With the news confirmed earlier today that Mark Gatiss is writing An Adventure In Space & Time, a ninety minute BBC Two drama looking at the story of Doctor Who, Blogtor takes a look at the casting of the film. And who should play those iconic roles….

PLEASE NOTE: This is an amended version of the original post that first appeared back in February HERE.

I’ve focused on the main four (Hartnell, Russell, Hill and Ford) but the behind the scene players would obviously play a huge part so I’ll quickly suggest: actress Romolai Garai (currently “wowing” audiences in The Hour) to portray Verity Lambert; Timothy Spall could be Sydney Newman; the aforementioned Gatiss should play Ron Grainer (as there is a likeness there); and Florence Welch (sans Machine) for Delia Derbyshire.

Carole Ann Ford (Susan)
Though the actress was a handsome twenty~three years old when filming began on An Unearthly Child, the Doc’s grand~daughter was a sprightly fifteen (tougher times in them days). But who, currently available today, should play Miss Ford? Lacey Turner, best known for Eastenders (though some nerd~a~trons may remember her from Being Human), would make an admirable choice as she’s got the acting chops to pull it off (having said that, I can’t imagine Carole Ann Ford having that big a part in the story) and seems feisty enough to get a tad annoyed at Hartnell’s misjudgements of her age.

Comedic actress and stand~up Isy Suttie is not disimilar in the looks department (next to the trouser department) to the past companion and could easily portray Ford as an awkward, out of the loop kinda gal. But my top pick for Carole Ann Ford would be twenty year old actress Yasmin Paige. Now, Paige, as I’m sure many of you are about to tell me, played Maria Jackson in The Sarah Jane Adventures some years ago and has continued to impress; particularly in Richard Ayoade’s film Submarine. Though Ford was/is most definitely human, Paige resonates an otherworldly quality that would light up the screen as a child of Gallifrey.

William Russell (Ian)

Big Willy, as he likes to be known, would have a larger part to play than Ford (one would imagine). To fill his boots you would need an experienced actor that’s teacherly but with a twinkle in the eye. Mad Dogs star Max Beesley certainly as the affable charm that Russell conveyed and has certainly more than a glint in his ocular cavities. Probably a bit too good looking to play Russell though.

Damien Lewis, currently impressing in the award~winning drama Homeland, is not averse to slumming it on the BBC and presenting Have I Got news For You? from time to time – so perhaps a BBC Four drama is still within his artistic remit. Lewis has the “affable factor”; though, like Beesley, a bit too rugged perhaps to pull off Russell (stop it). My top choice, however, is The IT Crowd’s Chris O’ Dowd, also familiar to many more millions as “the” bloke from the 2011 box~office hit, Bridesmaids. Although he’s a big time movie star now, so they say, I’d love to see him take on the role as he has the pleasant “Russell” face and tiny little eyes.

Jacqueline Hill (Barbara)

She’s not on telly much these days, but this could be just the shot in the career arm that Jill Halfpenny needs. The Point Five Pence (I’m sorry, that was lame) has the heavy set looks and isn’t too bad at the actoring game (despite being a Corrie/Easties old timer). Hill needs to be played by a bullish and strong headed woman so another ex~soap actress who would be up to the challenge, though perhaps too glamorous, is Suranne Jones.

The Doctor’s Wife star (and SJA’s Mona Lisa) was particularly excellent alongside David Tennant in Single Father and I could easily see her fit between both the two Williams, with her arched eyebrows and lofty approach. Mind you, my top choice for Jacqueline Hill has all these traits in abundance; and much more. Step up, Keeley Hawes! AND she bears a sort of passing resemblance to Hill. The sci~fi set would surely have a meltdown if the Ashes To Ashes actress were to portray Doctor Who’s first lady (only matchable by her starring in it nowadays).

William Hartnell (The First Doctor)

So, who to play the big guy? (Well, metaphorically speaking.) Preferably, someone who can play crotchety yet likable, alien yet human, and, importantly, much older than he actually is. I think one of the obvious candidates is would~be Time Lord, Bill Nighy (who popped up in 2010’s Vincent and The Doctor), though his stature and bone structure render his frame and features quite different to Hartnell’s. I’m sure he could do a superb job however (perhaps even matching Richard Hurndall!).

Better suited, in terms of appearance, I suggest would be Ian Hart. He has a wirey, almost aggressive facade. The one~time Hitler and twice~time John Lennon once celebrated Doctor Who’s birthday by almost “attacking” an audience member of a theatre production he was starring in back in 2009 (with John Simm, coincidentally). Now that’s Hartnell’s fire! Sadly, Hart starred in the first harry Potter film; points off.

So, my preference for Gallifrey’s finest, and original, is Scottish actor, Robert Carlyle. The Trainspotting star can currently be seen hamming it up, almost Hartnell style, as Rumplestiltskin in the rather wonderful US series, Once Upon A Time. Bobby C, as no~one calls him, has the gaunt face and diminutive stature – and I’m pretty sure he can be Captain Grump! Best of all, he wouldn’t need a wig.


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Cameron K McEwan was the first owner and site editor of Blogtor Who since its creation in May 2008 until Dec 2015. A lifelong Doctor Who fan, Cameron has also written two books, The Who’s Who of Doctor Who and Doctor Who: The Big Book of Lists, and directed a film all about Doctor Who fans throughout the years, Who’s Changing - An Adventure In Time With Fans. Cameron also contributes TV and film news and reviews to BBC Radio London, Metro, Digital Spy, New York Observer and Den of Geek. He lives in London with his one trousers.


  1. I'm going to make a weird, off-the-wall proposal for who should play William Hartnell: Peter Davison. First, he knows about "Who". Second, there's the resemblance. I've seen pictures of a young Bill Hartnell, and yes, I can certainly see how Heather Hartnell thought Peter looked like her husband. The resemblance has only gotten closer as Peter Davison has aged. (Take another look at "Time Crash", if nothing else.) And finally, we know he can perform the part, as evidenced in the opening episode of "Castrovalva".

    Also, Waris Hussein should direct!

  2. I'd like to make another suggestion about who could also play Jacqueline Hill… Pooky Quesnel (who also played the spaceship captain in "A Christmas Carol" and starred alongside Christopher Eccleston in "Accused".) Appearance-wise, she's similar, and I think she would play the part well too! The moment I saw that picture of Jacqueline Hill, I immediately thought of her, so it can't be that bad a suggestion!

  3. Jason Isaacs has previous for this playing Harry H Corbett in the Steptoe drama and certainly had the look as Lucius Malfoy.

  4. How about David Bradley to play Hartnell? I think it has been widely noted that he looks very similar in the series 7 trailer.

  5. So what about this for a super meta production?

    Bill Hartnell – Matt Smith
    Carol Ann Ford – Karen Gillian
    William Russel – Arthur Darvill

    You see where I am going with this?

  6. My casting choices are:

    Carole Ann Ford…Carly Bawden
    William Russell…Mark Dexter
    Jacqueline Hill…Lara Pulver


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