Patrick Troughton

Patrick George Troughton (25 March 1920 – 28 March 1987) was an English actor most widely known in his role as the second incarnation of the Doctor in the long running British science-fiction television series Doctor Who, which he played from 1966 to 1969.

Early life

Troughton was born on 25 March 1920 in Mill Hill, England to Alec George Troughton and Dorothy E Offord and attended Mill Hill School. He would later attend the Embassy School of Acting at Swiss Cottage, under Eileen Thorndike. After his time at the Embassy School of Acting, Troughton won a scholarship to the Leighton Rallius Studios at the John Drew Memorial Theatre on Long Island in New York, U.S.. When the Second World War broke out, he returned to Great Britain on a Belgian ship. The ship hit a mine and sank off the coast of Britain; Troughton escaped in a lifeboat. Troughton joined the Tonbridge Repertory Company in 1939 and in 1940 joined the Royal Navy. He attained the rank of Commander and captained a Motor Gun Boat on duty in the North Sea.


Before Doctor Who

After the war, Troughton returned to the theatre in 1945. He worked with the Amersham Repertory Company, the Bristol Old Vic Company and the Pilgrim Players at the Mercury Theatre in Nottingham. He made his television debut in 1947. In 1948, Troughton made his cinema debut with small roles in Olivier's Hamlet, the TCF production "Escape" (one of the stars of which was William Hartnell), and a minor role as a pirate in Treasure Island appearing only during the attack on the heroes' hut. However, television was his favourite medium. In 1953 he became the first actor to play the famous folk hero Robin Hood on television, starring in six half-hour episodes broadcast from 17 March to 21 April on the BBC, and titled simply Robin Hood (Vahimagi, 42). (His grandson Sam Troughton played one of Robin's colleagues in the 2006 BBC TV Series of the same name.) Troughton's other notable film and television roles included Sir Andrew Ffoulkes in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1954), Phineas in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop (1962), "Paul of Tarsus" (BBC 1960, title role), Dr. Finlay's Casebook (BBC 1962, semiregular)

Doctor Who (1966–1969)

In 1966, Doctor Who producer Innes Lloyd decided to replace William Hartnell in the series' lead role. The continued survival of the show depended on audiences accepting another actor in the role, especially given the bold decision that the replacement would not be a Hartnell lookalike or soundalike. Lloyd later stated that Hartnell had approved of the choice, saying, "There's only one man in England who can take over, and that's Patrick Troughton" (Howe, Stammers and Walker, 68). Lloyd chose Troughton because of his extensive and versatile experience as a character actor. After he was cast, Troughton considered various ways to approach the role, to differentiate his portrayal from Hartnell's amiable-yet-tetchy patriarch. Troughton's early thoughts about how he might play the Doctor included a "tough sea captain" and a piratical figure in blackface and a turban. Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman suggested that the Doctor could be a "cosmic hobo" in the mold of Charlie Chaplin, and this was the interpretation eventually chosen (Howe, Stammers and Walker, 68–69).

During his time on the series, Troughton tended to shun publicity and rarely gave interviews. He told one interviewer, "I think acting is magic. If I tell you all about myself it will spoil it" (Howe, Stammers and Walker, 72). Years later, he told another interviewer that his greatest concern was that too much publicity would limit his opportunities as a character actor after he left the role (KTEH interview).

Troughton was popular with both the production team and his co-stars. Producer Lloyd credited Troughton with a "leading actor's temperament. He was a father figure to the whole company and hence could embrace it and sweep it along with him." Troughton also gained a reputation on set as a practical joker (Howe, Stammers and Walker, 68, 74).

Regrettably, many of the early episodes in which Troughton appeared were wiped by the BBC (a full list of Doctor Who episodes missing from the BBC Archives is available here). Troughton found Doctor Who's schedule (at this time, 40 to 44 episodes per season) gruelling, and decided to leave the series in 1969, after three years in the role. This decision was also motivated in part by fear of typecasting (Howe, Stammers and Walker, 75; KTEH interview).

Troughton returned to Doctor Who three times after he originally left the programme, becoming the only former "Doctor" actor to have reprised the role that many times after his original run. The first time was in The Three Doctors, a 1973 serial celebrating the programme's 10th anniversary. Ten years later, Troughton overcame some reluctance to reprise his role and agreed to appear in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors at the request of series producer John Nathan-Turner. He also agreed to attend Doctor Who conventions around the world with Nathan-Turner. Troughton enjoyed the return to the programme so much that he readily agreed to appear one more time as the Second Doctor with Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor in The Two Doctors (1985). Reportedly, he also advised a later Doctor actor, Peter Davison, to limit his time in the role to three seasons to avoid being typecast and the young actor followed that advice.

After Doctor Who

After Troughton left Doctor Who in 1969, he appeared in various films and television roles. Film roles included Father Brennan in The Omen (1976) and Melanthius in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). Television roles included the Duke of Norfolk in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), a guest starring spot in the comedy series The Goodies in the episode "The Baddies", as well as episodes of The Persuaders!, The Sweeney, Jason King, Survivors, , Minder and Inspector Morse. He also portrayed Cole Hawlings in a BBC Television dramatisation of the John Masefield children's book The Box of Delights (1984)

Troughton's health was never entirely robust and later in his life he refused to accept his doctor's advice that he had developed a serious heart condition through overwork and stress. He suffered two major heart attacks in 1978 and 1984 which prevented him from working for several months. Following each of these attacks, his doctor's warnings were again ignored as Troughton committed himself to a heavy TV and film schedule. Troughton also continued a long-term habit of chain smoking and declined to commit himself to any significant physical exercise despite his worsening health and his early death being predicted as an inevitable consequence by his doctors.

He featured in the 1974 11-part radio adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour. In 1986 he was a regular in the LWT sitcom The Two of Us, and guested in an episode of Supergran in May 1987, which was the last role he recorded. His final television appearance was in the autumn of the same year in Knights of God, which had actually been filmed two years earlier.


On 27 March 1987, Troughton was a guest at the Magnum Opus Con II science fiction convention in Columbus, Georgia.

Although he had been warned by his doctors before leaving the UK not to exert himself because of his heart condition, Troughton appeared to be in good spirits and participated vigourously in the day's panels, and was looking forward to a belated birthday celebration which was planned for the coming Saturday evening, as well as a screening of the Doctor Who story The Dominators, which Troughton had requested personally, on the Saturday afternoon. He was also scheduled to appear on stage the following Monday with Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner and Sylvester McCoy, who had been announced as the Seventh Doctor earlier that month. Jon Pertwee ultimately took the place that had been intended for him on the panel.

Troughton suffered a fatal heart attack at 7:25 a.m. the next day (28 March 1987) just after he had ordered his breakfast from the hotel staff. According to the paramedics who were called, Troughton had died before he had fallen back on to his bed.

Family life

Troughton was married three times and he was survived by his third wife Shelagh. He had two daughters and four sons, as well as a stepdaughter and stepson.


Further reading


External links

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