Sunday, May 2, 2010

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Doctor Who (So You Never Bothered to Ask), Pt. 2

Who's Your Doctor Now?

The production team for Doctor Who had a difficult task ahead in trying to decide first of all who to cast as the new Doctor and second of all how to explain away the change!

Producer Innes Lloyd drew up a short list of actors to consider for the role but in the end veteran character actor Patrick Troughton was approached. Troughton agreed after some consideration and on the condition that he not be asked to play the role in Hartnell's style... something he felt would be a disservice to the fine actor he considered Hartnell to be. The request was granted.

Troughton spent quite a bit of time trying to decide how he wanted to play the role. Some of his initial ideas were shaped by the fact that, at the time, the script writers were considering using the Doctor's "renewal" as a way of changing the Doctor's personality again. There was an outline for the idea that the Doctor had actually been in a galactic war and his side had lost. An exile and a fugitive from those who had won the war, the idea was that the renewal process would be like a "bad acid trip", bringing to the surface all of the Doctor's ad, old memories of the war and resulting in a man who was darker and more haunted by his past. Along those lines Troughton proposed some darker interpretations... including one idea he proposed that he dress rather like a pirate with a gold earring and a scar on his face.

Eventually, the idea of darkening the Doctor was dropped and Troughton decided to simply play the Doctor as an eccentric, slightly shabby fellow with baggy pants. In the years since fans have dubbed his version of the Doctor "the Cosmic Hobo".

In order to help the audience over the change Innes Lloyd decided to keep on Michael Craze and Anneke Wills who were playing companions Ben Jackson and Polly. There was, however, still the question of how to handle the change.

In what was probably a stroke of genius the decision was made to simply to not really explain it at all. By this time the Doctor had pretty much been defined as an alien (although his race of "Time Lords" and his home planet of Gallifrey would not be mentioned for several years yet) and so the Doctor explains away his change as a "renewal" and indicates it is little different than a caterpillar entering a cocoon and emerging as a butterfly.

The companions, meant to be echoing the audience, are at first a bit mistrusting of this man (although they saw him change before their very eyes) but eventually come to trust him... as does the audience. It does not hurt that the writers also mostly treated the whole thing as 'business as usual' and threw the Doctor right into the midst of an adventure right away. The tradition of having the Doctor be a bit out of it for a while after a regeneration would not start until the Third Doctor came into being.

Also to bolster Troughton's first outing as the Doctor the writers decided to bring in the Daleks. Still widly popular, an appearance by the Daleks would almost certainly get audiences to watch no matter their uncertainty about the change and hopefully by the end of the story they would have settled into accepting Troughton in the role.

Indeed, the gamble paid off and Doctor Who remained popular. So in 1966 it was official as the entire original cast had now left the series and a tradition of change had been settled into place. It would be this tradition of change which would allow the show to continue for decades.

For the three years of Troughton's tenure the show would remain remarkably stable.

With only the second story in the production team added a new companion. Actor Frazer Hines had been acting since a child and, at 22, he was already a known character actor and had actually worked with Troughton a few years before. With a Scottish mother and an English father Hines was known for his ability to credibly do other accents including Scottish and Welsh. As such he was signed on to play one of the primary supporting characters in "The Highlanders" -- the last of the true historical stories to ever be done. As the character of Jamie McCrimmon, Hines was originally supposed to help the Doctor and his companions in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden and then say his goodbyes. The production team, though, liking Hines's work on the story and his interaction with Troughton asked if he wanted to stay on. When Hines unequivocally said "yes" they quickly wrote him into the show -- which caused some major and uncomfortable re-writes to already finished scripts without his character in them.

Toward the end of the 1966-1967 season though the production team felt the series needed a shake-up. Also thinking that the TARDIS team had too many companions it was decided to keep Frazer Hines on and buy out the remainder of Michael Craze and Anneke Wills's contracts. As such "The Faceless Ones" became their last story and, much to both actors' dismay their characters are captured by aliens in the second installment of the six part story and do not appear again until the very end where, released from their imprisonment and finding themselves back on the very day they originally left with the First Doctor, they decide to remain. After a quick good-bye, Craze and Wills' characters were swept off.

To replace the two characters the production team decided to introduce one new female companion... Victoria Waterfield, who hailed from the Victorian era. Interestingly, this would mark the only time in Doctor Who history when the Doctor traveled with two companions from the past. Victoria, played by young actress Deborah Watling, fit very much into the traditional female companion role of playing DiD and screaming a lot. Like a great many actresses before and after her, Watling would eventually find the lack of character development stifling and chose to leave the series after only a year.

To replace Victoria the writers chose to go in the opposite direction. Once again, the show picked up a character who came from the future. In this case the genius intellect Zoe Herriot played by Wendy Padbury. Padbury reaped the benefits of a change in attitude by this point in the series. While she occasionally played DiD she was far more often a template for the more modern female companion to come. Her character of Zoe was smart, capable, relatively fearless most of the time, and saved the day on more than one occasion.

Only going through three companions in three years was quite a record for the time considering that Hartnell's tenure burned through six companions in three years. Part of this was the fact that Troughton took a very mentorly role toward his younger co-stars and kept the mood on the set light for the most part. This led to a very "family" atmosphere off screen by all accounts. In the end, though, this is what ended the Troughton tenure as well.

After three years Troughton began to fear that if he stayed too long in the role he would be typecast. In addition to this he apparently was reciving pressure from his agent and his wife at the time to do something with more weight than the 'kiddie drama' that Doctor Who was still classified as. At the same time Frazer Hines was getting pressure from his agent to leave the show and do something different as well. Learning that Troughton had decided to leave at the end of the season Hines decided to time his leave-taking to Troughton's. As with the change over from Hartnell to Troughton, the production team hoped to keep at least one companion character on to help with the transition to the third actor who would take on the role of the Doctor. They tried to talk Wendy Padbury into staying on but the family atmosphere that had been engendered under Troughton made her decide that it would be too odd and uncomfortable to continue on without him and Hines and so she opted to leave as well.

Along the way, ratings had slipped somewhat during Troughton's tenure although the numbers were still quite respectable. Worrying that the show was becoming stale, the production team decided that a change of direction was needed and felt that the Doctor should become more "relatable". Additionally, the BBC was pressuring the show to cut it's budget and bring in the episodes at less cost. As a result the decision was made to change the look and the feel of the next round of stories.

For the first time the show was facing a whole new round of firsts -- a change over to a new Doctor with absolutely no cast members overlapping, a change in direction and style and, perhaps most of all... the Doctor would be broadcast in color for the first time.....

To Be Continued.....

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