An Adventure in Space and Time (TV story)

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An Adventure in Space and Time, released in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, was a docudrama largely about William Hartnell's era as the First Doctor. Though marketed as the story of how Doctor Who was made, it was in fact much more of a limited biopic, giving much of its screentime to an investigation of Hartnell's portrayal of the Doctor. Because the script dealt with the entirety of Hartnell's reign on the programme, and ended with the regeneration in The Tenth Planet, Verity Lambert's struggles to produce the programme, though strongly featured, were a subplot.

The show was a labour of love by writer and executive producer Mark Gatiss, who had been trying to make it since before the 40th anniversary in 2003.


A young producer frustrated by British television's glass ceiling, a new executive at the British Broadcasting Corporation, a young director of Indian descent, and an older actor struggling for artistic legitimacy come together in 1963 to start a brand new television programme called Doctor Who. After initial difficulties, the show becomes a hit, leaving the actor alone to carry on the show's traditions — and to face his increasingly ailing health.


When boisterous Canadian TV producer Sydney Newman joins the BBC, he finds himself needing to fill a timeslot on Saturday afternoon. He decides to commission a science-fiction serial with an educational element. To produce the serial, he breaks with convention and hires a woman named Verity Lambert, who had previously worked with him as an assistant. He also hires Waris Hussein, the BBC's first director of Indian descent to helm the first few episodes.

Lambert encounters two challenges from the start: she isn't taken seriously by some of the "old boys club" at the BBC, and she has to find a suitable actor to play the lead character - a scientist known as the Doctor.

She approaches William Hartnell, an esteemed character actor who, of late, has become frustrated with being typecast as military or gangster figures. Although sceptical at first, Hartnell agrees to take on the role.

Initial production of the original episode is beset with problems, from the TARDIS doors malfunctioning to fire sprinklers going off in the middle of a scene. Even more concerning is the fact Hartnell is dissatisfied with how his character is written. Newman rejects the episode and considers firing Lambert and Hussein, but then opts to let them remount it after making improvements to the character of the Doctor. Lambert, however, refuses his order to replace the theme music.

"Gosh they're creepy aren't they?" — the Daleks make their first appearance in studio.

The revised version of the episode goes over much better, and work begins on new scripts but Newman is initially upset at one of them featuring an alien menace known as the Daleks as it violates his No. 1 rule that there be no "BEMs" (bug-eyed monsters) in Doctor Who. The first broadcast is ultimately overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. To make matters worse, one of the BBC Executives tells Newman that no new Doctor Who episodes are to be made. But Lambert convinces Newman to put the Dalek story into production and to arrange a rebroadcast of the first episode the following week.

The introduction of the Daleks launches the series into popular consciousness, and Hartnell finds himself the idol of children, at one point leading a group of children around a park, pretending to be on the hunt for Daleks.

The blush of success begins to fade over time, however, as Hartnell finds himself - much as the Doctor does - having to move on as his companions and real-life friends leave the series. As Verity Lambert herself prepares to leave the series, Hartnell's wife informs her that William's health is fading due to arteriosclerosis brought on by smoking and drinking which, among other problems, has made it increasingly difficult to remember his lines. At other times, his condition makes him exhibit dementia-like symptoms.

As Hartnell finds himself at the centre of an ever-changing parade of co-stars, Newman takes notice of the actor's failing health. Hartnell goes to Newman and asks that he be given a reduced workload, however Newman tells him that he has reluctantly decided that he should be replaced with the producers figuring out a way to keep the character of the Doctor going, but with a new actor: Patrick Troughton. Hartnell returns home and bursts into tears, devastated at leaving the role he has grown to love.

Hartnell reports for his final day on the set, where he meets Troughton and prepares to shoot his final scene. As he does so, he has a vision of the future: a young man in a tweed jacket and bow-tie / a young dark-skinned man in a brown-orange leather coat. who smiles reassuringly at him from across the TARDIS console — signifying a long life ahead for the character he originated.

As the film ends, the real William Hartnell is seen delivering his farewell speech to Susan.


Uncredited cast[[edit]]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics


General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


This section needs a cleanup.

If this is non-fiction why does it have a "Worldbuilding" section?

William Hartnell sees the future of the show (2013).
William Hartnell sees the future of the show (2023).
  • The final scene shows William Hartnell filming his final scenes in TV: The Tenth Planet. In this sequence, he literally looks into the future of Doctor Who, and sees Matt Smith next to him. Smith smiles at him and begins flipping switches on the console, a reference to the famous closing scenes of The Tenth Planet, where the switches on the console mysteriously begin moving by themselves.
    • In an updated version of the film broadcast in 2023, the scene has replaced Matt Smith with Ncuti Gatwa. Gatwa winks and smiles at Hartnell before he flips the switches on the console in the same manner as Smith in the original.


