Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: Lost TV interview with 1st Doctor, William Hartnell discovered and used to prepare David Bradley for biopic!

by Anna Howell


In the lead up to this year’s much-anticipated 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who, the BBC managed to get their hands on a TV interview with original Time Lord, William Hartnell dating back to 1976, Doctorwhonews reports.

According to Doctor Who Restoration Team member Steve Roberts, the footage, which was discovered amongst the BBFC’s classification of extras, was confirmed as being an in-vision interview (on screen as well as audio) by Richard Bignell, the Doctor Who Restoration Team member who made the discovery.

The interview, conducted by Roger Mills for the BBC’s regional news show Points West, took place in the Gaumont Theatre dressing room where Hartnell was starring in panto that year, three months after leaving the iconic BBC family sci-fi series, and was broadcast on 17th January 1976.

In the extra, which went on for only 3 mins and 16 secs, Bignell gave details of the interview, which is thought to be the only on-screen one with Hartnell to exist.

In it Bignell says:

“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!!”


Since the discovery, David Bradley is said to have watched the footage in order to prepare for the part of Hartnell in the anniversary BBC2 biopic An Adventure In Space And Time.

Doctor Who returns this November for the anniversary celebrations – Watch a clip of Hartnell in action below: