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First Doctor

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"Have you ever thought what it's like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? To be exiles? Susan and I are cut off from our own planet - without friends or protection. But one day we shall get back. Yes, one day."
Click here to see him in The Five Doctors 
Click here to see him in Twice Upon a Time 
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First appearance: "An Unearthly Child" (1963)
Regeneration story: "The Tenth Planet" (1966)

Played by: William Hartnell (1963–66, 1972–73); note  Richard Hurndall (1983); Michael Jones (2014);note  David Bradley (2017)
Voiced by: David Coker (1997); John Guilor (2013)

"One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."

The monocled, wild-eyed portent of doom. Introduced as a fugitive with an air of mystery about him, One was a merry misanthrope with a mischievous side, who loved manipulating people and playing games with their lives. His moral compass had long since deteriorated before leaving home, which raises the question of what could have possibly happened to him there...

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What we do know is that he and his granddaughter Susan left Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS and eventually ended up on 20th Century Earth. Susan enrolled in a local school, but her, um, strange behavior attracted the attention of two of her teachers — Ian Chesterton, her science teacher, and Barbara Wright, her history teacher — who discovered their secret. The Doctor kidnapped them and forced them along to make sure they kept their mouths shut.

However, Barbara and Ian had little patience for the arrogant, cowardly snob they found themselves sequestered with and gave him a much needed dressing down — after their first three adventures together he became a much more patient, kinder, and altruistic figure, but also established that he was in charge of the TARDIS crew.

As he was never intended to be the "first" Doctor, there is novelty in watching him develop into the Doctor as he's known today.

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The First Doctor is unique that he's been the subject of The Other Darrin twice throughout the show — first by Richard Hurndall for "The Five Doctors", and then David Bradley for "Twice Upon a Time". Bradley at 75 is the oldest actor to play the Doctor onscreennote , breaking the short-lived record of 73 year old Sir John Hurt in 2013.

In 2018 Big Finish began a series of new First Doctor stories, with Bradley continuing in the role.


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    TV Series Tropes 

Tropes associated with the television series:

