As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 3 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 14 May 2012

The End of the BeginningBookmark and Share

Saturday, 16 July 2016 - Reported by Marcus
Moments in TimeIt was on Saturday 16th July 1966, fifty years ago today, that the third season of Doctor Who came to an end.

At the end of episode number 126 the series would take its now traditional summer break, ready to return refreshed in the autumn.

Production on that new series was continuing and during the week William Hartnell had been in London working on the first story of the next series, episode two of The Smugglers. After four days of rehearsal, the episode had been recorded at Riverside studios, finishing late on Friday evening. It was the usual pattern for the series, a pattern Hartnell had been following it for three years. However, this week was different. When Hartnell returned home, to Old Mill Cottage near the quaint village of Mayfield, in the heart of the Sussex weald, he had some momentous news for his wife Heather. He had agreed to give up the role of the Doctor.

Hartnell told his wife he would only record six more episodes. His final story would be broadcast in October and then he would leave the series. His time as The Doctor was nearly over.

Replacing the lead actor is a difficult decision for any producer to take, especially one where the entire story revolves around a central character. But it had become clear that Hartnell couldn't continue in the role. The actor was suffering from Arteriosclerosis, a thickening, hardening and loss of elasticity of the walls of arteries, which affected his memory as well as his physical health.

The disease meant Hartnell was becoming increasingly difficult to work with. Recently he had lost his main support when Peter Purves had left the series and had not formed a close relationship with the new companions played by Anneke Wills and Michael Craze. His poor health, along with declining ratings, down to around 5 million from an average of 8 million the previous summer, convinced producer Innes Lloyd a change was needed. He gained approval from his bosses, including Sydney Newman, to seek out a new Doctor and to replace William Hartnell.

In spite of his health, Hartnell was devastated to be leaving the series. In 1983 Heather Hartnell gave an interview to Doctor Who Magazine.
When the time came for Bill to leave the show, purely because of his ill health, it broke his heart. Having told the press that it was going to run for five years, he was determined to play it for five years. But he couldn't remember his lines, plus his legs were beginning to give way at times. Between the end of 1966 and when he made ‘The Three Doctors’ in 1972, he got progressively weaker mentally and physically. That’s the awful thing about arteriosclerosis, as the arteries close up the flow of blood is not only weakened to the limbs but to the brain as well.
Hartnell's professional life before Doctor Who had consisted mainly of playing villains, in numerous British films. He had been a solid character actor, firmly on the B list. All that changed in 1963. Playing the Doctor had brought him into the homes of millions of families each Saturday night. It had made him a celebrity, a role model, adored by children across the nation.

Heather Hartnell told DWM.
I’ll always remember he opened a big annual fete at Pembury Hospital in about ’64, ’65, and a great friend of his had a lovely pre-1914 war car, a real veteran. Anyway, this friend drove the car into Tunbridge Wells where he met Bill, who had changed into his Doctor’s costume complete with wig, stick and cape that the BBC had lent him. Bob pulled up in this open tourer and Bill got in front and I in the back, and off we set for the hospital. By the time we had gone three odd miles to the fete, there was a stream of kids and cars and bicycles behind us. It was fantastic.
Hartnell's career was virtually over after he left the series. He had a short run in pantomime the following Christmas, touring the country in Puss in Boots. He would return to Doctor Who in 1973, appearing in The Three Doctors. By then his health had declined so much his appearance was restricted to a few filmed inserts.

William Henry Hartnell died in April 1975, but his greatest legacy lives on.

FILTER: - Moments in Time - William Hartnell

William Hartnell interview foundBookmark and Share

Thursday, 29 January 2015 - Reported by Marcus
A long lost interview, featuring William Hartnell, has been recovered in part by the BBC.

Hartnell was interviewed by Roy Plomley, for the Home Service radio programme Desert Island Discs in 1965. The edition was transmitted on 23 August while Hartnell was at the height of his powers as the Doctor.

The recording was thought lost, erased by the BBC. However it is understood that a 16 minute section has been recovered and will shortly be available on the BBC iPlayer. The recording was available for a short period earlier today, but was removed pending an official announcement.

Desert Island Discs celebrates its 73rd Anniversary today, having been running continuously on BBC radio since 1942. In the programme guests chose the music they would take to a desert island if they were stranded there alone. Jon Pertwee and David Tennant have both also appeared in the series.

