Saturday 23 November 2013

An Adventure in Space and Time

I think we can all accept that this is not a factual documentary. There are things in this drama that are not accurate or realistic. For instance, I'm pretty sure that Verity Lambert was a lot more confident and not nearly as timid as she appears in this, as Lawrence Miles pointed out the other day. This is a tender and affectionate tribute and celebration of the birth of Doctor Who.

I was a bit worried about this, as I regard Mark Gatiss as one of the less impressive Doctor Who writers. He has written some very second-rate stories. However, it turned out to be both moving and enjoyable. This is probably the best thing Gatiss has written. It tells the story that all of us Who fans know by heart, but brings it to life in a way that is accessible for the newer viewer.

David Bradley is incredible in the role of Hartnell. He seems so true to the part, much more so than Richard Hurndall was in The Five Doctors. The other cast do a great job too, though the stand-in for Troughton does not look much like the man at all. He looked more like somebody doing a cosplay of the Second Doctor at a convention.

Long term readers of this blog will know I obsess over Received Pronunciation and lament the inability of many modern actors to speak in proper RP. I was dreadfully worried that Verity Lambert was going to sound like Tony Blair or a BBC newsreader, but thankfully Jessica Raine sounded RP most of the time. Some of the actors ought to have sounded a little posher, but never mind.

While at times there was a touch of sentimentality in An Adventure, it succeeded in being moving. Some of the tenderest moments were when we saw Hartnell with his family. It was so lovely when Hartnell was crying over the fireplace on knowing his time when the show was over, that Heather Hartnell said "I'll make a nice cup of tea."

The drama was not, however, perfect. A lot of the people most involved in the early success of the show were glossed over, such as Terry Nation, Ray Cusick, Delia Derybshire and the Radiophonic Workshop. Unsurprisingly, Gatiss made the decision to play safe and barely acknowledge Hartnell's tendency to bigoted opinions, something that genuinely impacted his relationship with others, including Waris Hussein. The appearance at the end of Matt Smith was quite unnecessary, as were some of the in-jokes, most especially the reference to one of Gatiss' novels.

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