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First Doctor
Also known as:
Race: Gallifreyan - Time Lord
Home Planet: Gallifrey
Home Era: Rassilon Era
Appearances: Full List of Appearances
"If you could touch the alien sand, and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky - would that satisfy you? "
―The Doctor





Early Life


Almost nothing is known for certain about the Doctor's early life. What accounts of this period exist are both incomplete and contradictory; no attempt to resolve the conflicts is made here.

The Doctor was either born (possibly from a union between a Time Lord father and a Human mother) (DW: Doctor Who) or Loomed into the House of Lungbarrow, possibly as a genetic reincarnation of sorts of the Other, one of the ancient and powerful Gallifreyans who had, with Rassilon and Omega, founded the Time Lords. (NA: Lungbarrow).

The Other may have been Loomed previously, before the Doctor, and taken a bride known as Patience.

Though Time Lords of his era went through a Looming process, the Doctor claimed on a few occasions to have been born.

Since the Doctor stated that he was born, this might discount the notion that he was "loomed". (Considering the source of the "looming story it's likely just non canon.) Once, to Sarah Jane Smith, he said his birth had occurred near Karn, a planet which had a history intertwined with that of the Time Lords. (DW: The Brain of Morbius) On another occasion, he said he was born "at the sign of crossed computers", which is the name given to the maternity service on Gallifrey. (DW: The Creature from the Pit)

One account shows that the Doctor grew in the House of Lungbarrow along with Cousins, other Galifreyans also produced by Looms. (NA: Lungbarrow) Another account by the Doctor says that he knew and had a relationship with his father (DW: Doctor Who).

The Doctor was born and lived his early life on Gallifrey, home planet of the Time Lords. He lived in a house on the side of a mountain. (DW: The Time Monster) In his first eight years of his life he was friends with the Master. The seventh incarnation of the Doctor related a story which explained his origins, alongside the Master's. He said that both he and the Master had been mercilessly and viciously bullied as children. The youthful Doctor found himself forced to kill the bully in order to save his friend's life. He was later confronted by Death, who insisted he become her disciple. The Doctor refused and instead suggested Death make the Master her champion instead, to which she agreed. The Doctor said that, because of this, he always felt partly responsible for the carnage the Master would later cause. (BFA: Master)

In a later incarnation, the Doctor would take on the role of Time's Champion.

Another story told by the Doctor said that like the Master, at the age of eight, had stared into the Untempered Schism as part of a Time Lord initiation rite. He reacted by running away. (DW: The Sound of Drums)

Academic career

At the Academy, the Doctor belonged to a clique of ten young Time Lords with the collective name of the Deca, a group which included Koschei (later the Master) and Ushas (later known as the Rani), among others (PDA: Divided Loyalties). When he was 90 he visited the Medusa Cascade. The Doctor described himself as 'just a kid' then. (DW: The Stolen Earth). The Doctor spent "centuries" at the Academy. (DWM: Mortal Beloved)

As his companion Romana would later note, he did not have an impressive career at school. (DW: The Ribos Operation)

Family Life

Based on remarks by his later incarnations, the Doctor is known to have had a family life while he lived on Gallifrey. Although it is never directly stated, it is assumed that this period of the Doctor's life occurred during his first incarnation. The Tenth Doctor states that he was married and that he was "rubbish" at weddings, especially his own. He also mentions having children, one of whom presumably was the parent of Susan Foreman. The Doctor also mentions having a brother, and in The End of Time a character appears that is mentioned by the creators as being the Doctor's mother. Presumably, all of the Doctor's family were later killed in the Time War.


For reasons that have yet to be fully revealed, at some point the Doctor stole an outdated and possibly run-down Type 40 TARDIS and fled Gallifrey, taking with him the Hand of Omega. Susan Foreman either accompanied him when he did this, or joined up with him a short time later.

The Doctor steals a Type 40 TARDIS.

For five months, Susan and the Doctor lived in 1963 London to enable Susan to complete her education and so that the Doctor could find some missing components for the TARDIS (DW: An Unearthly Child); as later revealed, he was also finding a hiding place for the Hand of Omega, although this fact was not obvious at the time (DW: Remembrance of the Daleks).

