Doctor Who legend William Russell, best known for playing school teacher Ian Chesterton, has died aged 99.


The Guardian has confirmed the death of the actor, who is survived by his wife, Etheline. He died on 3rd June 2024.

Russell first appeared in An Unearthly Child, the first ever Doctor Who story, alongside William Hartnell who played the First Doctor, Carole Ann Ford, who played companion Susan, and Jacqueline Hill who played fellow teacher Barbara Wright.

He appeared in almost all of the episodes in the first two seasons of Doctor Who.

He eventually left the show alongside Hill in 1965, towards the end of the second season, but continued his association with Doctor Who, narrating audiobook releases of lost 1960s episodes and appearing in audio stories.

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William Russell as Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who
William Russell as Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who BBC

However, Russell would go on to reprise his role as Ian an incredible 57 years later when he appeared as part of the "companion support group" in Jodie Whittaker's final episode, The Power of the Doctor.

His appearance earned him a Guinnness World Record for the longest gap between TV appearances.

The record was previously held by Coronation Street actor Philip Lowrie, who returned to the cobbles to play Dennis Tanner after 43 years.

Doctor Who's William Russell and Carole Ann Ford
Doctor Who's William Russell and Carole Ann Ford Big Finish

Guinness World Records confirmed the achievement, announcing: “The longest gap between TV appearances is 57 years 120 days, and was achieved by William Russell (UK) as the Doctor Who character Ian Chesterton in The Power of the Doctor episode, which aired on 23rd October 2022.”


Tributes have poured in from fans, with many heartbroken to hear the news of Russell's death.