Doctor Who News William Hartnell interviewed after his Doctor Who departure

Published on September 27th, 2013 | by Andrew Reynolds

William Hartnell Considered Daleks “difficult”

You never really leave the Doctor behind. As an actor you may go on to equally interesting and challenging roles, or perhaps never really step out of it shadow but in the minds of the public and the fans, you’ll always be the Doctor.

It’s a struggle for validation outside of the blue box which is all too apparent in this only surviving on-screen interview with the First Doctor William Hartnell, set to feature on the upcoming DVD release of 1966 story The Tenth Planet.

In it, he expresses his frustrations not only with the question of every escaping questions about Doctor Who but also his co-stars, the most famous creation in the shows history, and perhaps a greater enemy because of it, the Daleks:

I’m not brassed off, it’s just it’s the association of the Dalek question, this mechanical mobile object, I’m beginning to find it distracting. And they were difficult to play to, because you’re not looking into human eyes. You’re looking at a metal object, moving about, with a voiceover.

Hartnell is then asked whether he would ever “shake off” questions about Doctor Who, to which he tersely replied:

Oh yes, of course, by making a success in something else! That’s an actor’s job.

However, there’s a difference between finding success in a fulfilling role and inhabiting a role that fires imaginations and taps into our desires to be beguiled by a dramatic, fantastical persona.

The full interview, of which only a fragment survives, was filmed in Hartnell’s dressing room in the Gaumont Theatre, Taunton, during his run as Buskin in the pantomime Puss in Boots. It was initially broadcast on the BBC regional news programme Points West on 17 January 1967.

Classic Doctor Who on DVD - The Tenth Planet

The clip was discovered by researcher Richard Bignell in 2009, working for BBC DVD.

Though digitised in 2011, the interview will appear for the first time on the DVD release of The Tenth Planet this October.

Next month William Hartnell will be played on BBC2 by David Bradley in An Adventure in Space and Time, a drama telling the story of the show’s conception that forms part of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebrations.

Available on DVD on October 14th, you can order The Tenth Planet from Amazon now for just £13.50, and we’ll have a review soon!


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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.

2 Responses to William Hartnell Considered Daleks “difficult”

  1. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    I hope Hartnell would have found some solace that he was not only remembered, but loved tremendously, by fans like myself, who were still 20 years away from existing when the first episode aired, and only found the show and fell in love when it seemed dead and buried. I hope he would also find pride that even later generations, such as my young daughter, would fall in love with not only the show in it’s current form, but also it’s origins and his original portrayal – 50 years later. Time passes, things grow old and end. But quality – clearly – never dies! It will always be appreciated, respected and loved. Thank you Mr Hartnell for starting something that means so much to so many. You were – you ARE – a legend!

  2. avatar BOJAY says:

    William Hartnell had had a career before Doctor Who, and a working actor knows just how important it is to get work so that that career can be had. He was one of the absolute essential ingredients in Doctor Who’s success and as its lead, absolutely integral. It seems nowadays that “life after” Doctor Who is much more attainable for actors who have portrayed the character. Most certainly this is evident in the careers of Peter Davison (again, an actor who was well established before Doctor Who), Sylvester McCoy (Lately), Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, and David Tennant. One can hope that the same will come to be said of Matt Smith. Doctor Who is a one of a kind, defining, career changing role, that no actor will ever be able to disassociate himself from. It’s like Bond, turned up to 11. Thankfully, this has been a good thing, especially more recently, and all but one actor seems to be happily embracing that. William Hartnell remains an Immortal to us.

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