An Adventure in Space and Time

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    Craig @craig

    Broadcast on BBC 2 on 21 November 2013 at 9pm this was a special one-off drama by Mark Gatiss to celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. Travel back in time to 1963 to see how Doctor Who was first brought to the screen.

    Actor William Hartnell felt trapped by a succession of hard-man roles and producer Verity Lambert was frustrated by the TV industry’s glass ceiling. Both of them were to find unlikely hope and unexpected challenges in the form of a Saturday tea-time drama.

    Allied with a team of unusual but brilliant people, they went on to create the longest running science fiction series ever made.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    @craig and fellow Enthusiasts

    Alas! As I am currently residing in the Who-challenged Canadian colonies without access to the one cable station that will be screening this, I shall have to wait for my pre-ordered DVD to arrive in early December.

    But on the bright side, this gives Mrs Blenkinsop and I more time to prepare the blenkinsop TV room for optimal viewing pleasure. (I have outlined a couple of preparations already in play to @wolfweed on the trailer page).

    One vital preparation will be having the music of John Smith and the Common Men

    played on a continuous loop in the hours prior to the screening.

    Mrs Blenkinsop has promised her 1963 coiffure will be ready in time!


    Well that was bloody marvellous.

    Arkleseizure @arkleseizure

    Absolutely wonderful. Made me laugh when it wanted to, had me as close to tears as anything gets me when it wanted to. Just wonderful.

    stevethewhistle @steve-thorp


    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    An excellent tribute to William Hartnell. It nearly had me in tears!





    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Beautiful & really moving.

    Loving the fact that Hartnell could actually work the TARDIS!

    Craig @craig

    I thought it was great too. Bradley was just fantastic as Hartnell, they couldn’t have got anyone better. It’s hard to remove myself from being a fan and just appreciating it for what it was. I wonder, though, what a non-fan would’ve thought?

    Trying to look at it objectively there were a few moments of over-telegraphing, and a few other moments that had the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but it was still very entertaining and very moving, and I’d hope everyone, fan or non-fan, would think so. And the little surprise at the end could’ve been terrible but was actually really touching.

    ScaryB @scaryb



    Just aaw, that was so well done. Bradley characterisation was beautiful, crotchety on the surface and an insecure actor and sick man underneath.  Especially when he suddenly has to deal with a new production team who don’t even know that the TARDIS should be switched on, never mind how to do it!  And he nailed the delivery of key speeches. And Brian Cox was just great (as ever).  Loved how there was a real sense of a growing family feeling about the crew as well.

    Could be a little picky about the period feel of it – close, not quite formal enough for the 50s/early 60s, but as I said, that’d be churlish. The room seemed to get very misty at the little clips at the end, the interviews with his grand-daughter, some of the cast and showing actual clips, which didn’t feel at all out of place.

    A loveletter to the show indeed. Gatiss earned that scene with Matt appearing to Hartnell at the end.


    Anonymous @

    @arkleseizure @steve-thorp

    Only close to tears? I was blubbering like a big baby, especially the surprise cameo.

    ScaryB @scaryb


    Hard to put myself in position of non-fan but I think it has a broad appeal. Hartnell’s emotional journey was great, the period stuff with the attitudes to  Verity and Waris is interesting, especially as they both succeeded spectacularly. If anything I’d suspect the attitudes towards them were probably underplayed – BBC was much more straightlaced with ingrained institutional prejudices way back then.

    And the lead performances were ourstanding.

    It would certainly be of interest to anyone who grew up around that time, and/or had interest in TV shows of the time.  As someone who goes back that far – just great 😀

    I think I’ve just added another DVD to my Xmas list!

    Arkleseizure @arkleseizure

    @fatmaninabox: Yeah, that’s the magic of the TARDIS. One glance over the console at the future of his creation. Maybe I did well-up there. Just a bit.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Fave funny bits – creating the TARDIS in 5 mins flat. With an actual bobbin. 😀

    And the cyberman at the start having a fag! Tricky.

    wolfweed @wolfweed
    wolfweed @wolfweed
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    That was excellent, capturing those moments in time particularly well I thought. The end – well that had me a bit emotional. We have possibly exhausted our supply of man size tissues.

    I posted on the Faces strand that I wondered how Hartnell would have felt about his “little adventures” fame these days. To have his face on a stamp. Immensely proud, I would think. I think this is why I’ve always avoided those theorems about earlier Doctors (pre-Hartnell) It doesn’t quite fit my own narrative, and therefore it can’t be true?

    Loads of great performances and cameos though. Bradley was astonishing. Raine was divine as Verity, and Brian Cox as Sidney Newman personified what I’ve always read about him. A true showman of the small screen. The Henry Gordon Jago of his era.

    Bloody brilliant. I don’t care if its fan service – some service deserves to be recognised.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I agree that they earned that scene where William Hartnell sees Matt Smith. It’s a true mark of what he achieved; that the character he created is now being played by someone who wasn’t even born when the series first went out. It’s also the pay-off for what he gave up. It’s because they had to find a way to ‘retire’ William Hartnell, coming up with regeneration, that Doctor Who is celebrating 50.

