Remembering John Hurt One Year Later

A year ago today, the words “Doctor down” spread across our attendees’ and staffers’ social media. Sir John Hurt, an acclaimed actor in so many worlds of fiction, had ended his battle with cancer.

As with any news we hear, we all raced to check. Surely it was a prank, or someone had gotten a bit of news wrong. Surely memories of him were surfacing all over Twitter because it was just his birthday recently, not because the world had lost him. The confirmation came quickly, and the loss was acute.

The staff of (Re)Gen comes from a broad variety of backgrounds. For many of us, Hurt comes from the world of Harry Potter or Merlin first and foremost; for others, Alien (or even Spaceballs) was our first encounter. Caligula, the Elephant Man, the Storyteller… there are likely as many gateways to his work as their are staff members for the event. Many of our guests, too, remember him from his work — in some cases as a friend and a peer.

But for many — especially the children among our attendees — the War Doctor is his most memorable turn. He played a difficult role in so many ways. In a purely “entertainment business” context, he was a stopgap for a missing actor. To fans with their hearts in the show, he was something very new: a one-shot iteration of a character whose other iterations are carefully documented and numbered and speculated on. And for the show as a whole? He was the final link we’d been missing between the two eras of our favorite piece of television.

Hurt may have only been a part of the Doctor Who televisual universe for a brief time, but his impact has been unmistakable. And the role may only be a drop in the bucket of a massive and genre-spanning career, but it’s meant so much to all of us.

We miss you, Sir John. We wish we’d had the chance to thank you in person for all you do.

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