Cast notes[[edit]]


2.71 million[2]

Filming locations[[edit]]

Differences with documented history of Doctor Who[[edit]]

  • For purposes of time, certain events are omitted, arguably most notably the fact that "The Dead Planet," the first episode of The Daleks, had to also be remounted due to technical issues, and William Hartnell suffering temporary paralysis following an accident while filming The Dalek Invasion of Earth in which he injured his back.
  • Several individuals intimately involved in the early production of the series are omitted from the film, including David Whitaker, CE Webber, Donald Wilson, Eric Maschwitz and Anthony Coburn. John Wiles is alluded to, though not mentioned by name.
  • In the film, Verity Lambert is shown watching the historic flight of first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, the day before being hired as producer. In reality, she was hired two days prior to Tereshkova's flight.
  • Around the same time Lambert is hired, William Hartnell is seen watching a telecast of his sitcom The Army Game. However, the final episode of the series aired in June 1961 and, while it is possible Hartnell might be viewing a rerun, this is unlikely in 1963; the Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy lists no further UK broadcasts after 1961, and notes that most episodes of the series were wiped.
  • The conflict between Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman is exaggerated; with Newman depicted as having less investment in or understanding of the series (dismissing it as "for kids"), and Lambert depicted as rather meek. In truth, both producers were highly invested in carrying the series to success.
  • The film artfully suggests that Sydney Newman was coming to grips with the scripts for The Daleks while John F. Kennedy was being shot. However, on 22 November 1963, Serial B was fully commissioned and well into production. In fact, the day Kennedy was shot, "The Survivors", episode 2, was recorded (resulting in a brief disruption of the taping). The record shows that it was during production of "The Survivors" that the cast and crew saw the complete Daleks for the first time; this is depicted as occurring sometime after the assassination as well.
  • Hartnell holds up an annual on the set of The Reign of Terror, although the first Doctor Who Annual wasn't released until September 1965, well over a year after Reign was filmed. The cover art for the book has been altered to more closely depict David Bradley as opposed to Hartnell. This difference in chronology is made more obvious by the presence of a Zarbi on the front cover, even though the depiction of the filming of The Web Planet doesn't take place until later in the film (and, indeed, is depicted as the time when Lambert leaves the production).
  • A scene depicts Hartnell and Lambert laughing together at a real-world satirical newspaper cartoon strip published in the Daily Mail in which Charles de Gaulle is parodied as a Dalek-like character called "the DeGaullek". The scene occurs just before the cast and crew are seen on the set of Marco Polo, suggesting an early 1964 setting, while in reality the strip was not published until 25 November that same year.
  • Though Daleks speak of "extermination" and people who need to be "exterminated", they did not actually use their future catchphrase "Exterminate!" in The Daleks. In this production, the catchphrase is wrongly shown to have become popular just after the broadcast of Serial B. Indeed, Hartnell is shown to shout "Exterminate!" to kids in a park, which is unlikely because it wasn't in the script for The Daleks.
  • The speech with which Hartnell has trouble near the end of the story is from "Bell of Doom". However, The Massacre was directed by Paddy Russell, and the apparent director speaking to Hartnell from the booth was male in this production. Also, Hartnell, in reality, had no problems with this speech (his 'line flub' about Ian's name was scripted).
    • Indeed, many female crew members are changed to male in this story, and Verity Lambert is often inaccurately depicted as the only female member of the Doctor Who production team at the time.
  • Episode 1 of An Unearthly Child is shown to end with a scene in which Susan checks the radiation counter; this in fact was the closing scene of Episode 4, "The Firemaker", which in the film's chronology hasn't been shot yet. Later, when Hartnell is shown watching the first episode at home, proper closing sequence for episode 1 is shown. It is implied, therefore, that Sydney Newman watched the complete four-part serial, when only the first episode actually existed at that time.
  • During production of what would come to be called "The Pilot Episode", a male actor walks off the set after refusing to have his teeth blackened for the role of a caveman, after which another actor dressed as a caveman volunteers to replace him. In the actual production, it was a female actor who walked off the set, but during production of Episode 2, and no caveman actor was actually present on set during production of Episode 1, as the sequence with the caveman observing the TARDIS was filmed separately at another studio several days earlier.
  • It is strongly implied that the rebroadcast of the first episode was due to the Kennedy assassination news coverage; in reality, it was primarily due to a power cut preventing a portion of the country from viewing the original broadcast.
  • The film also indicates that production of the first version of Episode 1 was shut down due to the fire sprinklers going off and also due to the allotted time in the studio running out. Neither happened in real life during production of the pilot; according to DWMSE 38, the incident was based upon a mishap that occurred during production of The Aztecs.
  • Hartnell's apparent inability to remember the name "Chesterton" is used to illustrate his fading health, but, in reality, most of those errors were scripted as a running joke by the character.
  • Richard Martin is shown directing the Daleks' first on-screen appearance, which in actual fact was directed by Christopher Barry. Martin did direct some of The Daleks, but not that particular episode.
  • The sequence in which the first encounter with the Daleks is being filmed shows that the Doctor, Susan and Ian come around a corner and into a narrow corridor where the Daleks remain still before one of them says, "You will move ahead of us and follow my directions. Immediately! I said immediately!", and Ian tries to sprint down the corridor when the Daleks attack him. Whereas in the actual televised broadcast of The Daleks, they emerge from a doorway into a large room, the Daleks then advance towards them and give the same instruction but add "This way" before saying "Immediately!" and Ian tries to run in a different direction to where the Daleks are telling them to go.
  • It is incorrectly depicted that Hartnell accidentally said "gloves" instead of "drugs" during the scene where the Doctor is being interrogated by the Daleks; this mistake actually occurs in the next scene, during the conversation between the Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian in their cell.
  • Lambert's departure is suggested to take place during production of TV: The Web Planet, as actors in Menoptera costumes are visible during her party and when she discusses leaving. In reality, she left after production of TV: Mission to the Unknown during the next season. A deleted scene included with the DVD release from the same sequence shows her encountering an actor dressed as a Monoid from TV: The Ark, even though that story wasn't made until well after her departure.
  • It is suggested that talk of replacing Hartnell takes place after the introduction of Steven and Dodo, however the pair are photographed with Hartnell in their costumes from TV: The Celestial Toymaker, a serial which had been considered as a possible regeneration story.
  • The Doctor's dialogue about touching alien sand and hearing the cries of strange birds is depicted as being part of the script for Episode 1 of An Unearthly Child, but in reality it's from Episode 2.
  • Waris Hussein leaves Doctor Who to direct A Passage to India but in fact his next project was really The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling.
  • Mervyn Pinfield is depicted as talking to Sydney Newman about the decision to hire a new lead actor to replace Hartnell. In real-life, Pinfield died in May 1966, several months before that decision was made.
  • It was Innes Lloyd rather than Sydney Newman who discussed with Hartnell about him leaving Doctor Who which took place during the production of The Smugglers. Lloyd also does not appear in the film.
  • Douglas Camfield is shown as being a production assistant on The Tenth Planet but Camfield had no involvement in that story and, by that point, was a fully established director, having already directed twenty-one Doctor Who episodes.
  • At the climax of the film, Hartnell, during his final day on set, is seen to encounter a metaphorical vision of Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor.

