William Hartnell was most famous for his portrayal of the first incarnation of The Doctor in Doctor Who. Hartnell's Doctor was rather different to some of the later incarnations: unlike the Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton who were portrayed somewhat as friendly jokers, he portrayed The Doctor as an arrogant, somewhat grumpy old man: this is particularly evident in the first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, though in later episodes these properties are played down. He is somewhat absent minded but nonetheless cunning and quick witted (for example, see the scene in The Dalek Invasion of Earth where he escapes from the Dalek Prison).

Hartnell played The Doctor for three years from November 1963 to October 1966, where Patrick Troughton took over the role due to bad health. He reappeared in The Three Doctors but only briefly, also due to health problems. The Five Doctors was filmed after he passed away and in it his incarnation was played by Richard Hurndall.

In non-Doctor Who roles, William Hartnell came to fame in the 1943 film The Way Ahead where he played an Army Sergeant. He later appeared in several notable films such as The Yangtse Incident, Carry On Sergeant, Brighton Rock, Hell Drivers and This Sporting Life. He died in 1975.


  • http://www.cuttingsarchive.org.uk/hartnell.htm
  • http://www.eyespider.freeserve.co.uk/drwho/wh/bill.html
  • http://www.carryonline.com/carry/hartnell.html