An Adventure in Space and Time
Director: Mark Gatiss
Synopsis: A dramatisation of the creation of Doctor Who in the 1960s.
Overview: Made for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time tells the story of how this international phenomena about a mad man who travels the universe in a police box came to be. It is a fascinating story about sexism and racism at the BBC in the ’60s which gently morphs into the story of one man’s battle to hold on to a job that he loves.
Doctor Who was the brainchild of Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert (played by Brian Cox and Jessica Raine), a Canadian living in England and his chosen producer for the show, which was originally planned as an education show to fill a gap in programming on Saturday night. The first director chosen for the show was Warris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), a British-Indian, and the first Doctor was William Hartnell (David Bradley), an actor who was known for playing authority figures and soldiers.
Watching the formation of the show it is hard to imagine that it would grow to be the behemoth it is today. ’60s TV technology is shoddy, clunky stuff and it is incredible to watch the frustrations that went into making a TV show when you couldn’t have more than a few takes of any scene, so if, for example, your lead actor had a habit of flubbing his lines as Hartnell did, you just leave it in and hope for the best.
An Adventure in Space and Time begins as one movie and veers into another halfway through. At first we’re watching Verity navigate the sexist as hell BBC in order to make a show that she believes in, and then, about halfway through, our focus changes to Hartnell as he deals with his declining health that is gradually causing more and more problems with filming.
Of course, it is hard to imagine how much enjoyment someone who isn’t a Doctor Who fan would take from this film. It is well made, written by the incomparable Mark Gatiss and boasts a wonderful cast giving fantastic performances, but if you don’t have a pre-knowledge of the people involved maybe this will be pointless. Maybe you need to watch all 800-odd Doctor Who episodes first, get a tattoo of the Gallifreyan word for Time Lord on your chest, and bore your wife talking all Who all the time like one of our writers who shall remain nameless (unless you read the byline of this article).
Overall, a great story and a great cultural insight into working for one of the biggest television networks in the world, back when it was the biggest. And also something for when you’re flicking through the channels and you catch a Doctor Who and you think, how does this incredible thing exist? How can something so weird and so fun and so good still be around fifty years later? And that’s when you go back to the start and see how Newman, Lambert, and Hussein made it all happen.