Production errors[[edit]]

  • When Rex Tucker is considering Hugh David for the role of the Doctor, a picture of an actor smiling can be seen at the centre of the desk as Lambert is walking towards it. But as the camera changes angles, that picture is now under the one of David.
  • When Matt Smith is first seen in the TARDIS control room set, he is standing behind the console. When he is next seen, he is standing in front of the console. Smith was shot in front of a green screen and inserted into the shot in post-production, and was incorrectly layered into the second, erroneous shot. This error was corrected in the Ncuti Gatwa version of the scene by adjusting the background to remove the console from the second shot
  • In the wide shot of Westminster Bridge for the Dalek Invasion of Earth filming, modern-day traffic lights can be seen.

Home video releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

An Adventure in Space and Time was released as both a single disc edition, and later as part of the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition box set.

Released in Brazil as a single disc edition entitled Uma Aventura no Espaço e Tempo.

Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

Although released as part of the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition box set, the special did not receive its own individual Blu-ray release in the UK. In the US, the special was released on May 27 2014 as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and also includes An Unearthly Child and its special features on DVD as bonus content.

Digital releases[[edit]]

Following its broadcast on 23 November 2023, the re-release of An Adventure in Space and Time was added to BBC iPlayer's Whoniverse catalog of Doctor Who content, with the original 2013 release not being present as yet.

External links[[edit]]

to be added