  • Abusive Parent: It was said about him as a child that he'd have to join the army, because his parents/guardians/caretakers thought he would never be able to go to the Academy and become a Time Lord.
    • When Yaz remarks that the situation with Ryan's dad is 'complicated', the Thirteenth Doctor absentmindedly murmurs 'Dads are' though she adds 'so I've heard' before Yaz can respond.
  • Accidental Proposal: The hot cocoa incident with Cameca.
  • Adopt the Dog: He's Neutral No Longer by the end of Season 1, but it's asking Vicki along as a companion that really seals it.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: "The Empty Child" and "Listen" imply that as a child, he was not well-liked among the other children. When a character makes a passing remark about whether he knew what it was like to be "the only child left outside", the Ninth Doctor replied he did.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Daleks and the Celestial Toymaker.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: This Doctor kick-starts the trend, with a decidedly Edwardian wardrobe.
  • Badass Cape: He didn't wear them very often, but One had a thing for long, dramatic capes.
  • Bad Liar: He's awful at lying, which is ironic considering what his later incarnations would get up to.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Does a masterful one in "The Reign of Terror", giant hat and all.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As his status as a Grumpy Old Man slowly faded away, this trope slowly replaced it in some situations. In particular, the Doctor's fight against the Celestial Toymaker is a major representation of this trope as the Doctor literally talks the world surrounding the TARDIS into oblivion with just three words and a number (Go to move 1,023!).
  • Brilliant, but Lazy:
    • His old teacher Borusa tells the Fourth Doctor that he was a nightmare to teach during the academy days.
    • It's mentioned that the Master got a higher degree in Cosmic Science than him, which the Third Doctor passes off with a "I was a late bloomer."
    • Romana I mentioned that he got through the Academy with 51% on his second attempt.
  • Cane Fu: The Doctor being in all incarnations an Improbable Weapon User, this is the natural result.
  • Captain Obvious: Some of his lines came out this way thanks to Hartnell fluffing his lines, such as saying that ice couldn't set because it was "Impossible at the temperature. Anyway, it's too warm," and pointing out a piece of equipment by saying "See that scanner? That is what I call a scanner."
  • Catchphrase: "Hmmm?" and "Mm? What’s that, my boy?"
  • Character Development: The first time we ever see the Doctor, he's arrogant, selfish, and prefers to take the easy (even cowardly) way out if it saves him. His evolution over the first three serials is an important point in the script as he becomes the heroic Doctor we know and love. The Twelfth Doctor says that it was when he went to Skaro for the first time that he realised what it meant to be the Doctor: "The Doctor was not the Daleks".
  • Character Tics: He would often gesture with his hands close to his face. Peter Purves said that this was Hartnell's response to not being able to gesture broadly in the same way as you could on stage, because TV was "small" (i.e., it didn't capture all the action across the whole set all the time). He would also flutter his hands when trying to decide something. He also tended to clutch at his jacket lapels. He often ends sentences with a distinctive 'hmm?' and ful-fblu-I mean-flubs his lines (although never breaking character), even becoming The Unintelligible at times, and tends to deliberately forget people's names as a form of Malicious Misnaming, particularly with Chesterton (stemming from a Throw It In! of Hartnell's tendency to forget the character's name in the first few serials). His movements tend to be quite jerky, almost to the point of trembling, and his facial expressions tend towards the smirky.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first season, he's an acerbic, prickly personality who gradually grows into a lovable eccentric over the later seasons. In a frequently-cited example, in the first Doctor Who story, "An Unearthly Child", the Doctor was about to "mercy kill" a caveman with a rock so that he couldn't slow the rest of the party down. His companion Ian Chesterton stops him, the Doctor mutters an excuse and they go on. In the next story, "The Daleks", in another commonly mentioned example, he deliberately sabotages the TARDIS so that they can stay on Skaro and explore. By Season 1's "The Reign of Terror", he starts charging around meddling with things and getting in way over his head with hilarious consequences, and by Season 2 he declares himself a defender of Earth while talking down a Dalek, a big difference from his Heroic Neutral characterisation before. From that episode onwards he's an enthusiastic, benevolent, sharp-tongued Creepy Good eccentric with a distinctively sneaky and ruthless streak and a real love of getting himself into trouble, then back out of it - all of which remains constant for him and for all other Doctors.
    • This is lampshaded in "The Chase" - Barbara correctly identifies the Doctor's evil Dalek robot duplicate in a Spot the Impostor situation because the robot tells Ian to bash the double over the head with a rock, making Barbara exclaim that the Doctor would never do that (even though he tried to in "An Unearthly Child"). It can be speculated that the 'death' in the title is actually the 'death' of the Doctor's old characterisation.
  • Classy Cane: A gift from Kublai Khan, no less.
  • Cool Old Guy: The oldest-looking Doctor of them all.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: He claims he left Gallifrey because he was bored. The Twelfth Doctor in "Heaven Sent" confirms that this was a lie. He left because he was scared. What he was scared of however we don't know...yet. note 
  • Dissonant Laughter: He has an odd habit of breaking into fits of hysterical laughter when the situation is going really, dreadfully wrong and he has no idea how to solve it.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: An example of Early Installment Weirdness, the Doctor smoked a pipe in the first story. It got him in trouble with the local caveman tribe, so perhaps that explains why he dropped the habit.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Typified in "The Gunfighters". When the Doctor is landed in jail, Steven passes him a gun through his cell window as part of a plan to bust him out. The Doctor immediately hands the gun over to the sheriff.
    Doctor: People keep giving me guns, and I do wish they wouldn't!
