23rd November, 1963. The date that started it all. The magic, the adventure that we have all held so dear to our hearts ever since.
A blue Police box, an incredibly intelligent pupil whose behaviour prompts her teachers to find out more about her. Then they meet her Grandfather…..
First impressions count, right? Susan and Ian’s first impression really wasn’t complementary (especially after being kidnapped) and this has throughout the years been the assumption of quite a number of Doctor Who fans:
“Oh the First Doctor, he was a grumpy old boy”
“He really didn’t do much apart from talk, quite boring really”
“Don’t think he was very nice, quite rude in fact”
Why has the Doctor’s initial attitude in his first scene of An Unearthly Child continued to be the general consensus of his character? This article will hopefully change people’s unfair perception of the First Doctor and encourage everyone to watch more of his stories.
Grumpy? Of course! How would you feel in an elderly body plagued with rheumatism, surrounded by silly humans and having to save the World and the universe on a regular basis? Now, cast you mind back to each and every subsequent regeneration and tell me, have any of the other 10 never been grumpy? Of course they have- even the mild mannered Fifth Doctor had his grouchy moments.
|"You took away my cricket bat, how DARE you!"|
People have also have an unfair opinion that the First Doctor had no sense of humor, and had no taste for adventure. Take a look at The Romans where he is clearly happy and joyful, amusing Vicki with his unusual quirky humour. In The Web Planet he demonstrates his excitement and wonder in exploring the terrain of the planet Vortis. Like every regeneration since, the Doctor clearly shows his sense of wonder and his thirst for excitement when he discovers something new and interesting.
In the same story when Ian’s pen goes missing and he gets the sense he’s being watched, the Doctor is keen to explore to find out, rather than take the boring cowardly option of staying in the Tardis. Hardly a boring old chap you have to agree. It appears Ian would be more appreciative of pipe and slippers than the Doctor!
He has also demonstrated he can be quite the action man. Take for example scenes from The Chase, The Romans and The Crusade where he demonstrated his fighting skills, which could easily match someone half his age.
What a lot of people forget is although he did take the unusual and not so pleasant step of kidnapping Ian and Barbara in the first story, was to protect himself and Susan. However, he could be just as warm and gentle as his subsequent regenerations. He was very much a devoted Grandfather to Susan protecting her ferociously, and when she found love it took all his composure to let her go. Listening to his final farewell to Susan:
“One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”
Although there wasn’t any of the dramatic Tenth Doctor tears and angst, in a way the First Doctors farewell is somewhat more poignant and tragic as he looks upwards, proud and composed yet, you can tell he’s suffering on the inside. He was also very protective of his companions, especially Vicki who reminded him of his beloved Granddaughter.
He also demonstrated the sarcasm and wit which has never left him even after 10 regenerations:
“The Doctor: What do you think of that, now, eh? A Viking helmet.
Steven Taylor: Maybe.
The Doctor: What do you mean, "maybe"? What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?
I hope this article has changed a few misconceptions people have had and it has encouraged fans to explore this greatly forgotten era with the First Doctor who started it all. Next time look at all the subsequent regenerations; you’ll see the mischievous, grumpy but gracious and kind old man in each and every one.
To end, here are a few lovely comments regarding the First Doctor I found on YouTube:
“I've been going through the classic episodes in chronological order. I'm still on the Hartnell era, and he is a real joy to watch. He's grumpy, stubborn, and utterly devious, but he has two hearts of gold.”
“The First Doctor doesn't get enough credit, I mean after all, he began this legacy. So before everyone who is a crazy Tennant or Baker fan goes on about how they can't imagine Who without him, just remember that there would be no Tennant or Baker if it weren't for Hartnell.”
“While all of the subsequent Doctors have been really brilliant, none of them could be where they are without the foundation that William Hartnell laid down.
Bless him and may he rest in peace.”