Novelist Picks Hartnell’s Doctor as Cultural Highlight

Historical novel writer CJ Sansom has selected William Hartnell’s Doctor Who as his choice for the Cultural Exchange feature in BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.


Interviewed by Mark Lawson in the Tuesday August 13 2013 edition of the nightly arts round up, Sansom, who wrote the Shardlake historical crime series, said of Hartnell’s portrayal:

He anchored everything. All the other characteristics that all the others have built on; he was mysterious, he was vulnerable, arrogant, mercurial, all those core characteristics…

Cultural Exchange is a regular Front Row slot which sees leading creative minds choose their favourite work. Rather wonderfully, Sansom says the programme’s early historical stories inspired his own vocation:

I was fascinated by the idea of these people who found themselves wandering about in history, and while the companions would be at sea… the Doctor could always make himself at home…

Really that started for me the idea of what it would be like to go wandering about in history, which is what I do now.

Sansom displays an impressive knowledge of the programme’s early years in an interview covering Hartnell’s casting, the tough shooting schedule, and how his declining health came to affect his performance. He also doesn’t shy away from Hartnell’s well-known (and deeply unappealing) views on race, but does attempt to place the man in the context of his time.

Well worth a listen, the interview concludes with Lawson nominating Sansom for the job of writing a Doctor Who story featuring an encounter with Henry VIII!

Listen to the interview at


Jonathan has followed the Doctor's adventures since the late Pertwee era, and he isn't about to stop now. A charity worker from Hull, he enjoys following Hull City's fortunes, listening to Bruce Springsteen and collecting all manner of Doctor Who ephemera. He blogs about Doctor Who merchandise at

Please note that responses to this post are subject to our comments policy.

© 2005-2015 Kasterborous. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | SheKnows Media - Entertainment