  • Doting Grandparent: To Susan.
  • The Exile: Claims that both Susan and he are exiles. It's later implied that this is only Metaphorically True, as both became defectors from decadence and left Gallifrey of their own volition.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • The Tenth Planet: "Keep warm". The original script contained a line that was much more along the lines of "No... no, I simply will not give in!" for the First Doctor's final words, but these were not filmed, as time was running short, and production was almost at an end — with filming the regeneration still to go.
    • Twice Upon a Time: "Well then, here we go. The long way around."
  • Fantastic Racism: Towards humans, whom the Doctor initially considers primitive savages and treats with open contempt and disdain. From dialogue in the first episode, one gathers that he only tolerates 20th-Century Earth for Susan's sake; he grows out of it, due to Barbara and Ian's influence.
  • Fingerless Gloves: He wears them twice — in "The Five Doctors" (they were a substitute for the iconic ring, since the production team couldn't find a reasonable replica of the prop) and in "Twice Upon a Time".
  • Flanderization: In "Twice Upon a Time", his occasional chauvinism is turned Up to Eleven, where he can't go five minutes without saying something offensive, much to Twelve's irrigation and embarrassment; the novelisation implies that he’s doing so deliberately just to annoy Twelve simply because he dislikes him.
  • Friend to All Children: Befriended Vicki and Dodo. Hartnell was this in real life.
  • Future Me Scares Me: As the primordial Doctor, he goes back and forth if he likes the newer additions down the line or wants to stay as he is out of dread. One also loves taking charge of the Doctors and acting as their mediator toward specific goals, considering himself The Leader.
    • He's heard saying that he will not change at the end of "The Doctor Falls", echoing how the Twelfth Doctor is refusing to regenerate. He initially finds the Twelfth Doctor to be an irritating man, but ultimately comes to respect him as his successor.
    • Despite his irritation with his second and third incarnations, he seems to like his fifth, and tells him "My future's in good hands" in "The Five Doctors".
  • Good Is Not Nice: He may be against evil, but he's not a proper gent. At first, anyway...
  • Grammar Nazi: Despite his own frequent malapropisms, this Doctor is a champion of proper speech. Upon meeting Dodo, he determines that he must teach her to speak English.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Began with this trope firmly in mind, but slowly became more of a grumpy old adventurer, depending on the adventure. This was certainly the case in "The Five Doctors."
  • Guile Hero: He doesn't have access to the Applied Phlebotinum that was introduced in the tenures of later Doctors. As a result, this Doctor tends to rely on The Plan to defeat his enemies, although he could also simply beat them up.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: He's very prone to losing his cool, usually due to Ian.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: On occasion, especially in more humourous stories such as "The Romans", and whenever he encounters the Medding Monk. Vicki seems to bring out the worst in him.
  • Heroic Fatigue: Fell ill during the events of "The Tenth Planet", putting him out of commission for most of it. He finally mustered the energy to blow up the Snowcap base along with the Cybermen, whereupon he collapsed from exhaustion.
  • High-Class Glass: All the better to peer at aliens with. Eleven still has it.
  • Iconic Item: His prized ring. Arguably, also his cane. When he regenerated, his ring fell off and his second incarnation found it was too big for him. The Doctor doesn't wear the ring again until he discovers it fell into the TARDIS console in his seventh incarnation. In the Doctor Who New Adventures novels, he eventually gives it to Joan Redfern. The Twelfth Doctor wears one that is either the same or identical to the ring. The cane is also quite iconic.
  • Identical Stranger: This Doctor shared a resemblance with the Abbot of Amboise, the right-hand man of the Cardinal of Lorraine and a major player in a conspiracy to discredit the Huguenots (Protestants). Hartnell played the role as a lark, but it set the stage for more doppelgangers in the future. (See: Ramon Salamander, Col. Maxil, and Caecilius and John Frobisher.)
  • I'm Mr. [Future Pop Culture Reference]: The First Doctor's alias in Tombstone is "Dr. Caligari." ("The Gunfighters")
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: He's quite fond of making them, then giggling like a schoolgirl.
    Doctor: Did you take three dimensional graph geometry at your school?
    Ian: No Doctor, only Boyle's Law.
    Doctor: What a pity. We shall have to boil this down, now shan't we? (laughs)
  • Informed Attribute: His status as a Human Alien, which is occasionally mentioned but not demonstrated in any way until he regenerates for the first time. Sometimes, as in "The Savages", he seems to actually forget that he's not a human (since this wasn't yet clear to the writers at the start of the show).
  • Insistent Terminology: He does not tolerate being called "Doc".
  • Insufferable Genius: He will point out how much smarter he is than his companions, or anyone else who happens to be in the room with him. He is in fine form during "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" where he answers a fellow prisoner's cynicism with jabs at his intelligence and orders him to stop bothering him.
    Ian: Doctor, you amaze me sometimes.
    Doctor: Only "sometimes"? My dear boy, what's wrong with your memory?
  • Jerkass: Even after he stopped being the Token Evil Teammate and Took a Level in Kindness he still isn't someone most people would willingly hang around with, being rude and unbelievably condescending to everyone as his default setting, and occasionally even racist. Ian, Barbara, Steven and Ben all express severe irritation with his behaviour not infrequently. His hearts are in the right place and his love of his companions (especially Ian and Barbara) is staggeringly intense and meaningful, but his companions only really figure that out because the circumstances of his travel have it so that they can't leave his company.
  • The Leader: Whenever the Doctors get pulled out of time and team up, One is usually the one to take charge by virtue of being the first and sheer personality — he can usually put an end to any petty squabbling the others - i.e. Two and Three - get into.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: When Madame de Pompadour gets a look inside the mind of the Tenth Doctor she sees a "lonely little boy". When we actually see the First Doctor as a child, he's hiding in a barn crying himself to sleep.
