Even as I write this, the airing of the 50th Anniversary Special for Doctor Who ticks closer, and I cannot wait, knowing I get to see David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt on the screen as various incarnations of the Doctor, as well as the return of Billie Piper as Rose (in some form or another) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), the Daleks and who knows what other wonders we’ll see as we move towards the approaching regeneration as Smith leaves the series to be replaced by Doctor No. 12 Peter Capaldi.
I’m very excited!
To help in the celebrations of the Doctor’s 50 year run, the first episode aired November 22, 1963, and has been around since, the BBC has commissioned a feature length telefilm about the creation of the series, how it grew, and also the very first Doctor, William Hartnell, played by David Bradley.
Written by Mark Gatiss, the series takes us back to take a look at the show’s inception, from the first blush of an idea in the BBC’s Head of Drama’s mind, Canadian Sydney Newman (Brian Cox), to its growth under the Beeb’s first female producer, a tough gig at any time sadly, but seemingly more so in the male-dominated BBC, Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine).
Helming the first block of stories was the first Indian director for the BBC Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), he and Verity, under Sydney’s watchful eye, and with input from Hartnell set about creating a science fiction icon – the Mad Man in the Blue Box.
50 years on, we as fans, take a lot of the story for granted, and as much as a behind-the-scenes buff as I am, I didn’t know about the first female producer and first Indian director. But, knowing the philosophy that is behind Doctor Who, that everyone is important, and anyone can do anything if they set their mind to it, it just made sense to me.
Gatiss’ script carefully weaves through Hartnell’s run as the Doctor, as he begins to grow older, and less able, as well as working in classic lines that Whovians would recognize, most poignantly of which is Bradley’s delivery of “I don’t want to go…” a painful moment for both him and Tennant’s Doctor.
The story itself is completely enrapturing, and no doubt would appeal to a non-fan as well as a wonderful tale, and a look at the creation of this endearing show.
Bradley is amazing as Hartnell, perfectly playing both the man and the character he created, a man who knew what each knob and switch did on the TARDIS’ console because the kids would notice everything he did. He understood the need for continuity, and despite the fact that he had to leave the series, Hartnell was the first, and we wouldn’t have all the travels we’ve had since without him.
My favorite moments included Verity on the bus seeing the birth of the show’s popularity, and Hartnell’s encounter with some starstruck school children.
It was a very well-crafted film, and despite the fact that I knew he had to leave the series and was replaced by Patrick Troughton, it was still a heartache to watch it happen.
At the film’s end, Gatiss creates a wishful moment at the TARDIS console allowing Hartnell to look forward to see what he’s created as Doctor 11 (Smith) smiles back at him.
What was originally positioned as a slightly scary kiddie show has become an internationally beloved series, with fans claiming their favorite Doctors, companions, villains, and what a tapestry to choose from…
50 years, and still going…
So… all of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will – where do you want to start?