Weekend Review: An Adventure in Space and Time

An expatriate Canadian living in 1960s England hires the first BBC female producer and a gay Anglo-East Indian director to produce a low-budget SF show. They cast an aging, veteran character actor to star as an alien who travels through time and space in a small box that’s bigger inside.

The show becomes history’s longest-running SF series. True story.

And, of course, the appetizer for this weekend’s Whovian Main Course.

Title: An Adventure in Space and Time

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Terry McDonough

Written by Mark Gatiss

David Bradley as William Hartnell
Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert
Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein
Brian Cox as Sydney Newman
Sam Hoare as Douglas Camfield
Jeff Rawle as Mervyn Pinfield
Andrew Woodall as Rex Tucker
Ross Gurney-Randall as Reg
Roger May as Len
Charlie Kemp as Arthur
Jemma Powell as Jacqueline Hill
Lesley Manville as Heather Hartnell
Cara Jenkins as Judith Carney
Toby Hadoke as Cyril
Sarah Winter as Delia Derbyshire
Jamie Glover as William Russell
Claudia Grant as Carole Ann Ford
Reece Shearsmith as Patrick Troughton

William Hartnell (archival footage)
Matt Smith

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.


In 1963, an unlikely team of young creators and a veteran actor in ailing health use the BBC’s most anachronistic facilities to create history’s longest-running SF series.

High Points:

The show features a number of small moments– funny, sad, and inspirational. A low-budget Menoptra reads the papers on the set of “The Web Planet,” Hartnell recognizes he’s no longer up to the show’s challenges, unlikely creators take charge of their stodgy BBC co-workers and win.

Low Point:

I didn’t feel the movie had any significant low points. While I understand why they might have inserted the Matt Smith cameo, it felt out of place to me.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 How does one do something new with Doctor Who? Tell the story behind the show. Most of this has been covered before, but not captured for film.

Effects: 3/6 They do a good job of recreating a low-budget world.

Production: 5/6 This isn’t Mad Men, certainly, but the show does a creditable job of recreating the early-to-mid-60s through the use of costume and limited sets.

Acting: 5/6 David Bradley, no stranger to the genre, gives an uncanny, moving portrayal of William Hartnell, a curmudgeonly but likeable actor who decides he loves being the Doctor, and soldiers on despite failing health.

Story: 5/6 Gatiss has penned a zippy script that moves from fun to serious to elegiac, rather like the series itself.

Emotional Response: 6/6 The movie could be enjoyed by people who are’t fans of Doctor Who, but my reaction has been heavily influenced by the confluence of things I enjoy: the 1960s (my country of origin), seat-of-the-pants inspiration, decent acting and writing– and the Doctor.

Overall: 5/6 A troop of school children recognize Hartnell in a park, and he joins them in fun and games. What’s not to like?

In total, An Adventure in Space and Time receives 33/42.

3 replies on “Weekend Review: An Adventure in Space and Time”

  1. TV Centre was looking a bit scruffy considering it had only opened 3 years earlier, but the Lime Grove Studios Club Bar looked much the same as it did when I drank there nearly 20 years later.

    I thought they overdid the illness a bit, when they had clips of the original Hartnell always looked better than Bradley did in the same scene, but it was generally excellent.

    • True. I think they were trying to emphasize the health issues that, combined with a very busy schedule, made it impossible to continue with the role. Hartnell was actually younger than he looked at the time, a fair bit younger than the actor playing him.

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