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17 September 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 260 Extra: The Second Doctor Overview

Dear diary,

I can't begin to tell you how happy I am. Way back at the end of last year, when I was first starting to get ready for The 50 Year Diary, I was most looking forward to the Patrick Troughton years.

He'd always been my favourite Doctor, based on the surviving stories of his that I'd seen, and I was really looking forward to actually making my way through all he had to offer. I'd dabbled with the missing episodes from time to time, watching the odd recon if it could hold my attention, or listening to a soundtrack here or there, but now I'd have a reason to actually stick with it, and really enjoy it.

But then I started to worry. The further I got into the William Hartnell years, the more I found myself enjoying him as the Doctor. Watching the programme at the rate of one episode a day way working perfectly for one of my main aims - I was forming an actual bond with the older characters. It's tricky to do when you can dip in and out of the stories on DVD whenever you like and in any old order. I wanted to really grow attached to them in the same way you do when a new series airs.

So as we came to the tail-end of Season Three and things started to fall into place for Troughton's arrival, I started to panic. What if, having grown so used to Hartnell, I'd find I didn't really care all that much for a silly new Doctor? Could my love for his Second incarnation be completely destroyed by seeing them all in this way? Even more crucially, would my favourite story of all time - The Tomb of the Cybermen - suddenly seem rubbish compared to all the other stories I'd found myself really enjoying?

Well no. Of course not. It seems obvious from here, having just finished Episode Ten of The War Games, that I love Patrick Troughton because he's a genuinely brilliant Doctor. There's a reason that every Doctor since has fallen in love with him and borrowed a little bit of his performance. And it didn't matter if I'd found myself really enjoying the likes of The War Machines, or The Dalek Invasion of Earth, because The Tomb of the Cybermen is still fantastic anyway.

What really surprised me is just how much I enjoyed Troughton's first season. Because so much of it is missing from the archives, stories from Season Four are often forgotten. Everyone thinks of the three key stories (The Tenth Planet, The Power of the Daleks, and The Evil of the Daleks) and then forgets all the adventures with the Macra, the Cybermen on the Moon, or the Fish People. I'm just as guilty of it - I'd never really payed the season that much attention.

It's a crying shame that we can't see more of it, because there's a lot to love in there, and I think these stories would be held in higher regard if we were able to stick the DVDs in as simply as we can many other stories (though this is becoming closer to a reality even as I type, with three of the stories lined up for release in the near future).

Season Five, on the other hand, which I was expecting to really love, fell a little bit flat for me. Individually, several episodes rated very well, but by the end of the run I was really starting to flag. Poor Fury From the Deep is probably deserving of a much better score than I've given it, but I was simply washed out by that whole format by the time it rolled around. It's definitely high on my list for a rematch once the marathon is over. Surprisingly, and likely due to the fact that I loved both Tomb and The Web of Fear so much, this season currently holds the highest average rating - 7.2.

And then we come to Season Six. Being mostly complete in the archive, it's the one that everyone hails as the best of Troughton's three years, and it's the stories from this period that helped me to first fall in love with the Second Doctor. While I've liked many bits of it, the overall score has been brought down a little by my utter contempt for The Dominators (and I promise that I'll stop banging on about it now that I'm done with the 1960s) and my disappointment during The Space Pirates.

As a whole, the era comes in with a very respectable rating of 6.8, putting it a little ahead of the First Doctor. Troughton's stories have currently taken the top four spots on my ratings table of all the stories so far, but he's also gathered a few at the other end of the scoreboard, filling the bottom three spaces, too.

And now it's onto the 1970s. I've made no secret as I've gone along that the next decade (and the Third Doctor's era in particular) has never been a favourite of mine, but I'm actually really excited to be moving on. I'm ready for the programme to do something different, and the success of stories like The Web of Fear and The Invasion have actually geared me up ready for the next massive change.

Whereas with The Tenth Planet, it felt right to move straight onto the next episode the following day, here it feels like there should be a bit more of a gap. Maybe it's because it's such a clean break, with the departure of the Doctor, both his companions, and the programme moving into the new decade with the introduction of colour to the adventures? That's not how the marathon works, though, so it's right on to Spearhead From Space in the morning, and (perhaps surprisingly) I can't wait!

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