Waris Hussein directed An Unearthly Child, the first Doctor Who television story broadcast. He also directed all but one of the seven episodes of Marco Polo.


Waris Hussein was born on 9 December 1938 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. He moved to London with his parents when he was nine. He attended Cambridge and worked as a trainee at the BBC, where his mother, Attia Hussein, was a newsreader and dramatic star. When he became a director, he was the first Asian BBC Drama director. According to Waris, he had to put up with a lot of "innuendo" and gossip about how he got to do what he was doing. He could feel himself being stared at and it made him determined not to fail.

He was crucial to the casting of William Hartnell as the Doctor. He felt Bill had the eccentric quality they needed for the part. Waris was one of the group that went for lunch with him to try and convince him to accept the role. When he first met Bill, he felt terrible because he thought Bill was a "...very opinionated man - that is, prejudiced", and he felt he was looked down upon because he was an Asian "kid", although none of this was spoken between them. First impressions notwithstanding, Waris eventually got on very well with Bill.

Waris was a very close friend of Diane Cilento (former wife of Sean Connery) and met Sean just after Dr. No had been released.

He was director of the pilot episode, which was very different from the final version. After Sydney Newman saw the pilot, he took Waris and Verity Lambert (producer) to dinner, told them he thought it was terrible and gave them another chance at the episode. They made An Unearthly Child together. Waris tried to forget the pilot, as he thought it was so terrible that people would fall asleep while watching it.

His next Doctor Who association was with the story Marco Polo, for which he directed six of the seven episodes. He claimed he had a strange imagination and in one of the scenes, wanted to have a dwarf on an actor's shoulder. In the end, a spider-monkey was used.

Other credits

In addition to his work on Doctor Who, Hussein directed the theatrical films Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972), the television movies Daphne Laureola (1978), Little Gloria... Happy at Last (1982), Princess Daisy (1983), The Winter of Our Discontent (1983), Copacabana (1985), The Face on the Milk Carton (1995) and Her Best Friend's Husband (2002), among others. He has also written the television movies Days in the Trees (1967) and St. Joan (1968). Prior to his career behind the camera, Mr. Hussein had one acting credit, appearing in an episode of Corrigan Blake in 1962.

Mr. Hussein continues to direct and produce in the UK, the USA, and in his native country, India.

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