Patrick Troughton

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Patrick Troughton Pencil Portrait
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Psychologists claim that a large number of people are living in two separate worlds, captured in their own lies, shame and guilt that eventually power them into behavior which is way too different from their daily lifestyle. Roughly two thirds of men and half of women have an adulterous event at some point in their life, with the obvious stresses and strains associated with such duality. For the lucky few, the sheer absurdity of what they believe they are seeking will be become apparent before it’s too late. For the many, there is just a constant restlessness that will eventually affect their mental and physical well being.

Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor Who (1966-69), led a hidden double-life, having left his original family behind in the mid-‘50s to start a second with another woman – a scandalous situation at the time which, remarkably, he kept from his own mother for over two decades, right up to her death in 1979.

There would be a price to pay – there always is in life. Overwork and stress resulted in a heart condition, and the actor would be dead at the age of sixty seven. Matters had not been helped by a heavy smoking and drinking habit, excessive nicotine consumption necessitating the removal of one of his lungs. Rejecting his doctor’s advice, the actor eschewed a more healthy lifestyle and any semblance of a physical exercise regimen. Two major heart attacks would follow in 1978 and 1984, necessitating enforced layoffs from work yet the warnings went unheeded.

His formative years were marked by high adventure and considerable danger, and by the end of hostilities in 1945, he was a twice decorated war hero. Born in Middlesex, England on March 25, 1920, he would grow up in North London, attending the Mill Hill School, where his interest in theatre led to a first starring role in a production of ‘Bees on the Boat Deck’ in March of 1937. With his passion for drama fully ignited, the young Troughton then moved on to the prestigious Embassy School of Acting at Swiss Cottage in London. His time there was intense and challenging. but also rewarding, as his dramatic work was recognized via a scholarship from the Leighton Rallius Studios at the John Drew Memorial Theatre in Long Island, New York. Unfortunately, Troughton’s time in America was curtailed with the outbreak of World War II in Europe, but to his eternal credit, he remained determined to do his share, setting aside his stateside ambitions and returning to Britain. The war became very real for him after the Belgian ship he was traveling on collided with a mine and sank, and he was fortunate to escape with his life in a lifeboat.

Safely home, Troughton signed on for duty with the Royal Navy in 1940. His first assignment-serving coastal convoy duty in the North Sea-proved just as challenging as performing on stage. As a sailor he moved up through the ranks, serving as a member of Britain’s coastal forces from 1942-1945. His distinguished military service there led to his own command of a Rescue Motor Launch, in which he was surprisingly able to both command the respect and affection of his crew members. Lightening the often sombre wartime mood by sporting a tea cosy on his head and telling jokes, his outwardly affable nature made him popular with his fellow servicemen. For his service to King and Country he was decorated with two esteemed medals, the 1939-45 Star and The Atlantic Star. Cynics might argue that such awards were issued merely as an acknowledgment of wartime survival – and there is some truth in this statement – but he nonetheless had his own command for three years, and must have displayed guile and initiative in carrying out his duties.

Amidst the austerity of post war Britain, Troughton would refocus his attention to performing on stage. He was a member of several drama companies, including the Amersham Repertory Company, the Old Vic and The Pilgrim Players at the Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill. His stage work of this time provided him an income and allowed him to experiment with his style and decide on what type of actor he wanted to be. The theatre work also allowed him to serve as a versatile character actor in several productions. By happenstance, one of these productions saw him as an understudy for William Hartnell (the first television ‘Doctor Who.’)

In 1948, he debuted with a part in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet alongside Peter Cushing. Later that year he appeared in a TV film called R.U.R. as a robot. In 1948, he made a filmed appearance in Escape with Rex Harrison and once again, William Hartnell (who played Inspector Harris). In 1950, Troughton turned to television, appearing in small parts in several episodes of the BBC Sunday Night Theatre and The Whole World, Treasure Island and Once In A Lifetime.

He returned to the world of Robert Louis Stevenson again in 1952 as Allen Breck in Kidnapped.’ In 1953, he showcased his versatility in six episodes of ‘Robin Hood’ for the BBC, pre-dating Richard Greene’s more widely remembered interpretation for the fledgling ITV network two years later. This role led to another series, ‘Clementine,’ in 1954.

Unfortunately, as with much of Troughton’s early television work, the six 30 minute Robin Hood episodes were transmitted live, and only studio material from the second episodes exists as a 16mm telerecording.

By 1956, his resume included three episodes of The Count of Monte Cristo and eleven episodes of ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel.’ In 1960, he starred in six episodes of The Splendid Spur and both episodes of Paul of Tarses.’ By the late 50s and early 60s, Troughton had established himself as a versatile thespian that could act for the stage, screen and television.

The archival position is more encouraging in respect of some of his early work; guest appearances in two ITV series The Adventures of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Interpol Calling surviving on tape.

