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Behind the scenes on Patrick Troughton's first Doctor Who episode, shot fifty years ago today

Radio Times went on set in 1966 to photograph The Power of the Daleks

Published: Saturday, 22nd October 2016 at 8:00 am

Doctor Who fans would probably exterminate their own grandmothers to have been in Don Smith’s shoes. Fifty years ago, on Saturday 22 October 1966, the Radio Times photographer went on set to shoot Patrick Troughton’s debut as the second Doctor. (The Power of the Daleks is a six-part classic now missing from the BBC archives, but has been reconstructed in animation.)


Two weeks earlier, Troughton had recorded the brief transformation from original Doctor William Hartnell at the climax of The Tenth Planet, but it was in episode one of Power that he unveiled his quirky new characterisation – a momentous chapter in television history.

It was the first time they’d changed the lead actor in Doctor Who, but if Troughton, then 46, suffered any first-night nerves, he hid them well. "He was at ease," Don recalls. "There were no frustrations or tensions that I remember. Pat Troughton was more affable than William Hartnell. Far more. I got on all right with Hartnell, but he wasn’t a happy man about things in general.

“I’d photographed Pat many times before – in various BBC Dickens adaptations, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Finlay’s Casebook – so Doctor Who was kind of a continuation for us. He was a nice man. I got on with him very well. If I said to him, ‘Please Pat, would you lean on the Tardis?’ he was happy to do it. Nothing was too much trouble.”

The Power of the Daleks pitched the new Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly against his arch-foes on the planet Vulcan, a human colony in the future – and it was recorded at the BBC’s Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. “You surprise me,” says Don, “because I always think of the early Doctor Whos being at Lime Grove.” Indeed, most of the 1960s episodes were made at the BBC’s old studio base in Shepherd’s Bush, but many were allocated to Riverside or even BBC Television Centre, which had more modern facilities.

Don worked for Radio Times for some 40 years, having started in 1955, aged 23. He’s retained RT’s assignment ledgers from the 1950s and 60s, which provide a fascinating and invaluable record not only of when photographs were taken but also the dates that many famous TV and radio programmes were in production.

In the ledger (above) The Power of the Daleks is listed as “Dr Who – return of the Daleks”. Don explains: “The code RT 3700 stands for Radio Times and the number of that particular assignment, while 70 RF means I took 70 shots on a Rolleiflex camera. That’s six rolls of film – an unusually high number – so it was a proper photoshoot.” The long list of digits (4, 11, 15… up to 70) refers to individual images he selected and supplied as enlargements. These were all taken on 2¼-inch-square monochrome film, but he also spots that there’s a faint pencil note: “+ 10 colour”. “It was unusual in those days to shoot in colour because RT mainly used black-and-white shots.”

Sadly, few of these 80 images remain in the Radio Times Archive. They’ve been scattered throughout time and space. “In 1966, I was actually working for Radio Times from the Daily Mirror. The Mirror kept all the negatives and when RT wanted a print, they’d phone up and say, ‘Can we have a print of RT 3700 number 40?’ or whatever, then we could print the actual shot they wanted. In March 67, I left the Mirror to join the staff of Radio Times and because the negatives belonged to RT, they were all shipped up to our [former] offices at Marylebone High Street. Over time, various people went through the files for all sorts of programmes and said, ‘Well, we’ll never use those,’ and they were thrown away. Also loads went down to the BBC Picture Publicity department and never came back.”

Across the decades many of the RT photos from The Power of the Daleks have been published in books, annuals, other magazines and online. But perhaps it’s interesting to note what actually was – or was not – printed in RT in 1966. Patrick Troughton was already a well-respected actor on British TV and had featured on the RT cover before, but it was ultimately decided to keep his “look” as the scruffy new Doctor under wraps. So there would be no front-cover portrait and no picture of him inside to publicise his debut episode. Instead, a montage of Don Smith’s Dalek shots adorned the cover, while a small feature depicted the Doctor’s companions.

Gazing at his photos now, Don observes, “These were posed pictures. It looks a bit like they were taken on the run. All I can say is that I used to dive in when I could between scenes. When I think of the slowness of the film, the slowness of the cameras and negatives, the pictures are amazingly good quality. And I’m not saying that because I took them!”

The lighting is moodily atmospheric in some shots, but Don says there wasn’t any special set-up for RT. “No, that was just the studio lighting. Normally we only used their lighting. We couldn’t ask them to change anything.”

The image above looks shaded round the edges. Did he use some kind of mask on his camera lens? “I wouldn’t have done that intentionally,” he admits. “It looks a bit like I was standing in between two TV cameras and they’ve cast this blackness. I’d like to claim all kinds of things,” he laughs, “but I can’t.”

