November 23rd 1963: Doctor Who debuts
On this day in 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast by the BBC. The original series starred William Hartnell as the protagonist known only as ‘the Doctor’, a Time Lord who travels through time in his blue police telephone box called the TARDIS with his companions. Since Hartnell, there have been 10 other actors who have played the iconic role, the current being Matt Smith. Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction drama in the world. It remains an immensely popular show, and an integral part of British culture. Today at 7.50pm on BBC One a 50th anniversary special will air.
50 years ago today
Happy 50th Anniversary Doctor Who.
William Hartnell doing his close to the face hand gestures. Apparently Hartnell gave his fellow actors the same lecture about gesturing close to the face on ‘as live’ television as you never knew when you were going to get a close up.
Hartnell is sometimes criticised for forgetting lines and such but his performance and presence as the Doctor is just so strong. Watch him in scenes, in the background, watch his eyes dart back and forth, the curiosity, the wonder. Watch his hands tremble slightly, and watch as he interrupts with the best precision, and watch how he commands the scenes without saying much at all. When people say that Hartnell is just the actor who forgets his lines we get so sad because acting is so much more than the lines, and when he couldn’t remember, he made up for it with his mannerisms and his physicality and authority.
It didn’t matter that his sentences came out wrong sometimes, he was boss and you’d listen to him. You still believed in him.
David Bradley and Reece Shearsmith recreating the filming of William Hartnell’s regeneration scene in An Adventure in Space and Time
Ian Hallard as director Richard Martin keeping his Daleks in line - An Adventure in Space and Time