  • Love at First Sight: According to the TARDIS herself, he said she was "the most beautiful thing (he'd) ever seen" when he first stole her.
  • Malicious Misnaming: The First Doctor likes mispronouncing Ian Chesterton's last name to annoy him, although he still manages to get it wrong when he's talking to himself.
  • The Millstone: In Season 1, he spends most of his time getting the party into trouble that Ian or Barbara are then obliged to get them out of.
  • Neutral No Longer: He starts out unheroic, but after a few adventures with Ian and Barbara, he begins to suggest doing heroic deeds rather than being forced into it.
  • Nice Hat: Wore a Karakul on a few occasions, including his very first adventure.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: His second story had him deliberately endangering the lives of his granddaughter and their new pet humans, just because he wanted to see the Dalek city up close. He learned to be more responsible in the months following that, but still got downright giddy when he realised he accidentally had a hand in burning down Rome. He gets along extremely well with companion Vicki, another Nightmare Fetishist with the same outlook on things.
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: Matches his character - which is to say that he's something of an arrogant jerk.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever drove him to leave Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS and take Susan with him. An old classmate Runcible says he was "expelled" due to a "scandal". When the Time Lords catch up to him in his second incarnation, they're more mad he's been breaking their non-interference law than anything else. note 
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: When he wanders onto a Hollywood shoot and is immediately mistaken for the history consultant, he is asked by the director what he thinks of the scantily-clad Arabian princess' costume. His response? To tell her she looks ridiculous and order her to "Put some more clothes on, child".
  • Parental Substitute: To Vicki. They meet just after the Doctor has said goodbye to Susan, and Vicki has just become an orphan. The two become very cuddly and adorable together.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: The line in the show about "This is a madhouse. It's all full of Arabs!" may or may not have been in the script; it's hard to tell with Hartnell sometimes. There's also the time he told Tegan to fetch him, the Fifth Doctor and his granddaughter some refreshment and his interactions with Bill Potts in Twice Upon a Time.
  • Ring of Power: Among other functions, used to supply power to the TARDIS, and for hypnosis.
  • Rogues Gallery: Daleks, Voords, Sensorites, Koquillion, the Animus, Zarbi, the Monk, Drahvins, Mavic Chen, Monoids, the Celestial Toymaker, WOTAN, and Cybermen.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Quite often comes across this way, though as usual for the Doctor it's often a case of Obfuscating Stupidity. Also as usual for the Doctor, it's often difficult to tell exactly how much is Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Much like Hartnell himself. If there's one thing the Doctor doesn't have time for, it's everything. But if there’s one thing the Doctor really doesn’t have time for, it's humans buzzing around his ear like a fly at a picnic, defying his orders at every turn, and sticking his neck out to go rescue more irritating humans. 'You drive me ROUND THE BEND!' the Doctor barks at Ian.
  • Signature Laugh: "Ha ha, ho ho!" or simply "Ho ho!"
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Seen most prominently in "The Sensorites", in which he uses both regular glasses and a monocle.
  • Thicker Than Water: He and Susan are extremely close, and they never even fought before "The Sensorites". Letting her go is a very difficult choice for the Doctor.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Forms a large part of his Character Development as he shifts into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
  • Troll: Has his moments, such as a time when he's wired to a machine that shows one's thoughts on screen. When asked how he got into a museum surrounded by an impenetrable wall and a moat with no bridge? A picture of a man riding an old 1800s bicycle appears on screen.
  • The Unfavorite: As a child, he was told he wouldn't be able to go to the Academy and become a full Time Lord.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: He's devoted to his grandaughter and is disgusted by villains like the Daleks but aside from that his morals are loose at best, with his flaws ranging from pride and paranoia to outright moral cowardice in trying to abandon Barbara to die on Skaro rather than risk further exposure to radiation, as well as Ian and Barbara becoming his companions only after he trapped them within the TARDIS against their will. By the conclusion of the first three stories he gets over this.
  • Verbal Tic: Several:
    • He had a habit of ending many if not most of his lines with a "hmmm?", plus interjecting the terms "young man", "my child", "my dear boy", "dear child", et cetera, into seemingly every third phrase.
    • Not to mention the habit of mangling his companion's name ("Chesterton" becomes Chatterton, Chesterfield, Chessington, Chesserman etc.)
    • He's occasionally a Malaproper - for example, in "The Myth Makers", when the Trojans think he is a god; "I am not a dog!... a god!"
    • In Season 3 and 4, he tends to make an excited sort of "eh-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-" chattering noise before speaking, usually when he's trying to interrupt or cut off someone, which he tends to do a lot.
  • Waistcoat of Style: The first of many incarnations to wear one and it shows him as a refined gentleman, regardless of how he sometimes acts.
  • Wham Line:
    • Kicks off the climax of "The Day of the Doctor".
      First Doctor: Calling the War Council of Gallifrey, this is The Doctor!
    • And concludes "The Doctor Falls".
      First Doctor: [to the Twelfth Doctor] You may be a doctor, but I am The Doctor...the original, you might say.
  • What Are Records?: Inverted. When the Twelfth Doctor put the Sonic Sunglasses on his head he promptly and befuddlely asks "What's 'Browser History'?"—a term audiences in the 2010s would be imminently familiar with, but would have no meaning back in the 1960s when the original First Doctor was on television.
  • Written-In Absence: The Doctor frequently vanishes for whole episodes so that Hartnell (and later Troughton) could take a week off to mend.

