The BBC TV movie “An Adventure in Space and Time” is perhaps the most fitting tribute to “Doctor Who” during its 50th anniversary celebration, as it tells the story of the Doctor’s origin, as unlikely as it may be.
The movie opens when the first Doctor, William Hartnell (David Bradley) preparing for his final scenes in the role, before retiring from the series. Standing at the console of his TARDIS, Hartnell remembers his time as the Doctor, which sets the story.
A lot of interesting things are shown throughout the story. One of the more interesting things to note is how the show is constantly spelled out as “Dr. Who,” even though it’s become taboo to Whovians to refer to it as such.
The creation of the show was largely in part because the BBC wanted something fun to lift up their programming, a show kids and adults would both love. Once they had the idea, there was some question about why the lead, a quirky old man, had to be a doctor. Co-creator Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) simply explains, “He should be a doctor, don’t you think? Makes him an authority figure.”
The movie paints Hartnell as a grumpy old man before “Doctor Who,” though as the shows popularity grew and children began looking to him as a hero, he took major pride in the role and those who love it.
The movie touches on how the series premiere came a day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, leading to less than stellar ratings and attention. However, the second serial introduced the Daleks, which brought the show success. Little kids running around yelling “Exterminate!” is pretty entertaining.
They also cover the Doctor’s first companion, Carole Ann Ford (Claudia Grant) leaving the series and how it impacted Hartnell. The two has grown close during production and he was sad to see the one who had been on the ride with him depart. Things got worse when original producer Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) also stepped down, leaving him with a new team to guide the ship.
As time went on, Hartnell’s health began to deteriorate and remembering his lines became difficult. While he wanted a lighter schedule, the network went another way. The idea of regenerating the Doctor into a new actor was proposed, with Hartnell eventually being informed that he would be retiring the role.
In a crushing moment, he cries to his wife, “I don’t want to go.” The moment is significant as that was also David Tennant’s last line as the Doctor when he left the series.
Finally, as the movie catches up to Hartnell shooting his last scene, greeting his predecessor, Patrick Troughton, the first Doctor looks across his TARDIS control panel to see a familiar face.
Matt Smith, dressed as his 11th Doctor, makes a surprise cameo, smiling back at Hartnell, assuring him that the Doctor is eternal, something that might not have happened without him. It’s a fitting end to the story of the first Doctor.
What did you think of “An Adventure in Space and Time”?