On November 23, 2013 there will be the 50th anniversary of “Doctor Who”. To celebrate this important moment let’s go over the Doctor’s history again. This article remembers the First Doctor.
Played by William Hartnell, the Doctor is initially a really mysterious character. Not surprisingly, the series begins in “An Unearthly Child” with Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, two teachers at the school attended by Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, who are trying to figure out who the exact identity of this grandfather they know very little of.
That’s the start of an extraordinary saga that brings the Doctor and his companions around space and time. This is possible thanks to the Tardis, a curious spaceship bigger on the inside than on the outside that can travel in any place and in any time.
The Doctor stole the TARDIS – or the TARDIS stole the Doctor, depending on your point of view – with the idea of leaving his planet and explore the universe but all of that will be revealed only over time. Initially, it was only known that the Doctor and Susan were aliens and the Tardis never went where the Doctor wanted.
Initially, the Doctor is hostile towards Ian and Barbara and only in time he learns to appreciate their company even if he continues to get Ian’s surname wrong. The original group of the show’s protagonists is crucial to its success but undoubtedly the difference was made by the Daleks, the inhabitants of the planet Skaro appeared for the first time in the second adventure in the series, titled “The Daleks“. They have become a “Doctor Who” icon and today it’s impossible to think about the show without their presence.
The original protagonists stayed for a little more than a season, then the changes started that became typical of the show, in which the Doctor’s companions come and go. Susan was the first to go – in fact she was left on Earth by the Doctor – and after some adventures Ian and Barbara left the Doctor.
Over time, other companions arrived and departed: Vicki, Steven, briefly Katarina and Sara Kingdom, who didn’t leave the Doctor but died, Dodo and finally Polly and Ben. The Doctor was the only one who stayed but William Hartnell’s declining health made it increasingly difficult for him to play his character.
In the First Doctor era we also remember the “Billy fluffs”, the mistakes made by William Hartnell while recording the show. At the time they were trying to avoid as much as possible to stop recording because schedules were tight so sometimes they broadcast scenes that contain fluffs as well.
Finally, they invented the regeneration, which became one of the basis of the show: the Doctor was old but he could circumvent death thanks to a biological process that rejuvenated him. This, however, led to a deep change in the Doctor’s appearance and personality, giving the production a way to replace the actor who played him.
William Hartnell returned briefly to play the Doctor in the special adventure “The Three Doctors” but he died a couple of years later. In the adventure “The Five Doctors” the First Doctor was played by Richard Hurndall, the last appearance of the first version of this character.