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Screenshot of William Russell in 2022's The Power of the Doctor© BBC

Original Doctor Who star William Russell dies aged 99 – co-stars pay tribute

The Coronation Street and Poirot star died on Monday

Matthew Moore
Online News Writer & Diversity and Inclusion Lead
June 4, 2024
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William Russell, who played one of the original companions, Ian Chesterton, in Doctor Who has died at the age of 99. A statement confirmed the actor had died on Monday 3 June.

William had been acting for a decade, sometimes under the name of Russell Enoch, before he got his big break as science teacher Ian who was whisked away with fellow teacher Barbara Wright, student Susan Foreman and Susan's grandfather, the Doctor, after discovering the TARDIS.

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The star appeared in the first 77 episode of the show, which spanned 16 individual stories before bowing out of the sci-fi series in in 1965. William returned to the role in 2022's Power of the Doctor, which saw the final appearance of Jodie Whittaker as the titular Time Lord.

Outside of Doctor Who, William also appeared in Coronation Street as Ted Sullivan in 1992, with the character dying on a park bench following a terminal illness. He also portrayed Lanscombe in the Agatha Christie's Poirot episode After the Funeral and the Duke of Winchester in Blackadder.

William Russell with Jacqueline Hill and WIlliam Hartnell on the set of Doctor Who© Moore
William (in the headdress) played Ian from 1963-1965 before making a one-off appearance in 2022

Reacting to William's death, Russell T. Davies, the current showrunner for Doctor Who said: "William Russell (1924-2024). What a sad loss, William played the Doctor's very first companion, Ian Chesterton, back in 1963. A schoolteacher, trapped on the Tardis by a wily old Doctor, unable to get home, whisked off to the Stone Age, Skaro, the Crusades, planet of the Zarbi..! Wonderful!

"A fine, nimble, witty, heartfelt actor who absolutely sold the truth of those early years. Before that, he'd been Sir Lancelot on the BBC; it's often undersold what a star booking he was for Doctor Who."

William Hartnell with Jacqueline hill, William Russell and Carole Ann Ford on the set of Doctor Who© Archive
William was part of the original TARDIS team

Russell concluded: "He later went on to marry Rita Fairclough as Ted Sullivan on Coronation Street. In the photo, I bumped into him on a train in 2018! I was star-struck! He spoke with so much pride and joy about his son, Alfred Enoch, who I’d seen in King Lear at the Royal Exchange. Absolutely lovely man. A fine, long life. Well done, sir, well played."

Nicholas Pegg, who is a controller for the show's iconic Daleks penned: "Raising a glass to William Russell, who has left us just a few months shy of his 100th birthday. Already a star when he became a crucial part of Doctor Who's genesis, his long and remarkable career embraced everything from Shakespeare to Blackadder. A fine actor and a lovely man."

William Russell on the set of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot© ITV/Shutterstock
William rose to fame on The Adventures of Sir Lancelot

Nicola Bryant, who played companion Peri Brown on the show, shared: "What sad news to say farewell to William Russell. What a wonderful man with a delightful family an extraordinary life & career. The most charming smile and twinkling eyes, he always lit up the room. I hope there will be many celebrations of this beautiful man."

William is survived by his three children, Robert, Laetitia and Vanessa, from his first marriage to Balbina Gutierrez and his son Alfred, whom he shared with his second wife Etheline Margareth Lewis Enoch.

Alfred Enoch with William Russell and Etheline Enoch© Dan Wooller/Shutterstock
William's youngest son (left) has been in Harry Potter

William's death also means that Carole Ann Ford is now the last surviving member of the original Doctor Who cast. William Hartnell, who played the Doctor, died in 1975, while Jacqueline Hill, who played Barbara Wright, died in 1993.

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