William Hartnell centenaryPosted: 7 January 2008
William Hartnell, the actor who originated the role of the Doctor in the 1960s, playing the first incarnation of the character for BBC Television from 1963 to 1966, was born exactly 100 years ago today. For many of the original Doctor Who fans who were children in the 1960s, he remains the definitive Doctor.
I may not have grown up in 1960s Britain, but Hartnell is my Doctor, as I started watching his episodes around 10 years ago. For anyone who started watching Doctor Who with Eccleston and Tennant and decided to go back to the very beginning, it can be a rough jolt, and not just in the obvious colour-vs-black-and-white way. 1960s serials are drawn out over 4-8 episodes of 25 minutes each, and can move very slowly when compared to the fast 45 minutes that one episode of the 9th or 10th Doctor can cover.
Part of the reason I caught on with Hartnell is that some of his stories took place in the past. I was completing my undergrad in history, and it was nice to see the Doctor and his companions encounter Aztecs, Romans, and the Old West. Not to discount his multiple encounters with the Daleks, but the historical stories (TV, novel, and audio) are among my favourites in the Doctor Who canon.
Here’s to Billy Hartnell and his great contributions to Doctor Who.