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An Adventure in Space and Time is a 2013 British biographical television film focusing on the creation of the popular science fiction television series Doctor Who in the 1960s, with emphasis on actor William Hartnell, who portrayed the original incarnation of the show's main character, the Doctor. It was directed by Terry McDonough, and written by regular Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss. It premiered on BBC Two in the United Kingdom on 21 November 2013, and later that year in the rest of the world.[3][4][5][6][7]

An Adventure in Space and Time
Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time Poster.jpg
Written byMark Gatiss
Directed byTerry McDonough
Theme music composerEdmund Butt
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Matt Strevens
CinematographyJohn Pardue
Editor(s)Philip Kloss
Running time83 minutes[1]
Original networkBBC Two
Original release21 November 2013 (2013-11-21)[2]

David Bradley portrays Hartnell in the film, which later led to him being cast as the First Doctor himself in the 2017 Doctor Who episodes "The Doctor Falls" and "Twice Upon a Time"[8] and in a series of audio adventures for Big Finish Productions.[9]



In 1966, William Hartnell (David Bradley) is in his dressing room at the BBC. He insults a stagehand who calls him to the set, where the delay caused by his absence is noticed. Hartnell enters in costume, ready to film his last moments as the First Doctor and stands in front of the TARDIS console.

Three years earlier, BBC executive Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) is asked to create a show that will fill the gap between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury. He has an idea for a science-fiction series with the central character being a "doctor", although he does not know of what. When he tells his colleague Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) she is hesitant to join the project. She changes her mind when Newman asks her to be the producer, not his assistant. Lambert and the show's director, Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), meet William Hartnell to offer him the lead role in what will eventually be titled Doctor Who and, despite some trepidation, he accepts.

During rehearsal, Hartnell is dissatisfied that the TARDIS lacks an interior set. Newman then compliments Hartnell's acting ability to save his producer from a troublesome conversation. However, Newman has misgivings about Lambert's handling of her job. This inspires Lambert to become more assertive and she forces the set designer to finally create the TARDIS interior. He does so effortlessly, impressing Lambert. The recording of the pilot episode is beset with difficulties; Newman dislikes the result and orders a re-shoot. Following this, he is finally contented and schedules a transmission date.

Lambert and Hussein are nervous as the broadcast of the first episode occurs the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and its potential audience is diminished. Newman summons Lambert and tells her of Controller of BBC1 Donald Baverstock's (Mark Eden) decision to cancel the show, but Lambert emphasises her belief in it and demands he repeat the first episode before the second is screened. For the next serial, Newman expresses his concern about the Daleks, referring to them as "bug-eyed monsters", which he refused to allow on the show since its creation. However, Lambert eventually convinces him. Following the transmission of the first Dalek story, Lambert realises its popularity when she spots children impersonating the creatures' catchphrase, "Exterminate". Newman is pleased to tell her that the programme achieved a viewership of 10 million and continued production is now assured.

As most of the original cast and crew (including Hussein and Lambert) gradually move on to other projects, Hartnell's health declines, leading him to forget lines and require scenes to be re-shot — something the BBC can ill-afford. Hartnell meets with Newman and asks for a reduced workload, but the decision has already been taken to replace him. Hartnell has grown to embrace playing the Doctor and struggles with his emotional attachment to the character; with little choice, he reluctantly accepts the situation. He breaks into tears as he informs his wife Heather (Lesley Manville) of the news, admitting that he doesn't want to leave the role.

Before his final scene, Hartnell shares a brief exchange with his successor, Patrick Troughton (Reece Shearsmith). As the cameras are about to record, Hartnell looks across the main console and sees Matt Smith, who will play the same role nearly 50 years later. Smith silently acknowledges Hartnell's legacy before disappearing as Hartnell begins the scene.



For the thirtieth anniversary of Doctor Who in 1993, filmmaker Kevin Davies pitched an idea called The Legend Begins to the BBC.[10] The Legend Begins would have mixed documentary interviews with those responsible for the creation of Doctor Who with a dramatised strand showing the programme's beginnings.[11] Eventually, the dramatisation idea was abandoned in favour of a standard documentary format looking at the entire history of Doctor Who, which was broadcast on BBC1 as Doctor Who: Thirty Years in the TARDIS in November 1993.[10] Ten years later, for the fortieth anniversary, writer and executive producer Mark Gatiss pitched the idea for the film to BBC Four, unaware of Davies's previous attempt. However, the proposal was rejected, and Gatiss was told that there was no available slot or budget.[11]


In order to make the film understandable to a general audience, not all personnel involved in the creation of Doctor Who are represented. For example, the role of original story editor David Whitaker is merged with that of associate producer Mervyn Pinfield; co-creator Donald Wilson and writer C.E. Webber are also excluded.[12]

