|Polly (Anneke Wills, left) and the Doctor |
(William Hartnell, center) face off with a Cyberman in
The Tenth Planet
The idea that the leading actor of a series could be replaced was certainly unusual, though not unheard of, but it was an idea that was risky in the extreme. The further idea that the lead actor could be replaced by another actor, playing the same character, was even more unusual. And the even further idea that the new actor could play the character in a completely different way, with a completely different look, than his predecessor, is something that could only happen in Doctor Who. The fact that so little had been revealed about the character and that the series had already established itself as the kind of show where anything could happen, is what allowed such a fantastic development to take place.
Indeed, replacing William Hartnell with some sort of Hartnell clone probably would have been a disaster. The choice of Patrick Troughton was inspired in many ways, but the one most necessary to the success of the concept of regeneration was his very difference. It was Doctor Who's progenitor Sydney Newman who first came up with the idea that Troughton's Doctor should be a "cosmic hobo" and that set Troughton down the path to creating one of the most beloved incarnations of the Doctor.
The fourth season opens with the series feeling a little old hat, it must be said. This is more the result of the lacklustre opening story than anything else. William Hartnell's swan song, The Tenth Planet, is a much better story overall. Though it has its problems, it is also more a part of the pacier, more action-driven direction the series had begun to take following The War Machines.
|Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) meet the Second |
Doctor (Patrick Troughton) in The Power of the Daleks
While this strategy would really flourish in the following season, it has its beginnings in the fourth season, indeed The Tenth Planet can be seen as the first true base under siege story. While this did reap some rewards, it also meant that gone were the experimentation that resulted in comedies like The Romans and The Gunfighters, or surreal weirdness like The Web Planet and The Celestial Toymaker. It's true these stories didn't always work, but it showed that Doctor Who was willing to try anything, and it gave some relief from the sameness of some of the more straightforward rampaging monster stories. This formulaic quality certainly wasn't helped by another major decision to scrap the historical stories.
From this point forward, Doctor Who becomes much more of an action-adventure series. Yes, it's still science fiction, and it's still wonderfully inventive, but for a long time after this season, the tone of the series is far more rigid. It's tales of the Doctor battling monsters, invaders and villains in a science-fiction setting with a healthy dollop of horror. This is by no means bad in and of itself, but it does mean the show loses some of its strangeness.
|A Dalek menaces Victoria (Deborah Watling) and |
Jamie (Frazer Hines) in The Evil of the Daleks
A lot of this has to stem from Lloyd and Davis who created a sense of stability within the programme following the tumultuous times following Verity Lambert's departure. This would continue into the fifth season, one that would rely on monsters and the base under siege format even more heavily.