Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Troughton, Patrick (1920-1987)

Actor, Presenter

Main image of Troughton, Patrick (1920-1987)

Born on 25 March 1920, Patrick Troughton attended London's Embassy School of Acting in his teens, later winning a scholarship to New York's Leighton Rallius Studios. He joined the Tonbridge Repertory Company in 1939 but war intervened, Troughton attaining the rank of Captain of a North Sea gunboat.

After demobbing he worked with numerous rep companies including the Bristol Old Vic, but the new medium of television became his preferred stage. The BBC Drama Department in the 1950s was a repertory company of the airwaves, with the same players returning each week in plays and serials. Beginning with Horatio in Hamlet in 1947, Troughton regularly appeared in family 'classic' serial adaptations. Highlights included the lead in Robin Hood (1953), St Paul in Paul of Tarsus (1960) and Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop (1962). All demonstrated his versatility and ability to almost disguise himself in a role.

Troughton also worked on the film adventure series being made in the new arena of commercial television. Credits included Sir Andrew Ffoulkes in The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1955-56) and repeat bookings in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-60), The Count of Monte Cristo (1956), Sword of Freedom (1957) and Sir Francis Drake (1961-62). As tastes moved from swashbucklers to spies he appeared in The Invisible Man (1958), Danger Man and The Saint. Usually he was guest villain, often blacked up as an evil 'foreign devil' - these lucrative parts did not stretch him as BBC productions would.

Occasional film appearances included Jason and the Argonauts (d. Don Chaffey, 1963) and The Gorgon (d. Fisher, 1964). While on location in Ireland shooting The Viking Queen (d. Chaffey, 1967), Troughton was approached to replace William Hartnell as Doctor Who.

With Hartnell ill, the innovative idea was to have the actor 'regenerate' into a completely different persona. Viewers initially resisted the idea but Troughton quickly convinced them that changing the lead could work. He started out as a Chaplinesque clown in loud check trousers and stove pipe hat, playing a recorder and prone to assuming ridiculous disguises but this was gradually toned down. His Doctor was an unassuming, rather shabby little man who quietly asserted his authority on any fraught situation. Troughton liked to assure any frightened younger viewers by appearing as scared of the monsters as they were. It was unlike Troughton to stay in one role and he later called his third year as the Doctor "a season too far" - forty episodes a year had exhausted him and script quality concerned him.

Troughton's last Doctor Who aired in June 1969 and he returned to the serial format, as the Duke of Norfolk in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (BBC, 1970). There were guest slots in popular series such as The Sweeney, Z Cars, Space:1999, Nanny and Minder, and semi-regular parts in sitcoms Foxy Lady (ITV, 1982-84) and The Two of Us (first series; ITV, 1986-90) but the short-run television serial remained his first love. There were parts in Treasure Island (BBC, 1977), Swallows and Amazons Forever! (BBC, 1984) and The Box of Delights (BBC, 1984) in which he played ancient Doctor-ish magician Cole Hawlings. He temporarily revived his role as the Doctor in two anniversary stories in 1973 and 1983 and again in 1985.

Troughton died of a heart attack in 1987 while attending an American Doctor Who convention. Two sons, David and Michael, both became successful actors.

Alistair McGown

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Gorgon, The (1964)Gorgon, The (1964)

Hammer branches out with its first female monster movie

Thumbnail image of Hitch in Time, A (1978)Hitch in Time, A (1978)

Children's drama about an eccentric professor's time machine

Thumbnail image of Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1955)Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1955)

Marius Goring plays the mysterious saviour of French aristocrats

Thumbnail image of Changeling, The (1965)Changeling, The (1965)

Rediscovered TV production of Middleton's dark Jacobean tragedy

Thumbnail image of Family at War, A (1970-72)Family at War, A (1970-72)

Epic saga following a working-class Liverpool family from 1938 to 1945

Thumbnail image of Feathered Serpent, The (1976-78)Feathered Serpent, The (1976-78)

Distinctive children's historical drama series set in Aztec Mexico

Thumbnail image of Love Letters on Blue Paper (1976)Love Letters on Blue Paper (1976)

Moving drama with Patrick Troughton as a dying trade union leader

Thumbnail image of White Falcon, The (1956)White Falcon, The (1956)

TV dramatisation of the court of Henry VIII

Thumbnail image of Wuthering Heights (1962)Wuthering Heights (1962)

Impressively passionate version of the Bronte classic

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005-)Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005-)

Recently regenerated time-travelling adventures

Related people and organisations