Doctor Who News hartnell06

Published on August 14th, 2013 | by Jonathan Appleton

Novelist Picks Hartnell’s Doctor as Cultural Highlight

Historical novel writer CJ Sansom has selected William Hartnell’s Doctor Who as his choice for the Cultural Exchange feature in BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.


Interviewed by Mark Lawson in the Tuesday August 13 2013 edition of the nightly arts round up, Sansom, who wrote the Shardlake historical crime series, said of Hartnell’s portrayal:

He anchored everything. All the other characteristics that all the others have built on; he was mysterious, he was vulnerable, arrogant, mercurial, all those core characteristics…

Cultural Exchange is a regular Front Row slot which sees leading creative minds choose their favourite work. Rather wonderfully, Sansom says the programme’s early historical stories inspired his own vocation:

I was fascinated by the idea of these people who found themselves wandering about in history, and while the companions would be at sea… the Doctor could always make himself at home…

Really that started for me the idea of what it would be like to go wandering about in history, which is what I do now.

Sansom displays an impressive knowledge of the programme’s early years in an interview covering Hartnell’s casting, the tough shooting schedule, and how his declining health came to affect his performance. He also doesn’t shy away from Hartnell’s well-known (and deeply unappealing) views on race, but does attempt to place the man in the context of his time.

Well worth a listen, the interview concludes with Lawson nominating Sansom for the job of writing a Doctor Who story featuring an encounter with Henry VIII!

Listen to the interview at


Tags: , , , , , , ,

About the Author


has watched Doctor Who since those great big spiders did for Jon Pertwee, and it's way too late to stop now. When he's not at his job working for a charity he spends his time following Hull City's fortunes, listening to Bruce Springsteen and wondering why it took thirty years too long for Doctor Who action figures to come along. Currently listening to: The Fifth Doctor Box Set. By, it were a crowded old TARDIS in them days...

5 Responses to Novelist Picks Hartnell’s Doctor as Cultural Highlight

  1. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    I would love him (or any other able writer) to pen a new purely historical story for the show. Black Orchid was very good and all but didn’t come close to the brilliance of Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Romans, The Highlanders! Time for the show, having made it to the big 5-0, to go make even just one venture back to this long since abandoned genre.

  2. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    The Matt smith era racked up many adventures set in the past but no pure historicals. It would be nice to see them do one again in the series.

  3. avatar Simon Magellan says:

    Given the huge popularity of historical drama now, I don’t see why DW couldn’t do a purely historical episode. Maybe Steven Moffat should heed Mark Lawsons advice and ask Sansom to pen a story. Or Hilary “Booker” Mantell even…

  4. avatar Neu 75 says:

    Veering a bit off topic here but what Lawson said about him preferring contemporary stories is just typical of him, right to a tee. He’s such a naoist, he hates everything to do with the past!

  5. avatar Howard Railton says:

    Sansom doing Who meets Henry 8? Make it happen Moffat!

Please be aware that all comments are subject to adherence to our comments policy.
Back to Top ↑