Of all the Doctors Who, William Hartnell is by far the least knowable. Having passed away prior to the dawn of fandom, and having been too ill during the tenth anniversary year to have participated much in the celebrations – thus missing out on joining his successor on Pebble Mill at One – there is very little documentary evidence recording just what Hartnell thought of his time in the TARDIS. The latest Koch Media compilation of Reeltime’s Myth Makers interviews tries its hardest to address this situation but falls somewhat short of painting a living picture of the original performer of the part.
Not that this isn’t a valiant attempt. The set starts with an hour-long tribute to Hartnell, featuring not just the actors who played his companions but also the likes of Shaun Sutton, Donald Tosh and Verity Lambert, plus Jack Pitt, a sometime monster operator on the programme who has also been Hartnell’s flatmate and who, along with Hartnell’s granddaughter Jessica Carney, manages to bring more of a personal perspective to the recollections. There’s another tribute on disc one (along with two combined shorter interviews with Carole Ann Ford), this one to Jacqueline Hill and dominated by a conversation with her husband Alvin Rakoff, that celebrates her career and ability but also makes the first half of this compilation a rather sad and occasionally heart-breaking affair. Rakoff discussing Hill’s illness is actually quite a difficult watch.
The second disc is perhaps meatier, including more substantial interviews with two of the first Doctor’s male companions, both fascinating actors who led pretty successful careers away from Doctor Who; firstly a tour of Dalek shooting locations with William Russell, and secondly an invitation into the home of Peter Purves. These two segments of the compilation alone would make the set worth buying, yet there is something even more intriguing to be found on this second disc.
Jackie Lane hasn’t had a great deal to do with Doctor Who since her departure from the programme, very rarely appearing at events or allowing herself to be interviewed about the series. Yet 25 years ago, she let Nicholas Briggs interview her for one of these tapes, and it’s perhaps the most interesting inclusion on the set. Not just because of the opportunity to spend 45 minutes listening to Lane, but also because the rather odd decision was taken to record her against a blue screen and present the interview as if it had taken place in a virtual TARDIS, making the resulting presentation one of the oddest things Reeltime ever produced.
This isn’t quite as required viewing as the three previous Koch compilations, but for fans of the series’ early years, it is still thoroughly absorbing.
Extras: Introduction by Barnfather and Briggs
THE DOCTORS: THE WILLIAM HARTNELL YEARS / CERT: E (EXEMPT) / DIRECTOR: KEITH BARNFATHER / PRESENTER: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / STARRING: CAROLE ANN FORD, JACQUELINE HILL, WILLIAM RUSSELL, PETER PURVES, JACKIE LANE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW