Taking a page from the late and lamented show, The Hour, BBC America presented a TV movie called “An Adventure in Space and Time” Friday night (Nov. 22). It was more than just how the show got on the air, but how it became the start of one career, and the solid end of another, although kind of heartbreaking, too.
It starts with someone stopping his car near a police box. The driver is William Hartnell, the first Doctor. A cop approaches him, and tells him to move along, because he’s in the way. It takes place in 1966, just before he films his last story, “The Tenth Planet”.
Then the TARDIS (sort of) whisks us back to 1963, when BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, tries to come up with a new Saturday afternoon show, described as “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas.” He has his assistant, Verity Lambert, produce the show, which is a daunting task because she’d be the first woman to do so in the BBC. They choose Hartnell, who is about as irascible as the Doctor. David Bradley, last seen in Broadchurch and in the Who episode “Dinosaurs in a Spaceship,” does a great job portraying him. He starts out very reluctant to take the job, but it isn’t long before he makes the role his own. However, the movie quickly points out that his failing health would affect his performance, and force him to leave after three years. It’s a painful thing to see.
The movie also shows the growth of Lambert (Jessica Raine) as she musters the courage to be taken seriously by Newman (Brian Cox) and the other BBC bigwigs.
It’s a basic history of the first three years of Doctor Who, and very entertaining. Some may point out the recreation of the first episode isn’t quite accurate because we have the original, but it’s close enough. Not many people know the first episode had to be done twice, and that it was shown again followed by the second. How it introduces the creation of the Daleks is also very interesting on several levels.
There is one complaint: in the final minutes of the movie, it didn’t do a good job recreating Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. However, there is a surprise appearance by a familiar face at the end.
“An Adventure In Space and Time” will be shown again at 11 PM Eastern and Pacific Sunday night on BBC America.