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Original Doctor Who companion William Russell dies, aged 99

Original Doctor Who companion William Russell dies, aged 99
William Russell, one of the original companions on Doctor Who, dies at the age of 99.

William Russell - one of the three original companions on Doctor Who - has died at the age of 99.

The actor appeared in the first ever episode of the sci-fi series in 1963 as schoolteacher Ian Chesterton, joining The Doctor (William Hartnell), The Doctor's granddaughter Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) and colleague Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) for the inaugural televised adventures in the TARDIS.

Russell remained in the role until 1965 - and in 2022, he set the Guinness World Record for the longest gap between TV appearances when he reprised the part of Ian for a cameo scene in Jodie Whittaker's final episode.

According to The Guardian, Russell died on Monday (June 3), although no further details on his cause of death were given.

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies paid tribute on Instagram, writing: "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. 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."

Russell, who was due to turn 100 in November, is survived by four children and four grandchildren.

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