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Fandom / Television PopWrapped | Fandom

The First Doctor: William Hartnell's Journey Through Space And Time

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


11/01/2013 9:49 pm
PopWrapped | Fandom
The First Doctor: William Hartnell's Journey Through Space And Time
Media Courtesy of Google Images

Heather Maloney

Staff Writer

As the first actor to portray The Doctor, William Hartnell had the unique position of being able to create the character simply from words on a page. In 1963, Doctor Who was a simple television show about a time travelling alien and his granddaughter. No one would have guessed that it would continue on for 50 years and become a global phenomenon. With ten companions, 126 episodes and three years in the TARDIS, Hartnell laid the foundation for the show. With the help of other actors such as Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), William Russell (Ian Chesterton) and Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), the cast made the unbelievable real and scared a generation of children throughout the United Kingdom. Also, without the genius of such amazing creators as Verity Lambert (producer) and Waris Hussein (director of An Unearthly Child and Marco Polo), the show that almost did not reach broadcast would never have become one of the most popular science fiction television shows in the world. The First Doctor was a multi layered character. While later incarnations focused on developing these layers a bit more, William Hartnell’s portrayal is both grandfatherly and mysterious. As a stern grandfather, The Doctor utilized manners and a dash of sarcasm as his tactic for both negotiation and manipulation. However he also had a softer side which came through when talking to those he loved. This is seen primarily in the quiet moments with his granddaughter Susan. The First Doctor is a family man which is a definite departure from his later incarnations. The love he has for Susan and eventually for his other companions shines through all of the grumpiness. In the episode, "The Aztecs", The Doctor meets a woman named Cameca who he eventually cares deeply for; in fact, he accidently becomes engaged to her. The time that The Doctor and Cameca spend together in the garden is touching as they develop an amazing relationship that is broken only when The Doctor has to leave her in her own time. Both the Daleks and the Cybermen found their origins with The First Doctor.  The Daleks were introduced early in the First Doctor’s reign and quickly became a phenomenon of their own and rocketed Doctor Who from a children’s show to a must see sensation. Conceived by writer, Terry Nation and brought to life by designer, Raymond Cusick, Daleks are unstoppable tanks that cannot be reasoned with and simply have one goal; to destroy anything that is not a Dalek. Originally brought to the screen on December 21, 1963, the Daleks were so popular that they generated two licensed movies about a Doctor who is not a time lord, but a human scientist.    Many television historians credit the longevity of Doctor Who to the Daleks as they easily became one of the most recognizable villains in all of the UK. The iconic Cybermen first came to life in William Hartnell’s last story, "The Tenth Planet".  This incarnation of the terrifying cyborgs end up being the catalyst that begins one of the most important elements of the show’s success: regeneration of the main character.  As beings from a mirror planet called Mondas, the Cybermen are the result of constant self-improvement. They continually replaced pieces of their human bodies until they became a society of metal monsters. Throughout the series they become an eerie reminder of a line that humans should never cross. When William Hartnell decided to hang up his key to the TARDIS, the production team came up with an amazing idea to continue the series. Since The Doctor is an alien, can’t he simply regenerate into a new body? This groundbreaking narrative device was utilized in the final episode of "The Tenth Planet" when we say goodbye to our beloved alien grandfather and say hello to the future. Throughout his time on the show, William Hartnell developed the beginning of a character which, while a drastic departure from the character that has continued through the 50 years, was the one and only original.  Travelling from the time of cavemen to the O.K. Corral, The Doctor and his companions fought evil and explored dark times in humanity’s past and those to come in the future. His ability to play a grandfatherly figure while remaining aloof and mysterious left the audience trying to figure out the one question that has eluded audiences since 1960; Doctor Who?


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