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Celebrating David Bradley

Guest contributor Luke Gwalchmai looks at the two very different roles Bradley played in honour of his birthday.

An-Adventure-in-Space-and-Time-pics-David-Bradley-William-Hartnell

Today marks David Bradley’s 72nd birthday. Bradley is a very experienced actor who has portrayed many roles on screen, and a variety of different character, be it evil, comedic or the lovable protagonist. David was born in York, Yorkshire in 1942 and trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He is best known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones. David is an award winning stage actor, winning a Laurence Olivier Award in 1991 for his role in a production of King Lear. He has also appeared in the hit ITV series Broadchurch, and films such as Hot Fuzz and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Bradley is a very versatile actor and we are lucky to have had him on our screens on more than one occasion playing a character in the Doctor Who universe. This article will look at those two very different roles he played in honour of the great actor’s 72nd birthday.

Solomon -- Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

His appearance in the fun Series 7 episode was the first time I’d seen David Bradley on TV. His character was a rogue trader named Solomon. He came into this episode after ordering his robots to bring the Doctor, along with Rory and his father, to his ship. This was because he wanted the Doctor to repair his legs after a dinosaur attack. We soon discover that he sent out a distress signal from his own ship and was picked up by the Silurians. But when he discovered the ‘cargo’ that was on board the Silurian ship (the dinosaurs) and its value, he ordered his two robots to jettison the Homo Reptilia out of the airlocks.

doctor-who-dinosaurs-on-a-spaceship-promo-pics-(21)Solomon was a genuinely twisted man, who was only out to make a profit from anything he can find, be it a living person or a dormant object. He even would have sold the Doctor if he could have valued him. He murdered Tricey just to prove a point to the Doctor; he had no consideration for any life other than his own. As long as it would satisfy him, he would happily murder plenty of innocent species. Solomon was a really sinister character; he kidnapped Queen Nefertiti because of her high value. And whilst he was probably going to sell her for a profit, he quite clearly had some very sadistic intentions towards her.

Solomon’s actions send shivers down your spine and show you how ice cold his heart was. He was a pure out and out villain, he was dark through and through and met his demise near the end of the episode when the Doctor traps him on his ship that is being targeted by missiles, and leaves him to die.

Was this out of character for the Doctor? That’s a question for another day. But did Solomon deserve the end he got? Yes, probably. Redemption was never going to be on the cards for a guy like Solomon; he was never going to change. This was proven when he was begging the Doctor for his life, and he did it by offering him anything he wanted. It was still all about money for Solomon right until the end; it just goes to show that a Leopard can’t change its spots.

Solomon was a brilliant one-off villain who was acted superbly by David Bradley. He’s a good old-fashioned ‘baddie’; sinister, no remorse, no chance of redemption at all. David Bradley more than holds his own in his scenes with the show’s leading man, Matt Smith, and showcases what a brilliant villain he can portray.

William Hartnell -- An Adventure in Space and Time

An Adventure in Space and Time is the one off docudrama that aired two days prior to the 50th anniversary special. It depicted the making of Doctor Who all the way back in 1963, and David Bradley starred as the man who brought the character of the Doctor alive for the very first time: William Hartnell.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-batch-(1)Here we see the rise and fall of Hartnell as the Doctor. We see him first get the part, keen to play a different type of character than the hard, military men he was well-known for portraying. Hartnell was reluctant to make the move into children’s TV, but it was not a decision he would come to regret. He, like the rest of the team, has a tricky start but eventually gets into the swing of things, and Doctor Who becomes a huge success. There are children on the bus pretending to be Daleks while the public’s opinion of Hartnell has changed; he is no longer only recognised for playing the gruff parts but as a time travelling alien, a hero to children everywhere and an iconic British figure. Hartnell is clearly basking in the attention he is receiving, playing Doctor Who with local children in the park.

Gradually, as the drama moves on, we see the key people around Hartnell start to move on. Carole Ann Ford; Hartnell’s on screen granddaughter, Susan, who he had got off to a rough start with, but eventually grown close to, decided to leave. As most of the original cast and crew leave, including Verity Lambert, now a good friend of Hartnell’s, his health starts to decline. This leads to him becoming increasingly difficult to work with as he becomes irritable and starts to forget his lines, meaning scenes have to be re-shot. He goes to Sydney Newman and requests a lighter workload, but is informed of the decision to replace him in the titular role.

Hartnell struggles to accept the decision, due to his emotional attachment to the role, but he is forced to reluctantly accept the situation around him. He then has a poignant scene in which he breaks down to his wife, admitting he doesn’t want to leave Doctor Who. This is tremendously acted by Bradley, who here shows us a devastated, defeated man who is forced to move on from a show he loves. David Bradley is tremendous throughout though. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to William Hartnell, Bradley grasps the character perfectly and elegantly portrays a man who goes from being at the top of his game in the role of his dreams, adored by families all over the country, to a struggling actor on the back end of his career, forced out through ill health and old age. He gives a memorable performance and educates us viewers how William Hartnell brought the character of the Doctor alive.

So, there are the two big roles that David Bradley has played in the Doctor Who universe, or Whoniverse, if you will. The stark contrast between these two characters, and how much he was praised for his performances, demonstrates how versatile an actor this man is. We are very lucky and privileged to have had this wonderful talent play a part of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary year, as well as just being able to attract him to the show for a single episode. He is an actor of the highest calibre, and we should be grateful for his service in showing us all what William Hartnell and, for some of us, what the First Doctor was like. 72 years young and still going strong, you can expect to see David Bradley on your screens for a while yet. Thank you all so much for reading.

