“We need someone like Frank Morgan in the Wizard of Oz” “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas. That’s The Doctor”
I had been hearing about a “TV movie” called An Adventure in Space and Time for a few weeks, but I hadn’t really gotten around to watching it before now. I knew that it was related to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, but I was not expecting what it turned out to be.
An Adventure in Space and Time is about the origin story of Doctor Who, and it did a fantastic job. Well, it was more than that. It provided some great context to things I heard from my Dad, as well as some great factoids, heartwarming moments…and of course it had to throw something so emotional at me near the end.
Before I get into the major parts of this, I want to lay down a few details about the actual show. Doctor Who premiered on November 23rd, 1963 on the BBC (which also happens to be the day after Kennedy’s assassination, something briefly mentioned in AAinSandT), and was originally intended to be an educational program for children using time travel to explore famous moments in history as well as glimpsing the future. Clearly, it grew into so much more than that.
Now, for the first interesting fact, though it is not actually revealed until the end. A man named Sydney Newman created Doctor Who, although many other people contributed to its development and production in the early stages. The interesting part? Sydney Newman was a Canadian. As soon as that was revealed, I could barely contain myself considering that I am Canadian as well (although most of you probably know this already).
This man made some bold moves in order to bring Doctor Who to air—he hired Verity Lambert, who then became, for the time that she was involved with Doctor Who, the youngest and only female producer at the BBC. Furthermore, Sydney hired some other “controversial” choices, and An Adventure in Space and Time showed the racism present during the 60s. Really, these shouldn’t be controversial at all, but considering the time that the show was developed in puts things into context.
I had been told that Doctor Who was a low-budget show, even for that time period, when I was talking about the effects of the earliest episodes. An Adventure in Time and Space demonstrates all the challenges that people had to go through in order to bring this show to air, and it is clear that they included an extremely limited budget.
However, as interesting as hearing about the development and inception was (I mean, I thought it was so beautiful how Waris talked about the opening title sequence… “If you point a camera down its own monitor it creates the most wonderful shapes, patterns…like mirrors, endlessly reflecting, swooping, and… pulsing, like butterfly wings”), the best part, in my opinion, was surrounding the 1st Doctor William Hartnell. In this, he was played by David Bradley as William actually died many years ago.
Assuming once again that everything they portrayed here was completely true, the story centered on Hartnell and how he came to take the role and what happened to him once he did was so heartwarming.
At this point I would just like to say that you should watch An Adventure in Space and Time if you are a Doctor Who fan, rather than telling you about all of the specifics regarding Hartnell. Be warned though, the end of An Adventure in Space and Time covers the first regeneration. During this, something happens that really tugged on my heartstrings, not only because of the emotion but because of a seemingly recurring theme. If you watch this, let me know what you think of this moment. You’ll know it when you see it, believe me.