It was fifty years ago today, on Saturday 5th November 1966, that we welcomed Patrick Troughton to the role of The Doctor.
The signing of Patrick Troughton was a major coup for the production team. At the time he was one of the best-known actors on British Television, having worked in the medium ever since it restarted after the second World War.
Troughton was born in North London in 1920, the son of a solicitor. His first acting role was at Mill Hill school, later attending the Embassy School of Acting studying under Eileen Thorndike. He won a scholarship to the Leighton Rallius Studios at the John Drew Memorial Theatre on Long Island in New York City.
His acting career was interrupted by war and the ship returning him to England sunk after hitting a mine in the English channel, forcing him to escape by lifeboat. Not put off by the sea he joined the Royal Navy serving with Royal Naval Reserve, earning the 1939-45 Star and the Atlantic Star as well as being mentioned in dispatches.
Troughton made his Television debut in 1947, playing the young Thomas Culpepper in the play The Rose Without a Thorn, a production which starred Richard Hurndall, another actor who would inherit the role of the First Doctor. He found himself particularly suited to Television, where all drama was transmitted live. He relished the large audience the medium could reach, and the majority of his career would now focus on Television and to a lesser extent movies.
He was prolific in the medium appearing The Invisible Man, The Old Curiosity Shop, Kidnapped, The Count of Monte Cristo, Ivanhoe, Dial 999, Danger Man, Maigret, Compact, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Third Man, Crane, Detective, Sherlock Holmes, No Hiding Place, The Saint, Armchair Theatre, The Wednesday Play, Z-Cars, Adam Adamant Lives!, A Tale of Two Cities, Smuggler’s Bay, The Splendid Spur, The Naked Lady, The Scarf, The Rebel Heiress, Benbow and the Angels, Clementina, The Royalty and Softly, Softly. In 1953 he became Television’s first Robin Hood, becoming a tea-time favorite for the nation’s children and in 1960 made a huge impression on Sunday afternoons as Paul of Tarsus.
Dispite his huge body of work, Troughton was not the only choice, or indeed the first choice to take over from Hartnell. Brian Blessed, fresh from a leading role in police drama Z-Cars was offered the role, but declined because of scheduling conflicts. Rupert Davies, Valentine Dyall and Michael Hordern were all approached but none wanted to commit to a long-running series.
Troughton was offered the role in June 1966, while working on the Hammer film The Viking Queen. He had doubts about accepting. He himself was a fan of Doctor Who, and had watched every single Hartnell episode. But he thought the series had probably run its course.
Troughton was eventually persuaded to take the role and signed the contract for 22 episodes on 2nd August. He initially had the idea of playing the character in heavy make-up, in order to prevent being type-cast, but the look eventually settled on was that of the cosmic hobo.
The characterisation was worked out between Troughton and script editor Gerry Davis, who explained.
Troughton would hold the role for three years. His success would guarantee the series longevity, and Troughton’s place in the Television hall of fame.