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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing: lost 1967 William Hartnell interview discovered


More bits of the show’s history is uncovered for the 50th anniversary. From the Guardian’s TV & Radio Blog:

Lost for over four decades, a newly rediscovered filmed interview with the original star of the BBC’s Doctor Who series is set to shed new light on the early years of the show. William Hartnell played the first Doctor from the programme’s inception in 1963 through to the start of its fourth season in 1966. In those days, the show regularly had up to 12 million viewers but for years it was believed that not a single TV interview with Hartnell, who died in 1975, had survived.

Now, as the programme’s 50th anniversary approaches, candid film of the actor has finally come to light in a local news archive in Bristol.

The interview was filmed for the BBC regional news programme, Points West, and broadcast on 17 January 1967, mere months after an enforced retirement from Doctor Who because of ill health.

The film was transferred to a digital format at the BBC’s Television Centre in the summer of 2011. However, it wasn’t until this year that a suitable window arose for the material to be released. It will appear on November’s BBC DVD release of The Tenth Planet – Hartnell’s final Doctor Who story.

It’s only three-and-a-half minutes long, apparently. It could have been released on the Web.

“It’s a fascinating insight into Hartnell as a person,” says [BBC researcher Richard] Bignell [who unearthed the footage] of the newly recovered film. “You get to appreciate that Hartnell was very much just playing a character. Just like [Patrick] Troughton … Because we’re very used to [Hartnell’s] very fluffy bumbly first Doctor character, I think that there’s a tendency to think that perhaps that’s what Bill was like – especially when you hear all the stories about how he fluffed his lines etc. But on this, he’s quite lucid and quite clear and quite well-spoken.”

Hartnell played the Doctor as an impossibly elderly man, with long white hair and a habit of forgetting people’s names. However, in reality, the actor was just 55 when he was cast, with his own short greying hair covered by a long white wig. In fact, when new Doctor Peter Capaldi begins shooting the next series of Doctor Who in the new year, he will in fact be a little older than Hartnell was when he first started on the show.

I think the inevitable comparisons between Capaldi and Hartnell could well be one of the more interesting things about Capaldi’s performance, however he portrays the Doctor, at least initially. People don’t seem as old today as they once did: 55 today seems much younger than 55 half a century ago. Even if Hartnell did have to wear a white wig.

There much more at the Guardian. Check it out.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

posted in:
daily doctor | talent buzz
  • RogerBW

    Particularly interesting given that lots of people who knew him said he was having real trouble with communication towards the end of his run on the show. Perhaps they got him on a good day.

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