    Comic Tropes 

Tropes associated with the TV Comics

  • Rogues Gallery: Kleptons, the Pied Piper, the Magician of the Forest, Trods, and Zentor.

    Book Tropes 

Tropes associated with Eighth Doctor Adventures

  • Calling the Old Man Out: The amnesic Eighth Doctor literally does this to his first incarnation when they meet, challenging his past self to be better than the Time Lords he abandoned.

Tropes associated with the Virgin Missing Adventures

  • Been There, Shaped History: In The Plotters, the Doctor participates in the translation of the Bible in 1605, as well as getting involved in the Gunpowder Plot.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Flashbacks in Lungbarrow reveal the circumstances under which the Doctor originally left Gallifrey, which include him being disowned by the head of his family and most of his Cousins dismissing him to the point that a replacement for him was generated, and evidence emerges suggesting that he killed the head of the House (although an investigation by the Seventh Doctor reveals that he was framed by his old rival).
  • Instant Expert: To a point; in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it only takes a few days of instruction for the Doctor to become so skilled in the local ‘magic’ that he can hold his own against another magician with only some help from two other skilled spellcasters.
  • Rogues Gallery: Court Magician Gramling, Marton Dhal, Minski de Sade, Robert Cecil, Robert Hay, Sou(ou)shi, & William Shakespeare.

