For all your cult film, tv, cartoon, comic and video game needs

William Hartnell

A true hero of cult; best known for being the original Doctor. It may have turned out very different, for the boy known as Billy, if it hadn’t been for a chance meeting at the age of fourteen.


William ‘Billy’ Hartnell was born in London on the 08/01/1908. He was born to an unmarried mother and no father was ever put on his birth certificate. Despite spending most of his adult life searching William would never find out who his father was.

He was not very academic leaving school without any qualifications. His early teenage years would see him mainly splitting his time between boxing and petty crime.

At the age of fourteen William met famous art collector Hugh Blaker. Blaker saw something in William and took him under his wing. Initially he encouraged William to train as a jockey but, on discovering they had a mutual love of theatre; paid for the young Hartnell to attend the famous Italia Conti Academy to train in the arts.


William would then, again encouraged and paid for by Blaker, attend Imperial Service College. This lead to Hartnell gaining work as a stage hand. This was his entry into the world of theatre which, would lead to Hartnell becoming a respected Shakespearian actor.

The break out of World War Two would see Hartnell having to leave acting joining the Tank Core. He struggled with the realities of war. This would see him eventually discharged from the Army on medical grounds after he suffered a nervous breakdown.

A return to acting saw Hartnell successfully audition for his first film role in ‘In Which We Serve’. Only to be sacked on the first day on set, by director writer Noel Coward, for being late.

More film and TV work followed which saw him appear in first of the Carry On films ‘Carry On Sergeant’. Both the film and his role were loosely based on the successful TV series The Army Game in which, Hartnell had starred as Sergeant Major Bullimore.

Despite some success Hartnell was becoming disillusioned with acting. He was constantly being typed cast as a policeman, solider or thug. His salvation came when producer Varity Lambert saw Hartnell in the film ‘This Sporting Life’ and thought he’d be perfect for the lead role in a new show she was developing.

Partly due to his success in films, and partly because he hadn’t bonded with his grandchildren, Hartnell was at first reluctant to take a role in a show pitched to him as ‘for children’. After some persuasion, by both Lambert and director Waris Hussein, he relented. Seeing the Doctor as a character he could help develop.

Hartnell played the Doctor for three years highly successful years. Unfortunately ill health lead to him being unable to remember his lines. In 1966 he was replaced and the Doctor regenerated into Patrick Troughton.

Hartnell continued to work after his spell as the Doctor and returned to the show, along with Troughton and the then Doctor Jon Pertwee, in 1972s ‘The Three Doctors’.

William Hartnell died of heart failure at his home in Marden Kent 22/04/1973 aged 67. He is best remembered as the first Doctor. Many of those who worked on those episodes have said that the show would never have been a success if it hadn’t been for his commitment and professionalism. The fact that the show is still here and loved the world over is his legacy.

Recommended films and TV appearances (outside of Doctor Who):-

Dallow – Brighton Rock

Sgt Grimshawe – Carry On Sergeant

Johnson – This Sporting Life

Sgt Major Bullimore – The Army Game

Related Posts
Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)

Based on Marilyn Sadler and Roger Bollen's book of the same name, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century was directed by Kenneth Johnson and set in the year 2049. It Read more


Originally running between 1977-1979 for 108 episodes, Yatterman succeeded Time Bokan and followed what happened after fragments of a mysterious stone known as the Skull Stone are scattered across the Read more

Yakuza Apocalypse (2015)

Internationally renowned director Takashi Miike (ICHI THE KILLER, AUDITION, 13 ASSASSINS, HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI 3D,ACE ATTORNEY, FOR LOVE’S SAKE, LESSON OF THE EVIL) is back with the action fantasy Read more

Welcome to Paradox

Debuting in 1998 and running for thirteen episodes, Welcome to Paradox was an anthology show where all the stories took place in the fictional future city of Betaville although the Read more

The Wizard

Created by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz and Paul B. Radin, The Wizard starred David Rappaport as Simon McKay - a genius inventor with dwarfism. It debuted on 9th September 1986 Read more

The Rise of Skywalker – One 40 Something’s ‘Obsessed Fanboy’ pre-release thoughts…

No one likes an 'I told you so', so let's get the unpleasant bit out of the way. I told you so. Back in Feb 2018, whilst I was still Read more

The Maze (1953)

Directed by William Cameron Menzies, The Maze was 3-D horror film that deals with teratology and prenatal phylogenetic evolution. It begins when Scotsman Gerald MacTeam (Richard Carlson) abruptly ends his Read more

The legacy of Santa Claus: The Movie

Santa Claus: The Movie was supposed to be the holiday hit of 1985. Such was the confidence that farther and son producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had managed to get Read more

The Herculoids

Somewhere out in space live The Herculoids! Zok, the laser-ray dragon! Igoo, the giant rock ape! Tundro, the tremendous! Gloop and Gleep, the formless, fearless wonders! With Zandor, their leader, Read more

The Fugitives

Created by Eileen Gallagher and directed by Jane Prowse, The Fugitives was a seven part show from 2005 that follows fourteen-year-old Jay Keaton (Alex Roe). A teenager with a high Read more

The Face of Another (1966)

Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel of the same name by Kōbō Abe, The Face of Another follows an engineer named Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai), whose face Read more

The Degrassi Legacy and why it matters

In a time when the world was over exposed to glamorised American teenage dramas where teens were being played by thirty years olds a dramatic shift happened. The seeds of Read more

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Directed by Coleman Francis, The Beast of Yucca Flats follows a Soviet scientist named Joseph Jaworsky (Tor Johnson), who defects and flees to a Nevada Test Site called Yucca Flats. Before Read more

The Adventures of Spunky and Tadpole

Written and directed by Art Moore, The Adventures of Spunky and Tadpole ran for 150 episodes between 1958 and 1961. The show followed a little boy named Spunky (voiced by Read more

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor (#1-4)

Space, the final frontier... and on that frontier and beyond, humans and aliens alike need medical care. Enter Leonard McCoy, Doctor of Space Medicine, late of the U.S.S. Enterprise. This Read more

Ronin Warriors

Created by Hajime Yatate, Ronin Warriors (aka Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers aka Yoroiden Samurai Troopers) takes place in a world where after a thousand years Talpa (voiced by Shigezō Sasaoka Read more

Paula Malcomson

Born on 1st June 1970 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Paula Malcomson has become a prolific character actor who manages to steal the show no matter the size of her role Read more

Patrick Troughton

Patrick Troughton was a well renowned versatile actor, decorated war hero, one time Robin Hood and, of course, the second Doctor. Born in Mill Hill Middlesex on the 25/03/1920 he Read more

Neon City (1991)

Directed by Monte Markham, Neon City (aka Anno 2053 aka Neonski Grad) is a post-apocalyptic update of John Ford's Stagecoach that takes place in the 2050's where mass ecological damage has left Read more

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Created by Lauren Faust, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic began in October 2010 and ran for nine seasons (222 episodes) until October 2019. It was based on My Little Read more

%d bloggers like this: