The Doctor Who docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time plays like a love letter to the series’ fans.
Although the title above says that this is a review of Doctor Who docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, this is really nothing but praise for the film that finally shows us the early days of our favorite TV series. Obviously, I am extremely biased towards anything Doctor Who, and apparently, this film is no exception. However, I dare any other Whovian to disagree with me when I say that this film is absolutely beautiful, magical and heartfelt. If the BBC were writing a love letter to fans of the series, which turns 50 today (and how many TV shows have marked that milestone?), An Adventure in Space and Time would be it. And perhaps, that’s exactly what it’s meant to be.
An Adventure in Space and Time tells the story of how Doctor Who came to be and about the people who made sure the series would capture the public’s imagination for so long. For starters, we have Verity Lambert, a woman swimming in a man’s world, fighting sexism while all the while trying to get the guys in design just to get the TARDIS set done already. Jessica Raine portrays her in a way that is both ballsy and unforgettable. Her Lambert is excited, yet terrified, but not willing to let the men who want her to fail to see that. She rises to the occasion in the role, just as Lambert did as producer for Doctor Who.
In similar fashion, Sacha Dhawan as early Who director Waris Hussein is equally as likable. Not only is he young, but he’s of Indian descent, and he and Lambert face much of the same discrimination in a world that was still very much that of the white man’s, even at the BBC. His Hussein is confident, even when everything around him seems to be going wrong.
And everything did go wrong in the beginning. From budget problems to the first episode of Who airing on the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Doctor Who wasn’t guaranteed any kind of success. Fortunately, Lambert went to bat for the series and here we are, 50 years later. An Adventure in Space and Time tells us that story, which involves people who are actually a lot like The Doctor himself.
However, the performance that struck me the most (and had me bawling with the utterance of one single line) is that of David Bradley as William Hartnell. Fans of Doctor Who know that as Hartnell grew older, he started having trouble remembering his lines. Eventually, the BBC let him go and came up with their most brilliant invention yet: regeneration of The Doctor. However, An Adventure in Space and Time is almost as much about Hartnell’s performance in the role as it is about the series itself. Without Hartnell, there would be no Doctor Who. And without Bradley in this docudrama, there would be no Hartnell. Bradley is utterly brilliant here and he better win some shiny things come awards season. His performance is wonderful, magical and heartbreaking. David Bradly IS William Hartnell.
So yes, if you’re the one Doctor Who fan who hasn’t seen this film yet, go watch it now. It’s a tribute to a series that we all adore and fans willl appreciate the heart with which the early days of Doctor Who is portrayed. An Adventure in Space and Time is as important a part of the Doctor Who universe as any of the episodes.