By this time, a Dalek had already discovered him. The Doctor's seventh incarnation also appeared in his past self's life on a mission from the White Guardian, to steal the TARDIS Instruction Manual. (DWM: Time & Time Again)

Two teachers, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton from Coal Hill School, tracked Susan down to a junkyard in 76 Totter's Lane, where the Doctor and Susan had left the TARDIS. Afraid they would expose him, the Doctor kidnapped the teachers. The TARDIS dematerialised and landed in 100,000 BC. (DW: An Unearthly Child)

The Doctor gains companions

The Doctor soon realized Ian and Barbara bore him no threat, but being unable to accurately pilot the TARDIS, he was unable to immediately return them to their original place and time. When the TARDIS landed on Skaro, he actually sabotaged it in order to study the planet more closely (a decision he soon regretted). This led him to his first contact with the race called the Daleks. (DW: The Daleks).

After escaping Skaro, and over the next few months, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan experienced a number of adventures that took them to different planets (DW: The Keys of Marinus, The Sensorites), and to different periods in Earth's history (DW: Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Reign of Terror).

The Doctor and his companions also travelled into Earth's future. In London during the time of the 22nd century Dalek invasion, Susan met David Campbell, a young resistance fighter against the Daleks. Realizing she would be better off not facing the dangers of travel, and recognizing she was no longer a child, the Doctor reluctantly left her behind. (DW: The Dalek Invasion of Earth) Although he later reunited with her briefly for an adventure on Gallifrey (DW: The Five Doctors), he would continue to regret this decision for centuries to come (IDW: The Forgotten).

Soon after leaving Susan, the Doctor gained a new companion in Vicki, who immediately became a Susan-surrogate (DW: The Rescue). The Doctor and his companions continued to explore alien worlds and Earth's past. Following another encounter with the Daleks, the Doctor successfully piloted the TARDIS back to Ian and Barbara's home era, and they took their leave, around the same time he gained another new companion in Steven Taylor (DW: The Chase).

While his relationship with Vicki remained warm, the Doctor's relationship with Steven tended to be stressed at times. After Vicki's departure, a young woman from ancient Earth named Katarina joined the Doctor and Steven (DW: The Myth Makers).

Soon after, the Doctor entered into an epic struggle against the Daleks that saw the deaths of two of his companions -- Katarina and Space Agent Sara Kingdom. (DW: The Daleks' Master Plan) This, and other factors, added additional strain to his relationship with Steven, who angrily left the TARDIS briefly following a subsequent bloody adventure. (DW: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve) Steven almost immediately relented however, and with new companion Dodo Chaplet, the Doctor and his companions continued their travels, encountering humans from the far future (DW: The Ark), the Celestial Toymaker (DW: The Celestial Toymaker) and even famous characters from the American Wild West (DW: The Gunfighters).

Steven eventually left the Doctor, albeit on better terms (DW: The Savages) and soon after the Doctor was forced to leave an injured Dodo on modern-day Earth, where he picked up what would be the final companions of his first incarnation, Polly Wright and Ben Jackson (DW: The War Machines).

His travels eventually led him to Earth in the late 20th century, and his first encounter with the Cybermen (DW: The Tenth Planet). But not all was well with the Doctor.


He apparently succumbed to old age (among other possible factors) after his first meeting with the Cybermen, stating that "this old body is wearing a bit thin." Fortunately, the Doctor was able to return to the TARDIS in time to begin the regeneration process for the first time, transforming him into a new, younger body. (DW: The Tenth Planet)

For a list of First Doctor stories in the order in which he experienced them, see First Doctor - Timeline.


The Doctor in a cape

In his later life, the Doctor had shoulder length, greyish-white hair. He had piercing brown eyes.

