The Genesis of Doctor Who | Creating a science fiction hero

'Radio Times' article for 23 November, 1963

A preview of the first 'Doctor Who' episode, 'An Unearthly Child'.

BBC Archive Document

Radio Times November 23 1963 p7

Your Weekend

Dr. Who
In this series of adventures in space and time, the title-role will be played by William Hartnell.

DR. WHO? That is just the point. Nobody knows precisely who he is, this mysterious exile from another world and a distant future whose adventures begin today. But this much is known: he has a ship in which he can travel through space and time - although, owing to a defect in its instruments he can never be sure where and when his 'landings' may take place. And he has a grand-daughter Susan, a strange amalgam of teenage normality and uncanny intelligence.

Playing the Doctor is the well-known film actor, William Hartnell, who has not appeared before on BBC-tv.

Each adventure in the series will cover several weekly episodes, and the first is by the Australian author Anthony Coburn. It begins by telling how the Doctor finds himself visiting the Britain of today: Susan (played by Carole Ann Ford) has become a pupil at an ordinary British school, where her incredible breadth of knowledge has whetted the curiosity of two of her teachers. These are the history teacher Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and the science master Ian Chesterton (William Russell), and their curiosity leads them to become inextricably involved in the Doctor's strange travels.

Because of the imperfections in the ship's navigation aids, the four travellers are liable in subsequent stories to find themselves absolutely anywhere in time - past, present, or future. They may visit a distant galaxy where civilisation has been devastated by the blast of a neutron bomb or they may find themselves journeying to far Cathay in the caravan of Marco Polo. The whole cosmos in fact is their oyster.


Document Type | Magazine

23 November 1963

Document version




This brief 'Radio Times' article promoted a series that had been in development with the BBC Drama department throughout 1963. It was a rather low-key launch for what would become such an iconic TV show. However, at the time its creation was somewhat political, as it came from drama rather than the children's department, which had been disbanded by Sydney Newman earlier that year.

Article courtesy of 'The Radio Times' Magazine.

Did you know?

'Doctor Who' made its first appearance on television the day after the assassination of President Kennedy. Two other notable figures died on the same day: writer Aldous Huxley, author of science fiction classic 'Brave New World'; and CS Lewis, creator of the Narnia books, which began with a young girl stepping through the doors of a magic wardrobe to discover a strange new world...

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