Beloved Doctor Who Companion Passes Away

By Douglas Helm | Updated

William Russell, best known for playing Ian Chesterton in the original Doctor Who has passed away at the age of 99. Russell appeared in the very first episode of the now-massively popular British sci-fi series and reprised his role for nearly every episode of the first two seasons. Chesterton was a schoolteacher and companion to William Hartnell’s First Doctor alongside Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill). 

The First To Speak The Series Name

William Russell even had the line to introduce the iconic character, as Hartnell’s First Doctor comes out of the Tardis and announced he was the doctor, Russell’s Ian Chesterton replied, “Doctor Who?”

The first episode of the series managed to bring in 4.4 million viewers despite the fact that the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy occurred the previous day. The episode would be aired again the following week and the rest is history.

Other Roles

William Russell would move on from Doctor Who in 1965 and choose the stage in the late 1960s to play Shylock and Ford in the Merry Wives of Winsor at the Open Air in Regent’s Park.

He would then join the RSC in 1970 and play the Provost in Measure for Measure, followed by Lord Rivers in Richard III, and Salisbury in King John. Later in his career he would appear in 1978’s Superman alongside Christopher Reeve, 1980’s Death Watch, and 1990’s Deadly Manor.

Sir Lancelot

Before William Russell became part of one of the longest-running and most beloved TV shows with Doctor Who, he made his name in the ITV series The Adventures of Sir Lancelot as the titular knight of the Round Table. The series ran from 1956 to 1957 and was the first British TV series that aired in America to be shot in color. The series was a big hit and was one of Russell’s biggest roles yet.

Film Roles

William Russell also had some notable roles in films before appearing in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and Doctor Who. He appeared in The Gift Horse in 1952 along with They Who Dare in 1954 and The Man Who Never Was in 1956.

Russell would have an extensive career after his big TV roles, too. Along with his aforementioned stage and film appearances, he would continue his theater career into the 80s and 90s in productions of The Provok’d Wife, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, An Absolute Turkey, Henry V, and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.

A Guinness World Record Holder

While William Russell moved on from Doctor Who in 1965, he never forgot his roots in the beloved show, as he would narrate several audiobook releases of lost episodes from the 1960s.

He would also reprise his role as Ian a whopping 57 years later in the Jodie Whittaker episode “The Power of the Doctor,” which would be her final episode in the series. This 57-year gap earned Russell the Guinness World Record for the longest gap between TV appearances.

William Russell is survived by his second wife, Etheline, their son Alfred, his children from his previous marriage, Vanessa, Laetitita, and Robert, and his four grandchildren, James, Elise, Amy, and Ayo. Russell was born on November 19, 1924. He passed on June 3.

Source: The Guardian