“Patrick, have you got your camera?” Mark Gatiss called to me across the hubbub in the BFI’s hospitality room. He wanted me to take a picture of him with Reece Shearsmith, who was about to make tracks following The Tomb of the Cybermen screening earlier this month.
As I ferreted on the floor for my camera-bag (next to Doctor Who’s executive producer Caroline Skinner, pictured above with Gatiss and Shearsmith), I wondered why – there must be thousands of shots of the two former League of Gentlemen side by side. Then Mark lent in and whispered in my ear, “He’s playing Patrick Troughton.” Well, you could have knocked me down with a descant recorder!
I already guessed there’d be a handover scene between the first and second Doctors in Mark’s forthcoming BBC2 drama, An Adventure in Space and Time, and I was imagining who could possibly fill the shoes of second Doctor Troughton (he died in 1987). Maybe one of his own sons, actors David or Michael… even if both are really too old now.
Never in a million light years would I have been smart enough to consider Reece Shearsmith. But the instant Mark told me, I could see he’d be perfect. OK, he’s not a dead ringer for Troughton (unlike David Bradley who’s playing first Doctor William Hartnell) but that doesn’t bother me. There are other considerations.
At 43, Shearsmith (right, with Gatiss) is only three years younger than Troughton (above left) was when he took on Doctor Who. He has thick dark hair and is about the right height. But, more importantly, as anyone who watched The League of Gentlemen or Psychoville knows, Shearsmith is absolutely brilliant at creating characters (Edward of the Local Shop, Papa Lazarou, Mr Jelly, Maureen Sowerbutts…) who are both funny and sinister. And that, for me, is Troughton’s Doctor all over.
Mark Gatiss clearly concurs: “I first asked Reece about 12 years ago when I started thinking about this project. We were in the midst of League of Gentlemen and I just remember thinking, if anyone plays Patrick Troughton, it should be Reece. Like the second Doctor, he’s small, saturnine and a comic genius. The complete package. He thought it was a fantastic idea and I’ve kind of nurtured it all this time.
“Reece has a funny relationship with Doctor Who – mostly to do with impressions of the Borad from Timelash! He and a friend were obsessed with season 22 [Colin Baker’s Doctor, 1985]. One of my earliest memories of Reece is him going, ‘I am the Borad!’ He’ll do the whole of Timelash at the drop of a hat. Which is a strange qualification. He’s not steeped in Doctor Who like I am, but has been lightly dipped over the years. I know he’s delighted to be a part of An Adventure in Space and Time.”
At the BFI I congratulated Reece, who looks deceptively angelic in the flesh, and thanked him heartily for all the weirdo comedy that’s tickled me over the years. I wished him well with Doctor Who and then, with a swish of his orange scarf, he disappeared into the night.
It’s been tough keeping a lid on this information, and what a relief that Mark and his team have now kindly allowed Radio Times to break the story. But how will Shearsmith feature as Troughton in An Adventure in Space and Time? Last week, when I went on set at BBC Television Centre, Mark dropped a few hints, but our discussion is embargoed. In any case, you’ll want to be surprised in November.
read more of this article at Radio Times.