Last Level Press

Film Review: An Adventure in Space and Time

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

“…you can’t rewrite history, not one line. Except, perhaps, when you embark on an adventure in space and time.”

The year is 1963, and the BBC requires a new show to fill Saturday evenings that appeals to the youth, a science fiction series with an old man leading a group of people on adventures through time and space. With up-and-coming producer Verity Lambert and young director Waris Hussein fighting against sexism and racial prejudice, they create the first episode of Doctor Who with veteran character actor William Hartnell to take on the role of the Doctor, the First Doctor. I might be late for this, but in celebration of fifty years of gracing television screens across the United Kingdom, this is An Adventure in Space and Time, the biopic of the rough start and success of the longest running science fiction show on the planet and the men and women behind it.

An Adventure in Space and Time is, visually, a look into the past. There is rarely a shot that is ever wasted, the environments look great, and the recreation of the TARDIS console is perhaps the most strikingly beautiful thing of all with its sleek design, numerous buttons and dials, and simple execution. Almost nothing in this film is CGI and, for a biopic about television production in the 1960s, should be a thing. The only exception would be the numbers on the “year-ometer” that go through William Hartnell’s three years as the Doctor.

The audio is great. Not only are we treated to some songs that were from the era but also to actual audio quality from the 1960s when watching or listening to the finished product of these early episodes. Nothing is ever too loud or too quiet and I finally learn the origin of the noise that the TARDIS makes when materializing. Since this is a drama, the film doesn’t have many quiet moments so much as it has moments with no dialogue: we feel a certain way by how the music is played in the moment but it isn’t simply left to its own devices as the actors during the scenes help to amplify the emotional impact. This is the norm of the genre after all.

The story is told, as to be expected, chronologically. We meet our initial cast and as Hartnell continues through the years as the Doctor and grows to love the role we see not only the people who helped make the show get its legs leave but also the companions and finally the departure of Mr. Hartnell to hand the show over to the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. Nothing ever really feels rushed and the story proceeds exactly at the pace it needs to. We see things change slowly and steadily and really that’s what the film ultimately comes down to: it’s a story of the adversity to change and how time stops for no man.

Despite how cheesy some of the old episodes of Doctor Who can be, the acting in this film is top notch. David Bradley (Game of Thrones, The World’s End) plays the venerable William Hartnell. and does an absolutely superb job of imitating Hartnell’s mannerisms and speech patterns as well as portraying himself to still be human despite his harsh attitude and, of course, playing a 600 year old alien. Jessica Raine (Doctor Who, Call the Midwife) and Sacha Dhawan (Being Human, Outsourced) play the dynamic duo of Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein, who tackle being in a world dominated by old white men. While they play their roles well and it seems there’s not much to take away from them, the two have good chemistry on screen.  You can honestly believe that they want Doctor Who to be a success in the beginning, work against all the odds, and when the two finally part, it’s bittersweet, but you know that they wouldn’t trade those moments for the world. And, despite only having minimal roles, there are cameos by actors who were originally on the show, such as William Russell (Ian Chesterton) and Carol Ann Ford (Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter).

An Adventure in Space and Time, despite being a dramatic retelling of the early years of Doctor Who, is in every way a heartfelt love letter to those who helped to make it possible, and is quite bittersweet. To see a cantankerous old man who takes his work very seriously slowly whittle away due to his health and willing to risk his health because Doctor Who can’t be without the Doctor, and having become an icon to children and adults alike is truly moving. And the ending scene, which I won’t spoil, is beautiful; it feels as though the film is more for fans than those curious about the show’s origins. If you’re a fan and want your heartstrings tugged a little, definitely give this a go. If you’re curious or enjoy biopics, there is nothing to fear since you don’t need to know anything about Doctor Who from then or now to enjoy it. So, here’s to another fifty years Doctor Who.

Rating: 7.0

Visuals: 7
Audio: 7
Narrative: 8
Acting: 7
Atmosphere & Experience: 6

  Director: Terry McDonough

  Producer: Matt Strevens

  Studio: BBC Television Centre

  Release Date (U.S.):  Nov 21, 2013

  Release Date (U.K.):  Nov 21, 2013

  Release Date (JP):  Nov 21, 2013

Final Verdict:


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