As part of the 50th Anniversary Year of Doctor Who, Mars Hill will be looking at each of the actors and their interpretation of the role of the Doctor, culminating with Matt Smith in Nov. This month we will be looking at William Hartnell.
When Doctor Who began that Saturday evening on Nov 22nd 1963, British television viewers watched something they never quite saw before, a science fiction serial, aimed primarily at children, about an old man from another World and his granddaughter, who lived in a police box that was initally sitting in a junkyard in London and was in fact a Time and Space Machine in disguise. Travelling with them were two school teachers, one who taught science and another who taught history, and these people visited other worlds and witnessed events in history.
Time Travel stories were not new, nor were stories about space travel, but new stories of such adventures combined were new and people were transfixed.
Central to that was the character of the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, previously typecast in tough guy roles. The Doctor was seen as a craggy and aloof old man who nonetheless had a sense of mischief and strong sense of justice. A mainstay in the changing world around him and the changing line up of companions.
What legacy did Hartnell's portrayal leave? Well that of a man who showed how the Doctor should be seen, a kind of Merlin in Space and Pied Piper, who fought intolerance and injustice and who in old age showed wisdom and sound judgement. It is not for nothing that in the Tenth and Twentieth anniversary specials we see his successors defer to "The Original", as he was sometimes known!