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An Adventure in Space and Time (TV story)

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An Adventure in Space and Time
Main character(s): William Hartnell, Verity Lambert
Main setting: England, 1963-1966
Key crew
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Terry McDonough
Producer: Matt Strevens
Release details
Premiere broadcast: 21 November 2013
Premiere network: BBC Two
Format: 1x90 minute special
Official trailer
An Adventure in Space and Time The Trailer - Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - BBC Two00:31

An Adventure in Space and Time The Trailer - Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - BBC Two

Memorable moment
Pitching Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC01:49

Pitching Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC

Another memorable moment
Persuading William Hartnell - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC02:53

Persuading William Hartnell - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC

One more memorable moment
Hartnell Passes TARDIS over to Troughton (Matt Smith Cameo) - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC02:18

Hartnell Passes TARDIS over to Troughton (Matt Smith Cameo) - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC

Behind the scenes video
Behind the scenes of An Adventure in Space and Time - Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - BBC10:53

Behind the scenes of An Adventure in Space and Time - Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - BBC

More behind the scenes stuff
Doctor Who An Adventure in Space and Time Q&A10:05

Doctor Who An Adventure in Space and Time Q&A

You may be looking for the 1999 documentary.

An Adventure in Space and Time, released in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, was a docudrama largely about William Hartnell's era as the First Doctor. Though marketed as the story of how Doctor Who was made, it was in fact much more of a limited biopic, giving much of its screentime to an investigation of Hartnell's portrayal of the Doctor. Because the script dealt with the entirety of Hartnell's reign on the programme, and ended with the regeneration in The Tenth Planet, Verity Lambert's struggles to produce the programme, though strongly featured, were a subplot.

The show was a labour of love by writer and executive producer Mark Gatiss, who had been trying to make it since before the 40th anniversary in 2003.

Synopsis Edit

A young producer frustrated by British television's glass ceiling, a new executive at the British Broadcasting Corporation, a young director of Indian descent, and an older actor struggling for artistic legitimacy come together in 1963 to start a brand new television programme called Doctor Who. After initial difficulties, the show becomes a hit, leaving the actor alone to carry on the show's traditions — and to face his increasingly ailing health.

Plot Edit

P*** & Vinegar - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC03:57

P*** & Vinegar - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC

Verity Lambert, in her first acts as producer, discusses who might play the Doctor in the new BBC series, Doctor Who.

When boisterous Canadian TV producer Sydney Newman joins the BBC, he finds himself needing to fill a timeslot on Saturday afternoon. He decides to commission a science-fiction serial with an educational element. To produce the serial, he breaks with convention and hires a woman named Verity Lambert, who had previously worked with him as an assistant. He also hires Waris Hussein, the BBC's first director of Indian descent to helm the first few episodes.

Lambert encounters two challenges from the start: she isn't taken seriously by some of the "old boys club" at the BBC, and she has to find a suitable actor to play the lead character - a scientist known as the Doctor.

She approaches William Hartnell, an esteemed character actor who, of late, has become frustrated with being typecast as military or gangster figures. Although skeptical at first, Hartnell agrees to take on the role.

Designing the TARDIS - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC03:32

Designing the TARDIS - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC

Lambert sets out to get a design for the TARDIS.

Initial production of the original episode is beset with problems, from the TARDIS doors malfunctioning to fire sprinklers going off in the middle of a scene. Even more concerning is the fact Hartnell is dissatisfied with how his character is written. Newman rejects the episode and considers firing Lambert and Hussein, but then opts to let them remount it after making improvements to the character of the Doctor. Lambert, however, refuses his order to replace the theme music.

Introducing the Daleks - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC02:05

Introducing the Daleks - An Adventure in Space and Time - BBC

"They're actually really creepy" — the Daleks make their first appearance in studio.

The revised version of the episode goes over much better, and the greenlight is given for more episodes to be made, although Newman is initially upset at plans to introduce an alien menace known as the Daleks as it violates his No. 1 rule that there be no "BEMs" (bug-eyed monsters) in Doctor Who. The first broadcast is ultimately overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, so much so that Lambert convinces Newman to authorise a rebroadcast the following week.

The introduction of the Daleks launches the series into popular consciousness, and Hartnell finds himself the idol of children, at one point leading a group of children around a park, pretending to be on the hunt for Daleks.

The blush of success begins to fade over time, however, as Hartnell finds himself - much as the Doctor does - having to move on as his companions and real-life friends leave the series. As Verity Lambert herself prepares to leave the series, Hartnell's wife informs her that William's health is fading due to arteriosclerosis brought on by smoking and drinking which, among other problems, has made it increasingly difficult to remember his lines. At other times, his condition makes him exhibit dementia-like symptoms.

