Doctor Who News The First Doctor Who: "an anti-hero"

Published on February 1st, 2013 | by Andrew Reynolds

Gatiss Considers First Doctor An “Antihero”

If you were to instigate a police line-up of literatures most notorious anti-heroes, you might not expect to see the First Doctor glaring back at you through the safety of a two-way mirror.

The First Doctor Who: "an anti-hero"

But standing him proudly amongst the rain soaked murky cutthroat world of literature’s darkest impulses is An Adventure in Space and Time writer Mark Gatiss – who believes the Doctor to be touched with the same madness that makes characters like the Byronic Corsair or Taylor’s Amir Ali, so compelling.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Gatiss also spoke of the vulnerable ‘personal journey’ taken by William Hartnell during the inception of Doctor Who:

He was much more of an antihero…It’s mostly the personal journey of William Hartnell and his relationship with [Doctor Who producer] Verity Lambert. Eventually he had to leave, and none of us like to find that we are replaceable.

Tasked with capturing both sides of the Doctor and the actor charged with bring him to life will be former Doctor Who guest star and Harry Potter actor David Bradley, who, as it turns out Gatiss has been championing for the role for years:

I’ve had David in my head for years. I’ve been trying to do this [project] for years – I tried to do it for the 40th anniversary! And before that, really – it’s taken about 12 years.

Bradley will be joined in the drama by Brian Cox as Doctor Who producer Sydney Newman, Sacha Dhawan as director Waris Hussein and Jessica Raine as producer Verity Lambert.

As expected, to finally get his man and write the story he’s always wanted to tell, it’s been nothing but a joy for Gatiss:

It’s a real labour of love for me and I’m just really thrilled that everything’s come together for the 50th. It just seems exactly the right time, and a wonderful cast and it’s a very lovely story.

We can’t wait – can you?


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About the Author


Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.

3 Responses to Gatiss Considers First Doctor An “Antihero”

  1. avatar gruff says:

    I’m certainly looking forward to this, great to think that they haven’t just relied upon episodes and greatest hits type shows to celebrate this land mark. Few TV shows are still broadcast let alone produced 50 years after the first transmission, so the more variety they can use in the approach to educating and entertaining fans and casual viewers the better in my book!

  2. avatar Bradondo says:

    I agree with Gatiss on this. Of all the Doctors Hartnell’s had the most dramatic and transformative character arc. In the early episodes he’s not merely a reluctant hero, but not a hero at all–he’s surly, abrasive, suspicious and even mean-spirited (especially in the unaired original pilot before producers opted to tone him down), has no desire to be a hero or an adventurer and in fact merely wants to be left alone. I’ve often wondered what made him this way at this point in his life as we gradually come to see that his true nature is much more vibrant and altruistic. Over the course of Hartnell’s tenure (and especially during that first season) we see the mischevious, heroic and morally-centered Doctor we know and love emerge from the bitter and withdrawn man we are first introduced to. Taken this way we can see how Hartnell’s beutifilly performed transformation sets up the character and the series for all that was toc come after him. If you haven’t gone back and enjoyed Hartnell’s tenure recently you should drop everything and watch them in order. It’s a dramatic and fascinating performance!

    • avatar Bradondo says:

      Sorry for the typos up there…jeepers that’s eembarassing! I was typing it on my phone and being harassed to hurry it up!

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