I’ve talked about Doctor Who once before. It’s a franchise I used to have a lot of respect for, before they let the talent bereft hack Steven Moffat ruin it. Not that I’m still bitter about it. This time around, we’re moving to the Second version of the Doctor, played by the late Patrick Troughton. Like with the first Doctor’s run, I’ve watched reconstructions of the missing serials because the BBC acted like complete twats with no regard for archival.
The First Doctor’s run ended with him collapsing after battling the cybermen while becoming weaker and weaker. We open with our new Doctor and his companions, Polly & Ben who are having difficulty believing that he’s the same man on account of his sillier tendencies.
My big issue with this run is that the way the Second Doctor goes out is a bit weak. There are also some kind of dumb moments like the resolution of the Fury From the Deep serial. Basically, think of what happens when you try to force a completely useless character to contribute in some way.
The serials, as a whole, are stronger than those in the first Doctor’s run. They clearly had their aesthetic established and knew how to take advantage of it. I also appreciate that the Second Doctor uses goofy behaviour and misdirection as weapons throughout the run. He knows how to make his enemies underestimate him and just how much power that gives him over situations.
I will say, as much as it’s not the fault of anyone who made the serials, the fact that so much of the second Doctor’s run is missing does make it somewhat inaccessible to more casual fans. Weirdos like me can just listen to the audio and get most of the experience, but it’s really not the same as being able to sit down and watch it.
This is another element that’s well improved on. The First Doctor had some growing pains as they decided what they wanted him to be. The Second is defined pretty much immediately and his penchant for looking harmless while also being highly cunning makes for a lot of interesting moments and interactions.
The First Doctor had largely dull companions. The Second, has a lot of fantastic companions. He spends most of his run with the highlander Jaime, one of the best companions in the franchise. And he also spends a good amount of time with the brilliant astrophysicist, Zoe. This run also introduces us to the Doctor’s most long running on and off companion, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Polly is pretty decent too, though nowhere near as good.
Ben is the only companion who’s pretty boring. And the worst companion of the run, by far, is Victoria. Victoria’s whole shtick is that she’s the one who freaks out and screams constantly. She’s pretty much like an older Susan. Except it’s more understandable in her case.
It’s unquestionably dated. The whole thing is in black & white. A lot of the sets and creature designs look a bit silly by today’s standards. Fortunately, the writing aesthetic of Doctor Who does work with that since it is about grand adventures through time and space. And we do have to account for the limitations of the late 1960s. For its time, this was pretty impressive.
Acting & Music:
Patrick Troughton, Wendy Padbury, Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills & Nicholas Courtney are all fantastic. There are also a lot of strong performances from actors who play antagonists or side characters. But even the more mundane, or outright annoying companion characters have decent performances behind them. Michael Craze and Deborah Watling are fine. The theme tune continues to be a classic and the sound design is well put together.
Areas of Improvement:
- Lend Ben some personality.
- Either lose Victoria completely or give her enough redeeming qualities to make up for her constant shrill shrieking.
- A more interesting, dynamic end for the Second Doctor. Because having the Time Lords just kind of show up and say “No, you have to regenerate now” is pretty weak.
The Second Doctor’s run is, I would say, an improvement over the First’s. There are more compelling companions overall. The aesthetic being defined from the start really works a treat. It’s just a fun, interesting sci-fi romp series. I’m giving this one an 8/10. If you’re a big fan of classic science fiction, track down the complete episodes and reconstructions. Just take the whole thing in and have a grand time. If you’re someone who can’t stand old sci-fi because it doesn’t have good effects by modern standards or because you don’t want to see a black and white show, it’s not going to be for you.