For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to take an easy, laid-back trip through Time and Space during with some quick peeks at one or two costume props for each of The Doctor’s incarnations from Doctor Who.
First Doctor At a Glance:
The First and “original” Doctor was played by William Hartnell from 1963 to 1966, who made a return guest appearance in 1973 for the show’s Tenth Anniversary episode “The Three Doctors.” His original companions were his granddaughter, Susan, and her teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright.
This is an important Doctor, if for other reason he is the Gallifreyan rebel who first stole the TARDIS and got the entire journey for Doctor Who fans going. Personality-wise he came across as the typical eccentric, aloof, and stubborn older man, and had the look to go with it.
Originally, The First Doctor’s suit was was to be more “contemporary,” but that was a little too nondescript for an eccentric Time Lord. The look he is remembered for is Victorian and Edwardian-inspired with a frock coat, black necktie and checkered pants. He carried a twisted cane and wore a blue signet ring. He was also seen sometimes with a monocle, opera cape, knit scarf and Russian fur hat.
For the show’s record-breaking 50th anniversary, BBC released the story of the show’s origin and Hartnell’s life as The Doctor, An Adventure in Space and Time in 2013
Props to Look For: Twisted Cane and Signet Ring
There was almost an Uncle Scrooge quality to the First Doctor, with his monocle, swept-back hair, coat tails and use of a cane…although he didn’t always need one. It’s the cane that really stands out, particularly with it’s twisted shaft. The cane used by the First Doctor is the typical opera-handled cane from men in the Edwardian era, and various canes with twisted shafts can be found from retailers like Ye Old Cane Shoppe for around $60 to more than $200, depending on the materials and style. Museum Replicas has the best deal, however, with a $20 Ozark Hickory Root Cane. The shaft isn’t very twisty, but the price is much more reasonable.
Another cane style similar to this is the Irish shillelagh, and long-time catalog mogul Hammacher Schlemmer has a hand made one for $69.95. Keep in mind these are handcrafted items, so each one will be slightly different. Shillelagh-style canes with twisted shafts can also be found at, appropriately enough, the site Irish Walking Sticks with a similar price range as the other walking sticks mentioned.
The First Doctor didn’t yield a sonic screwdriver, but his signet ring (which color set photos reveal to have a deep blue stone), was a significant source of power. He used it to operate the TARDIS doors, aid in hypnotism, and buffer him from electrical shock. There are many mentions of this ring with later Doctor incarnations in extended “Whoniverse” novels and radio dramas, but the series indicated that The Doctor’s Second incarnation discarded the ring soon after regeneration, since it no longer fit him.
The ring is such a simple prop to find or make, but there is only one place we could locate an actual First Doctor ring via a merchant called Who’s Who Clothing on Second Life Marketplace. Although this looks to be a very nice piece, it also comes with a $399 asking price. Those planning on just wanting a cosplay piece or fun prop to display can find plain, blue stone ring for less. Oriental Trading Company even has a dozen Jumbo Rhinestone Rings (including a blue one) for $12. They aren’t identical to the one in the show, but certainly close enough. Even making one yourself is inexpensive. A plain silver ring mount and plastic stone, attached with will run well under $10.
Even through there have been 11 more primary incarnations of The Doctor in the next five decades (not to mention the War Doctor, Meta-Crisis Doctor, movie, radio and animated versions), Hartnell’s original Doctor should receive a respectful bow of appreciation for paving the way for so many other distinct personalities and looks. His comment from the second season episode The Dalek Invasion of Earth, seem to predict how much farther this series would carry on.
“One day I shall come back,” he said. “Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”
In reality, he never really left us as all.
Story originally ran June 2015 in Minion Feeding 101.