Written by one of Doctor Who’s principal contributors in recent years, Mark Gatiss, An Adventure in Space and Time – helmed by Breaking Bad director Terry McDonough – charts the struggles that the original production team had in getting the show to air – and their struggles to keep it there! With the original producer a young woman in the 1960s and the original director an Asian man, there’s a real sense of underdog story behind the scenes of the little show that could.
The 90-minute film is as much the story of William Hartnell as it is of Doctor Who, although the two are clearly inextricably linked. As Gatiss himself states; “…in William Hartnell, we have the very affecting story of a man redeemed by the role of a lifetime who then, sadly, had to let it go.” As portrayed by Harry Potter’s David Bradley – whose resemblance to the man is uncanny – it’s a wonderfully touching role.
One suspects that, in taking on the role, Bradley has experienced some fraction of the transformative effect it had on Hartnell. As he came out to take part in a Q&A after the BFI’s screening earlier this week, Bradley took a moment to comment on the rapturous reception he received. “I was quite overwhelmed.”
“This is my love-letter to Doctor Who”, Gatiss has stated, and there are indeed plenty of references for fans, both old and new, with lots of little titbits hidden away in the script – as well as in certain casting choices. There are even painstakingly-detailed recreations of old sets and episodes to get fans salivating… including Gatiss! “To see the original TARDIS recreated genuinely took my breath away”, the writer recalled.
None of which is to say that the film won’t appeal to those who don’t know an Ice Warrior from an Auton, but it’s clear in every scene that this is a film that could only have been made by somebody who loved Doctor Who.
As Gatiss enthused while introducing the episode, “this is the story of a group of remarkable people who came together to create some tea-time telly, and instead created magic.”
Fitting words, given that with An Adventure in Space and Time, Gatiss and company have created a little bit of magic of their own.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 21 November 2013 on BBC Two.
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