Step two in my Great Classic Who (Re)Watch. Patrick Troughton’s opener.
Immediately apparent here is that this story is a paradigm shift from Hartnell’s first appearance; though, we are four unseen seasons (and four years) on.
One of the first things that hit me was just how *good* Troughton is. In comparison to WH, he is immediately recognisably “The Doctor” as we know him today. He’s got a lovely mix of intelligence and fun going on, and one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen on the small screen. He’s just so very watchable, and I’m gutted that most of his shows are now sadly lost.
As for the other main characters: We have a female Companion who’s a walking stereotype but, again, this was aired five years before I was born so was it even a cliché back then? Who knows. The other Companion is Jamie, one very young Frazer Hines resplendent with kilt and pish-poor Scottish drawl. He’s actually pretty entertaining, but I just couldn’t get part watching an early 20’s Joe Sugden with a bad accent and a skirt.
Plot wise, I’ve struggled with this. I think a big problem is that it’s very difficult to judge a show on the back of one ‘episode’ and know whether it’s intentional plotting or bad scripting. The thrust of the story is that the Doctor happens across an archaeological dig party researching the long-dead civilisation of the Cybermen. They quickly run into difficulties, and the Doctor spends most of the story helping them whilst telling them that what they’re doing is a really bad idea. As a story arc this could be him battling his desperate curiosity which is at odds with wanting to do the right thing; it could be him trying not to meddle by getting in the way; he could be trying to keep control to stop things getting out of hand; or it could be downright bad writing. In isolation, it’s hard to tell.
Similarly, there’s some jarring attitudes. The RP-speaking men have an air of “well, you’re only women” about them, and a large black man plays a “bodyguard” who’s ostensibly a slave. How much of this is scripted (ie, are they sexist characters intentionally?) and how much is just a reflection of prevalent 1960’s attitudes, I don’t know.
The antagonists, well, we all know what the Cybermen become, which is enough to add an air of tension to the tale on its own. The 60s incarnations are clearly men in suits and are difficult to hear, but nonetheless manage to carry an air of creepy malevolence about them.
But I’m nit-picking. Illogical character motivations and forty-five year old special effects aside, I really enjoyed this. Patrick Troughton really defines the character by which another nine actors would be judged by, or at least he would if anyone ever watched it.