We all know the importance of The Tenth Planet and The Power of the Daleks. Not only did the former introduce the Cybermen – a creation the cast never thought would return, though instead just celebrated their 50th anniversary, having faced the majority of Doctors – but the pair included the first transition between lead actors for Doctor Who, a process now called “regeneration” but acknowledged back then as simply a “renewal.”
Nowadays, actors playing the Doctor seemingly pencil in how long they’ll stay in the lead role some time before the event arises; when the first regeneration occurred, however, it all happened surprisingly close to transmission of Season 4.
Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis handed in their first draft of The Tenth Planet in June 1966, while the cast were taking a six-week summer holiday (during which, fact fans, actor Michael Craze went into hospital for treatment of a broken nose, and suffered a near-fatal burst blood vessel in his head). This draft was uncovered in 2013 by Michael Seely, who was working on a biography of Pedler, and discovered that the serial’s ending was very different: it featured no regeneration!
Heather Hartnell apparently once said that it was on 16th July 1966 that her husband, William decided to leave Doctor Who. He was suffering from arteriosclerosis, a hardening and thickening of artery walls, so found it increasingly difficult to remember his lines, especially with such a punishing filming schedule. This was highlighted by the fact that, in 1965, he couldn’t attend the funeral of his beloved Aunt Bessie because he was too busy on Doctor Who. (Indeed, Patrick Troughton was troubled by the amount of dialogue he’d need to learn when taking on the role.) Nonetheless, Hartnell genuinely adored the show, saying:
“We did Doctor Who for 48 weeks a year, but I loved it. I couldn’t go out into the street without a bunch of children following me, like the Pied Piper. People used to take it terribly seriously. I’d get letters from boys swotting for exams, asking me complicated questions about time ratios and the TARDIS. I couldn’t help them!”
In her biography about her grandfather, Who’s There? The Life and Career of William Hartnell, Jessica Carney says that it was mutually agreed that he left the role; still, Heather recalled how upset he was at having to relinquish the part:
“When the time came for Bill to leave the show, purely because of his ill health, it broke his heart. Having told the press that it was going to run for 5 years, he was determined to play it for 5 years. But he couldn’t remember his lines, plus his legs were beginning to give way at times. Between the end of 1966 and when he made [10th anniversary special] The Three Doctors in 1972, he got progressively weaker mentally and physically. That’s the awful thing about arteriosclerosis, as the arteries close up the flow of blood is not only weakened to the limbs but to the brain as well. When he did The Three Doctors, he couldn’t remember a single line, but he was still able to read it. The BBC were ever so good over that.”
It was ultimately up to the BBC Head of Serials, Shaun Sutton, to decide if Doctor Who should continue without William; certainly Sydney Newman, one of Doctor Who‘s creators, wanted it to carry on.
John Wiles, producer during Season 3, planned to replace Hartnell previously, but it was the following production team of Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis who developed the idea; both are generally credited with the notion of regeneration, as their plan was for a new actor to play the Doctor but, unlike Wiles’ idea, with a different personality. Davis credited Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as inspiration, though it’s still contested as to who was really the driving force behind the regeneration.
Various names were suggested as Hartnell’s replacement, including Ron Moody (Oliver!; The Animals of Farthing Wood), Peter Jeffrey (who apparently turned the role down when offered, but would later appear in The Macra Terror and The Android of Tara), and Peter Cushing, who had already given his interpretation of the First Doctor in two movies, Doctor Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150.
They kept coming back to one name, though: Patrick Troughton.
Lloyd remembers Hartnell exclaiming that Patrick was “the only man in England who could take over from me”, while Heather added:
“With Patrick Troughton taking over the show, we were delighted, because Bill had suggested him for the part and he was number one choice of the names that came up. We’d known Pat for years; he’s a darling person. But after a time, Bill stopped watching it, because it upset him emotionally. Even so, he was very pleased with Jon Pertwee’s interpretation. He hardly saw any of Jon Pertwee’s stories, but was tickled pink to think that the show had gone on, and when he did The Three Doctors,’ he glowed again as if it had taken ten years off his illness.”
The Tenth Planet would write out the First Doctor, with The Power of the Daleks fully introducing this new incarnation of the alien. Roy Skelton, who provided voices for the Cybermen and Daleks, said in a 1992 interview:
“I remember very well being in the last episode of Doctor Who that William Hartnell did and it was very sad; I remember being very sad, we all gathered round. It seemed like the end of an era, of course it wasn’t the end of Doctor Who because in came Pat Troughton, and I was very lucky because I was in the next episode that came along with Pat Troughton in, and I remember the changeover very well – it was a mixture of joy and sadness.”
Troughton was filming in Ireland when he was offered the role, and later admitted a reluctance to it. Despite being a fan of the show, he was worried the BBC wouldn’t continue its commitment to Doctor Who. The production team were persistent, fortunately, and Patrick concluded that it was worth doing, even if it didn’t last. He told Doctor Who Magazine‘s Richard Marson:
“I had a young family when Billy was doing it, and we watched every Saturday. I think I saw every one of his. I liked Billy’s thing – which I think he worked in towards the end – of not treating every alien as bad or potentially bad. He wanted to find out what they were like. Just because they were ugly didn’t mean that they weren’t nice. Let’s find out what they want first. I think that was very important – especially for the children.”
(Galaxy 4 is the notable tale to subvert expectations in the way Troughton described.) Ironically, for his first tale as the Doctor, Patrick would face a threat that everyone – except the human colonists on the planet Vulcan – knew as through-and-through evil.
Gerry Davis approved The Destiny of Doctor Who on 22nd July 1966, to be written by Season 1-2 Story Editor, David Whitaker (The Edge of Destruction; The Crusade), featuring the Daleks arguably as a way of assuring the audience that this was exactly the same show (though Lloyd denies this, claiming the storyline was already in the pipeline). Indeed, it would be a Dalek that would recognise this new Doctor.
Whitaker, who was paid £300 per episode, didn’t know anything about the identity of this upcoming incarnation, so, by his own admission, wrote the part “as sketchily as possible, so that it could be easily altered.”
Nonetheless, Troughton was concerned by the script, which was at odds with how he and Sydney Newman envisioned him – as a “cosmic hobo.” After a disastrous meeting to decide what the new Doctor would be like, Troughton instead sat down with Davis to properly establish the character.
The six-part serial was heavily rewritten by Dennis Spooner (The Reign of Terror; The Time Meddler), and renamed The Power of the Daleks. Director, Christopher Barry told Doctor Who Magazine:
“The change of lead was a gamble, but the show’s popularity was such – and Troughton so good – that we were, I think, pretty confident. There was a great deal of excitement in the air. And it was shrewd to have the Daleks there for a reprise at the start of the new era.”
Though Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly, remembers being nervous about the change, she said both she and Craze (aka Ben) were excited when Troughton was revealed to them:
“Although he was nervous, of course, he was completely sweet and absolutely adorable, and totally friendly, and we fell in love with him on the spot.”
Such was the media coverage that viewing figures for The Tenth Planet rose from 5.5 million (for Episode One) to 7.5 million, and 7.9 million tuned into the first episode of The Power of the Daleks, hitting a peak of 8 million for the serial’s penultimate instalment. Season 4 maintained similar figures throughout its transmission in 1966 and 1967.
The Second Doctor was here, and nothing would be the same again.
There’s now well over 800 episodes of Doctor Who, and, almost 50 years on from that first regeneration, it’s safe to say that we owe The Tenth Planet and The Power of the Daleks a massive debt.