24th Nov2013

‘An Adventure in Space and Time’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Brian Cox, Jessica Raine, David Bradley, Ross Gurney-Randall, Roger May | Written by Mark Gatiss | Directed by Terry McDonough


Doctor Who is a phenomenon and has fans all over the world.  To some becoming a fan started when they first saw Christopher Eccleston take Billie Piper by the hand and say the words “I’m the Doctor” but for others, they all have that one actor that they could call their Doctor.  An Adventure in Space and Time takes us back to the very beginning though when the BBC decided to create a kids television show like no other, one that would star William Hartnell as a character who is still as popular now as he was 50 years before his creation.

An Adventure in Space and Time tells the story of how Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) gave Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) the story of creating the new show Doctor Who and how the show was very near cancelled before it was even given a chance.  Focusing on William Hartnell (David Bradley) we also see how a seemingly grumpy old man became a character that would become one of the most famous pop culture characters of all time.

When a show lasts fifty years there arguably has to be something special about it, and for the fans Doctor Who is very special indeed.  The BBC tried to kill it at least twice but it’s soldiered on, like the Doctor himself regenerating into different forms, with one of the biggest of these transformations being into the modern Doctor where Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith become a part of something that exploded into something even bigger than it had ever been.

When Mark Gatiss let it be known he was writing An Adventure in Space and Time many fans of the classic Doctor Who shows were excited, Gatiss is an excellent writer and somebody we know we can trust with the history of the character.  He’s arguably been one of the writers that have brought Doctor Who back to the success it is, and his other writing credits for shows like Sherlock show speak for themselves really.  I would say that An Adventure in Space and Time is Gatiss writing his love letter to Doctor Who.  The writing for the one off show is gentle, thought provoking and truly moving at times, with a respect shown to the characters and fans that will no doubt make this a very special event in itself, and a perfect companion piece to the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, The Day of the Doctor.

In many ways the success of An Adventure in Space and Time was on the shoulders of David Bradley playing William Hartnell, if his performance didn’t fit such an important character in the world of Doctor Who I’m sure that there would be a risk of failure for the whole thing.  Thankfully Bradley puts in a performance that feels perfect in many ways.  Probably not as flawless as it could be, I as a fan of The Doctor was drawn in, and the story of Hartnell was both interesting and sad.  It’s an eye opener just how much he gave to the show, and it does feel like Bradley puts his all into the character which pushes An Adventure in Space and Time into feeling very special. As does the performance of all the cast really, especially Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert.

Looking behind the scenes of a much loved show like Doctor Who can be a dangerous thing at times, messing with the history of something so loved can turn fans against the project, even if it doesn’t deserve that to happen.  Gladly An Adventure in Space and Time doesn’t take any risks like that and doesn’t look to focus on any dark side of history, as some docudramas can.  Probably the best compliment that can be given to the show is that you don’t have to be a fan of Doctor Who to enjoy An Adventure in Space and Time, and you’ll still no doubt enjoy it just as much as the fans.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

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