Anneke Wills played Polly, one of the companions (along with Ben, played by the late Michael Crane) to witness the first regeneration. Speaking at the Power: Reimagined convention in Fareham on Saturday 1 September, she commented: ‘It was painful [watching Hartnell struggle with illness and learning lines]. Plainly he couldn’t do the role any more.’
A fellow guest at the event was Christopher Barry, who directed many episodes of the 1963-1989 series, including the first Dalek story and Power of the Daleks – Troughton’s debut as the Doctor. Barry remembered, among other things, that Hartnell was less than tolerant of some West Indians using another area of the rehearsal rooms which the Doctor Who team used in London at the time.
While the comments about William Hartnell don’t necessarily reveal anything new, they are a reminder of the sometimes fraught times on the programme in its early days. It remains to be seen how this will be depicted in the special one-off drama which Mark Gatiss is writing, for broadcast during the programme’s 50th anniversary year of 2013.