Legends of Sunderland: William Russell, Doctor Who’s First Ever Companion
Photograph: William Russell briefly reembraced the character Ian Chesterton in a 2022 Doctor Who special at the age of 98 years old!
William Russell Enoch is a Sunderland born television and theatrical actor, as well as a World War II RAF Veteran, who rose to national fame as being the first male companion of Doctor Who, kicking off the longest running Science-Fiction series in history all the way back in 1963.
Born in 1924, little is known or publicly available about Russell’s childhood on Wearside, which just under one century ago, represented a completely different world to the one we know today. Life was more thoroughly concentrated around the East End of the Town, with the wealthier classes residing in the leafy Victorian suburbs of Ashbrooke, Roker and the Barnes.
William became interested in acting from a early age, and used to entertain his fellow men during World War II when he was conscripted for national service during the Royal Air Force. After the war ended, he pursued a theatrical career. In 1963, he was cast by the BBC to become a main character in the new series “Doctor Who”, acting as Science Teacher Ian Chesterton, who would encounter the mysterious time travelling figure known as the Doctor (William Hartnell) after his “unearthy child” granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) shown extraordinary abilities.
The first episode was scheduled for the day US President John F. Kennedy was shot, but was postponed due to the inevitable change in the programming cycle which occurred afterwards. His character, alongside fellow teacher Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), would follow the Doctor across a number of adventures for two years which included visiting the Stone Age, fighting off a Dalek invasion of Earth, visiting Imperial China and almost being guillotined in the French Revolution.
To the adoration of fans, William briefly reprised his role in the 2022 special “The power of the Doctor”, at the age of 98 years old. However, it was later disclosed by a family member that owing to his advanced age, he now suffers from dementia. He has been described as a “massive lads fan” of SAFC throughout his life, and is one of the few people left who seen Sunderland last be Champions of English football.
In addition to Doctor Who, William also has a very surprising link to the Harry Potter series too. After a previous divorce, at the age of 64, William married again to a Brazilian-Barbados doctor Etheline Margareth Lewis. Together, they had one child in 1988, Alfred Enoch, a mixed race actor who played Hogwarts Student Dean Thomas in 7 out of the 8 Harry Potter films!