Category Archives: doctor who commentary
Time has been limited the past few weeks, so I’m behind on Class reviews. However, John Connors asked me to review The Power of the Daleks, animated version, for his site Timelines, and my look at that story was published a few hours ago. However, reading the review back, I’ve realised that apart from having committed some very cumbersome phraseology indeed at times, I have managed to write a review of Patrick Troughton’s first Doctor Who story, without mentioning Troughton himself.
Troughton’s performance in The Power of the Daleks remains enigmatic even after the valiant and effective reconstruction by the animation team led by Charles Norton. There’s a sense from the telesnaps and from recollections by those who worked on or watched the serial that there was a lot of physical comedy of which we see very little – only the leapfrog in episode one, I think, is achieved, the point of which is to subvert the viewers’ expectations of the Doctor, as it appears that he isn’t measuring the rock for the purposes of geological, petrological or mineralogical study, but as a precursor to testing his new body’s physical capabilities. There’s a great diffidence about this Doctor, which often makes him irritating rather than charming, his recorder-playing a puzzle as it leaves so few cues for Ben, Polly and the viewer to draw conclusions. Even his destruction of the Daleks is left ambiguous by the script, as it’s not clear what the Doctor had anticipated from his attack on the power supply.
As for Troughton’s playing of the Doctor, it’s difficult to draw conclusions from the evidence we have. I remember, many years ago, going through one particularly frantic scene on the first VHS release of The Seeds of Death, where it appeared that Troughton changed his facial expression completely on each frame. With such flexibility and control, the animators can’t be expected to keep up with Troughton within the parameters of this project, though they have a good try. The New Doctor Who of 1966 is still a mystery to the 2016 audience, but we can at least now see with more definition the space the acted performance would fill.
John Connors has continued to publish my articles on Doctor Who, the Doctor and British identities at his Time Lines blog. Looking at them now, I’d give myself some notes. There are a lot of ideas there which I might get round to untangling at some point, and others where my thoughts ran ahead of my writing. One sentence in part three cries out for a mention of Love for Lydia (LWT for ITV, 1977; in which Peter Davison appeared) and how its content anticipates in a middle-class register the upper-class concerns of the more lavish literary adaptation that was Brideshead Revisited (Granada for ITV, 1981; which did not feature Peter Davison). The Pallisers (BBC, 1974), though predating both, offers a connection through the cricketing obsession grafted by screenwriter Simon Raven onto Anthony Andrews’s Lord Silverbridge, arguably a forebear both of Andrews’s Sebastian Flyte and Peter Davison’s Doctor. The Pallisers was a formative influence on 1980s Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, who was given a field promotion to production unit manager during its dispute-stricken production and played a significant role in ensuring it reached screens.
Don’t Shoot – He’s British! part two looks at the tensions in the layering of identities which shaped the personas of the third and fourth Doctors. Don’t Shoot – He’s British! part three moves on to examine the development of the fifth and sixth Doctors and their universe, as represented by decisions on story, casting and costume and the channelling of long-current but overplayed cultural anxieties. There will be more.