Spoilers for “The Power of the Doctor” follow.
Patrick Troughton had one of the hardest jobs of any actor to play the Doctor; he had to follow the original. Had he failed, Season Four of Doctor Who would have gone down as a forgettable failed experiment. The science fiction series would have died in the 1960s after the lead actor, William Hartnell, was forced out due to his health issues. But Troughton, an amazing character actor, succeeded by all measures, proving that the show could regenerate and renew itself as needed.
Troughton created a Second Doctor who was most unlike his predecessor, delving into silliness and acting the fool where the First Doctor almost always remained dignified and serious. At the same time, Hartnell had imbued the character with a sense of humor and a streak of childlike curiosity that came to serve as the Doctor’s core across many iterations. Playing a younger and re-energized Doctor, Troughton ran with that sense of fun. To cement this, one of the first things he did was to pick up a recorder and start playing tunes. That instrument became the Second Doctor’s signature, even more so than his use of the sonic screwdriver and the tendency of offering people Jelly Babies (something that Troughton did first before Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor adopted it as his own).
Troughton played many tunes on his recorder, but I’m going to focus on one specifically here: “The Skye Boat Song,” which he first played in “The Web of Fear.” That performance is recognizable enough that it got a reprise in 2022’s “The Power of the Doctor,” and it carries more significance than meets the eye.
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