Part of the production involved the recreation of scenes from the classic series, including missing episodes such as Marco Polo.[13] Gatiss also had ambitions to recreate the death of Sara Kingdom from The Daleks' Master Plan using original actress Jean Marsh to play the increasingly aging Sara, and to use Super 8 footage of a recreation of the Radio Times publicity photo-shoot for The Three Doctors, but the budget did not accommodate these ambitions.[12]


Principal photography for the film began in February 2013. Filming primarily took place at Wimbledon Studios in London,[14] and the BBC Television Centre;[15] it was the final drama to be recorded at the latter, which closed one month after filming concluded.[16]

Location filming took place on 17 February 2013, on Westminster Bridge in London. This involved replicas of 1960s Dalek props crossing the bridge, in a recreation of a famous scene from The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964).[17] Interior scenes replicating early Doctor Who production at Lime Grove Studios were also filmed, with replicas of early television equipment being used.[18]


A number of the cast have appeared in Doctor Who at one time or another, most notably original companions William Russell and Carole Ann Ford. David Bradley appeared in the Series 7 episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", while Jessica Raine was in the Series 7 episode "Hide" and the Call the Midwife charity cross-over mini-episode; Jeff Rawle was in the Season 21 serial Frontios; Mark Eden appeared as the title character in the Season 1 serial Marco Polo; Nicholas Briggs, who has voiced the Daleks since the series was revived in 2005, portrayed his own predecessor; and Brian Cox voiced the Elder Ood in The End of Time. Jean Marsh and Anneke Wills, who both played companions to Hartnell's First Doctor also appeared during Verity Lambert's leaving party scene.

Doctor Who actorsEdit

Behind-the-scenes personnelEdit



Ratings and reviewsEdit

The drama was watched by 2.71 million viewers in the UK.[29] Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 95% approval rating based on 22 reviews, and an average score of 8.5/10. The website's critics consensus reads "Fun, clever, and eminently accessible, An Adventure in Space and Time offers entertaining viewing for Doctor Who newcomers and diehards alike."[30] On Metacritic, it holds a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 11 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[31]

Awards and nominationsEdit

On Monday 24 March 2014, An Adventure in Space and Time was nominated for three BAFTA Craft Awards; Suzanne Cave for 'Best Costume Design', Philip Kloss for 'Editing - Fiction' and Vickie Lang for 'Make Up and Hair Design'.[32] Lang was successful in her category, with Gemma Chan presenting her the award on Sunday 17 April 2014. Speaking to Jenni Falconer, she described how she 'absolutely loved the project, [and that] it was a hair and make up artist's dream.' [33]

Further nominations for the production from the BAFTA Awards for 'Best Single Drama' and the Hugo Awards for 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form' were received on Monday 7th and Saturday 19 April 2014.[34][35] The BAFTA Award was won by Channel 4's Complicit at the ceremony on 18 May.[36] The winner of the Hugo Award was announced on Sunday 17 August 2014. The award went to the Game of Thrones episode "The Rains of Castamere".

Home mediaEdit

An Adventure in Space and Time was released on DVD on 2 December 2013 in the UK.[37][38] A 3 disc Blu-ray set was released in the US and Canada 27 May 2014. The set includes the feature on Blu-ray, DVD and An Unearthly Child DVD.[39][40] The special was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray on 8 September 2014 as part of a "50th Anniversary Collectors Boxset" alongside "The Name of the Doctor", "The Night of the Doctor", "The Day of the Doctor", "The Time of the Doctor" and "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot".[41]

Soundtrack releaseEdit

An Adventure in Space and Time
Soundtrack album by
Edmund Butt
Released3 March 2014
LabelSilva Screen Records

Edmund Butt's score was released by Silva Screen Records 3 March 2014.[42][43][44]

Track listingEdit

1."Main Theme – An Adventure in Space and Time"0:38
2."The Right Man"1:17
3."The First Woman Producer"1:21
4."I've Got an Idea..."1:34
5."The Daleks"2:52
6."Kill Dr. Who"1:48
7."What Dimension?"1:24
8."This Is My Show"1:50
9."Autograph Hunting"2:31
10."Sydney Newman"1:00
11."Scarlett O’Hara"1:03
12."Piss & Vinegar"1:24
13."Dressing Room"1:18
14."JFK Assassinated"1:48
15."The TARDIS"0:57
16."Goodbye Susan"2:37
17."10 Million Viewers"0:57
18."The Fans"0:41
19."I’m So Sorry Bill"2:45
20."Kiss Goodbye"1:05
21."My Successor"1:06
22."Isop Galaxy"0:50
24."The New Doctor"3:55
25."Time’s Up..."1:15


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External linksEdit