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Troughton was very tactile, and reportedly enjoyed the company of women far more than men. His son describes this behaviour as “an addiction that would cause all sorts of personal problems throughout his life.” The word tactile can have innocuous overtones, for example, someone who is ‘touchable’ and ‘receptive to touch’ and unafraid to hold hands, or deliver a spontaneous display of affection. Having both mediterranean and english strands to my family, I have witnessed different levels of tactility throughout the years, remaining eternally amused by such differences in behaviour.

If Troughton was inclined to be ‘overly familiar’ with the opposite sex, then this was not necessarily a character trait for which he should be condemned, particularly if he was adept at assessing which female acquaintances would be responsive. If, of course, he was merely playing the ‘numbers game’ – essentially risking the alienation of certain women he barely knew, by invading their personal space in an unwelcome fashion – then his behaviour was nothing less than reprehensible.

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Recommended viewing

Doctor Who - The Enemy of the World (1967) Remastered 2013

In October 2013, BBC Worldwide Nine announced the recovery of nine long lost episodes of Doctor Who from a television station in Jos, Nigeria.

The Beeb is sensitive to public criticism of its mismanagement of such a renowned film archive, and Doctor Who remains an integral part of its heritage. Its regular ‘treasure hunts’ remain a key element in the corporation’s drive to recover elements of its history, and nine Troughton episodes were a timely find, particularly in view of the Doctor’s 50th anniversary year.\

Toilet plungers and polystyrene are conspicuous by their absence in this monster-less episode, but Troughton hams it up beautifully in a dual role as the eccentric Doctor and Salamander, a megalomaniacal Mexican who presents himself as humanity’s saviour while secretly scheming to become ruler of the world by arranging earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Soon the Doctor’s being pressurised into imitating his lookalike in order to infiltrate his organisation.

It’s high camp of the highest order, as Troughton offers a pointer to a sicilian future and the wave of histrionic ‘Scarface’ type movies to come.

I was seven when he burst onto our screens, those weekly adventures with the genial flautist and his travelling companions compulsive viewing. OK, I wouldn’t buy the remastered DVDs, but I’d take the nostalgia trip with every terrestrial screening. It’s all up to BBC4. C’mon Auntie.

The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967)

My youngest daughter was captivated by the 2005 Doctor Who revival, being suitably enthralled by the weekly adventures of Christopher Ecclestone, and her interest skyrocketed with the advent of David Tennant. ‘Don’t forget to tape me Doctor Who will you Dad?’, has become her saturday morning mantra ever since, and I would be mortified to ever let her down. In my attempt to introduce her to ‘my Doctors,’ I purchased some William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee DVDs for her. Frankly, she humoured me and watched them, but they would remain untouched thereafter. ‘Great special effects Dad!’ she would affectionately tease me, ‘I’m sure they were cutting edge in your day,’ Yeah that’s right – my day.

Mercurial and mischievous, Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor was an engaging ‘cosmic hobo,’ an eccentric with a dark side. Sidestepping his obvious fallibility, he would nonetheless outwit his weekly foes, that endearing air of child-like curiosity and occasional buffoonery hiding a formidable intelligence, razor-sharp wit and penchant for devastating put-downs.

The Tomb Of The Cybermen is a classic – long thought lost to the ether – yet now fully restored in both picture and mono sound , boasting 16,000 individual image repairs and a vintage monochrome 4:3 picture. Frankly, I’d have been unperturbed if they’d left the rediscovered tape untouched – a feeling of pure nostalgia is less discerning……

Recommended reading

Patrick Troughton: The Biography Of The Second Doctor Who (Michael Troughton) 2011

Troughton’s media appearances were invariably ‘in character,’ the rather rumbustious, avuncular, gregarious, and eccentric favourite ‘uncle,’ so beloved by the nation’s children as the second Doctor Who. It was an obvious ploy for a man so committed to guarding his private life.

Driven by a restless desire for constant change, he once explained the rationale behind the family left behind, by telling his son;

“Things have to change all the time for me I’m afraid, that’s the way I am.\”

Driven by an intense anxiety that caused visible shaking – his heart condition would inevitably result – the actor was consumed with professional insecurities; a need for public acceptance after succeeding William Hartnell as The Doctor, and a fear of typecasting. You also learn about some of his more amusing personal quirks, like his love of dirty limericks, his golf course tantrums, and his penchant for peeing in public …… the French at least, would have thought nothing of it!!

There’s enough trivia to keep Whovians happy, yet the book also meticulously details his voluminous work in TV and film, as well as recounting his youth.

Drawing on a wealth of material – personal letters, postcards, press cuttings, naval logs, early fan letters, and his father’s war-time diaries, Troughton Jnr paints an evocative picture of his father, a story somewhat overwhelmed on occasions with trivia, but a tale nonetheless of remarkable honesty in which Troughton emerges as a man awash with both praiseworthy virtues and flaws. Rather like all of us really…………………