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The Family Who

In 1984, fifteen-year-old fan howard white discovered that William Hartnell’s widow Heather was living with her daughter Anne Carney in his Kentish village. he was soon assigned to interview them...

Heather McIntyre was born in Glasgow on 27 April 1907. An actress and playwright, she met William Hartnell when they were fellow members of an acting troupe that toured Canada in 1928. They married a year later, and were together until William’s death in 1975. Heather died in December 1984.

Were you ever on location when William was making Doctor Who?

Now, when William was making Doctor Who, he hardly ever went on location, nearly every series was made in the studios at Shepherd’s Bush. I remember him going on location once, down to Devonshire or Cornwall; I didn’t go with him.

There may have been others, I don’t remember, but mostly they were made in the studio, and I only went to the studio once or twice just to watch the actual recording, on tape, of the show.

Did William have a strong rapport with the cast and crew?

They got on awfully well. Of course he had his favourites. He loved Bill Russell, who was the first of his assistants. And Jackie and of course Carole Ann Ford, who was his granddaughter in the very beginning – they got on awfully well together.

I think all the crew got on well together, they had to because they were making it in a very tiny studio and they were all on top of each other, so they had to get on well or they’d have come to blows I think!

Did William or any members of the crew get annoyed at the lack of money for things like bigger and better sets?

Oh, YES, YES, YES! The main thing was, of course, that in those days they were making it in black and white, and they said they couldn’t afford to make a children’s series in colour.

That was the main thing that frustrated them all, and also the fact that they had to make do with this tiny, tiny studio down by the river at Hammersmith. They had to have all the sets built in this tiny studio – oh, it was terribly frustrating. I think they did wonders, considering the difficulties under which they were working.

What sort of stories did William like best, the historical or the monster ones?

He loved the historical ones because, like all actors, he loved dressing up in great gay clothes, and he loved the things like the French Revolution [The Reign Of Terror] and Marco Polo and things like that because they were all gorgeous glamorous clothes, but of course they were made in black and white so the audience couldn’t see how gorgeous the clothes were, which was very sad.

The thing was that it was primarily in those days a children’s programme and the BBC spent less money on children’s programmes than on adult programmes, it was as simple as that.