Friday, July 25, 2014

An Adventure in Space and Time Review

In 2013, The BBC celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its iconic science fiction series, Doctor Who. The week of its anniversary there were tons of documentaries, specials, and classic episodes of the series shown all week culminating in a special episode that was broadcast to movie theaters in ninety-four countries. One of the specials celebrating the history of Doctor Who was a television release movie about the show getting started and the legacy it created. An Adventure in Space and Time (2013) went above and beyond the usual low standard that most television release movies have and made a fun movie experience for Doctor Who newcomers and diehards alike.
In 1963 Sydney Newman (Brian Cox), progressive head of BBC TV's drama department wants to fill a Saturday tea-time slot with a show with youth appeal and hits on an idea of an august figure, like a doctor, leading a group of companions on time travel adventures. Wannabe producer Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) is frustrated by the TV industry's glass ceiling. Newman takes a chance and appoints Verity to expand the idea. She takes on a young Indian director Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan) to direct the television show. Fighting sexist and racial bigotry, Verity and Waris persuade crusty character actor William Hartnell (David Bradley) to play the doctor figure, who himself felt trapped by a succession of hard-man roles. Fighting many technical hiccups and competition with coverage of the Kennedy assassination, the first episode of "Doctor Who" is born. As the show slowly becomes a success Hartnell displays an obsession with his character, but after three years ill health catches up with him and he starts to forget his lines. The show became such a rewarding part of the lives involved in creating it, but can Doctor Who go on without The Doctor?
If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy and are not familiar with Doctor Who you are missing out. This series predates both Star Wars and Star Trek, and in spite of its hilariously low budget in its early years it features some high end science fiction and fantasy that should appease geeks of all varieties. The new series has significantly better special effects, camera work, and writers but the classic series has its appeal, much like the nostalgia of watching the original Star Trek or Lost in Space television shows. An Adventure in Space and Time combines my love for this long running series and my love of film production. It's also a bittersweet story about an aging man rediscovering fulfillment late in his life.
An Adventure in Space and Time was written by Mark Gatiss who also writes (and occasionally acts) in the new Doctor Who series as well as BBC's crime drama Sherlock. If you've been watching Doctor Who over the past several years, you'll notice bits of memorable dialogue from the series put into the script here. It's so well integrated that it's easy to overlook. But if you catch it, it makes the lines in the movie more impacting and dramatic. The story is easy to follow, the script is well written, and has lots of nods to the series strewn throughout. To indicate the passage of time, the camera focuses on the Tardis console's "Yearometer" to show what year we are advancing to in the movie's storyline. I was so invested in the story that when a BBC executive insists that Newman "kill Doctor Who", I was horrified for a moment before realizing that the show is still airing 50 years later.
William Hartnell and David Bradley
The acting was outstanding! Especially David Bradley as William Hartnell. Bradley is probably best known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter movies. The two look so similar it's uncanny! Seriously if they wanted to feature the First Doctor in the television show again, they could easily get Bradley to do it and I doubt anyone would hardly notice. He's spot on in vocal inflections and mannerisms. It's as if Hartnell were still alive and with us! He delivers a touching performance that did television's heritage proud. Many cast members have appeared in both the new and classic Doctor Who series; including Mark Eden who played Marco Polo in the now lost episodes alongside the real William Hartnell.
Several scenes from the classic Doctor Who were recreated for the movie, including replicas of the 1960's Dalek props crossing London's Westminister Bridge and The Doctor bidding his granddaughter farewell. These recreated scenes were done with such loving care and detail as to pay due respect to the originals while still captivating how cheap and silly the sets and props were.
An Adventure in Space and Time was a delightful reflection upon inception of Doctor Who. It's charming, poignant, and at time exciting. The camera work is great, the acting is fantastic, and the period sets and costuming are amazing. It is a drama and may not appeal to all viewers. It's less about the Doctor Who television show and more about the actors and production crew members. You don't have to be a hardcore Doctor Who fan to appreciate this movie, but dyed-in-the-wool Whovians will likely relish this amiable story. As a television release movie it's not rated, but I'd give it a PG and that only because it shows adults drinking alcoholic beverages a couple of times. This is very much a family friendly movie. I recommend seeing An Adventure in Space and Time if you can find it, it may even be worth owning a copy if you enjoy this sort of movie; I know I do.

Here's a trailer for An Adventure in Space and Time:

An Adventure in Space and Time is not on Netflix streaming or DVD in the United States. You can purchase a copy on, though. It's a shame you can't find it some other way and watch it right now.
*cough cough* click here *cough*

Can you think of another classic television show that would make a good "making of" movie? Comment below and tell me about it!

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