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As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves

Actor William Hartnell played many roles during his career.

He was the sergeant in the very first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant, and was memorable as Dallow in the British gangster film Brighton Rock. By the 1960s he was a familiar face on a variety of TV shows.

Then, in 1963, he took on the role for which he will always be remembered and has made him a legend among sci-fi fans. He was cast as The Doctor in a new series, shining an educational light on the historical eras that he time-hopped to. The programme was called Doctor Who.

William’s Doctor behaved like an Edwardian gentleman but travelled through space and time in a device called the Tardis, which though disguised as an old-fashioned police telephone box, was curiously much larger on the inside. The show really took off when the Doctor’s implacable enemies, the Daleks first appeared.

William had to bow out of the show on health grounds after three years. Did this mean the end for Doctor Who?

Well, no. His Doctor “regenerated” into another Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, an ingenious idea which has enabled the drama to become the longest running sci-fi series ever.

The actor would perhaps be surprised to see the show he helped launch still prospering so many years later. He may also have been pleased to see his Doctor ‘appear’ in an episode of the programme broadcast 50 years after he bowed out. Harry Potter actor David Bradley stepped into William’s shoes, for an encounter with 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi in the series’ 2017 Christmas special.