AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME

(2013)
With David Bradley, Jessica Raine, Sacha Dhawan, Brian Cox
Written by Mart Gatiss
Directed by Terry McDonough

"One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties." - The First Doctor

     As part of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC aired AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME, which told the story of the creation of the iconic series. Mainly focused on William Hartnell, who played the first Doctor, and Verity Lambert, who produced the first few seasons, the movie was a love letter to all Doctor Who fans, and also a celebration of the show and especially of Hartnell.

     The first half of the film shows how the show came together, from programming head Sydney Newman's initial idea of a sci-fi series, to Lambert's struggles at being taken seriously as a female director, to Hartnell's casting as The Doctor. We witness the creation of The TARDIS, the invention of the villainous Daleks, and the unexpected success of a show whose initial episode had the misfortune of airing a day after the assassination of President Kennedy. Brian Cox plays the blustery Newman, whose initial ideas about the show go somewhat awry when The Daleks become a national sensation in Britain. Cox is perfect in the part, but it is Jessica Raine and David Bradley who truly make this film shine. Raine, who had appeared in the 2013 Doctor Who episode "Hide", does a superlative job as Lambert, who is pegged by Newman to produce the new sci-fi series. Overwhelmed and timid at first (1963 - this was a man's world!), she finally realizes, after a stern warning by Newman, that she is in charge, not the male underlings who are giving her grief. Together, she and director Waris Hussein (nice played by Sacha Dhawan) work tirelessly to turn a ramshackle kiddie show into a smash hit, while also dealing with the sometimes ornery star. Lambert's friendship with Hartnell, as portrayed in the film, is lovely and heartwarming (later in life, Lambert had glowing things to say about the late actor).

     When Verity Lambert departs for greener pastures, the film focuses on Hartnell, and David Bradley is simply perfect in the role, both as Hartnell and as The Doctor. He is uncanny as Hartnell, capturing both the veteran actor overwhelmed and delighted by his newfound fame, and the aging man who, after a few seasons, begins to forget his lines and becomes increasingly ill. Although the film takes some unnecessary dramatic license toward the end of the film - Hartnell was not fired, but rather made his own decision to leave the show - there is never a false note in Bradley's performance. He simply is William Hartnell, so good that he was actually cast to play The First Doctor in the 2017 Christmas special "Twice Upon a Time", which will be the first time since 2013 "The Day of the Doctor" that more than one Doctor will take part in an adventure.

       Filled with fun self-references and cameos from former Doctor Who alumni, AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME is a must for every Doctor Who fan, and yet also a movie that can be enjoyed by the general public (or the "Clue-less Who-less") as well.

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