Doctor Origin : Gallifrey
(Actor) Born : 8 January 1908 – Died : 23 April 1975
Doctor Reign – 1963 – 66
“One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me I am not mistaken in mine.” First Doctor Who.
The first incarnation of the Doctor, was played by the character actor; William Hartnell. In the early years, Doctor Who was a very different show; to the one we know today.
Firstly, none of the established backstory was present. We didn’t know anything about the Doctor; not that the Doctor was a Time Lord from Gallifrey, possessed two hearts and could regenerate twelve more times into twelve new bodies.
The initial incarnation of the Doctor was a mysterious alien, who travelled with his granddaughter Susan; around time-and-space. Occasionally, they would stop somewhere long enough, for Susan to continue her education (she was particularly fond of 20th Century Earth history).
The Doctor’s character, was uniquely multi-faceted – even in the very first season. In that, actor William Hartnell bestowed on the character – a multitude of emotional states. The Doctor was a complicated character, from the outset and difficult to gauge.
The very first episode – An Unearthly Child -1963, showcased Susan’s time at Coalhill School and featured events from Barbara’s teachers; Ian and Barbara. Fearing for Susan’s welfare, they followed Susan home to I.M. Foreman’s junkyard – after school; as they were curious about her. There, they witnessed Susan go into an old police telephone box and they followed; where they met Susan’s guardian; ‘Doctor Foreman’. Doctor Foreman, then promptly kidnapped them both, to go along on their adventures; for the next 2 years.
The first time the Tardis dematerialized, it was bizarrely slow and trippy. As the Tardis buckled and groaned; for what seemed an enternity and everyone then passed out. Thankfully, later journeys would be much quicker and more instantaneous.
Little was revealed, about the background of the Doctor and Susan. Only that, they were exiled (from their people) and that, they were born in another time – on another world. It is also remarked in the first episode, that Susan coins the name TARDIS herself, based on the term “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space”. Later, the Doctor makes reference to having built the Tardis himself in The Chase – 1965. Both of these revelations were later shelved, as the more accepted lore was brought out (of a race of Time Lords – in the Troughton era.
“Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? To be exiles?” First Doctor – An Unearthly Child
The original scripts, had the Doctor written as a “Time renegade”; from the year 5733. Whose home planet had been invaded, although this wasn’t included in the final show. The First Doctor, had the biggest number of different companions to date. Beginning with; Granddaughter Susan and Ian and Barbara. Later, the Doctor was joined by Vicki, Katarina, Stephen, Dido, Ben and Polly. The Tardis almost developed a revolving door policy. As one companion left and another joined.
The early show, kept an air of mystery around the Doctor and the main draw, was Ian and Barbara – finding out a little bit more – every week; about their alien kidnappers.
The Doctor was played by William Hartnell – a 40-year veteran of stage and screen, at the time he took the role of the Doctor. His acting credits included the very first Carry on film Carry on Sergeant – 1958 and the TV series The Army game – 1957-61 .
Hartnell was used to playing tough characters, throughout his career; he seldom got to play the ‘good guy’. Usually cast – as heavies or Army types. He had some grounding in the latter, having seen action in WWII himself – serving in the Tank corps.
So the role of the Doctor, was a major departure for him. As mentioned earlier, Hartnell brought complex emotional elements – to the Doctor. The Doctor could be crotchety and aloof, but he also showed a more gentle, nurturing and playful nature; especially, with Granddaughter Susan. The Doctor could also be scathing, sarcastic, authoritative and manipulative. Also, scatterbrained and unintelligible, as if having lost the plot – entirely. Only to come good at the end. Whether a clever act – or a genuine senior moment.
Indeed, Hartnell’s Doctor had the many emotional facets later actor’s tried to capture – in their portrayal of the Doctor and each episode seemed to bring out a different combination of emotional traits; depending on the situation – that the Doctor faced.
When trying to pin down the main facet of Hartnell’s character, it would have to playful, personable (slightly off-the-wall) grandad. As he was, when he spent time with Susan.
The First Doctor could be whimsical, funny and cunning charm – even in the face of dangerous opponents; as he frequently showed in serials, such as The Reign Of Terror, The Romans, The Gunfighters and The Aztecs. The Doctor was also baffled and forgetful at times, whether intended or not. This could give the First Doctor the edge over his opponents – who frequently undermined his advanced years.
