An Adventure in Space and Time Review

An Adventure in Space and TimeTomorrow harks in the latest Doctor Who adventure, 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. It is only fitting for the BBC to recently air a dramatisation of the events around the first Doctor Who adventure, with the Mark Gatiss-written An Adventure in Space and Time.

An Adventure in Space and Time is a docudrama depicting the origins of Doctor Who. David Bradley plays the actor who played the First Doctor, William Hartnell, an actor previously typecast for his hardened roles, looking for a chance to do something else. The drama is half the story of William Hartnell and half the story of Doctor Who’s first producer – Verity Lambert – played by Jessica Raine.

Lambert’s story revolves around her rise as producer, having been pitched the show by legendary BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman, played by the brilliant Brian Cox (the actor). Gatiss’ script spends a healthy amount of time expanding the idea of the rise of a female producer in that era, giving her power and independence and making her a driving force for the plot and the production of Doctor Who. Her representation is headstrong and passionate, showcasing her drive to get Doctor Who made.

The rest of the time rests around Bradley’s depiction of William Hartnell, an aging actor playing a Doctor with a bunch of lines he couldn’t quite remember due to their complexity, but slowly grows ever more in love with the role, throwing himself into being the Doctor, even when that plays havoc on his health.

It’s such a love letter to Doctor Who. Even if one was only familiar with the new series, there is so much there for a Whovian to admire. And if one was familiar with the old series, there’s even more to be excited about. 

Many of the show’s iconic scenes from the First Doctor’s run are recreated, from the very first appearance of the TARDIS to one of the most iconic monologues from Hartnell’s Doctor, and several instances inbetween. A very special mention has to go to every scene involving the Daleks – The Doctor’s greatest foe. From the very first mention of them in An Adventure in Space and Time – where Cox’ Sydney Newman is reading the very first Dalek story script – the cinematography is wonderful.

Whether it’s the glimpses of the Dalek when first being described, to their first appearance on set, to the iconic scene of Daleks crossing Westminster Bridge in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, to even the cultural impact, it’s no wonder why Daleks get a good bit of focus. It wouldn’t have been a celebration of Who’s origins without them.

Overall there’s enough hints, details, and in-jokes to make a Whovian warm inside. Even just the subtle (and not so subtle) lines of dialogue that hint towards Who lore will create knowing smirks. As a bonus, those familiar with writer Mark Gatiss’ previous work in the way of The League of Gentlemen shall receive a very nice surprise.

There are actually quite a few surprises thrown in there. Some of which might even bring a tear to the eye.

All in all, An Adventure in Space and Time is a brilliant docudrama that does exactly what it says on the tin. We are warped back to 1963 in the TARDIS that is our telly, back to where the fashion thrives, the dancing looks archaic, the production of television was all analogue, Doctor Who’s effects were practical and prone to malfunction, and the Cybermen look terrifying.

Definitely not something to watch behind your sofa, sit down and check it out. It’s fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. This review is nowhere near enough to describe every single thing to love about it.

It’s a docudrama that’s bigger on the inside.

An Adventure in Space and Time aired on BBC Two on 21st November 2013. It’s available on BBC iPlayer; stars David Bradley, Jessica Raine, Sacha Dhawan, and Brian Cox; written by Mark Gatiss; and directed by Terry McDonough.

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1 Comment

  1. It was lovely, and made me feel very nostalgic about Television Centre as well as old Doctor Who. Even though it probably kind of pales now in comparison to all the flashy new stuff in Salford, the place was just so steeped in history, you felt like you were breathing in the past and becoming part of something special just by stepping through the doors there. I think it’s a similar kind of feeling to that you get about the show from An Adventure in Space and Time – even though you know things must change and it all leads on to lots of wonderful, brilliant things, there’s still something very sad about letting go of something that’s been great. I got the sense that the people making the show felt the same – they were obviously trying to make the most of the space, especially with all the big, outdoor shots of the doughnut in the middle. But the whole thing was just really poignant and well done.

    I don’t think I’ll ever get over what an amazing feat it was for Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein to have made one of the most loved and respected shows in BBC history at that time, being so young and with such a tiny budget. It’s an incredibly inspiring story and so nice to see it getting the recognition it deserves. I hope this show helps inspire a new generation to create something just as amazing.

    Also they should bring Waris back for another turn directing. When you see him interviewed now, it’s difficult to believe he’s old enough to have been involved in all that. 🙂

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