Shaun Sutton was the man in charge of BBC serials when William Hartnell was forced to relinquish his role as the Doctor. The show’s popularity was so great that the decision was taken to re-cast the leading role, and in this interview from the early 1990’s Sutton describes the process, including Sydney Newman’s involvement during a dress rehearsal in a basement at Television Centre:
“The producer and I were absolutely determined to have Patrick Troughton, because we knew Patrick Troughton and I had actually been a drama student with Patrick Troughton many years ago, before the war. And even back then, Patrick had those deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun, and I remember saying to him once, before the war, ‘Pat, you have the secret of eternal age’, and I thought that was a very good quality for ‘Doctor Who’.
“Anyway, we both knew he was a good actor, I’d done many television plays with him, and I wanted him, I thought he had a magical quality about him, a wizard quality, and so did Innes Lloyd. Any good actor, like Patrick Troughton, can go and get work anywhere. And the fear with a part like ‘Doctor Who’ is that you’ll not only get typed as that part, you simply won’t get work anywhere because people will say ‘Oh, no, everyone will think of him as Dr. Who’, so we did had to persuade him, and I had to persuade him on more than one occasion to come back for another year.
“Of course, we had to sell him to Sydney Newman, so we prepared a sort of parade, as it were, and we were down in the dressing room in the basement of Television Centre. And he was dressed in his first costume, which for some reason was the captain of an American Mississippi showboat. I don’t know why that was his costume. And we called Sydney down, Sydney took one look and said ‘Shaun, let’s take a walk’, and I said to Innes ‘Out of the costume’.
“And Sydney and I walked around the entire basement of Television Centre, and believe you me that is a long way when you’re getting your fortune told by Sydney Newman. By the time we got back, Innes had Patrick in the costume he would eventually wear for ‘Doctor Who’, that funny little suit and odd tie and the hat and the penny whistle. And I think it was here that Sydney actually proved himself to be a great boss, because he looked and he said ‘I still don’t see it, but if you and Innes say it’s okay, okay, go ahead’ and he stamped out and on the way he said ‘You’d better be good’, and of course he was, Patrick Troughton was one of the best Dr. Who’s, and I thought he was a marvellous choice.
“He was, in a way, a little magician, a leprechaun. There was an impish quality that wasn’t there in Bill Hartnell. Bill Hartnell, in the very first ones, had much more of that impish quality than he had in the latter ones, he became much more of a Sergeant Major, which I didn’t think was very suitable, but Pat had it all the way through, and of course he got on marvellously well with the people who worked with him. He was first rate, he was a friend for many years, I liked his eccentricity. So I was extremely sorry when he left ‘Doctor Who’ and when he died, he was a friend I missed”.