AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME (2013)
As a tribute to my favorite TV series of all time, today and tomorrow I will be reviewing two programs that celebrate DOCTOR WHO’s 50th Anniversary. Mind you, I am going to be insanely biased with these reviews, so take that into consideration if I gush too much.
AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE IN TIME is a fun, yet poignant docudrama about the creation of the much beloved series. Written by “Doctor Who” scribe Mark Gatiss, it is accessible to those unfamiliar with the early behind the scenes machinations of the series but still manages to be infused with plenty of insider references to enthrall die-hard fans.
The birth of DOCTOR WHO is as fascinating as the series itself. The brainchild of BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman (Brian Cox), it was originally conceived in early 1963 as a children’s show designed to educate as well as entertain. He took a chance with an untested producer, Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine), his former assistant, to shepherd the unusual show. Newman liked her spunk and felt if anyone could get this show working, she was the one. That may seem trivial now, but at the time, Lambert was the first woman to produce a show for the BBC. Adding more drama, newbie director Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan) was assigned the task of directing the early episodes.
But who to play the older, irascible “Doctor?” That role went to fading character actor William Hartnell (Game of Throne’s David Bradley). Even though younger than he appeared, Hartnell was a heavy drinker and smoker and it had taken it’s toll on his body and mind. He was not easy to work with and notorious for flubbing lines.
DOCTOR WHO was almost finished before it even started, but thanks to Lambert’s passion for the project, she weathered so many storms including having to reshoot the pilot from scratch and dodge multiple attempts at its cancellation.
The docudrama has the same breezy and whimsical feel of the current incarnation of the series and presents the past, warts and all. It is at times funny, frustrating and tragic. Deftly shot and constructed it’s a quality production, reminding me of HBO’s recent BEHIND THE CANDELABRA. Also the period costuming and production design are top notch and as good as any episode of MAD MEN. On top of that it’s a delight to any fan of the series, including me!