However, the First Doctor could turn on a whim to be brilliant, cunning, inventive and inspired. Usually when the chips were down and certain catastrophe was near. Good at rallying spirited resistance, with motivating speeches, as he did in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.
The First Doctor could also display less personable qualities, such as alien cold logic and inhuman difference. Such as when he threatened to cast Ian and Barbara out into space, to be rid of them – in The Edge of Destruction.
Hartnell’s First Doctor era, can be split into two distinct types of adventure. The period-drama romp; which meant that the Doctor visited many famous people – in Earth’s history. Marco Polo, Emperor Nero, Richard Lionheart and Wyatt Earp – to name a few.
And then the more futuristic, sci-fi concept episodes; where the Doctor journeyed to many far flung planets – to meet many different species. Notably, the Daleks but the Doctor also came across the Cybermen, Sensorites and the Monoid’s – amongst others.
“It all started out as a mild curiosity in the junkyard, and now it’s turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure!” First Doctor – The Sensorites
The Doctor didn’t have thr trademark sonic screwdriver yet, to aid the Doctor in various jams but did possess a ring which could be used (in a similar way). To control the Tardis console, open doors and break hypnotic trances.
The Time Meddler – 1965 introduced the idea, of an evil counterpoint to the Doctor. In the serial, the battle of Hastings (in 1066) was being disrupted by a time-traveller, who was trying to tip the balance of history; using future technology.
Hartnell was 55, when he took the role and his health was always a problem for him. He would frequently forget his lines – and he didn’t always get on with his fellow actors or production staff – and could be very difficult to control, during filming.
In later serials, he sometimes went whole episodes, without speaking (or even appearing) – and alot of the Doctor’s later intended dialogue (and action); was later handled – by the companions themselves.
It was mutually decided 3 years into his reign, that the time had come to stop playing the Doctor but rather than end the show; as it was still highly popular. A brilliantly conceived idea, had the Doctor “regenerate”, into a completely different individual.
This would become the central core of the show, (with the Doctor regenerating every 3-4 years – into a different actor). Upon which, the show could be taken – in a different direction.
So the First Doctor, having vanquished the Cybermen but being mortally wounded in the battle, fell to the floor in episode 4 of The Tenth Planet – 1966 ; and changed into the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) – in front of everybody’s eyes.
Sadly, some of Hartnell’s episodes were lost – including the pivotal regeneration into Troughton scene – “The Tenth Planet”. Due to a regressive money-saving policy of taping over the mastertapes, to reuse them. However, serials continue to be discovered, so one day – there may be more missing adventures found.
Hartnell briefly reprised his role (as a cameo – due to illness), in the 10th annniversary special;The Three Doctor’s -1975 before he died. Richard Hurndell took over the role of the first Doctor in the 25th Anniversary serial – The Five Doctor’s -1983 .
Hartnell’s First Doctor legacy, was to begin the mythology, which would be taken much further by future incarnations and fleshed out into the familiar lore that we all know today.
Hartnell’s 10 of the best
Season One – 1963-64
An Unearthly Child – (Pilot) ???⚪⚪
The Edge of Destruction⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Marco Polo (missing)????⚪
The Keys of Marinus????⚪
The Reign of Terror (Parts 4 & 5 missing)???⚪⚪
Season Two – 1964-65 :
Planet of Giants????⚪
The Dalek Invasion of Earth⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Web Planet????⚪
The Crusade (parts 2 & 4 missing)?????
The Space Museum???⚪⚪
The Time Meddler ????⚪
Galaxy 4 (parts 1, 2 & 4 missing)????⚪
Mission to the Unknown (missing)????⚪
Season Three – 1965-66 :
The Myth Makers (missing)????⚪
The Daleks’ Master Plan (parts 1, 3, 4, 6 -9, 11 & 12 missing)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Massacre Of St Bartholmew’s Eve (missing)??⚪⚪⚪
The Celestial Toymaker (parts 1, 2 & 3 missing)??⚪⚪⚪
The Savages (missing)???⚪⚪
The War Machines????⚪