As Hartnell finds himself at the centre of an ever-changing parade of co-stars, Newman takes notice of the actor's failing health. Hartnell goes to Newman and asks that he be given a reduced workload, however Newman tells him that he has reluctantly decided that he should be replaced with the producers figuring out a way to keep the character of the Doctor going, but with a new actor: Patrick Troughton. Hartnell returns home and bursts into tears, devastated at leaving the role he has grown to love.

Hartnell reports for his final day on the set, where he meets Troughton and prepares to shoot his final scene. As he does so, he has a vision of the future: a young man in a tweed jacket and bow-tie standing across the TARDIS console, signifying a long life ahead for the character he originated.

As the film ends, the real William Hartnell is seen delivering his farewell to Susan.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics


General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References Edit

First Doctor and Matt Smith

William Hartnell sees the future of the show.

  • The final scene shows William Hartnell filming his final scenes in TV: The Tenth Planet. In this sequence, he literally looks into the future of Doctor Who, and sees Matt Smith next to him. Matt smiles at him and begins flipping switches on the console, possibly a reference to the famous closing scenes of The Tenth Planet where the switches on the console begin moving by themselves.

Story notes Edit

  • David Bradley and Jessica Raine both guest-starred in Doctor Who episodes that were broadcast during Series 7 (the telefilm was shot during the broadcast hiatus between the two halves of the season): Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and Hide, respectively.
  • In addition to the cameos by William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Anneke Wills, Jean Marsh and Matt Smith, another Who veteran appearing in the film is Mark Eden, who played the title role in TV: Marco Polo.
  • Nicholas Briggs, here playing Peter Hawkins who was hired to provide the voice of the Daleks, has performed the same duties for the TV series since 2005. He is also producer of the long-running Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio dramas range and, with Gatiss, was involved in numerous independent spin-off projects during the 1989-2005 interregnum and was also the longtime host of the Myth Makers interview series.
  • The actors playing Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills are not credited, with Purves and Lane (and by extension, Steven Taylor and Dodo Chaplet) only appearing for a few seconds.
  • William Russell (Harry — security guard), Toby Hadoke (Cyril), Carole Ann Ford (Joyce) and Reece Shearsmith (Patrick Troughton) are credited on-screen but not in Radio Times.
  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of David Bradley as William Hartnell, with the accompanying caption "An Adventure in Space and Time / 9.00 p.m. David Bradley stars as the Doctor's first screen incarnation".
  • The finale of the film includes footage of the real William Hartnell from TV: The Dalek Invasion of Earth. This same footage was used to open the 20th-Anniversary special, TV: The Five Doctors, in which another actor, Richard Hurndall, stood in for Hartnell. The official YouTube channel of Doctor Who posted a video of Bradley doing the speech as Hartnell.
  • The film's original broadcast on BBC Two was immediately followed by a rebroadcast of all four episodes of An Unearthly Child on BBC Four.
  • In separate interviews, David Bradley and Mark Gatiss mention that, months prior to his being cast as the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi visited the set.
  • Mark Gatiss had cast himself as Jon Pertwee, but his scenes were cut from the final version of the film.

Ratings Edit

2.71 million[1]

