A brief look back at the First Doctor, William Hartnell
This short, but fun, look at William Hartnell’s time as the First Doctor is entertaining and makes a nice start to the 50th anniversary year for Doctor Who—but given that the show is a UK production produced using UK licence fee payers money, why has this only screened in the US? Maybe the BBC is planning to air this series of 11 documentaries at a later date, but it would be nice to know. Otherwise, the sneaking suspicion that the Americans are going to get more than we are for the anniversary begins to form. The end of the documentary even features an introduction to a re-run of The Aztecs from current showrunner Steven Moffat—where’s our series of repeats of classic stories, or do we mere licence fee payers not warrant such consideration, whereas the Americans do? P’shaw!
As for the show itself, it’s a traditional clips-and-talking-heads format, featuring contributions from Moffat and former Doctor David Tennant (among others) regaling us with various received ideas about Hartnell: he’s a grumpy Doctor, modern viewers wouldn’t recognise the character compared to modern incarnations, and so on…
This is fine, given this is a piece of light entertainment and not the kind of in-depth documentary you might get on the BBC DVD range. The clips are nicely selected, although the rundown of Hartnell companions seems to miss out Vicki and Dodo (never mind Katarina and Sara Kingdom), despite the fact that they both appear in the chosen clips.
Most fans will learn nothing new here, but more casual or new viewers will at least get a feel for Doctor Who in its earliest days—and that’s all this neat little documentary sets out to do.
Verdict: Hardly groundbreaking, but entertaining. 7/10
Brian J. Robb