David Bradley has had a unique journey when it comes to Doctor Who, from being cast as the late William Hartnell to actually taking on the role of the First Doctor.


The actor, also known for his role in the Harry Potter films, first came to Doctor Who for a guest appearance in season 7 episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and returned for the 50th anniversary docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time to play Hartnell.

He impressed the show's bosses so much that when they decided to bring back a version of the First Doctor, originally played by Hartnell, alongside Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor, they knew exactly who to call.

Bradley tells RadioTimes.com: "I ran into Mark Gatiss last night, at the National Theatre, and the bar afterwards, and he said, 'Do you realise it's [been] 10 years since we did An Adventure in Space and Time?' And it just reminded me of one of the best jobs I've ever had. I still feel very proud of what Mark and everybody did in that and just to be a part of it.

"Hartnell was my first ever Doctor - I'm that young - and so it was the honour and the responsibility of being asked to do it, when you're playing someone you not only admire but there’s still members of their family around to either give it [a thumbs up or thumbs down]. Fortunately for me, they all said, ‘Yeah, you got granddad’ and I was so delighted, and it was more of a relief as much as anything else.

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"Of course, the second time with Peter Capaldi, I could be a bit more rock 'n' roll with it and just take a few liberties with it, and have more fun with the character, rather than focusing on the accuracy and convincing proper Whovians who know much more about that world than I do. And to get the thumbs up from them was quite something."

Bradley has made it clear that he never wanted to completely mimic Hartnell's way of playing the First Doctor - but that's not to say he didn't do his research.

"One still hoped to make the most of the footage I was shown of the Doctor," he recalls. "Just his way of looking and just his voice and that slightly, ‘I'm not quite sure about you, young man!’ He would tilt his head and, for me, he embodied all the best things about the character. But what particularly impressed me was, he made the Doctor kind of curious about the universe, and everything in it.

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"Of course, he puts himself and others in danger in his quest for adventures and because he was inquisitive and questioning, you think, 'Oh, I wish I'd been a bit more like that when I was younger,’ rather than just taking everything, authority figures, or whatever for granted. But he would push and ask questions.

"He had this fascination and curiosity with everything around him which made him very young in many senses. And I think that's why a lot of young people took to the character. All the others since have made the doctor their own brilliant ways, but he set the template for them all to follow. So what he created was something amazing."

Welcome to 60 Days of Doctor Who, RadioTimes.com's ultimate celebration of all things Who as the show gears up for its 60th anniversary. We'll be bringing you 60 days of exclusive Doctor Who content, from interviews and newsletter takeovers with the show's stars to the hottest takes from our team of Doctor Who superfans. Stay tuned! 
David Tennant in new Doctor Who character poster 2023, using his sonic screwdriver
BBC Studios

As for his favourite Doctor Who story, there's one that sticks in his mind.

"I suppose it was the one that made the most impression or the one that I looked at time and time again - the very first one. And because of the story behind it, and the determination to get it put on and the fact that it went out on the night that John Kennedy was assassinated, and Verity Lambert just pushed and pushed and they could have easily been shelved because there was certain people at the BBC who didn't want it in the first place.

"And [they] were hoping to use that as an excuse to say 'no, just bin it'… It could have so easily been strangled at birth.

William Hartnell during rehearsals for Doctor Who
William Hartnell during rehearsals for Doctor Who. Sunday Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

"But Verity Lambert really stood up and said 'you cannot do this, you have to show it again'. And it remains to me a wonderful episode, because it's the introduction to all these characters."

Six decades after Doctor Who-fi began, it's still as strong as ever. Reflecting on what the series means to him, Bradley explains: "It's just amazing that, I mean, as Hartnell said, there can't be a Doctor Who without the Doctor when he realised he wasn't able to do it anymore, and the idea of regeneration is a brilliant one of course.

"And it just shows how various regenerations have been, [like] with Jodie, just showing, you can go anywhere with this. I hope it lives for another 60 years."

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