Let’s get one thing straight from the beginning: I love the Hartnell Era.
I realize these are not common words spoken in Doctor Who fandom. And I won’t pretend that the era is perfect; it isn’t. But the era has passion, particularly in the first two years of the show. It is a passion that comes from a blank page, a passion that says we can do anything and go anywhere, a passion that says, “What is Doctor Who?”
And this is key: this is the only era of the show that is not reacting to Doctor Who as an established show. During this era you truly never know where the show will take you, and I love this. One moment you are witnessing Daleks in the streets of London, the next you are traveling with Marco Polo, the next you are on a planet of giant insects, the next you are looking for microchips to a secret weapon, and so on. Even after Verity Lambert, Doctor Who’s first producer, left the show there was still an unpredictability about the stories. Her successors still managed to take us places we never expected. The show had not yet found a formula.
So I love this era, warts and all. I love what William Hartnell did with the part, playing it humorously but cranky. I love Ian and Barbara as companions. In fact, I still think Barbara is the strongest female companion in the show’s history. Back in the early 1960s, Doctor Who was the little show that could. It survived. It endures.