The Doctor affected a slightly eccentric Edwardian dress sense, wearing a frock coat and tartan trousers. Occasionally he wore an Astrakhan (DW: An Unearthly Child, The Tenth Planet) or a Panama hat (DW: The Chase, The Daleks' Master Plan). He also sometimes wore a cape (DW: Planet of Giants, The War Machines). Like his fifth incarnation, he sometimes used half-moon reading glasses (DW: The Time Meddler, The Daleks' Master Plan, The War Machines), although a later incarnation would call into question whether he actually needed them (DW: Time Crash). He also occasionally employed a walking stick (DW: The Five Doctors), which sometimes made an effective weapon. (DW: The Chase) He also wore a blue signet ring which had special, if ill-defined, powers. (The Web Planet, DW: The Dalek's Master Plan, The Power of the Daleks) On one occasion, the ring appeared to both facilitate hypnotism and protect the Doctor from electrical shock. (DW: The War Machines)

When adventuring in Earth's past, this version of the Doctor, in contrast with most that followed, sometimes made significant changes to his wardrobe, in an attempt to blend in with the local population. (DW: The Romans, The Reign of Terror, The Crusade) However, he usually made at least a token alteration to his "standard" outfit wherever he went in Earth's past, as when he wore a cowboy hat in 19th century Arizona. (DW: The Gunfighters) More rarely, he would gladly accept the vestments of extraterrestrial societies, as when he proudly wore the ceremonial garb of the Elders. (DW: The Savages)


A mysterious character, the Doctor progressed from selfish anti-hero to a more noble figure, defending truth and the innocent. He was by turns casually disdainful yet formally gracious; easily exhausted while walking yet almost gleeful during a physical confrontation; seemingly wise yet prone to mistakes borne of arrogance and rash judgment.

During this phase in his life, the Doctor was irascible, a brilliant but often short-tempered scientist. He refused to bend his knee to the Kublai Khan, giving rheumatic knees as the reason. (DW: Marco Polo). He would get particularly snappish with those who doubted the TARDIS could actually travel through space and time. He had no problem hitting a Viking when his own life was threatened. (DW: An Unearthly Child, DW: The Time Meddler)
A typical scowl.

At first he had a particularly selfish and duplicitous attitude. Having contempt for mere humans, he regarded them as primitives. He abducted Barbara and Ian against their will and set the TARDIS console to shock Ian into unconsciousness. Arguably, he even contemplated killing the mortally wounded Za so that he would not slow down the Doctor's party. (DW: An Unearthly Child) The Doctor also deliberately removed the TARDIS' fluid link so that he would have an excuse to explore the Dalek City on Skaro. (DW: The Daleks)

As time went on, however, he displayed great wisdom and a kind heart. Perhaps due to his age, he seemed more frail than his later incarnations. He also appeared somewhat absent-minded, but this may have been exaggerated to make his enemies underestimate him. The Doctor would, when pressed, resort to fisticuffs with an effectiveness which belied his age. (DW: The Romans, DW: The Chase) He claimed that a professional wrestler, the Mountain Mauler of Montana, had taught him some effective moves. (DW: The Romans)

Unlike his successors, he was often as reliant upon his companions as they were upon him -- many times it was Ian or Steven who saved the day. Nonetheless, the First Doctor possessed an aura of power and intelligence which was impossible to ignore.

He often returned to Earth at various times in its history, apparently motivated by historical curiosity rather than a desire to preserve it against alien invaders. On his voyages to other planets, he was again motivated as much by curiosity as by a desire to help them.

It is notable that all of his future incarnations have a noticeably profound respect for the First Doctor, so much so that they dare not question his judgment. The Time Lords used this to their advantage when the Second and Third Doctor were found to be incapable of working together. Even the First Doctor's presence on the TARDIS' monitor gave off enough authoritative aura to convince the Second and Third Doctor to work in harmony. (DW: The Three Doctors)

The original Doctor again shows his position of authority over his future selves by deducing the truth about Rassilon's gift of immortality before the others and taking action without their input or objections. These multiple-Doctor stories also seem to hint that regeneration comes with the cost of gaps in memory and intelligence as the First Doctor is often shown to be wiser, more intelligent, and quick witted than his future incarnations. (DW: The Five Doctors)

