TV: “An Adventure in Space and Time” (2013)

You know, I’m getting rather psyched up about this Doctor Who 50th anniversary. My earliest memory turned out to be the first Sylvester McCoy episode, “Time and the Rani”, back when I was five. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember being terrified at a scene were current companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) triggered a trap, and she floated off in a bubble, doomed to explode when it landed. On watching it 20 years later, she didn’t blow up it turned out.

doctor who an adventure in space and timeI was probably a bit young for it at the time, and I don’t remember anything else solid about the three seasons before its cancellation in 1989. But since the 2005 revival, I’ve been a big fan. It’s only now that I’m sort of drifting away from it. I think it’s the overly complicated story arcs that keep getting bailed out by convenient plot devices. I hope the show continues, but I’m having a bit of an estrangement at the moment.

However, it’s the big 5-o this year, and the BBC have given plenty of screen-time to anniversary events. Tomorrow we have a highly-anticipated anniversary special that is sure to have some shocks, I’m very excited at what they might give us, especially considering the mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor” that brought back eighth Doctor Paul McGann for a surprise appearance, only his second performance, after his standalone 90s TV movie. We already know David Tennant is back, but I’m holding out for a few more old Doctors in the mix.

ANYWAY. “An Adventure in Space and Time” is a … I’m sure there’s a word. Docu-drama? Maybe it’s just a dramatisation. Either way, it tells the story of the birth of the show, and potted extracts from its first four years.

doctor who an adventure in space and time 2I didn’t know much about it really and despite knowing it lived on for 50 years, it’s easy to take for granted how easily that could have not been the case. Nearly cancelled after a few episodes, it was a gamble that nearly didn’t pay off for pioneering female producer Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine), raucous co-creator Sydney Newman (Brian Cox), debuting Indian director Waris Hussein (cutey Sacha Dhawan) and grouchy first Doctor William Hartnell (David Bradley). But then the Daleks were used for the first time, turning around the fortunes for the show.

It makes me appreciate the Daleks a bit more now, I always felt people go on about them a bit too much, perhaps with rose-tinted glasses. But I can at least see why they’ve become such a pivotal feature in the show now.

doctor who an adventure in space and time 3All the period stuff was done really well, the programme looked wonderful. I was a little thrown by the absence of Verity for much of the latter half. Obviously it has to fit with history, but it seemed so set up as her story to begin with, but that tone suddenly shifted to the William show. I just don’t see why it wasn’t his story to start with, it sort of messed with the flow.

A few bits made me cringe a little – the “time-o-matic” prompt of what year we were in, the baffling Matt Smith cameo, precocious child actors, a script that felt compelled to jam as many Easter eggs for the fans in as it could, no matter how ham-fistedly they were put in. But the good stuff outweighed all that. The tone was a bit tricky, with the second half being a bit too much of a downer instead of a celebration. The saddest moments were moving and brilliant, but overall it should have felt a bit more like a celebration of the show than it did.

Still, it was still an intriguing and absorbing show, and a lovely book-end to the 50th anniversary celebrations. Let’s just see what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, I’m going to have a Doctor Who Youtube binge.

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