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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Doctors
The Hartnell Years


Starring: William Hartnell
Distributor: Koch Media
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: E
Release Date: 13 November 2017

The Doctors: The William Hartnell Years (2017) is a two-disc DVD reissue of the Reeltime interviews from actors who appeared in the BBC show Doctor Who during the tenure of Hartnell, the very first Doctor. Unfortunately, Hartnell himself had passed on by the time these were made so is noticeable by his absence. That said there are a lot of reminiscences from the other participants, many who have also subsequently passed on.

Disc one has an introduction (18 min, 22 sec) with Keith Barnfather (producer) and Nicholas Briggs (Presenter and voice of the Daleks), who explains how they got Hartnell’s granddaughter, who wrote a book about Hartnell's life, to contribute to his section. They produce a few amusing anecdotes about making the films as well as highlight where they were either able to go back and do update interviews and how they dealt with the issues of more actors passing on.

The first section, William Hartnell (1 hr, 26 sec) has Hartnell’s granddaughter and cast members adding their memories of Hartnell’s work. Even though his health began to suffer towards the end of his tenure as the Doctor the only thing which shines through is the respect that the actors had for Hartnell’s skill.

Carole Ann Ford (44 min, 48 sec) played Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter and is split into two interviews, the first is in black and white, the second in colour. Like the other interviews there are revelations, like when she was asked to reprise her role only to be told that she was not to refer to the Doctor as her grandfather, even though this had already been established, seems they were worried that people may consider that the Doctor may have had sex. Thankfully, Ford prevailed over the puritan producers.

Jacqueline Hill (49 min, 20 sec) played the teacher companion, Barbara Wright, unfortunately she died in 1993, so the piece is more of a retrospective of her life by actors and co-worker who knew her. She was obviously a well respective and loved woman and the piece does her memory justice.

Disc two kicks off with an interview with William Russell (58 min, 42 sec) who played one of the first companions Ian Chesterton, and is one of the more intricate of the interviews. Over and above his memories of his life and work, the interview is undertaken around London taking in many of the locations for his stories, ending with him departing into the same tube station his character did.

Peter Purves (58 min, 20 sec), played Steven, but may be better remembered by some as his time on Blue Peter. The interview takes its usual structure allowing the actor to first talk widely about his acting life in the round before he moves on to his time on Doctor Who.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the interview with Jackie Lane (44 min, 54 sec) who played Dodo. Although possibly a lessor know companion she is given the same consideration as the more famous ones. So, she recounts her life and especially her part in Doctor Who.

Time passes and unfortunately so do those who were around for the beginning of Who. These interviews are comprehensive and a gold mine for any serious Who fan. Once again, given the age of the original, quality can be variable, but nothing which will sully your enjoyment.


Charles Packer

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