An Adventure in Space and Time
(50th Anniversary Docudrama Special, 2013)
Peering into the past.
This docudrama was marketed as the story behind Doctor Who, but it ended up closer to a limited biopic focused on William Hartnell’s run from An Unearthly Child to The Tenth Planet. That’s the unfortunate side of the presentation since it pushes much of Verity Lambert’s successes and struggles to the background.
Several other creative liberties were taken along the way, particularly with the historical events surrounding the show’s development. That said, I enjoyed the dramatization of Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, and Waris Hussein coming together to produce a science-fiction series in the era of the Space Race. Lambert’s challenges in breaking the glass ceiling against the “old boys club” of the BBC were great to explore, but I’d love to see a fully-developed documentary about her life and the paths she paved.
The same holds true for Waris Hussein and Delia Derbyshire, both of whom were instrumental in the show’s birth and have fascinating life stories.
The film was written by Doctor Who veteran Mark Gatiss, a driving force in the franchise since the 1990s. In the television side, he debuted with The Unquiet Dead and continued well into the Twelfth Doctor’s era. He also wrote several novels and has worked extensively in the Big Finish audios.
This drama set the course for David Bradley as the third actor to portray the First Doctor (not counting body doubles, stand-ins, or audios). We saw him previously as the villainous Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and heard him as Shansheeth Blue in Death of the Doctor. We’ll see him again at the end of the Twelfth Doctor’s run. He has also carried the portrayal into the Big Finish universe.
Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell, and Jamie Glover also followed similar trajectories after this film, portraying Susan, Barbara, and Ian in the Big Finish audios. Jamie Glover comes from a family tradition of travels in time and space since both of his parents have been in Doctor Who.
Jessica Raine was last seen in Doctor Who as Emma Grayling in Hide. Sacha Dhawan will be seen again in the Thirteenth Doctor’s run. It was good to see Doctor Who veterans William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Jackie Lane, Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves, Mark Eden, and Jean Marsh in cameos as a nod to the franchise’s history.
The TARDIS console prop became a staple of future Doctor Who adventures that required a classic console. I admire the dedication that the production teams applied to their craft for this film. I also admired the solid casting for William Hartnell, but I wasn’t as sold on the casting for Patrick Troughton. Mind you, it was close but not quite there.
I love the moment where Hartnell “sees” Matt Smith. He obviously didn’t see the future or anything, so I took it as an artistic statement on the future of the franchise being secure even without William Hartnell in the title role. It was a beautifully poetic moment for that point in his career and the show’s future.
Finally, the ending with the speech from The Dalek Invasion of Earth was the perfect place to end. It marks this film as a wonderful tribute to both William Hartnell and the legacy of Doctor Who.
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.