Tropes associated with BBC Past Doctor Adventures

  • Been There, Shaped History: In Byzantium!, the Doctor assists in the original translation of the Book of Mark, and in The Witch Hunters, his presence unwittingly helps instigate the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In Salvation, faced with beings who gain power based on the belief others have in them, the Doctor not only survives being hit by a fireball in front of a crowd of believers because his belief that he can’t be hurt outweighs the crowd’s belief in his attacker, but later drives these beings away by dropping a dud bomb on the park and making everyone present think it can hurt their ‘gods’.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Flashbacks in Divided Loyalties reveals that the Doctor’s first trip off Gallifrey saw one of his oldest friends being possessed by an ancient entity and another was kept as a permanent prisoner by that same entity despite the Doctor’s efforts to save them.
  • Old Master: Particularly invoked in The Eleventh Tiger, when the Doctor is played in charge of a Chinese school in 1865 and proves himself in combat against another former student.
  • Rogues Gallery: The Latter-Day Pantheon, General Louise Bamford, the Mandragora Helix, Monitor, Samuel Parris, Taklarians, the Ten-Strong, & WOTAN.
  • Stronger Than They Look: In Ten Little Aliens, the Doctor is able to telepathically hold back a neural pulse capable of immobilising himself and seven other people with only the power of his mind, despite the fact that he is drawing ever closer to the moment when he will regenerate for the first time.

    Audio Tropes 

Tropes associated with Big Finish

Voiced by: Joe Bassett (As a child in "Master", 2003); William Russell (2013–present); Peter Purves (2014–present); David Bradley (2017–prsent)

One gets heaps of Character Development through The Companion Chronicles and The Early Adventures, from flashbacks to his earliest days on Gallifrey to his final adventures with Ben and Polly. He was the first Doctor outside the monthly range to get his own original audio companion, Oliver.

On Christmas Day 2017, David Bradley took on the role for Big Finish's The First Doctor Adventures, reprising his role from "Twice Upon a Time", the Christmas Special that was released a few hours before the first two downloadable audios.note 

  • Cain and Abel: Gallifrey goes into detail about his past with Braxiatel. In true Brax style, nothing is made completely explicit, but the long and short of it is that Braxiatel was ordered by President Pandad VII to assassinate the Doctor and gave him a chance to steal a TARDIS and escape the planet instead.
  • Deal with the Devil: As revealed in "Master", he once murdered a boy to save the Master's life, when they were both very young children. While sleeping that night, he made a deal with Death (appearing to him in a dream), selling out his friend and transferring his deed and his memories to the Master instead. He never realised what had happened.
  • Measuring the Marigolds: Back on Gallifrey, he once wrote a paper dissecting the concept of love on a neurological level, proving that the whole idea is nothing but chemicals. His teacher gave him a rubbish grade and told him he'd missed the point.
    • This makes the Third Doctor's tale about his past on Gallifrey in "The Time Monster" more insightful. One learned how to see the beauty in life and not the cold logic or dreariness on a black day when he discovered an old man sitting under a tree on a mountain named K'anpo Rimpoche. This man showed him the "daisiest daisy" he ever saw and he realized that things he once took for face value could be vibrant and beautiful upon closer inspection.
  • Papa Wolf: He's protective towards Susan, being her grandfather and all.
  • Rogues Gallery: The Cinder, Daleks, the Master, Mavic Chen, Mim, the Rocket Men, Sontarans, Vardans, and Voords.
  • Shipper on Deck: In their later adventures, he blatantly ships Ian/Barbara. He also seems keen that Sara and Steven spend quality time together, though what exact potential he sees in their relationship is left unclear.

Alternative Title(s): First Doctor

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