In appreciation of William Hartnell: the first Doctor.

Posted: August 21, 2010 by datechguy in doctor who, hobbies
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When you see polls of the most popular doctors William Hartnell seem to be often forgotten, very few of his episodes survive as a whole and although we have seen glimpses of him in the current series he remains largely ignored as the generation that watched his episodes are in their late 50’s or above.

As I discovered the series with Tom Baker I had not seen him period, my first glimpse was an image in The Brain of Morbius, the Five Doctors featured a different actor in the role. It wasn’t until I saw the three doctors on WENH 11 that I actually saw him perform in a limited role.

Every other actor who has been on the show has had the burden of living up to an iconic role, but each one of them also had the advantage of an established franchise. An actor who is cast as a companion of the Doctor has a ready source of income for their entire life, the actors who play the doctor even more so. Doctor Who is a multi million dollar worldwide industry that supports and entertains millions upon millions of people.

None of that would be true without the performance of Hartnell. He had none of the history to carry him nor the existing fan base. Like any actor with a new series it was up to him as the primary star to carry the show. A show totally unique in the history of Television. He needed to carry off the role of an almost all knowing and commanding presence while still being appealing to young children. And all of this is done without the special effects and CGI of the modern days.

The combination of knowledge and courage combined with a fatherly figure made him iconic. It is very true that excellent writing and the creation of the Daleks made a huge difference, but if Hartnell failed this would be at best just another set of $1 DVD in a bin if the episodes were saved at all.

Get your hands on an episode or two if you can. Ignore the limited special effects and lack of CGI look at the performances, and let yourself appreciate the grand bequest given first to the British people and then the world

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