Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) b. Mill Hill, London, England.
Patrick George ‘Pat’ Troughton was born on 25th March 1920 in Mill Hill, London, England to Alec George Troughton and Dorothy Offord. On finishing his schooling, he attended the renowned Embassy School of Acting in Swiss Cottage, London, where he studied under Eileen Thorndike. He was awarded a scholarship to the Leighton Rallius Studios, part of the New York based John Drew Memorial Theatre on Long Island, where he remained until the outbreak of WWII, when he returned immediately to England and joined a repertory company in Tonbridge, Kent. On his journey home across the Atlantic, his ship hit a mine and sank and he was fortunate to escape in a lifeboat and was picked up off the western approaches. In 1940, he joined the Royal Navy where he served throughout the conflict, captaining a motor gun boat on patrol duty in the North Sea. He was to eventually reach the rank of Commander.
When the war ended, Troughton returned to the theatre, where he initially worked with the Amersham Repertory Company, then the Bristol Old Vic Company and the Pilgrim Players, based at the Mercury Theatre, Nottingham. A year after making his television debut in 1947, he made his cinema debut, with small roles in Laurence Olivier‘s Hamlet, Escape (alongside William Hartnell), and also played a small part as a pirate in Treasure Island. However, he preferred television and in 1953 he became the first actor to play Robin Hood on television, starring in six half-hour episodes broadcast on the BBC during March and April. Pat’s other notable film and television roles included Kettle in Chance of a Lifetime (1950), Sir Andrew Ffoulkes in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1955), Phineas in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop (1962), Paul of Tarsus (BBC 1960) and, Dr. Finlay’s Casebook (BBC 1962). He also provided the voice for Winston Smith in the 1965 BBC Home Service radio adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Before he became the second Doctor Who, he appeared in numerous TV shows including, The Count Of Monte Cristo, Ivanhoe, Dial 999, Danger Man, Maigret, Compact, The Third Man, Crane, Detective, Sherlock Holmes, No Hiding Place, The Saint, Armchair Theatre, The Wednesday Play, Z Cars, Adam Adamant Lives! and SoftlySoftly.
Then in 1966, producer Innes Lloyd decided to replace William Hartnell as Doctor Who, who, much to his credit immediately recommended Troughton as ‘the only English actor capable of being his successor’ and history was made. His considerable experience as a versatile character actor stood him in good stead as he sought to make the role his own, finally deciding to play the part with more humour than his predecessor. After three years as the Timelord, he decided to quit, citing the fear of being typecast as his main reason, although it was well known that the punishing schedule was taking its toll on him.
After Troughton left Doctor Who in 1969, he did make several return appearances and was a regular visitor to the many Doctor Who conventions around the world. He was prolific in film and TV, appearing in many of the popular series of the time, including The Persuaders!, Colditz, Play For Today, Sutherland’s Law, The Sweeney, Jason King, Survivors, Crown Court, Angels, Warship, Van Der Valk, Space:1999, The Onedin Line, All Creatures Great And Small, Minder and Inspector Morse.
He never really enjoyed a fully healthy life and always refused to accept his doctor’s advice, even ignoring a serious heart condition that had developed through continuous work and the subsequent stress of the long hours involved. As a result, in 1978 and 1984 he suffered two major heart attacks, preventing him from working for a long time. Despite the warning signs, his doctor’s warnings were again ignored as Troughton committed himself to more and more TV and film work, including his last regular role in the 1986 LWT sitcom The Two of Us, with Nicholas Lynhurst and Janet Dibley.
Although he had once again been warned by his doctors to take things easy, in March 1987 he insisted on attending the Magnum Opus Con II science fiction convention in Columbus, Georgia, USA, where a belated birthday celebration was planned for the following weekend. Tragically, at 7:25am on 28 March, he suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly in his hotel room.
Away from acting, Patrick Troughton was an accomplished swordsman, sailor and angler and was extremely knowledgeable on philosophy and various religions. He married three times, being survived by his third wife Shelagh Dunlop. He had two daughters and four sons, as well as a stepdaughter and stepson, and one of his grand-children, Jim, has played cricket for England.
Compiled by Clive Saunders.