Doctor Who was already a whimsical show, but 1966 introduced a concept that was absolutely extraordinary.

This was, of course, the process of regeneration. Replacing the main actor midway through a series was previously unheard of. But, when William Hartnell left the show due to illness, that’s exactly what happened. The old Time Lord collapsed after battling the Cybermen. There was a powerful flash of light. And then, in his place, appeared today’s birthday boy: the late, great Patrick Troughton!

Troughton was a safe pair of hands for the part of The Second Doctor, already well known for several other roles. This included being the first actor to play Robin Hood on television, back in 1953. Replacing Hartnell was a risk at the time, but Troughton provided more than enough proof that the regeneration had been a success. Indeed, it proved that Doctor Who had the potential to go on, and on, and on! Troughton’s Doctor rewrote the very mythology of the show – and television history along with it.

“When I say run, run. …RUN!”
Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor (c) BBC
Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor (c) BBC

Troughton served as The Doctor for three years between 1966 to 1969. He first appeared in The Tenth Planet, his first full story being the recently reanimated The Power of the Daleks. He bowed out in The War Games, put on trial by the Time Lords and forced to regenerate as punishment. Along the way, he fought classic monsters like the Cybermen as well as new foes like the Great Intelligence. He would also meet new friends including the Brigadier and Jamie McCrimmon. However, regeneration could not keep The Second Doctor away. He later returned for The Three Doctors, and then again for The Five Doctors… and then yet again for The Two Doctors, alongside Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor.

Troughton’s portrayal as the “cosmic hobo” was much more mischievous compared to Hartnell’s tough persona. This made his incarnation a stark change in tone, yet he still remained The Doctor that audiences knew and loved. Best known for his scruffy, impish appearance Troughton would later inspire Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, complete with the character’s love for bow ties.

Though he is no longer with us, Patrick Troughton’s legacy remains an important part of Doctor Who’s long-lasting success. On what would have been his 97th birthday, please join us in fondly remembering his contributions to the show. And, if you can play Happy Birthday on the recorder, today’s the day to do it!

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