Happy Birthday, David, have a good one!

Step back in time...

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43 comments
RonSwearingen
RonSwearingen

I would love to see Bradley come back as the first Doctor with Capaldi.

floppy_who
floppy_who

Hot Fuzz!!! Aaah 'spose. One of the best lines in the film. Apart from perhaps "by the power of Greyskull!"

MJJ
MJJ

Happy Birthday, David.

09dh01
09dh01

He also voiced the Shansheeth in Sarah Jane Adventures. Fantastic actor!

GaryKingston
GaryKingston

I honk David Bradley's a brilliant actor. From his portrayal of William Hartnell, to the janitor I. Harry potter and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones. Happy birthday David hopefully you act in many more films and tv , and get the praise you deserve

Pockydon
Pockydon

Happy Birthday David Bradley, you did the Whoniverse proud!

Liana21
Liana21

Whoa, what a week, four Birthdays in less than seven days. Happy Birthday for him, and I love his wonderful perfomance on An Adventure in Space and Time. Maybe Big Finish could take him for few First Doctor audios.

sontaran17
sontaran17

SENSATIONAL Actor! Happy Birthdya DB!

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

David Bradley is a brilliant actor. He was fantastic in Dinosaurs on a spaceship and was amazing in An adventure in space and time.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

What a shame he had to bow out, but it was very nice of them to put that bit in with Matt. I think he deserved it as he was the first. I think he would have been very proud of all the Doctors who followed him.

supermoff
supermoff

He was phenomenal in "An Adventure in Space and Time", and is an overall very talented actor. 

Whovian
Whovian

Happy birthday! Bradley was fantastic in both roles, as well as Filch in Harry Potter- a superb actor :)

The Finn
The Finn

After seeing him as Argus Filch, a somewhat "negative" guy (I'm not saying "bad" as he's just misunderstood) and as Solomon the trader, an evil guy, I really liked seeing him play a "goodie" in AAISAT. Happy Birthday David Bradley. You're 72 years young today!

Ivegotnewkidneys on the 23rd
Ivegotnewkidneys on the 23rd

Wow I never realised he was 72 I always thought he was around mid 60's but anyways hes a fantastic actor who played Hartnell superbly and i'm sure he will be fantastic if he ever has a part in big finish as I recently been getting into audios  : ) 





TheOncomingStorm
TheOncomingStorm

I didn't think much of Dinosaurs On A Spaceship but his performance in it was still good. But An Adventure In Time And Space I thought was amazing.

awkward912
awkward912

I'm not sure you know what the "Whoniverse" means...

StephenAHayes
StephenAHayes

What a great article. I preferred him in Adventures of Time And Space but both were a great credit. A fantastic coup for Who to get him

The Finn
The Finn

@awkward912  From Wikipedia: "The Whoniverse is the fictional setting of the television series Doctor Who,[1] Torchwood,[2] and The Sarah Jane Adventures, as well as other related media.[3][4][5] The word, a portmanteau of the words "Who" and "universe", has also been used to describe the show's production and fanbase."


From the article: "the Doctor Who universe, or Whoniverse..." 

Oh I think he knows exactly what it means…

GeorgeMachinNZ
GeorgeMachinNZ

@09dh01 That may have been the originally intention, but in the end they weren't included. I just can't accept the idea that the Doctor is traveling around in a universe where his adventures are being essentially documented by actors that look exactly like him and broadcasted worldwide. 

09dh01
09dh01

@GeorgeMachinNZ @mczolly Let's also remember that they originally intended a poster of the spin-off movies to appear in Day of The Doctor. Who knows what the Whoniverse contains, eh? Who knows? Who knows???

GeorgeMachinNZ
GeorgeMachinNZ


@mczolly  The Remembrance of the Daleks part was really just a fourth wall joke. As the title is never actually spoken, it makes sense within the Doctor Who universe that there would be some other show that shares the description, but not the title or content. It wouldn't make any sense in the context of the world. 

mczolly
mczolly

I was just about to mention it. :D

AlexanderofAlzarius
AlexanderofAlzarius

Well, Remembrance of the Daleks at least heavily implies it (that the show Doctor Who exists in the Whoniverse).

GeorgeMachinNZ
GeorgeMachinNZ

@The Finn I have to agree with awkward912. There is no way that AAISAT is set within the Doctor Who universe. That makes no sense whatsoever. Is it a dramatisation of events that took place in the real world. There is no Doctor Who franchise in the Doctor Who universe. 

awkward912
awkward912

@The Finn @awkward912 Yes, a possibility. It's also possible that Casanova depicts the Tenth Doctor acting undercover to flush out a dastardly Auton plot, but we don't go round calling that part of the Whoniverse.

awkward912
awkward912

@The Finn @awkward912 Ok, my brain just exploded. Are you saying that in the Doctor's world there is a man called William Hartnell who is cast as a character identical to him in the 1960s, and films his own adventures, by sheer coincidence?

The Finn
The Finn

@awkward912 @The Finn  They could take some dramatic licenses with it, meaning it could be placed in the Whoniverse as it's not a true event in our history.