders to that of the Daleks. That said, between “The Power of the Daleks” and “The Moonbase” the Doctor is presented with two human opponents – the slaver Grey in “The Highlanders”, and Professor Zaroff in “The Underwater Menace”. These aren’t exactly terrible things from the darkest corners of the universe – Grey seemingly motivated purely by greed, and Zaroff by “the scientist’s dream of supreme power” – and yet they’re certainly terrible things bred in the darkest corners of the human soul.
And then, having been confronted with the evils of humanity the Doctor if faced with the evils of inhumanity in the form of the Cybermen. The monsters against whom the Doctor makes his weary realisation that there are terrible things which must – MUST – be fought. These two concepts – the evils of humanity and the evils of inhumanity – reverberate throughout the rest of the Troughton era. And he does fight them – be it the Lovecraftian horror of the Great Intelligence, literally infecting humanity with its own evil as it parasitically inhabits human bodies, or the more human evils of Salamander or Tobias Vaughn in their respective quests for “the scientist’s dream of supreme power” (Salamander, notably, using other scientists so as to achieve his ambitions and Vaughn similarly using other scientists to bring the Cybermen under his power).
Yet there are glimmers of something else throughout this era of fighting evil in its varied manifestations. A recognition of humanity. It’s certainly there in “The Faceless Ones”, when the Doctor presents a passive resolution to the Chameleons which recognises the equal rights of both human and alien to continued existence. It’s there in the far more literal recognition of humanity in “The Evil of the Daleks”, as the Doctor isolates the human factor – exemplifying the most positive attributes of humanity. It’s there as the Doctor sits aside with Victoria in “The Tombs of the Cybermen”, taking a moment to reach out to his newly orphaned young companion and making sure that she’s alright. It’s there as the Doctor and his companions literally wander through landscapes created by human imagination in “The Mind Robber”, and ultimately use the very human act of storytelling to escape. It’s there in “The Space Pirates”, as the Doctor is ultimately rendered marginal in a story interested in the drama of its guest characters.
And it’s there, perhaps, as the Time Lords ponder the Doctor’s fate and agree that he still has a part to play. That his fight against the monsters and his engagement with humanity make him well suited to live amongst them, defending them.
What did the Second Doctor ever do for the show? He lived. He fought. And then he died.
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Some excellent comments there – do you blog / review Doctor Who somewhere? You should!
I wouldn’t say like regularly atm. I’m considering starting up something or other, but the time commitment is the only thing. Would be very nice to have some sort of backlog so I can at least update semi-regularly
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Starting is definitely the hard part. Let me know what you do
Hi. Just following this up, months later, on the off chance that you were at all still interested by this exchange. I’ve kinda slowly been going through the First Doctor (wrapping up S1 this week):
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Thanks for the update. I’ll take a proper look at your blog and let you know what I think! I’ve followed you on Twitter as well
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I assume you are the original Chair With a Panda? Apologies for not realising!
Oh, well I only set the panda-themed WordPress up some months back so I doubt I’d be the original, just another person fond of pandas
Interesting to find two sites with the same tag! I’ll go away now!