FILTER: - William Hartnell

Moments in Time: The first Radio Times coverBookmark and Share

Saturday, 22 February 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
Moments in TimeThe latest in our ongoing feature centring on significant Doctor Who occasions sees the show accorded a very special publishing honour - but just like the programme itself, it wasn't without wrangles before and after . . .

In the run-up to Doctor Who starting, hopes had been high that the first episode would be given a prestigious publicity boost by the BBC's much-respected listings magazine Radio Times in the form of a cover feature. This was, after all, a show like no other: it was innovative and ground-breaking, with skills, experimentation and imagination pushed further than ever.

However, it was not to be. After initial interest, the magazine had a change of heart at the last minute, falsely believing that the corporation itself didn't have much faith in the programme, and despite protestations by head of serials Donald Wilson editor Douglas Williams ditched the idea, although the show was granted a mention on the relevant cover and an article was included that gave a taster of what adventures might lie ahead - with one of them being the possibility of a journey "to far Cathay in the caravan of Marco Polo."

And it would be that very journey that would see Radio Times finally give in and award the much-coveted prime spot on its cover to Doctor Who - in all probability helped by the fact that with the arrival of the Daleks a few weeks previously, the show had rapidly seared itself into the national consciousness.

With The Roof of the World going out on 22nd February 1964, the cover of the corresponding week's Radio Times - number 2102, volume 162 - depicted lead actor William Hartnell with guest stars Mark Eden as Marco Polo and Derren Nesbitt as Tegana. It was accompanied by an unbylined feature on page 7 that set the historical scene after a brief recap of the previous two adventures. (It should be noted that back then Radio Times also printed its publication date at the top of the pages, hence the references to "February 20, 1964".)

Although the feature's picture included all the companions, the fact that the three actors hadn't appeared on the cover with Hartnell caused some upset. The day after the broadcast of The Roof of the World, William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton, contacted his agent, T Plunkett Green, with a number of concerns relating to the programme as a whole, one of them being the fact that the co-stars had been bumped in favour of the guest stars on the cover of the listings magazine. This grievance would be relayed to Wilson, who subsequently apologised to the agent, saying it had been "confidently expected" by the production team that one of the photos including all the regulars taken at the photocall would be used as a cover image. Wilson assured Plunkett Green that he would complain about it to the magazine.

From a somewhat hesitant start, Doctor Who and Radio Times would, over the years, continue to have something of a love-hate relationship, ranging from the highs of the stunning artwork by Frank Bellamy gracing its pages during the early-to-mid-1970s, as well as special editions, to the lows of the Tom Baker era when it would merit few articles and no covers at all, back to the embarrassment of riches we have in terms of coverage in the 21st century. Today, though, on the 50th anniversary of the broadcast of the opening episode of the seven-part epic - ironically, the earliest Doctor Who story to be missing from the archives - we mark an auspicious event in that relationship between programme and publisher with Doctor Who's first Radio Times cover . . .

FILTER: - William Hartnell - Moments in Time - Classic Series - Radio Times

An Adventure in Space and Time - Overnight Viewing figuresBookmark and Share

Friday, 22 November 2013 - Reported by Marcus
An Adventure in Space and Time had an audience of 2.2 million viewers, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.

The drama which had a 9.7% share of the audience, was placed against I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! on ITV, which dominated the day with 9.7 million watching, a massive 41.1% share. BBC One showed Britain's Secret Terror Force at 9pm, which got slightly fewer viewers than An Adventure in Space and Time.

Overall the docu-drama was the 22nd most viewed programme of the day on British Television and the second highest on BBC Two for the day.

On BBC Four the repeat of the original Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child, had 0.67 million watching, roughly equivalent to those watching the BBC Three repeats earlier in the week. The episode had a 4.3% share of the audience and was the second highest rated digital programme in its timeslot, with I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here Now getting top spot.

Episode Two of the story, The Cave of Skulls, had 0.59 million watching and a 4.8% share of the audience. The Forest of Fear got 0.41 million,a 4.5% share and the final episode, The Firemaker, shown at 11.45pm, had 0.36 million as 5.4% share.

Final figures will be released next week and will include those recording the show and watching within one week of transmission.