Two points to note about Patrick Troughton in these pictures. On the day of recording, it appears that the actor sustained an injury. In several photos, there’s a plaster on his right index finger; in others he’s keeping that hand out of sight. (His bandaged finger was also visible on screen when episode one was aired.)

Secondly, in various shots, Troughton has specks on his hair and shoulders. This isn’t an extreme case of dandruff. Similar specks are visible on his trousers in some photos. It’s likely the pictures were taken soon after he’d rehearsed a scene, halfway into the episode, where the Doctor is knocked to the ground in a mercury swamp, and the actor simply picked up sawdust or Jablite polystyrene strewn across the set floor.

Here’s a gallery of Don Smith’s surviving Radio Times photographs, culled from various archival sources and published together for the first time:

Troughton as Mr Miller in Dr Finlay's Casebook in 1965.
From 1964 to 66, Troughton also had a recurring role in Dr Finlay's Casebook as Mr Miller, the schoolmaster of Tannochbrae. Photographed by Don Smith in 1964.
Patrick Troughton had three roles in the popular, long-running BBC drama, Dr Finlay's Casebook. This shot is from the episode Snap Decision (11 October 1962), in which he played Alex Dean, a troubled gardener. Marion Mathie played Annie Dean.
Another curio from A Tale of Two Cities (1965). Troughton as Dr Manette with Kika Markham as Lucie and Leslie French as Jarvis Lorry. Leslie French was an actor originally considered to play the first Doctor in 1963.
Here's a treat for Patrick Troughton fans. Some ultra-rare Don Smith photos of the actor from the 1960s. And no, this isn't an early, aborted Hartnell-esque look for the second Doctor. It's Troughton in 1965 as another doctor, Dr Manette, in a BBC adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.
A colour shot that eventually adorned the cover of The Dr Who Annual, published in 1969.
Don Smith in the RT offices in 2016 with the cover he photographed 50 years earlier.
Assignments ledger. On the right-hand page, the fourth entry lists "Dr Who - return of the Daleks". It indicates a contact sheet was made, plus enlargements of all those images numbered. There's also a faint pencil note that Don took a set of 10 colour photos.
Assignments ledger. On the left-hand page the fourth entry, RT 3700, is Don Smith's Doctor Who assignment. 70RF indicates 70 images taken on his Rolleiflex camera.
One of the original Radio Times ledgers for photographer assignments
Radio Times cover for the week 5-11 November 1966 with a composite image of Don Smith's Dalek photos. Episode one of The Power of the Daleks was shown on Saturday 5 November, only two weeks after Don was on set for the studio recording.
Don Smith's final shot of the Daleks from a different angle. Shot number RT 3700 70.
Daleks. Shot number RT 3700 67.
The Dalek in the foreground was used in a montage for the Radio Times cover. Shot number RT 3700 60.
Daleks. Shot number RT 3700 57.
Daleks. Shot number RT 3700 56.
This image of two Daleks was used in a montage for the Radio Times cover. Shot number RT 3700 54
The Daleks alongside their capsule in Lesterson's laboratory, with the lights of the BBC's Riverside Studio One visible above. Shot number RT 3700 52.
Robert James as scientist Lesterson. Shot number RT 3700 46
Anneke Wills as Polly and Michael Craze as Ben in the Tardis control room. Shot number RT 3700 40.
The Doctor enters the Dalek capsule. Ben and Polly look rather small at the foot of the ramp outside. Shot number RT 3700 33.
The cast gather in Lesterson's laboratory. Bragen (Bernard Archard), Lesterson (Robert James), Governor Hensell (Peter Bathurst), Janley (Pamela Ann Davy), Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze). Shot number RT 3700 31.
Patrick Troughton playing his recorder in the rest room set of the Vulcan colony. Here you can see the plaster on his index finger, and that his trousers are also speckled in sawdust or polystyrene. Shot number RT 3700 28.
Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor. Shot number RT 3700 21.
Shot number RT 3700 16. The Doctor in the Tardis with his 500 Year Diary. Here you might spot Patrick Troughton has flecks of sawdust or Jablite polystyrene in his hair and on the shoulders of his jacket. He's again concealing his injured right hand.
One of Don Smith's colour shots of Troughton.
Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor. Shot number RT 3700 20.
The Doctor and his companions Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) discover two dormant Daleks inside a mysterious space capsule. This shot was taken during rehearsals for episode one. For the actual recording, the Daleks were festooned in cobwebs. Shot number RT 3700 15.
Two of the guest cast in The Power of the Daleks, Robert James as scientist Lesterson and Bernard Archard as the villainous Bragen. Shot number RT 3700 4.


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