Saturday 7 February 2015

Duggan - The Greatest Doctor Who Companion That Never Was!

"Duggan, why is that everytime I start to talk to someone you knock him unconscious?" - The Fourth Doctor

Yes, it's time to talk about Duggan, one of the most entertaining and exciting characters to ever set foot within the crowded universe that is Doctor Who.

Played by Tom Chadbon, Duggan only ever made one solitary appearance in Doctor Who, but, sweet Jesus, didn't he make one hell of a rambunctious impact! His case was helped, of course, by this lone encounter with the Doctor coming in The City of Death which is regularly voted as one of the finest Who stories transmitted.

When we first watched The City of Death - nearly 25 years ago now - we anxiously sat on the edge of our seat willing with all our might that Duggan would join the Doctor and Romana for further adventures in the Tardis. We've experienced many thrills in our long love affair with Doctor Who, but never had we before (or since) found ourselves pinned down in astonishment at the rapid creation of such a fan favourite. Sadly, our dreams were dashed and Duggan was limited to just the one serial.

However, you can't forget Duggan once you've encountered him, so we decided it was high time we celebrated the man, the myth, the legend!

Who Was the Man behind Duggan?

With a voice as smooth and textured as the finest cognac, Tom Chadbon has been regularly popping up on our screens since the late 1960s.

A fantastic character actor, he's made his mark on the acting world with a number of guest roles in shows such as Casualty, The Bill, Midsomer Murders and Blake's 7 to name but a handful. We're always delighted to see him pop up and have covered a couple of his lesser known shows on the blog - The Stone Tape and The Changes

His appearances haven't just been limited to that tiny screen in the corner of your front room either. Chadbon has maintained a presence on the silver screen and film roles have included Juggernaut, Tess and more recently the 2006 version of Casino Royale. He continues to act - most recently in Casualty and Father Brown - and his silky, rich voice means voiceover work is never short.

If you need further proof that Chadbon is an utter gent, just take a look at our Twitter followers. We're incredibly proud to have @TomChadbon on there.

Duggan Gets to Work on the Mean Streets of Paris

What's all the fuss about then? Well, let's start by taking a look at Duggan's role in The City of Death.

We first encounter Duggan in the Louvre where he's trailing Countess Scarlioni. It's all part of his investigation into Count Scarlioni's uncanny knack of discovering and selling priceless works of art. Duggan mistakenly identifies the Doctor and Romana as being in on the act, so begins following them in pursuit of answers.

After jabbing a gun in the Doctor's back and interrogating him and Romana, Duggan reluctantly decides that they're on his side. What, though, can Duggan bring to the table when two superminds are already on the case?

His fists. That's what.

The Flying Fists of Duggan

"That's your philosophy, isn't it? If it moves, hit it!" - The Fourth Doctor

Duggan may not be the sharpest spoon in the cutlery draw, but he's a got a mean punch on him. At the slightest hint of danger he displays his admirable courage by readying himself for a fight, be it raising an antique chair above his head or just putting his dukes up.

Does Duggan care that Count Scarlioni/Scaroth has the capability to obliterate Paris at the flick of a switch? No and he displays this blasé attitude by knocking him out. Twice. In fact, Duggan's second ruthless blow to Scaroth's chin is described by the Doctor as "Possibly the most important punch in history".

In a brief scene with Romana, Duggan tells her how his heavy handed approach may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it gets results. And he's not changing for anyone. This is all as he smashes a wine bottle open and pours them a drink.

What a bloody minded and magnificent man!

Why Did Duggan Captivate Us So?

We first watched The City of Death one sunny day in 1992 and we were transfixed from the very first second. Not only did it have one of the finest Who scripts ever by Douglas Adams, but it contained the freewheeling Duggan in his flowing mac - a mac that Tom Chadbon insisted on to help build Duggan's character.

Now, we mentioned earlier that the Doctor and Romana were super brains. Duggan, not so much. In fact, Count Scarlioni dismisses Duggan early on as posing no threat when he quips "He's too stupid to bother us seriously".

Sorry, Count Scarlioni, but it looks like you've completely underestimated Duggan's potential.

His brute force - he knocks down a 500 year old wall for god's sake - is the perfect foil to the numerous superior intellects on hand.

Sometimes it's not enough to be able to calculate a complex plan to save/destroy the universe. Every now and then you also have to be willing to deliver an ironclad punch up the bracket. It was this rough and ready attitude that we couldn't get enough of.

Duggan also fulfilled the role of being the translator for the viewers. Romana was far too intelligent to convincingly play the feed role to the Doctor's explanations, but Duggan - previously only dealing with divorce cases - is perfectly poised to ask what the hell is going on.

And that's why we were sad to see the Doctor and Romana running across the Champ de Mars as they waved goodbye to Duggan.


Just imagine the dynamics!

A Missed Opportunity

You only have to explore the myriad of Doctor Who online forums to see just how well loved Duggan was. He's frequently referenced as one of the show's best supporting characters and many, many Whovians mourn the fact that he only appeared in one serial

And, don't forget, the show's been running for over 50 years now.

That's quite the accolade.

We'll be the first to admit that perhaps his character is a little cartoony at times, but there was still potential for him to have a decent run in the series. Akin to that of Harry Sullivan's tenure.

Just imagine Duggan hitting the creature in The Creature from the Pit!

And, oh dear Lord, Duggan teaching Adric how to deliver a right hook!

It's too amazing for words!

In a way, though, perhaps Duggan is best as a magical one off where the show was at it's creative best. We may not have had long together, Duggan, but we'll always have Paris.

***Exciting Addendum***

Shortly after publishing this article, we tweeted Tom Chadbon about it and he gave us this fantastic response:


  1. Tom did appear alongside Colin Baker in the Trial of a Timelord in 1986

  2. Just watched City of Death, genuinely believe he would have made a fantastic assistant, after Romana left in Warriors gate, he could been a great companion and if he stayed long enough, him and Turlough from the 5th doctor would be brilliant mismatch/ Best buddies.

  3. What an amazing character...
    Does my memory play tricks on me, or did he have the unique and singular amazingly useful ability to open bottles of wine by simply smashing the neck off!!
    I would give my eye teeth to learn this skill!