    I loved the little shout-outs. Especially since, if you’re not a fan, you won’t notice them – they fitted so seamlessly into the emotional moment. I think there were a fair few cameos in Verity’s leaving party – I’m pretty sure I spotted Jean Marsh.

    And yes, the cyberman having a quick fag was great. ‘Some people have got a world to invade.’

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    AAIS&T iplayer


    Mike Pinfield remembers his father, Mervyn Pinfield


    I’m going to slap a fiver on the table and say that that scene will be viewed again, from  a slightly different angle, on Saturday.

    ardaraith @ardaraith

    I wept.  There is nothing more I can say.  I feel utterly spoiled, and not in the “spoiler” way; rather, I feel like a child who received everything she wanted for Christmas. This week has been full of delightful nuggets of Doctor Who.  I particularly enjoyed how AAIS&T wove in iconic sayings from the AG years. It was a beautiful tribute.

    CraigNixon @craignixon

    Loved that. Fantastic.

    Though the Matt Smith scene really jarred for me, it was nice, (nd maybe this is how my mind works) but it kicked me out and I started theorising. WOuld have been better if they’d had images of all 10 other Doctors around the Tardis.


    What else happened after credits? My SKy Box cut it out halfway through the Peter Davison bit

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    I liked that during the scene where Rex Tucker is looking at potential Doctors, one of the photos was of Peter Cushing. A subtle reference to the Dalek films perhaps?

    wolfweed @wolfweed
    Arkleseizure @arkleseizure

    So today’s Dalek voice played yesterday’s Dalek voice! I didn’t notice that — another lovely touch.


    From a post on the Graun blog

    “Yeah the bit with you-know-who looking across the console at Hartnell was amazing and shows what a superb actor the guy is. He says everything without saying a word. And those bits of the console he puts his hands to are, I believe, the Tardis’s ‘telepathic circuits’.”

    If true, that is simple genius.

    Rob @rob

    A question to those with more knowledge about Who than me (most people here)

    Did William Hartnell actually say “I don’t want to go” or was that Mark Gatiss linking past and present?

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Well, Mrs Blenkinsop and I finally surrounded ourselves with boxes of tissues and watched “An Adventure in Space and Time” last night.

    It was magical.

    Everything you have all said was true. It was a love letter by Gatiss to both the show, to the people who made it happen and to Hartnell.

    David Bradley’s portrayal was superb, and when the credits rolled I was wiping away the tears.

    The one thing that I was especially struck by (not sure if it has been remarked on already) was the relationship between Hartnell and the Tardis. When he takes on the role and complains about the non-appearance of the set of the Tardis while they are filming the first episode, you assume it is just his nerves about taking on this new role, but as the show progresses it becomes clear that he is the only one who truly understands how important it is that the Doctor know exactly how the Tardis operates, because it is the type of thing “the kiddies will know”. And by the end of his tenure, he might be forgetting his lines but he is the only one who knows how to turn on the Tardis. I thought that was a lovely touch, and says something about storytelling and when “Doctor Who” works and when it doesn’t–ie, that it works when the people working on it really understand what the show is.

    That is one of the reasons why the scene with Matt Smith works so well, particularly when Smith puts his hands on the Tardis’s telepathic circuits. As @pedant (where are you, my old friend? time to return to the fold) points out, if true, it is sheer genius.

    And then, the final clip of William Hartnell giving the “one day I shall return” speech at the end, captures (in light of everything that has gone before) the power and legacy of both Hartnell the actor, and “Doctor Who” the show.

    Just wonderful.



    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @blenkinsopthebrave Glad you and Mrs. Blenkinsop had an enjoyable sniffly watch together.

    I’m really fascinated by the way in which this show about time travel has travelled in time! A fictionalised origins drama by a grown-up child fan to mark the 50th, wrought in an inevitably tinted-by-today vision of the ’60s, yet all about age and time!

    wolfweed @wolfweed


    ScaryB @scaryb


    So glad you enjoyed it – thought you would.  It was full of lovely touches, and I agree with you that Hartnell having a relationship with the TARDIS is one of them. Bradley did a great job on the characterisation – you can see the vulnerability of the aging, jobbing actor under a quite prickly outer skin.


    Did William Hartnell actually say “I don’t want to go” or was that Mark Gatiss linking past and present?

    He didn’t say it as far as I remember.  I reckon that was a wink to AG fans, and Tennant ones in particular

    Rob @rob


    Thanks for that and apologies for not saying so sooner

    Is that glitter in your fur? 😉

    WhoGirl @whogirl

    Me and my family thoroughly enjoyed this programme, and thought it was such a beautiful way to kick start the weekend of 50th celebrations. It was excellently written, acted and produced, and David Bradley was wonderful. The likeness between himself and William Hartnell was uncanny.
    I knew little about how it all started and it was all so interesting.
    The little touch at the end was superb, a nice way to link the first Doctor with the (then) present. By then the water works were well and truly flowing!

    janetteB @janetteb

    Interesting reading through the comments from way back in 2013. Seems so long ago now. I have re watched Adventure in Time and Space many times since and every time I pick up on something I missed before. It was only on second or third watch for instance that I realised that Ian (William Russell) is the security guy in the beginning. I also did not realise just how many of the former companions appear in crowd shots.