Filming locations Edit

Differences with documented history of Doctor Who Edit

  • In the film, Verity Lambert is shown watching the historic flight of first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, the day before being hired as producer. In reality, she was hired two days before Tereshkova's flight.
  • Around the same time Lambert is hired, William Hartnell is seen watching a telecast of his sitcom The Army Game. However, the final episode of the series aired in June 1961 and while it is possible Hartnell might be viewing a rerun, this is unlikely in 1963; the Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy lists no further UK broadcasts after 1961, and notes that most episodes of the series were wiped.
  • The film artfully suggests that Sydney Newman was coming to grips with the scripts for The Daleks while John F. Kennedy was being shot. However, on 22 November 1963, Serial B was fully commissioned and well into production. In fact, the day Kennedy was shot, "The Survivors", episode 2, was recorded (resulting in a brief disruption of the taping). The record shows that it was during production of "The Survivors" that the cast and crew saw the complete Daleks for the first time; this is depicted as occurring sometime after the assassination as well.
  • For purposes of time (and perhaps avoiding repetition) certain events are omitted, arguably most notably the fact that "The Dead Planet," the first episode of The Daleks, had to also be remounted due to technical issues, and William Hartnell suffering temporary paralysis following an accident while filming The Dalek Invasion of Earth in which he injured his back.
  • Hartnell holds up an annual on the set of The Reign of Terror, although the first Doctor Who Annual wasn't released until September 1965, well over a year after Reign was filmed. The cover art for the book has been altered to more closely depict David Bradley as opposed to Hartnell. This difference in chronology is made more obvious by the presence of a Zarbi on the front cover, even though the depiction of the filming of The Web Planet doesn't take place until later in the film (and, indeed, is depicted as the time when Lambert leaves the production).
  • Though Daleks speak of extermination and people who need to be exterminated, they did not actually use their future catchphrase "Exterminate!" in The Daleks. In this production, the catchphrase is wrongly shown to have become popular just after the broadcast of Serial B. Indeed, Hartnell is shown to shout "Exterminate!" to kids in a park, which is unlikely because it wasn't in the script for The Daleks.
  • The speech with which Hartnell has trouble near the end of the story is from "Bell of Doom". However, The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve was directed by Paddy Russell, and the apparent director speaking to Hartnell from the booth was male in this production. (Although it's possible, as the speaker is never identified by name, that this was an assistant director.)
  • Episode 1 of An Unearthly Child is shown to end with a scene in which Susan checks the radiation counter; this in fact was the closing scene of Episode 4, "The Firemaker", which in the film's chronology hasn't been shot yet. Later, when Hartnell is shown watching the first episode at home, proper closing sequence for episode 1 is shown. It is implied, therefore, that Sydney Newman watches the complete four-part serial, when only the first episode actually existed at that time.
  • During production of what would come to be called The Pilot Episode, a male actor walks off the set after refusing to have his teeth blackened for the role of a caveman, after which another actor dressed as a caveman volunteers to replace him. In the actual production, it was a female actor who walked off the set, but during production of Episode 2, and no caveman actor was actually present on set during production of Episode 1, as the sequence with the caveman observing the TARDIS was filmed separately at another studio several days earlier.
  • It is strongly implied that the rebroadcast of the first episode was due to the Kennedy assassination news coverage; in reality, it was primarily due to a power cut preventing a portion of the country from viewing the original broadcast.
  • The film also indicates that production of the first version of Episode 1 was shut down due to the fire sprinklers going off and also due to the allotted time in the studio running out. Neither happened in real life during production of the pilot; according to DWMSE 38, the incident was based upon a mishap that occurred during production of The Aztecs.
  • Hartnell's apparent inability to remember the name "Chesterton" is used to illustrate his fading health, but in reality most of those errors were scripted as a running joke by the character.
  • While Matt Smith's cameo never really happened in real life but was mainly added in to show that — after 50 years — the show is still going, Hartnell himself once said to Carole Ann Ford that he believed the show would go on "for ever and ever more."
  • Several individuals intimately involved in the early production of the series are omitted from the film, including David Whitaker, CE Webber, Donald Wilson and Anthony Coburn (John Wiles is alluded to, though not mentioned by name).
  • Richard Martin is shown directing the Daleks' first on-screen appearance, which in actual fact was directed by Christopher Barry. Martin did direct some of The Daleks, but not that particular scene.
  • Lambert's departure is suggested to take place during production of TV: The Web Planet (actors in Zarbi costumes are visible during her party and when she discusses leaving). In reality, she left after production of TV: Mission to the Unknown during the next season. A deleted scene included with the DVD release from the same sequence shows her encountering an actor dressed as a Monoid from TV: The Ark, even though that story wasn't made until well after her departure.
  • It is suggested that talk of replacing Hartnell takes place after the introduction of Steven and Dodo, however the pair are photographed with Hartnell in their costumes from TV: The Celestial Toymaker, a serial which had been considered as a possible regeneration story.
  • The Doctor's dialogue about touching alien sand and hearing the cries of strange birds is depicted as being part of the script for Episode 1 of An Unearthly Child, but in reality it's from Episode 2.
  • Mervyn Pinfield is depicted as talking to Sydney Newman about the decision to hire a new lead actor to replace Hartnell. In real-life, Pinfield died in May 1966, several months before that decision was made.

Production errors Edit

  • When Matt Smith is first seen in the TARDIS control room set, he is standing behind the console. When he is next seen, he is standing in front of the console. Smith was shot in front of a green screen and inserted into the shot in post-production, and was incorrectly layered into the second, erroneous shot.
  • In the wide shot of the bridge for the Dalek Invasion of Earth filming, modern day traffic lights can be seen.

Home video releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

An Adventure in Space and Time was released as both a single disc edition, and later as part of the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition box set.

Blu-ray releases Edit

Although released as part of the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition box set, the special did not receive its own individual Blu-ray release in the UK. In the US, the special was released on May 27 2014 as a Bluray/DVD combo pack, and also includes An Unearthly Child and its special features on DVD as bonus content.

External links Edit

to be added

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