Friday 16 August 2013

William Hartnell Interview Discovered!

These days, we're pretty used to seeing interviews with actors who have played the Doctor or other roles on Doctor Who. And not just the current Doctor and companions. Previous Doctors and companions continue to get interviewed regularly about their time on the programme. It's also pretty easy to find and watch past interviews with the actors while they were still on the show, or after they left, or even during the "wilderness years" of the nineties.

This is true of all the Doctors but one. Until now, no interviews with William Hartnell, the very first Doctor, have survived. But news has now broken that an interview with Hartnell from 1967 has been uncovered. Richard Bignell, a member of the Doctor Who Restoration Team (the team responsible for the restoration of Doctor Who episodes for the DVD releases), actually made the discovery a couple of years ago, but the announcement has been held back for the interview's appearance on the forthcoming DVD release of "The Tenth Planet", William Hartnell's final story as the Doctor (this release will also feature an animated reconstruction of the missing final episode, using the existing soundtrack). Bignell describes the discovery (via the Doctor Who News Page):

A few years ago, I was doing research into the article I was preparing for Issue 3 of Nothing at the End of the Lane on Hartnell's rather disastrous performance as Buskin the Fairy Cobbler in the pantomime Puss In Boots, which toured around four different venues in December 1966 and January 1967, just three months after he had completed work on The Tenth Planet.

Whilst doing some work at the BBC Written Archive Centre, I checked the respective Programme-as-Broadcast sheets for the period, looking specifically at the local BBC news programmes to see if Hartnell's appearance in panto was deemed worthy of a television report.

He was in fact interviewed twice. Once in the first week of the tour in Ipswich (shown on Look East on 27th December 1966) and again during the final week in Taunton for Points West, shown on 17th January 1967. As I'd built up some contacts in the BBC's regional news libraries working on the DVDs, I dropped the respective archives a line to see if there was any chance the two interviews survived.

The first interview for Look East had long gone, but the ladies in the Bristol News Library very quickly got back to me to say that the interview done in Taunton still survived. We arranged for the footage to be sent over to London, where it was duly transferred. It shows Hartnell in his dressing room doing his make-up for one of his performances, with his "Doctor's ring" on the table and a Berwick Dalek playsuit stuffed in the corner. Hartnell speaks about his problems acting against the Daleks and how pantomime isn't "legitimate" theatre! Enjoy!!
There have been all kinds of rumours going around lately about missing Doctor Who episodes having been found, but with no confirmations. While this isn't a lost episode, it's still an exciting find, and I look forward to watching the interview when it's available. "The Tenth Planet" DVD will be released in the U.K. on November 18. There is not yet an official release date for North America, but the DVDs are usually released in fairly close proximity, so we should expect it within a couple weeks of the U.K. release.

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