Here’s a transcript from Patrick Troughton’s appearance at one of the Panopticon conventions. It’s quite a wide-ranging interview, covering his initial acceptance of the role through to his decision to quit after three years.
“The telephone rang. I was in Ireland doing a film called ‘The Viking Queen’, in which I did not play the main part, and I forget who, I think it was Shaun Sutton, Shaun Sutton was at the other end of the phone with this astonishing and preposterous suggestion. It was a fairly quick way of making it die a death, I thought. As each day passed, he kept on asking and offering me more pennies for it. I had a young family, I thought ‘I could get them educated on this’, and after about a week I thought ‘Right, now I can educate the kids, I’ll do the part’. So that’s really why I took it.
“We went to Berman’s, I think it was Berman’s, and we looked through all the old rubbish, really. (laughs) We just got things out of hampers and had a look. It was sort of a ragged imitation of Billy Hartnell, I suppose, only way out. And there was a first script, which was sort of written for Billy but which was written, it struck me, for a very verbose, sort of autocratic Sherlock Holmes who never stopped talking. And I thought ‘That won’t do for me over three years of every Saturday’, so I said first of all ‘No, I don’t see the part like this, I see it really as a listener’. I think this Doctor listens to everyone, tots it all up and then makes his own decision about this.
“Then in comes Sydney Newman, and he starts talking about this cosmic hobo, who obviously doesn’t talk like an intellectual type, autocratic Sherlock Holmes at all. And I leapt at it, what a good idea, and I said ‘A man like that would be more of a listener, wouldn’t he?’, and they said ‘Yes’. So that’s how that came about, really. I was very keen on doing it like that, because to begin with I found myself playing it over the top, mostly because that’s how Sydney Newman was urging me to play it. But Shaun Sutton, who I think was a little wiser than Sydney Newman in many ways, in fact considerably wiser, he said ‘No, no, just do it in your head, old chap’, so I toned it down a bit after that and it was warmer and a bit more successful.
“And of course Michael Craze was responsible for me wearing that absurd Beatles cut, he and Anneke Wills. Just before we went on, we got down to make-up and I’d had a lovely wig fitted that made me look just like Tom Baker, actually, or Colin, and I put it on, and they (Anneke Wills and Michael Craze) both looked at me and said ‘You look like Harpo Marx and we’re not going on with you in that wig’, I said ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, they said ‘No, sorry, no’. So they took if off and started doing things, combing it and lifting it and all that, and I ended up like the Beatles, which is totally out of date. Not that that matters to a Timelord.
“When you’re a character actor you’re having to make decisions all the time, and that’s a question of gaining confidence in the part you play, and that takes the time, really. Whereas with ‘Doctor Who’, the three years of it, you weren’t learning lines, really, you were learning thoughts.
“I was delighted when (Frazer Hines) joined. I knew him way back, because Frazer… (thinks) He’s a good listener, when you’re together just with him, he’s a good listener. And he’s not a bad actor, either! (laughs) We never played practical jokes, never. I’ve never known it to happen. (laughs) There’s no time for all that. All we did in rehearsals was to play Aggravation for three years. That’s a card game. We had penny stakes on it, and we played solidly when we weren’t actually on the set. It kept your mind sane, really. You had to keep to a routine, ’cause when you’re working at that pitch you have to keep to a routine, rather like a very young child or a very old man like I’m getting. And if that routine is broken, you just want to break into tears. There was a director once who bounded in and said ‘We’re going to start rehearsals at ten instead of ten-fifteen’, and that completely ruined our life for about half an hour. (laughs) It’s an astonishing thing, you’d keep going as long as everything was just like the day before, but once it got different… it was very worrying.
“Starting again was rather like jumping on a running bus. I remember that Monday, Tuesday… Monday we read it, Tuesday rehearsed it, Wednesday rehearsed it, half day Thursday then you were on Friday. We filmed every fortnight, and in the end, Frazer and Wendy and I had a sit-down strike and said ‘We’re not going to film at the weekends, because we’re getting tired irritable’. We had a big conference, Shaun Sutton took us out for a lovely meal, tried to talk us out of it, and we said ‘No!’, and in the end the planners, those chaps up in the sixth floor with their little maps and flags all arrange in lovely patterns but who don’t know much about the actual working of a play, they changed their mind.
“You could stay with it, and they wanted me to, for as long as the BBC did it or they got tired of you. That might be at best, one thought, five years. That would have been eight years, and by then one would have been so connected with the character that getting other work would have been very difficult indeed. So that was the main consideration there. Or one could leave. Give up a fortune. And that’s what we decided to do”.