A review by Nalini Haynes
An Adventure in Space and Time is a romanticised history – a dramatary – of the birth of Doctor Who up until William Hartnell, the first doctor, was sacked and replaced by Patrick Troughton.
Adventure opens with William Hartnell (David Bradley) in 1966, sitting in a car staring straight ahead with downturned mouth, staring at a police box until a police officer taps on the car window, instructing him to move on. Thus the tone is set: although other issues – sexism, racism and the powers-that-be trying to shut Doctor Who down – are mentioned in passing, this romanticised history seems more concerned with justifying the BBC sacking of the first doctor than recounting the battles fought and won to keep Doctor Who alive.
My enjoyment of the story was tempered because I was saddened by how, if anyone was the villain in this story, the BBC portrayed William Hartnell as the villain, also portraying him as a washed-up old man at the age of 58. I’ve seen lots of DVD extras recently, many of which seem to focus on the BBC or personalities therein responding to critics. The focus of An Adventure in Space and Time makes me wonder if William Hartnell’s sacking is still an issue for the BBC and within fandom 50 years after the pilot, 47 years after he was sacked and 38 years after his death.
The image was as good as you’d expect for a DVD recording created in 2013, including being presented in the correct ratio.
The extras included a portion of the interview with the original William Hartnell. I’m not sure if this interview was included in the Doctors Revisited extras or one of the other recent releases, but I recently saw a larger portion of that interview attached as an extra to a Doctor Who story. On this DVD, this interview portion led to other interviews – such as with Carol Ann Ford (the original Susan Foreman) and Russell Enoch (Ian Chesterton) talking about Doctor Who and William Hartnell.
It’s interesting to note that William Hartnell’s difficulties learning so many lines in such a short space of time continued to be an issue for later, younger actors taking on the role of the Doctor. This is mentioned – not in relation to William Hartnell – in other extras on other DVDs.
It seems that the BBC is trying to whitewash history for its 50th anniversary offerings, in the Doctors Revisited and in these extras. While I understand this temptation, I’m disappointed that the boffins and powers-that-be have taken this tack.
Nonetheless, An Adventure in Space and Time and the extras are well worth viewing as a brief history. The fan, the anthropologist and the archaeologist seeking to piece together a full history of the series will find these extras essential viewing to understand both past history and the BBC’s current mindset motivating presentations in 2013.