News and Articles
3 June 2018
Mark’s father had slightly eccentric dress sense, but when going out in the late 1960s, he would disguise himself as a sheikh with a turban, false beard and dark glasses. Without the disguise he was instantly recognisable: he was Patrick Troughton, who played the second Doctor in the BBC’s immensely popular sci-fi series Doctor Who.
Mark recalls, ‘It gradually dawned on us as kids that everyone knew who Dad was. For example, children at school would make Dalek noises down the school hall and so in public Dad would try to fly under the radar.’
Patrick Troughton trained as an actor in London and New York. He returned to the UK when the Second World War broke out, but the cargo ship on which he was travelling struck a mine and sank near Portland. Despite this experience, he joined the Royal Navy as soon as possible and distinguished himself commanding patrol boats off the coast of East Anglia.
After the war, he returned to acting and made his television debut in 1947. By the time he stepped into his most famous role as the Doctor in 1966, he was already a very familiar face on screen having played dozens of roles, including the first television Robin Hood. William Hartnell approved of the choice of successor at the controls of the Tardis saying, ‘There’s only one man in England who can take over, and that’s Patrick Troughton.’
I still think of Troughton as my earliest Doctor, though I must actually only remember him from repeats as he left the series in 1969, handing the Tardis keys over to Jon Pertwee. While I have a great fondness for Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor (1974–1981), it is still Troughton who defines the role for many – and not just of my generation. Tenth Doctor David Tennant says that, ‘Patrick Troughton created the Doctor as he is now,’ and Tennant’s father-in-law, Peter Davison (who was the fifth Doctor), admits that Troughton was the best.
However, Patrick Troughton’s acting was not confined to performances on screen or going out disguised as a sheikh. From the mid–1950s, he secretly lived a double life with one family in north London and a second in Kew. This only became public in 2012 when Michael, Patrick’s third child by his first wife, published a biography of him.
Mark Troughton, the youngest son of the second family, is coming to Above Bar Church on Sunday 10 June for the next of our Real Lives events. I will be interviewing Mark, giving us the opportunity to hear from him about the experience of having such a famous father, what Patrick was really like and what drove him – in his career and his personal life.
We’ll also hear about Mark breaking the news to his father that he had become a Christian, knowing that Patrick was very hostile towards religion. As usual for a Real Lives event, the second half will be a short talk, which will look at how Doctor Who is a great reminder of humanity’s need for a rescuer.
It’s an ideal evening to invite your friends to – there will be plenty of interest for those who aren’t Doctor Who fans, but for those who are it will be a great chance to hear about one of the great figures in the history of television’s longest-running sci-fi series.