William Russell


One of the grand elder statesmen of Doctor Who, William Russell was a debut companion who helped get the ball rolling for the pop culture juggernaut. In first-ever episode An Unearthly Child, his science teacher Ian Chesterton, alongside history teacher Barbara Wright, were perplexed by the idiosyncrasies of their pupil Susan Foreman. They stumble upon a shoddy police box in a scrapyard, unveiling that Susan is granddaughter to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, and the pair get whisked to the Stone Age in the first of many time travel romps.

The first airing didn’t attain much viewership (the premiere was 23 November 1963, and the world was still agrip from the death of the Birdman of Alcatraz a couple of days prior), but a reairing the next week pulled a crowd. Russell, already familiar to TV audiences as the chiseled Sir Lancelot, would provide the physical pillar to the early episodes that Hartnell was too frail for, riding horses and swordfighting against Romans. Ian also got knighted by King Richard I.

Ian and Barbara returned home in series two serial The Chase, but Russell would remain a familiar fixture on both the large and small screens. He was an officer in The Great Escape, an elder in Superman, and fittingly for our purposes a doctor in Death Watch. He had a brief stint on Corrie in 1992, playing a salesman who marries Rita Tanner before dying of a brain tumour months later.

Though an amateur next to Tony Randall, Russell was still babymaking into his 60s. His youngest child, Alfred Enoch, has become a respected actor in his own right as a star of How to Get Away With Murder. Russell fully embraced Doctor Who being his chief pop cultural footprint, always having time for fans and contributing to several audiobooks. Well into his nineties, he returned as Ian for Jodie Whittaker’s farewell episode in a brief cameo. It was his first appearance in an official Who episode in nearly sixty years, and though his health only allowed for one line, it was a heartwarming sendoff for a class act.

William Russell was 99 and regenerates the prospects of 21 teams, including joker points for Blasphemous Rumours ‘A’, Exiting The Stage, and Bucket O’Hare.

William Russell
19 November 1924 – 3 June 2024, aged 99
21 TEAMS (💀💀💀💀💀 5 POINTS, 🃏 (x3) 10 POINTS)