    Also interesting to note in the comments above the praise for David Bradley’s performance. Yes he nailed both the actor and the character, not an easy task I would imagine. He was playing not one by two roles. He is now firmly fixed in my “head canon” as the first Doctor. Barbara and Ian remain the originals however. I thought the actor playing Carol Ann Ford was probably a better actor than Carol Ann Ford and could quite happily accept her as a substitute if required, though if Susan is to return I would prefer it to be either an older version or a regeneration.

    We were really blessed with three wonderful productions for the anniversary, the special itself, An Adventure in Time and Space and the lovable Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. All three have been re watched many times in this household.


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I think the thing I most noticed on the rewatch was how well this programme ages; it’s a tribute to Mark Gatiss’ writing and David Bradley’s acting that it’s much more than a ‘making of’ drama-doc.

    The theme running through it may also be the theme running through the Christmas Special. Reluctance to go, even when it’s time. Doctor Who might be the high point of a career – but in the end, you have to go.

    And William Hartnell’s journey from jobbing actor to star to being fired is heartbreaking (and David Bradley shows all that pain and bewilderment). It’s especially heartbreaking because Hartnell’s illness meant that he never understood how ill he was.

    I think (hope) that the plan for the Christmas Special is going to allow David Bradley to develop the role of First Doctor, rather than simply imitate it. He’s that good in this; I want to see his take on the First Doctor.

    Craig @craig


    I’m going to slap a fiver on the table and say that that scene will be viewed again, from a slightly different angle, on Saturday.

    It may have taken more than a week – four years more. But in the end you were right!

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    I can’t believe I didn’t leave a comment on this before because it’s really rather excellent and I think easily Gatiss’s best Who-related work. And agree with @janetteb that Bradley is great at conveying not just Hartnell but Hartnell as the Doctor. His last few scenes in this are just heart-breaking — and his ‘I don’t want to go’ moment genuinely tear-inducing (cf Tennant’s version). And like @bluesqueakpip, I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does with Doctor 1 proper at Christmas because all the indications are that he won’t just do a pastiche a la Hurndall but bring something of his own to the part.

    Capaldi and Moffat and Gatiss will be remembered for much in this period of Who’s history, but they should definitely be remembered for the revival of the first Doctor, who for a long time has been remembered as a historical curio, as the antecedent to better things almost. It’s great that he’s been brought front and centre again, remembered as a great Doctor in his own right.

    The only thing that doesn’t work in this is Reece Sheersmith as Troughton. I don’t think it was strictly necessary and it kind of broke the moment of Hartnell’s passing slightly. Bradley was Hartnell. Sheersmith was just dodgy cosplay.

    And while Bradley deserves all the kudos going, I think it’s a shame that Sacha Dhawan and Jessica Raine get unfairly overlooked in this because they’re both fantastic. (Am I the only one who wonders why Raine gets left off lists of possible Doctors? Because I think she’d be great.)

    My only other downspots in this are Brian Cox who chews the scenery a bit too much for my liking (but I guess as Sydney Newman it’s only to be expected I guess) and while I get that Gatiss points out that it was impossible to namecheck everyone involved at the birth of the show, I can’t help but feel that it’s a mistake for David Whitaker not to get some kind acknowledgement because he was a key figure in the show’s early years — and his influence was felt right up to Pertwee’s opening year.


    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Oh, and this might be of interest, if it hasn’t been posted already:

    Hartnell fan @hartnellfan

    I just got this for my birthday recently. At first I was not very interested because I just thought that it might be a bit boring but then I got into the Hartnell Era itself after the tenth season’s christmas special because I had nothing else to watch and I was also intrigued by David Bradley’s performance in Twice upon a time as the first doctor. Right now I am in Hartnell’s third season and I thought that it might be time to watch an adventure in space and time just to see what the hype was about.

    When I then saw I cried for about the entire movie. It was so beautiful and a great tribute to the late William Hartnell. While I already loved his first doctor just through what I have seen of him, I now love him even more because of this masterpiece of a movie.

    I’d just like to say thank you to everybody involved for making this even though I know that none of them is probably going to see this. But nonetheless thank you for making me appreciate Hartnell even more and for making me cry about something I did not think I would ever really care about because it happened such a long time ago. Thank you for this masterpiece.


    Easily the greatest docudrama I have ever seen. I got quite emotional when David Bradley as William Hartnell said ‘I don’t want to go!’.



    I’m going to slap a fiver on the table and say that that scene will be viewed again, from  a slightly different angle, on Saturday.


    Whoops, that was a fiver down the drain!

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