It’s Doctor Who Anniversary Week which means there’s plenty of Who related stuff on TV, Radio and in the press.
Other than the main event, the Day of the Doctor, what I’ve been looking forward to is An Adventure in Space and Time, the biopic of the origins of the show and William Hartnell’s tenure as the lead character.
The show has been broadcast, the reviews are in, and on the whole the thoughts are that it was a resounding success. One particular Superfan – you know who I’m on about, I’m sure – declared that it was the best piece of drama in television history, no less. Naturally, this is not a man who engages in hyperbole; oh no.
But what did I think about it?
Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review: Thoughts
While the majority of reviews have given it five stars – indeed I haven’t seen any lower than that – I wouldn’t give it quite as much credit.
Yes, it was very enjoyable, and as a piece of TV drama – which I suppose it the point of it rather than a documentary – it hit the spot.
Most of the actors were very well cast, with the star of the show in my opinion being Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert.
Indeed, Raine’s portrayal of Lambert was the main strength of the show. Well…that and the nostalgic reconstruction of the sets and costumes.
And despite being around 90 minutes long, I felt it flew by. So I was happy with it mainly.
But I didn’t think it was as good as it could have been, and here’s why…
If You’re Going To Do Nostalgia, Do It Right
I suspect that I might get some flak in my direction for being as nit-picking as I’m going to be, but to me, if you’re going to do nostalgia, do it right.
In many ways, An Adventure in Space and Time got it right. It was cool seeing actors dressed as Menoptera or original Cybermen, just like it was good to see some actors cast because of their resemblance to the people they were playing.
But I don’t think you could expect anything less when it’s been so lovingly brought together by a Doctor Who fan like Mark Gatiss.
The thing is though, you would expect Gatiss to get some basic parts right.
For example, you might say I’m being hyper-critical for pointing it out, but having David Bradley hold up the 1965 Doctor Who annual, complete with a picture of a Menoptera on the front, whilst filming the Reign of Terror is just sloppy as far as I’m concerned.
Similarly, why have Verity Lambert leave during the filming of the Web Planet when the truth was she left after Mission to the Unknown. Was it just to get the Menoptera costumes in? Surely it would have been more fun to try to recreate the costumes of the Delegates from MTTU?
If this was any other TV show, I wouldn’t notice, and I have no doubt that the average viewer neither noticed nor cared. But again, we’re talking about Doctor Who, one of the most written about shows of all time with some of the most passionate fans. You just know that people will notice, so why go out of your way to make things incorrect? I just don’t get it.
It’s actually making me feel autistic, because I know that it’s a small thing, but it just seems so willfully wrong. Mark Gatiss will have seen these issues himself after all.
Anyway, on a similar note, one thing that bugged me was David Bradley’s performance. Again, don’t get me wrong, he was mostly brilliant, and looked and acted like William Hartnell to a scary degree, but then on the other hand, he got things carelessly incorrect.
I’m not an actor, but if I was and I was doing an impression of William Hartnell, I’d look at the tapes and I’d make sure I got stuff spot on. So take his attempt at the “One day, I shall come back” speech. How difficult would it be to mimic the way Hartnell spoke those lines? They are, after all, some of the most iconic lines in Doctor Who history and were actually repeated at the end of the show. Yet Bradley almost seems to go out of his way to say the lines with different tones and inflections. I mean, why go to all the trouble of having William Russell and Jacqueline Hill standing there in their exact outfits and having everything dressed up the way it was and ruin it by having Bradley say the critical lines in a totally different way?!
None of the other issues, like dropping in lines about “This old body of mine…” and “I don’t want to go” bother me at all, despite some people getting up in arms about them. But that to me shows the double standards at work here. Why add stuff in specifically to get a cheap pop from the viewers and then do other stuff so clearly wrong? Very frustrating.
Anyway, beyond that, it was good, but those parts brought the whole thing down for me.
- In terms of the main cast, the one major letdown was the guy playing William Russell. He was nothing like him, neither in looks nor acting style. When you compare him to the way the girl playing Carole Ann Ford went out of her way to sound like her, even though she came across a little bit over the top at times, he was desperately poor.
- And indeed, the use of Russell and Hill in general were poor. You wouldn’t think they were important players in Doctor Who’s formative years at all based on this.
- I did like that they tirelessly recreated the problems with the Pilot episode, like the TARDIS doors opening and shutting and the issues with the Doctor being too gruff.
- But again, with one hand they give and with the other they take away. I seriously doubt the Doctor was originally conceived as being 600 years old, especially when the Pilot had then written as being from a specific point in Earth’s future.
- Here’s something else that confused me…they went to the trouble to recreate the last scene of The Firemaker, but then had a discussion about potential future stories. Now, I could be wrong here, but surely The Dead Planet was written and all set to go by the time The Firemaker was filmed? The episodes directly link to each other.
- Poor old Ray Cusick; overlooked again.
- I liked the appearance of Matt Smith towards the end; I actually think that added to the show a lot.
- Only when reading the cast list did I notice Mark Eden played the BBC Controller. That was a nice touch.
- I’m aware Carole Ann Ford is in this, but I’ll have to watch it again to spot her.
- While I applaud the casting department for finding someone who looked a lot like Maureen O’Brien, even though she only appeared for around 10 seconds, I suspect their enthusiasm for finding look-alikes had long since gone by the time they cast some random bloke as Michael Craze.
- It would have been nice for the show to have included Hartnell’s return in the Three Doctors, although dramatically it probably had no merit.
- Wouldn’t “An Adventure in Time and Space” have been a better title?
Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review: Final Thoughts
There’s no doubt that there’s plenty to like about An Adventure in Space and Time. I enjoyed it a lot, and like I said earlier, the time just flew by.
But I just can’t get past the way they’ve been so meticulous in some respects and so willfully sloppy in others. The people in charge will have known the issues fine, and they’ll also have known that plenty of people out there would have spotted them too.
So that puts a dampener on it for me.
Only a little bit though.