FILTER: - Ratings - UK - William Hartnell - WHO50

William Hartnell: The OriginalBookmark and Share

Thursday, 21 November 2013 - Reported by Marcus

The BBC has announced a new short documentary on the first Doctor William Hartnell will be screed on BBC Two tonight, directly following the Mark Gatiss docu-drama An Adventure in Space and Time.

William Hartnell: The Original is five minute programme which looks at what happened to Hartnell after he left Doctor Who. The documentary features rare archive footage and brand new interviews with many who worked with him, including Carole Ann Ford, Peter Purves and Waris Hussein as well as Matt Smith, Peter Davison and Hartnell’s granddaughter, Jessica Carney.

The programme is described as a revealing and affectionate portrait of a much-loved actor, and can be seen at 10.25pm on BBC Two

Note to those recording by EPG: this late addition does not currently have its own entry in guides such as the Sky Planner or even on the BBC's own iPlayer schedule - it isn't clear at present whether this will change, or that the current scheduling times of An Adventure in Space and Time will cover the documentary.

FILTER: - Documentary - William Hartnell

Fanzine RoundupBookmark and Share

Thursday, 17 October 2013 - Reported by Marcus
The Gallifrey Archives 1
A new Fanzine, The Gallifrey Archives, launches in November and is now available now to preorder.

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary, the fanzine goes all the way back to where it began with a 1963 issue
  • The Genesis of Doctor Who: A look at the formation of the show
  • The life and legacy of William Hartnell
  • William Hartnell: In His Own Words
  • The Creators Tale: The Career of Sydney Newman
  • Groovy Baby: The events of 1963 and how they shaped the show we love
  • Departure by John O’Rouke: Finally the story of the Doctor and Susan’s flight from Gallifrey is revealed
  • An Unearthly Child: In Colour
  • Scrapbook: Chronicling Doctor Who in the media
  • Review of An Unearthly Child and episodes 1 & 2 of The Daleks
The print version of the Gallifrey Archives is available for preorder until November 1st, after this the print version will be unavailable. The online digital copy will be available the same week as print shipping.
The Terrible Zodin 16
Issue 16 of The Terrible Zodin is now available for free download.

As the only issue this year The Terrible Zodin clocks in at 125 pages.

In this 50th celebratory issue, 50 Brilliant Things About Doctor Who (And 11 More!) The review panel tackle Season 7.2 and there are interviews with Nick Briggs, India Fisher and Marnix van den Broeke. Also the results of the Classic Series poll – find out which story our readers voted their favorite as the wider Whoniverse is celebrated in audio, novel and comic strip form.

A brand new column focuses on the Past Doctor Adventures novels and the Back2theWhoture team tackle The Aztecs. In these pages there is a reappraisal of Dodo Chaplet, Captain Jack’s Guide to the Second Doctor, the politics of the Swampies and the Case for the Return of the Rani.

The editors would love to have your feedback, good or bad on what you think of the new issue.
Inferno Fiction 15

Issue Fifteen of Inferno Fiction is now available from the magazine's website

In the magazine
  • THE SHADOW MAKERS by Andy Weston
  • PART THREE: The TARDIS brings the Doctor in his fifth incarnation back to the planet Manalex Alpha, to a point in time when a past companion, Steven Taylor was caught in the time distortion...
  • PROGRESS by Ashley Myles
  • Mankind's progress on another world is witnessed by the Doctor and Romana...
  • "There is a madman at my console. A brand new madman. The air around him tastes of regeneration and he makes strange noises as he flies about my room. I do not like him. I try to hurl him from my doors, eject him out into the world as London whirls away beneath us, but he clings and he claws and he crawls back inside me. His fingers scrabble at my heart and poke and tear at my brain, and I bite his skin with sparks and spit my smoke into his eyes but it makes him laugh all the harder and I do not like him. He tries to make me dance for him and blow sweet kisses through the universe and wrap the vortex round my skin but I do not bend to his will and at last he understands - I may be stolen but he is not my thief."
  • LINE IN THE SAND by Nick Wheeler
  • A future incarnation watches as a world dies... "...the streets had fallen deathly quiet, leaving only scattered debris as evidence of the madness that had occurred...that’s when I saw him. Standing alone in the middle of the street, an old man...His clothes seemed unusually formal and antiquated..."
  • THE FEAR OF ALL SUMS by Samuel Marks
  • PART ONE: The Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9 encounter a vagrant Time Lord, the future of law enforcement and a dire threat to all of time and space.
  • THE THREE MARINERS by Michael Baxter Dr Who visits The Three Mariners Inn, a timber frame building on Seathorpe’s ancient seafront, an old tavern, now an antique emporium, with some ghostly going ons...
  • MOMENTOS by Michael Falino
  • The Doctor rounded a bend, strolled down a corridor, made two left turns followed by three right turns, and had no idea where he was. How was this possible? He wasn’t sure it was even remotely probable. Nevertheless, it was undeniable. He was lost in his own TARDIS...

