An Adventure In Space And Time

Mama Fisi
Mama Fisi's picture

Being busier than a one-armed paperhanger, I just got around to watching "An Adventure In Space And Time," the BBC's docu-drama detailing the inception and first few seasons of "Doctor Who."

I have mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand, I thought they did an excellent job re-creating the sense of time and place of 1963. On the other hand, it was painful to watch David Bradley's portrayal of William Hartnell, the original Doctor.

Not that he did a bad job, but Hartnell was played as being grouchy, absent-minded, and in poor health, often muffing his lines and causing delays to the production. When the decision is made to replace him, Hartnell is devastated. My heart broke for him.

I kept wondering how true this story was. It gave a wealth of marvellous background details--for example, did you know that the TARDIS engine noise was created by dragging a key across a metal grating? Or that the now-famous swirling openng credits were done by aiming a camera into its own monitor?--and the actors chosen to portray the real-life characters were almost completely dead-on clones. But the depiction of Hartnell troubled me. I imagine it had to be pretty accurate, or else risk libel suits, but it was still, as I said, painful to watch, in a sympathetic way.

And it was a little peculiar, at the end, that Hartnell, about to play his last scene as The Doctor, looked across the TARDIS console to see Matt Smith, the actor who would be playing this role fifty years later. While I understood the symbolism of the moment, it was a little jarring, like it broke the spell that the show had worked so hard to cast.

Several scenes from the early show were re-created, such as the shot of the Daleks crossing Westminster Bridge. And it was charming to watch Hartnell growing into his character, especially when a group of British children find him in a park and crowd around him, believing him to actually be The Doctor--and he happily plays along.

They may not have been the only ones to believe that.

All together, I enjoyed "An Adventure In Space and Time." For a condensed version of history, it's an interesting production.