WHO's the Doctor? William Hartnell

William Hartnell and the Daleks in 1963's Survivors William Hartnell takes on the Daleks in 1963's Survivors

Although he wasn't even born when William Hartnell became the first Doctor, BBC Scotland apprentice Connor MacGregor argues that his interpretation remains the one to beat.

While I may be only 20 years old, my knowledge of Doctor Who goes beyond those years like nothing else I know.

This should make me as qualified as any Whovian to comment on the most important incarnation of the Doctor in the 50-year history of the series.

The first episode went out on November 23 1963 at a time when tv was barely off the ground and when the world was reeling from the assassination of US president John F Kennedy the previous day.

It saw 55-year-old William Hartnell step into an old Edwardian coat, don a long white wig and launch the biggest television phenomenon the globe will ever see.


Although the later incarnations of the Time Lord were more eccentric, with a lighter comic appeal for younger fans, Doctor Who started with a much more secretive take on the 900-year-old Gallifreyan.

Hartnell's Doctor had an air of mystery and was grumpier than his successors - even heartless at times.

Connor MacGregor Connor MacGregor: First Doctor could by callous

In An Unearthly Child, he's prepared to kill a caveman too injured to keep pace with the Tardis crew. Contrast that with the Tenth Doctor's constant gabbing that death is wrong and can never be the solution, regardless of the situation.

Hartnell was the first Doctor to take on arch enemy the Daleks, who played a crucial part in giving the series its first taste of popularity in 1964.

The Dalek Invasion Of Earth goes down as a TV classic, thanks to the iconic images of a Dalek army rolling around the landmarks of 60s London - an allusion, perhaps, to what might have been had Britain succumbed to Nazi rule.

Equally gripping was the 12-part epic, The Dalek's Master Plan, which saw the show's body count reach terrifying new heights.


Hartnell's Doctor was also eager to explore Earth's history, with the BBC keen to provide some education for its young viewers alongside the science fiction (itself peppered with scientific facts and figures).

I wasn't born when Doctor Who was first broadcast, so I can't draw on personal memories to support my view that Hartnell's Doctor is the one to beat.

He might not be everybody's favourite - only Colin Baker's interpretation paid homage to Hartnell and his Doctor never really connected with the audience - but he set the ball rolling for the likes of Tom Baker, David Tennant and Matt Smith.

And if Hartnell's Doctor hadn't hit the spot, the series might have faced an early death. For that alone, he gets my vote.


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