When I heard the BBC was making a 90-minute docudrama about the early years of Doctor Who, I expected lots of magic and nostalgia. But I wasn't prepared for how emotionally intense An Adventure in Space and Time actually is.
An Adventure — which airs tonight on BBC America, but already aired in the U.K. — focuses on two characters, star William Hartnell and producer Verity Lambert. And you see them both struggling in different ways, with both of their careers depending on the success of this strange little TV show. It's an enormous credit to writer Mark Gatiss and everyone else involved that I was on the edge of my seat with suspense as to whether this rickety little show was going to survive, even though I already knew the outcome.
But the suspense doesn't end with Doctor Who's success — because we wind up following Hartnell, as our main character, after everybody else starts leaving the show, including all his original costars and then Lambert herself. And here, too, you know how this has to end — not just because we all know that Hartnell left the show in 1966, but also because we can see the writing on the TARDIS walls long before anything actually happens.
David Bradley is absolutely compelling as Hartnell, and he's given me a brand new appreciation for how indispensible the First Doctor really was. But most of all, An Adventure in Space and Time had me getting choked up for a hgue part of its second half. Really masterful stuff, and the most fitting tribute to the show's anniversary you could imagine.
More details below, courtesy of Ursus-Veritas... (With more spoilers, FYI!)