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Doctor Who has been on for over 50 years. In that time, more than 12 actors have portrayed a single character. The Doctor has lived in media, in one way or another, for so long that it feels impossible to know all about the various incarnations. One of the most unknown iterations of the Doctor was the one that started the family back when it all began. Here are 13 facts about William Hartnell’s First Doctor.
1. The first episode of Doctor Who was ‘An Unearthly Child’ and premiered on November 23rd 1963, a day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
2. The First Doctor’s first companion is his granddaughter Susan. It has never been explained if she truly is the Doctor’s granddaughter with the Time Lord’s history being a mystery for 50 years. Susan was only mentioned as a relative originally to make sure viewers at the time didn’t think it was odd to have an old man running around with a woman who wasn’t related.
3. The first shot of the TARDIS was in a junk yard where Susan’s teachers went to go find out what was going on with their incredibly bright student.
4. The two teachers were also the first human companions shown of the Doctors. The school they taught at was Coal Hill Secondary School, which should be familiar to current Whovians as it is where Clara Oswald teaches.
5. The TARDIS is revealed to have a malfunctioning chameleon circuit that normally disguises the time machine as something belonging to the era. Since the TARDIS was in 1963, it took the form of a police box and has held the shape ever since.
6. After landing the TARDIS in the prehistoric era, The Doctor reveals that he had only just acquired the machine and still doesn’t know how to properly fly it. Fast forward a couple thousand years, and he still has yet to learn.
7. The First Doctor’s death was in the episode ‘The Tenth Planet.’ He passed away simply of old age and regenerated into the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton.)
8. William Hartnel was not the first choice to play the role of the Doctor. Hugh David was originally cast but was deemed too young by the series producer Verity Lambert.
9. Hartnell was chosen by producer Verity Lambert after his performance in This Sporting Life. While he was reluctant at first due to having more success with movies and not wanting to commit to a television show.
10. The personality of the Doctor was a strange mix of cantankerous and kind. He had little patience for humanity at the time but showed a deep affection for Susan. He was described as a cross between Father Christmas and the Wizard of Oz. His costume was designed to look Victorian and to make him appear old and frail. The First Doctor always had a cane with him.
11. Hartnell suffered from arteriosclerosis, the thickening and hardening of arteries, that caused him to have issues remembering and flubbing lines. This would be incorporated slightly into the First Doctor’s personality who had a quirk for becoming tongue-tied.
12. The serial “The Three Doctors” features the first three Doctors all in one episode. However, Hartnell was too sick to be a part of the main production. Instead, his scenes were pre-recorded and he appears in the episodes only via a viewing screen in the TARDIS.
13. In 1983, Doctor Who planned a special episode with all of the Doctors returning for “The Five Doctors.” Since Hartnell has passed away in 1975, he was replaced by Richard Hurndall with the blessing of Hartnell’s widow.