Home Doctor Who Happy Birthday to Who? – 22nd January: John Hurt

Happy Birthday to Who? – 22nd January: John Hurt


Sir John Hurt is surely a man who needs no introduction, even if his Doctor was a secret until the show’s fiftieth-anniversary special.

The War Doctor – or sometimes “Grandad” or “Captain Grumpy” – is the regeneration that fought in the Time War. More importantly, he’s the one who broke the promise. Thankfully, he didn’t let us down with his indisputable talent and impact on the Doctor Who mythos.

He served as the cliffhanger ending to Series 7 finale The Name of The Doctor. He popped up as a post-regenerative reflection in The Night of The Doctor. Finally, he made his full debut in The Day of The Doctor. It’s safe to say that John Hurt was the talk of the town during 2013. Despite only one true on-screen appearance, Hurt managed to deliver a barnstormer of a performance (barnstormer, geddit?!). He is the battle-scarred Time Lord at conflict with himself over whether to commit genocide. Such a pivotal role would be a significant undertaking for any Doctor. But, for a completely new face to step in and steal the show, is a testament to Hurt’s acting.

“Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of a lesser man to light the flame…”
Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt - Doctor Who - The Day of the Doctor (c) BBC
Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt – Doctor Who – The Day of the Doctor (c) BBC

Though a frightening part of The Doctor’s history, John Hurt managed to make The War Doctor both warm and likeable. He played a perfect contrast against the youth of David Tennant and Matt Smith’s Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. At times, it seemed he was the only one with his head screwed on right. A huge number of memorable moments in The Day of The Doctor are down to Hurt’s poignant drama or comedy genius. He is right, after all: what are they going to do against their enemies? Assemble a cabinet at them?!

The War Doctor was such a hit, that his one-off appearance spawned all manner of spin-off material. He first returned in George Mann’s excellent Engines of War novel. More recently, Hurt has lent his “posh, gravelly” tones to a brand new series of Big Finish audio adventures.

We can only hope this is just the beginning for Hurt’s involvement with the show. Even if he never appears on-screen again, we feel the ramifications of his character to this day.

The Doctor wanted to forget him, but we certainly never will. Join us in wishing a Happy 77th Birthday to The War Doctor himself! We hope you find some fun-filled ways to pass the timey-wimey, Sir John!




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