Whovians are now just weeks away from the premiere of this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, 'Twice Upon A Time'. The special is sure to be memorable for a number of reasons. It will be a multi-Doctor adventure, and The Twelfth Doctor will regenerate into the Thirteenth Doctor, the first female incarnation of the character, to be played by Jodie Whittaker.
One of the most interesting aspects of the episode will be the reappearance of characters from the early years of the show- The First Doctor, and companions Ben and Polly. As these characters first appeared around fifty years ago, they have been recast for the special, marking the first ever recast of a companion, and the second such occasion for a classic Doctor. For newer fans, this could be their first time meeting these characters. So, here's a quick rundown on who they are, before 'Twice Upon A Time' airs this Christmas.
The First Doctor
Without the early success brought by The First Doctor, there would be no Doctor Who. To viewers of early stories, The Doctor was a much different character. Far from the hero we know today, he was often grumpy and on a few occasions, even downright sinister. Of his companions, the only one he had time for in the early days was his Granddaughter, Susan. To teachers Ian and Barbara, he was rude or even indifferent.
This soon changed as the series went on, and The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara bonded through experiences such as being caught in the Aztec era, or a number of battles with his soon-to-be arch enemies, The Daleks. The Doctor's sharp edges began to soften. He was still very much a grumpy old man, but he was a grumpy old man with a heart of gold. As his companions departed he gathered new ones, quite a few of them being young girls whom reminded him of Susan. This may explain The Doctor's preference for travelling with young women even Today.
Even after his regeneration into the Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, The First Doctor maintained a relatively strong presence in the show, appearing in all of Doctor Who's major anniversary specials. In The Three Doctors, he appears mostly as a guide to his future incarnations, with ailing actor William Hartnell reading his lines from cue cards, while in The Five Doctors, Richard Hurndall took on the role. In the 50th Anniversary special Day Of The Doctor, a clip of Hartnell as The First Doctor appears in the sequence in which all thirteen Doctors unite to save Gallifrey. When the character is needed in Big Finish audio productions, the First Doctor is voiced by either William Russel who played Ian Chesterton, or Peter Purves who played Steven Taylor, both companions during Hartnell's era. This gives The First Doctor the distinction of being portrayed by more than one additional actor.
In 'Twice Upon A Time', The First Doctor will be played by David Bradley, who previously took on the role of William Hartnell in the telemovie 'An Adventure In Space And Time'.
Originally played by Anneke Wills, Polly Wright will be portrayed by Lily Travers in 'Twice Upon A Time'. Thanks to the BBC's junking policy, 'The War Machines', the first story in which she appears, is the only Doctor Who serial featuring the character to exist in its entirety. Along with fellow new companion Ben Jackson, she spends the helping the First Doctor to defeat the evil WOTAN, an evil AI taking control of people's minds. Afterwards, as The Doctor prepares to leave, Polly delivers a message from Dodo Chaplet informing him that she will no longer be travelling with him. She and Ben then accidentally stowaway on The Tardis while trying to return a Tardis key that The Doctor had dropped earlier in the story.
At the end of 'The Tenth Planet', the first story to feature the now iconic Mondasian Cybermen, Polly witnesses the ailing Doctor's very first regeneration, into the younger, somewhat goofier Second Doctor. Despite a few early problems, Polly soon accepts the change in The Doctor without much fuss.
By the end of 'The Faceless Ones', of which only episodes one and three exist, both Polly and Ben notice that the Tardis has miraculously landed on the exact date and location from which they originally left. They take this as a sign that their time with The Doctor has come to an end. What happens to Polly after leaving The Doctor's company is uncertain. In some extended universe material, she marries Ben relatively soon after their return, while in others, she marries another man and does not see Ben again until much later.
How large Polly's role will be in 'Twice Upon A Time', supposedly taking place around the same time as 'The Tenth Planet', is unknown. According to one interview, the character is used as an example of the changed social values between the First and Twelfth Doctors. The First Doctor will claim that Polly needs to come and dust The Twelfth Doctor's Tardis, while The Twelfth Doctor appears shocked at his predecessor's sexism.
Ben Jackson was played in classic Doctor Who by the late Michael Craze, while Hollyoaks star Jared Garfield will step into the role for 'Twice Upon A Time'. When he meets The First Doctor, Ben is a Royal Navy Radar Pilot. After being posted in a relatively boring shore position for six months, he welcomes the opportunity to help The Doctor defeat WOTAN and its War Machines. Once the adventure is over Ben receives the call to finally return to his Ship, the HMS Teazer, but instead finds himself accidentally swept away in the Tardis with Polly.
He too bears witness to The First Doctor's regeneration into The Second, but doesn't adjust to the change as easily. Ben demands proof that The Doctor is still The Doctor, and is easily annoyed by him at first. It takes a Dalek recognising The Doctor for him to accept the change.
Along with Polly, Ben ends his travels with The Doctor at the end of 'The Faceless Ones'. Having expressed a strong desire to return to his ship, he probably ended up back on the HMS Teaser for some period of time. Eventually, after the death of his unnamed first Wife, Ben ends up reuniting with and married to Polly. In one episode of Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah states that the pair now run an Orphanage in India.
With the return of these great characters, fans of Classic Who are in for a treat with 'Twice Upon A Time'. This sure to be memorable special will air on Christmas Day for lucky Whovians in Britain, and either Christmas Day or Boxing Day in most other countries.