William Hartnell made us believe a man could travel through space and time. Now the BBC is honoring the First Doctor in An Adventure in Space and Time, a docudrama by writer Mark Gatiss.
“This is my love-letter to Doctor Who,” says Gatiss. “In this 50th anniversary year, I hope fans will enjoy and be thrilled by it and all the kisses to the past it’s laden with. But my greatest wish is that it appeals to people who know very little or nothing about Doctor Who and see the struggle of talented people (almost) accidentally creating a legend!”
Hartnell will be played by David Bradley, who is no stranger to the show. You might recognized him as the space pirate Solomon in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” A role he may have to draw on because Hartnell wasn’t always the good guy.
“I spoke to Waris (the original director of Doctor Who) and Carole Ann Ford (who played the Doctor’s first sidekick Susan) and both said he could be absolutely charming and great fun to be around at times and at others – the opposite!” Bradley told What’s on TV. “He was a complex man I think. His background and his upbringing had a lot to do with that, but he was a consummate actor, an absolute perfectionist and he expected the same of others around him. It’s only when he felt other people didn’t have the same commitment to the project or were flippant about it, that he would get upset.”
The trailer shows Hartnell being a bit cheeky. He holds up a piece of merchandise with his face on it suggesting that he’s irreplaceable but we all know how that turned out. The portrayal was fantastic according to Hartnell’s real-life granddaughter, Jessica Carney. She called it “a wonderful tribute” to her grandfather.
Now like then, it’s not all about Hartnell. It’s just as much about the people behind the camera, who aren’t what you might expect. A preview clip reveals creator Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) wanted a legitimate science-fiction show.
“No tin robots or BEMs (bug-eyed monsters),” Newman tells producer Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine), who thankfully didn’t listen to him.
There’s a surprise cameo by Matt Smith that was filmed separately to future proof the special.
“Because Matt wasn’t there we can now crop in any Doctor we like and the film can be shown every November!” Gatiss explained.
An Adventure in Space and Time airs:
BBC Two at 21:00 on 21 November 21
BBC America at 9/8c on November 22