Doctor Who breaks World Record with William Russell return

Doctor Who has entered the record books again today after Guinness World Records recognised the unexpected and very special appearance of William Russell in The Power of the Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s final episode as the Doctor that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the BBC.

The feature-length episode, which was also the final with Chris Chibnall as showrunner, broadcast in October 2022 and saw the shock regeneration of Jodie Whittaker into David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor as well as the return of many familiar faces in the shape of old Doctors and companions from the show’s 59-year history.

And among those returning companions was one very special guest star, William Russell, the 98-year-old actor who played Ian Chesterton, a companion to the Doctor opposite the First Doctor William Hartnell in the first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child in 1963.

And it was for his return as Ian Chesterton that Russell has earned himself and Doctor Who another place in the record books, for the longest period between appearances for a character in a TV show – a whopping 57 years and 120 days.

An original member of the Doctor Who cast, Russell played Chesterton, a science teacher and companion to the Doctor for a total of 77 episodes in the 1960s. And although Russell has retained an association with the show by taking part in DVD audio and narrations of audiobooks, he hasn’t played the character on screen for well over half a decade which means he has earned this award.

Doctor Who already holds the World Record for the most consecutive sci-fi TV episodes ever, with 871 episodes and counting, as well as the most spin-off fiction books inspired by a TV show, with over 720 spin-offs when the record was first earned in 2016. In addition to this, the largest collection of Doctor Who memorabilia consists of 6,641 items and was achieved by Lily Connors of Pontypridd in the UK.

In 2017, Doctor Who also won the record of the most prolific science-fiction TV series (by episode).

With the 60th anniversary coming in 2023 and the return of David Tennant followed by a new era with Ncuti Gatwa in charge of the TARDIS, it feels like there are many more records to be broken by the BBC’s flagship science fiction show.