The Doctor — the original, you might say — is a busy man these days.
The actor who created Doctor Who’s lead character, William Hartnell, died in 1975, but that hasn’t stopped the First Doctor from seeming to be everywhere lately. Now, Big Finish Productions will produce a series of full-cast audio dramas featuring the original 1963 crew of the TARDIS, using the cast that played their actors in the 2013 50th anniversary TV docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time.
David Bradley, who will reprise the character first in the Christmas Day swansong for current series star Peter Capaldi, and showed up in the Series 10 finale’s cliffhanger, leads the cast, which also features Jamie Glover as Ian Chesterton, Jemma Powell as Barbara Wright and Claudia Grant as Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s spunky granddaughter.
“Having worked with David twice now on TV, it’s great to be working with him again,” said executive producer Nicholas Briggs, who is the voice of the evil Daleks in Big Finish and BBC TV productions of Doctor Who. “(The) writers have come up with such a beautifully authentic set of scripts. We forget how different Doctor Who was, back in those early days – and here it all is, painstakingly recreated. I find that rather thrilling.
“What’s fascinating about the cast and their performances is that they’re not impersonating William Hartnell and his TARDIS crew. They’re playing those parts as written in the scripts. No one can replace the brilliance of those original performances. What we’re presenting here is a kind of reinvention of that era, completely in the spirit of the original. They are new but entirely faithful interpretations of these characters.”
“I’ve always been a great admirer of David Bradley’s work,” said Big Finish executive producer Jason Haigh-Ellery in company comments on the announcement, “and thought that he was an excellent choice to play William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time. After his brilliant performance, we immediately thought about bringing David in to play the First Doctor for Big Finish – it took us a while – but we got there in the end! I’m so looking forward to seeing David in the Christmas Special and then listening to his further adventures with us.”
The TV Christmas special recently got a synopsis and a title — “Twice Upon an Time”:
Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment. It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning.
In Big Finish’s aural adventures, James Dreyfus will play a never-before-seen incarnation of the Master, the villainous Time Lord who was once the Doctor’s greatest friend and now his most dangerous foe.
The First Doctor Adventures – Volume 1 will become available in January, featuring the stories “The Destination Wars” by Matt Fitton and “The Great White Hurricane” by Guy Adams. Volume 2, out in July, includes “The Invention of Death” by John Dorney and “The Barbarians and the Samurai” by Andrew Smith. In keeping with the original, educational spirit of Doctor Who, two of the titles will be “historical” stories set on Earth before 1963.
“The adventures of the First Doctor are all about discovery,” script editor and writer Matt Fitton said in comments about the release, “finding out what this infinite universe contains, and also who our fellow travellers are. As we journey with Ian, Barbara, Susan and the mysterious Doctor, we come to see what they are capable of when confronted with the strange, the unjust and the dangerous.”