The Doctor was not particularly adept at hiding his feelings

Habits and Quirks

The First Doctor punctuated his speech with, "Hmmmm...?", exasperated sighs and snorts and the occasional mangled phrase or word. He would address young women as "child" and younger men as "my boy" or in Ian's case by his name. However, he found it difficult (or pretended to find it difficult) to remember Ian's last name. The TARDIS required expert piloting and guidance by the Doctor. Its systems often broke down, including the navigational systems. This would explain the difficulty the Doctor encountered in returning to 1963 London in order to return Ian and Barbara to their lives. The Doctor consulted a small handbook. The Doctor never even hinted at the nature of his own origins, other than to state that he and the Monk originated on the same world and to hint that Susan and himself were exiles from the same place and time. (DW: An Unearthly Child)

Mysteries and Discrepancies

Family and relationship to Susan

As mentioned above, one account explains that the Doctor rescued Larna, a young Time Lady from the Doctor's own time, whom he later called Susan. (RT: Birth of a Renegade) Another contradictory account states that the Doctor had gone back in time to the Dark Times of Gallifrey to pick up both the Other's granddaughter and the Hand of Omega from that time period. (NA: Lungbarrow)

The Daleks

This incarnation of the Doctor seemed unfamiliar with the Daleks, and seemed eager to explore their homeworld Skaro (DW: The Daleks). And yet he had, by this time, hidden away the Hand of Omega away on 1963 Earth, as part of an ongoing plan to defeat them. (DW: Remembrance of the Daleks)

Other matters

  • This is the only incarnation ever known to smoke, specifically a pipe (DW: An Unearthly Child).
  • When the Doctor, Vicki, Barbara and Ian were being chased by the Daleks through time, he claimed to have built the TARDIS. (DW: The Chase) This statement stands in stark contrast with later incarnations and Time Lord authorities who claimed that the TARDIS was stolen (EDA: The Gallifrey Chronicles) (DW: Planet of the Dead (TV story)); it has also been suggested that the TARDIS was grown, rather than built (DW: Rise of the Cybermen, The Impossible Planet). While the TARDIS could have been both grown and stolen, it is difficult to see how it could also have been built by the Doctor. Susan has made the claim that she coined the acronym TARDIS (DW: An Unearthly Child), leading to the possibility that the Doctor was somehow involved with the development of the TARDIS. The Eighth Doctor revealed that he had made various additions to the TARDIS in The Taking of Planet 5 to replace the need for a direct symbiotic link to control the TARDIS and thus make it harder for the Time Lords to find him, suggesting that, while the Doctor did not build the TARDIS from the beginning, he made significant alterations to it after it came into his possession.
  • The computer WOTAN referred to the Doctor as "Doctor Who". Exactly why the computer would give the Doctor this name when he is never referred to as such is unknown. (DW: The War Machines)
See separate article.
  • The matter of this incarnation's age and how long this incarnation lived is unclear.
See The Doctor's age.

Key Life Events

Behind the Scenes


Actors considered for the role of the Doctor (not the "first" at this point) included Geoffrey Bayldon, Cyril Cusack, Hugh David and Alan Webb. William Hartnell had, up until that point, mainly played small-time thugs and other unsympathetic parts in crime films and humourless military men in comedies. Producer Verity Lambert was inspired to ask him to accept the role after seeing him in his well-known role in This Sporting Life, which convinced her that he could play a tough, yet shaded and sympathetic character.

When the time came for the First Doctor to appear in the 1983 anniversary special DW: The Five Doctors, actor Richard Hurndall was hired to play the role, replacing William Hartnell, who had died in the mid-1970s. Peter Cushing played him in the mid 1960's movies.

External links

The incarnations of the Doctor
Companions of the First Doctor
Susan Foreman  • Ian Chesterton  • Barbara Wright  • Vicki  • Steven Taylor  • Katarina  • Sara Kingdom  • Dodo Chaplet  • Ben Jackson  • Polly Wright
Other media
John and Gillian  • George, Helen, Alan and Ida Mortimer

This article uses material from the "First Doctor" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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