An Adventure In Space and Time
A particular highlight of the 50th anniversary celebrations for Doctor Who was the BBC2 docu-drama An Adventure In Space and Time, starring David Bradley as the first Doctor himself, William Hartnell and written by Who stalwart Mark Gatiss
Telling the story of how Doctor Who came to life and later came to regenerate itself into a new show with a new lead man. Opening with a lone police box on a village green before segueing into Hartnell stepping onto the TARDIS set for the final time, the show itself is a beautiful piece of television, dealing with Hartnell’s illness in a truly touching manner. Bradley turns in surely a BAFTA worthy performance as Hartnell, with a stellar supporting cast to boot. As Verity Newman, Jessica Raine deals with the glass ceiling of sexism and misogyny at the BBC and in the television industry during 1963. The cameos are certainly a delight for the classic Who fans with William Russell & Carole Ann Ford appearing in speaking roles with former companions Anneke Wills and Jean Marsh appearing in the background of Verity’s leaving party.
Of course, the danger of such a drama celebrating the anniversary is that it could become a big puddle of self-indulgent goo. But luckily, with Gatiss’ witty writing and the quite frankly sensational direction by Terry McDonough saves the show (so much so that it's practically a crime that there's no blu-ray release!). But overall, with the fantastic cast, the superb writing and the quite frankly fitting soundtrack by Edmund Butt the show turns out to be quite possibly one of the best pieces of television this year. A tear-jerking show, indeed, especially with Matt Smith’s cameo at the end.
The video quality is very good for a DVD showcasing the gorgeous direction whilst the audio mix feels quaint and touching at certain points (such as Smith’s cameo), without the music overpowering the dialogue and vice versa.
The extras feel somewhat underwhelming but a particular jewel in the crown is the short yet touching documentary about what William Hartnell did following his exit from Doctor Who, featuring interviews with those who knew him including his granddaughter titled ‘William Hartnell: The Original’. Along with this goes the almost obligatory behind the scenes feature (narrated by Carole Ann Ford), the title sequences showing the original title sequence from 1963’s An Unearthly Child compared to the title sequence of An Adventure In Space and Time, and the deleted scenes (which aren’t always a given on Doctor Who DVDs!) featuring Delia Derbyshire in the Radiophonic Workshop as well as a 10 second excerpt cut from Verity’s Leaving Party.
A particular oddity in the extras is the reconstructed scenes filmed for the episode including those from the Pilot & An Unearthly Child, Susan’s farewell from Dalek Invasion of Earth and the festive greeting from A Feast of Steven (the missing episode 7 of The Daleks’ Master Plan). Something peculiar and seemingly unneeded is the regeneration from Patrick Troughton (played by Reece Shearsmith) into Jon Pertwee (played by writer Mark Gatiss), which doesn’t quite sit right with the rest of the features.
Ultimately, this package is a loving celebration of the origins and creation of Doctor Who and quite frankly the show itself deserves at least some awards for the performances, the writing, the direction and the music. Quite a spectacular celebration of the Doctor’s 50 years.