March 25th marks the centenary of someone whom the Tour regards as the most important person in the whole of Doctor Who History. We realize this tempts the labeling as somewhat hyperbolic put it’s our view that if Patrick Troughton had not succeeded so brilliantly back in 1966 when he took over the role of the Doctor then a rich 56-year tapestry instead might have been a fondly remembered obscure curiosity from the 60’s, most of whose existence would have been erased (physically and temporally).
The problem with a centenary is that the generally accepted superlatives and conventional wisdom about Troughton being the consummate character actor are all true. At times it really does seem as though Troughton is more comfortable inhabiting a character underneath layers of makeup and/or prosthetics or adopting a near indecipherable accent than simply presenting a different facet of himself.
With that said the Honchos once again had that peculiar form of serendipity that comes when you spot a prominent Doctor Who actor in a non-Who role. We recently finished watching “Colditz,” a terrific two-season drama set during WWII in a German prison. Troughton pops up in Season 1 Episode 8 playing a character simply called Padre in the episode ‘The Traitor’ (1972). In contrast to many of his other performances, this appearance–in accordance with the overall aesthetic of the series–is relatively unadorned, but it is, as always, a solid part of the ensemble.
It’s no wonder that so many of the subsequent actors to play the Doctor cite Troughton as their template to base their Doctor Who. Even Matt Smith said it was Troughton who gave him the spark to figure out how he was to play the Doctor, a mere 44 years after Troughton had to figure it out for the first time.
That’s quite a legacy.