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William Hartnell in High Wire, 1961

Welcome, Whovian friends, to a new series in which we examine the career of the actors who’ve made their name in Doctor Who, before and after entering that blue box and disappearing into the ether. And what better place to start than with the First Doctor himeself, William Hartnell.

Despite appearing as a grouchy professor with a heart of gold, William forged a reputation first as a deliverer of on-stage farces, and then as a hard man actor, playing gangsters, rotters and figures of authority. In fact, while he’s principally known now as the First Doctor, he was already a hugely respected actor with a glittering career behind him when he took the job.

Here he is playing the shark-faced and evil gangster Dallow in 1947’s Brighton Rock:

And at around the four-minute mark, here he is with David Niven in 1944’s The Way Ahead:

Here he’s playing opposite Richard Harris in This Sporting Life, made the same year as his Doctor Who debut. And the first time that the Doctor and Dumbledore are on screen at the same time:

and here he is barking orders in the 1957 comedy The Army Game:

See if you can spot him among the motley knights (and alongside Peter Sellers) in 1963’s The Mouse That Roared:

And continuing the theme of firsts, here he is playing the sergeant in Carry On Sergeant, the first of a long run of bawdy Carry On comedies, and another British institution. Notice he still has his grumpy face on:

Next: Patrick Troughton

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By Fraser McAlpine