FILTER: - Fan Productions - William Hartnell

Original Tenth Planet Script FoundBookmark and Share

Sunday, 1 September 2013 - Reported by Marcus
The original script for William Hartnell's last story, The Tenth Planet, has been found, with one key difference from the transmitted version. The Doctor does not regenerate at the end of the story.

Michael Seely, author of the forthcoming biography of Dr Kit PedlerThe Quest for Pedler’ unearthed the original draft script, along with draft scripts for The Moonbase, known then as The Return of the Cybermen, among a very large collection of Pedler's papers which one of his children had kept in their attic.

Michael Seely
As I looked through it, I realised it was the first draft Gerry Davis prepared when Kit fell ill in June 1966.

The structure is more or less the same, though a lot of the dialogue is different. Some things were cut, especially involving the Cybermen. For example, the Cybermen planned to convert Polly and the Doctor into Cybermen towards the end of the story, and kept them prisoner in what they described as a waiting room. The most eye catching difference is what didn't happen at the end of the episode.
The relevance of this early draft, and the date it was prepared goes some way to illustrating the hasty nature of Hartnell’s departure:
Gerry Davis and Innes Lloyd were always very diplomatic and tactful in their interviews. Both died in 1991, long before 'warts and all' interviews became the norm. We know that William Hartnell was being persuaded to give up the role he loved over the summer of 1966, and that they were sounding out replacements. He only decided to leave in the middle of July, the month after this draft was written.
Michael Seely is no stranger to the work of Dr Kit Pedler, he has previously written two books (‘Prophets of Doom’ and ‘Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow’ – both available from Miwk Publishing) on the subject of Doomwatch.
Doomwatch fans will be interested to learn that over five original story lines were among Kit's papers, including several that did not get made. One of these was responsible for the BBC removing Kit's influence over the programme he and Gerry created as a warning over unchecked science and technology. There were a couple of radio plays too, which had been known about but remained a bit of a mystery since they were not made. Unfinished books and short stories, and proposals for television series. Environmentalists, though Kit did not consider himself to be one, and students of the 1970s environmental movement, will be pleased to learn that a lot of his writings, lectures and scripts for TV and radio, also exist within this collection.
Seely’s biography of Pedler will be released in early 2014 by Miwk Publishing. Authorised by his family and produced with their assistance, the book will tell the full story of Dr C.M.H. Pedler, MB. BS., Ph.D, M.C. Path. A research scientist well known to Doctor Who fans as the co-creator of the Cybermen, but in also a leading activist and campaigner for more sociably responsible and sustainable scientific research and understanding.

Pedler’s role in Doctor Who is also clarified:
He was not a scientific advisor. Kit wasn't there to throw in the science, or vet scripts for their accuracy. He was there to give plausible science fiction ideas, which Lloyd and Davis had no clue about.

He argued that we were conditioned to accept whatever science had to offer us as automatically a good thing, and not to enquire deeper. He used to describe himself as a 'defrocked scientist.' His words are still true today.
The Quest for Pedler: The Life & Ideas of Dr Kit Pedler By Michael Seely is now available for preorder.

FILTER: - William Hartnell - Production - Books - Classic Series

William Hartnell TV Interview DiscoveredBookmark and Share

Friday, 16 August 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
A TV interview with William Hartnell dating from 1967 has been unearthed and will feature on the DVD release of The Tenth Planet.

The news broke today following the BBFC's classification of extras, which included an interview with Hartnell among them.

Doctor Who Restoration Team member Steve Roberts confirmed that it was an in-vision interview - meaning that it was on screen as opposed to just being audio - and stated that it was fellow team member Richard Bignell who had discovered it.

The interview was conducted by Roger Mills for Points West - the BBC's regional news show - and was held in the dressing room of the Gaumont Theatre in Taunton, where Hartnell was appearing in the panto Puss In Boots less than three months after last being seen in Doctor Who. The interview aired on Tuesday 17th January 1967.

The extra runs for 3 min 16 sec, and Bignell detailed the discovery of what is now the only known on-screen interview with Hartnell to exist:
A few years ago, I was doing research into the article I was preparing for Issue 3 of Nothing at the End of the Lane on Hartnell's rather disastrous performance as Buskin the Fairy Cobbler in the pantomime Puss In Boots, which toured around four different venues in December 1966 and January 1967, just three months after he had completed work on The Tenth Planet.

Whilst doing some work at the BBC Written Archive Centre, I checked the respective Programme-as-Broadcast sheets for the period, looking specifically at the local BBC news programmes to see if Hartnell's appearance in panto was deemed worthy of a television report.

He was in fact interviewed twice. Once in the first week of the tour in Ipswich (shown on Look East on 27th December 1966) and again during the final week in Taunton for Points West, shown on 17th January 1967. As I'd built up some contacts in the BBC's regional news libraries working on the DVDs, I dropped the respective archives a line to see if there was any chance the two interviews survived.

The first interview for Look East had long gone, but the ladies in the Bristol News Library very quickly got back to me to say that the interview done in Taunton still survived. We arranged for the footage to be sent over to London, where it was duly transferred. It shows Hartnell in his dressing room doing his make-up for one of his performances, with his "Doctor's ring" on the table and a Berwick Dalek playsuit stuffed in the corner. Hartnell speaks about his problems acting against the Daleks and how pantomime isn't "legitimate" theatre! Enjoy!!
Roberts also revealed that David Bradley was shown the footage as part of his preparation for playing the role of Hartnell in the upcoming BBC Two drama An Adventure In Space And Time.

The Region 2 DVD will be released on Monday 18th November and is available to pre-order.

FILTER: - William Hartnell - Leading News - Blu-ray/DVD

The First Doctor on BBC AmericaBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 22 January 2013 - Reported by Marcus
BBC America is to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who by showing one story from each of the first eleven Doctors, as part of a strand titled Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited.

The channel will screen one story each month, starting with the 1964 story The Aztecs, starring the First Doctor, William Hartnell.

The story features the original TARDIS crew of the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan (played by Carole Ann Ford), and two of her teachers, Barbara Wright (played by Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell).

The story sees the TARDIS land in 15th-century Mexico, where the crew get caught up in the local politics of blood sacrifice.

Originally shown over four weeks, the complete story will air on BBC America on Sunday, January 27 at 9pm ET.

FILTER: - USA - William Hartnell

50th anniversary Australian Doctor Who forums and podcastsBookmark and Share

Thursday, 3 January 2013 - Reported by Adam Kirk
To celebrate 50 years of Doctor Who,  John Richards (creator/writer of the ABC1 sitcom Outland, Boxcutters podcast) and Ben McKenzie (Channel 31′s Planet Nerd, Dungeon Crawl, ‘patron saint of geek comedy’ – T-Squat magazine) have joined forces to host a year-long performance/podcast project, entitled "Splendid Chaps", in Melbourne, Australia.

Each month from January to November 2013 John and Ben will record a live Doctor Who panel discussion – one for each of the eleven Doctors – with a different theme, special guests, musical and comedy performances and loveliness. These will also be edited into podcast episodes, released on the 23rd of each month.

The first event on 13 January will discuss the first doctor and features special guest Alexandra Tynan (nee Sandra Reid), the woman who designed the Cybermen back in 1966. She’ll be joined by writer and filmmaker Lee Zachariah (ABC2′s The Bazura Project, Hell Is For Hyphenates podcast); broadcaster and host of 3RRR FM’s LiveWire, Nerida Haycock; announcer Petra Elliot and Ben and John as hosts. The musical guest (singing a Who-related number) will be comedian and cabaret artiste Geraldine Quinn.

The forum will be held on Sunday 13 January 2012 at 5pm at the Annexe, Bella Union, Trades Hall, corner of Victoria and Lygon Streets, Melbourne.  Tickets will be available at the door (subject to availability) or on the web.

Media Links: TV Tonight

FILTER: - Special Events - Fan Productions - William Hartnell - First Doctor - Australia