... and 34 other facts we learned about the Doctor Who actor from a new biography
A new biography of the actor who played the second Doctor Who has just been published. Written by Michael Troughton, one of the actor's sons, it's a surprisingly candid read, which details both Troughton's prolific career on screen, and the personal problems of a man who lived something of a double life.
- In 1939 Troughton was sailing home from New York when the cargo ship he was travelling in was blown six feet into the air by a mine and sank.
- He spent most of his wartime Navy service stationed in Yarmouth, patrolling the shipping lanes in an MGB (Motor Gun Boat). After one firefight he was mentioned in dispatches for bravery under fire.
- By 1944 Troughton was in command of an RML (Rescue Motor Launch). His crew nicknamed him “Lieutenant Cosy” because he always wore a dirty old tea-cosy as a hat!
- Troughton was very tactile, and enjoyed the company of women far more than men. His son describes this as “an addiction that would cause all sorts of personal problems throughout his life.”
- Troughton had two families: one with his first wife Margaret; the second with his girlfriend Ethel. He kept the existence of the second family hidden from his mother for over two decades, right until she died in 1979.
- The whole family was sworn to secrecy. This necessitated annual “performances” when they went to visit Troughton's mother at Christmas and Easter.
- When asked, years later, by his son why he’d left them, Troughton explained, “I needed change. Things have to change all the time for me I’m afraid, that’s the way I am."
- Because of this, Michael Troughton believes that one of the newly-regenerated Second Doctor’s first lines - “Life depends on change – and renewal” - may have been his father’s idea.
- Actress Annie Morrish also had an affair with Troughton in the ‘60s, which lasted for three or four years.
- While working on The Omen he fell head over hells for co-star Lee Remick.
- It took about a week for Troughton to accept the role of Doctor Who after it was offered. The BBC kept phoning with better and better financial offers, until eventually he accepted – he had private school fees to pay…
- Looks for the character which he tried out at home included, “the Victorian Prime Minister Gladstone, complete with mutton-chop sideburns; a mad scientist with spiky black hair and a ridiculously high voice; and a turban-headed character out of the Arabian Nights.”
- He also sketched several other ideas: a Mississippi paddle steamer captain; a pirate with an eyepatch; and a tramp in battered clothes, pushing a pram full of his belongings and playing a tin whistle.
- The Hartnell/Troughton regeneration scene looked the way it did because the vision mixer made use of a faulty fader to create a flared and broken image.
- Troughton refused to watch his first episode when it aired, feeling “physically sick with the pressure of it all”.
- Public reaction to Troughton’s first three episodes was, according to producer Innes Lloyd, so negative that the BBC came close to pulling the series.
- Troughton publically laughed off a practical joke where companions Michael Craze and Anneke Wills turned up in a dress rehearsal wearing t-shirts reading, “Come back Bill Hartnell, all is forgiven”, but privately he was very upset.
- Frazer "Jamie" Hines, Deborah "Victoria" Watling and Troughton had the on-set nicknames “Fluff, fart and cough” because of the different ways they dealt with forgetting a line. Troughton would cough, while allegedly Watling would “release wind” when she became nervous!
- One scene in “The Abominable Snowmen” required the Doctor to hide from some guards inside a box. Troughton cracked everyone up by making farting noises and whispering, “Speak quicker, I’m suffocating!”
- While filming “The Moonbase”, Troughton was nearly flattened when the Gravitron weather machine prop fell down just as he was walking away after inspecting it.
- On “The Tomb Of The Cybermen”, Troughton had trouble telling which Cyberman was speaking, so he got the actors to secretly signal to him that it was their turn to speak next by leaning forward or twitching an arm.
- Troughton liked to joke that the Cybermats “drank Guinness, ate pickled onions, and needed to be stroked at least once a day.”
- Peter Ling, writer of “The Mind Robber”, submitted a story synopsis for a Who adventure about “a world where time is in reverse.”
- In his last few months on Who, Troughton became very difficult to work with, later describing himself as “inconsistent and argumentative… almost schizophrenic”. He felt that the series was “sinking into a downwards spiral”, and was worried he’d be thought of as the man responsible for killing off Doctor Who.
- During filming of “The Five Doctors”, Troughton constantly teased Jon Pertwee for throwing his dummy out of the pram and refusing to film a scene where his Doctor was supposed to construct a hang-glider from his cloak and some spare parts.
- Troughton may have been contacted by Who creator Sidney Newman in 1986 about the possibility of taking over the role of the Doctor again for a short “caretaker period”.
- He was Laurence Olivier’s understudy on the 1955 film of Richard The III . He acted out all Olivier’s scenes as Richard so that the director/star could work out he to compose the scenes; many of the long shots of Richard are of Troughton, not Olivier.
- Troughton detested formal Christianity. He felt so strongly about it that when his son David got married he refused to attend the church service, only turning up for the reception.
- Troughton’s acting was fuelled by nervous energy, and he visibly trembled while in the grips of it. He explained, “When I am about to perform, my heart begins to race.. and I feel myself gently shaking. If I don’t feel nervous I just know that the performance is going to be wrong.”
- Troughton loved painting birds. He was also pretty good at producing copies of famous works by the likes of Constable and Lowry.
- He was terrified of heights: “Just standing on a chair would make all the blood drain from his face”.
- On occasion he sank into a black mood where he would “stare blankly into space for hours on end”.
- While playing golf, Troughton had a habit of “urinating at as many locations on the course as possible”. He said he had a weak bladder, but his son reckons he just liked peeing in public…
- He had a temper – after a bad shot he was likely to jump and down swearing and banging his club.
- Finally, an authentic Troughton Doctor Who joke: “How do Yeti go to the loo?” “They have to get their balls out first!”
Read our review of Patrick Troughton: The Biography Of The Second Doctor Who
Read our interview with Anneke Wills about the discovery of a missing Troughton episode.