Ben: The Doctor always wore this. If you are him it should fit... That settles it!
The Doctor: I'd like to see a butterfly fit into a chrysalis case after it spreads its wings.
Polly: Then you did change.
The Doctor: Life depends on change, and renewal.
William Hartnell played the First Doctor, from 1963 – 1966. He was an incredible actor, bringing us a perfect Doctor right at the very beginning of his adventures. In those mysterious, black and white days, Hartnell created a Doctor of mystery and intrigue, a fighter of evil, and a man even capable of falling in love. Every element of each Doctor since Hartnell was done by him first, whether to a larger or smaller extent. He set the standard, and was always going to be a tough act to follow.
When William Hartnell decided to leave the show, back in 1966, the BBC had a number of options when replacing him. They could get a Hartnell look-a-like to carry on the show, or even cast a widely different actor in the role but still pretend he's the same bloke. Either of these safe, mundane choices could have cost the show its next 47 years on television. Luckily, cleverly, they did something never before attempted in a series. They made the change of actor a part of the shows' mythology! Viewers would see the Doctor physically change into a different man. Even James Bond could never have done that (and this was even before the Bond films had changed their leading man at all)!
The idea of regeneration, or 'renewal', as it was then termed, was a brilliant idea, and the perfect 'get-out clause' for a show that needed to swap its star. But never one to rest on their laurels, the producers, having changed William Hartnell into newcomer Patrick Troughton, decided to leave the audience in some doubt over the new chap for a while. A brave, daring choice that added new spice to a show that had been on air for 3 years already.
Part one of 'Power of the Daleks' is terrifying. Alien, claustrophobic, mysterious. A hot planet with mercury swamps, murderous humans double-crossing each other, and a deadly capsule containing the dreaded Daleks.
But the scariest thing about this story, the first episode in particular, is Patrick Troughton in his début adventure. Once he has taken over from Hartnell, his Doctor starts to act a bit oddly (what we now refer to as 'post-regenerative trauma'). But more than that, he's dangerous with it. The fiendish laugh Troughton gives near the episodes' beginning is absolutely terrifying, and that, combined with his choosing to speak of 'the Doctor' in third person, almost leads the audience to think that maybe some evil alien imposter has hijacked the Doctor's body....
In his first ever episode, the Second Doctor also gets his trusty recorder. Now seen as a whimsical, Troughton-esque quirk, in 'Power of the Daleks', its presence is almost chilling. Although 'Power...' no longer exists on film, the images conjured up by the audio track of this strange new man dancing around the TARDIS, playing his instrument, are disturbing, child-like and sinister. Perhaps the audio-only aspect adds to the atmosphere of this unusual piper – strutting about like a jester from the Devil's Court. The undertones are subtle, though, quietly sowing seeds of doubt and fear, unlike the blatant insanity of the misjudged 'The Twin Dilemma'.
Once the Doctor leaves the TARDIS to explore, however, the sinister elements slowly fade from his character; the old, Hartnell heroism slowly taking over. From rushing to the aid of a man who has just been shot, to giving his companion Ben a reassuring wink, we soon start to feel a bit safer around this renewed man.
Polly warms to the Doctor faster than Ben, who finds the lack of information on the Doctors' change of appearance (not to mention his constant tooting on the recorder) massively frustrating. But the stubbornness is just a front. The game-playing and silliness are just façades Troughtons' Doctor hides behind, and they quickly crumble away once his fear begins to creep through. His fear when stumbling upon his mortal enemies...
As Part 1 draws to a close, the audience starts to warm toward this new Doctor, accept him. What better way to cement his status as the new Doctor, then, than have him come face-to-face with his oldest and deadliest enemies? And even more so, to have the Daleks recognise him?
'Power of the Daleks' is an amazing story, with a game-changing first episode. Throughout the six-part adventure, Patrick Troughton gave us a glimpse of the many facets of his Doctor's character – the whimsical child, the cosmic hobo, the dark manipulator, the fighter of evil – and these would develop over the next three years, before becoming staples of many future Doctors.
By refusing to go down the obvious route, Patrick Troughton not only gave us a brilliant and influential Doctor, but he also gave our beloved show immortality. William Hartnell was excellent, of course, but without the concept of regeneration, the series could not have continued. And the regeneration would have counted for nothing, if the right man hadn't been chosen to continue where William Hartnell left off.
50 years of Doctor Who. We owe it all to Patrick Troughton.
For more on the Troughton era: