It’s difficult not to come away moved by An Adventure in Space and Time, even if it does basically constitute a piece of BBC self-promotion of producing an icon. There is no mention of the attempt to kill it off in 1986 though. Or Doctor Who’s cancellation in 1989. At least though the BBC don’t pretend they jumped at the idea in the first place, fortunately and realistically everyone thinks Sidney Newman’s idea about an old man and his grand-daughter travelling through time and space in a police box is bonkers.
The woman that wins everyone around, and who the drama hinges on in the end is Verity Lambert, portrayed superbly by Jessica Raine. She’s struggling against the BBC of the 1960s: “a sea of fag smoke, tweed and sweaty men.” Fortunately, she finds a willing companion in Doctor Who’s first ever director Waris Hussein. There’s a notably beautiful moment when there in a BBC bar and the barman is avoiding serving Hussein at all costs. Lambert storms up to the bar and demands a glass of red and vodka tonic, and on catching Hussein locking eye contact with a dashing boy across the bar, spots him looking worried and declares marvelously, “Oh, come along, darling,” and whisks him off to have their drinks. It’s perfectly played. Hussein for a moment looks worried, but Lambert instantly does away with it: they’re partners in a world opposed to them.
David Bradley bears an eerie likeness to William Hartnell and plays a man resilient in the face of his failing mind and body. His wife takes Lambert aside in scenes set in 1965 and asks Lambert to try and make things easier for him, at which point she confides she’s leaving. Bradley plays the moment perfectly at Lambert’s leaving do, looking truly devastated and he excels in the scene where Hartnell realizes he needs to leaves the program behind him.
Lambert has to convince Sidney the program’s viable and does so basically by mouthing off at him on the subject of the Daleks. Of course, it all comes right when Sidney tells her, “You got ten million viewers for your bug-eyed monsters, so what the hell do I know?”
It all feels so touchingly remarkable and innovative. There’s gushing about the iconic theme song and title sequence. It’s all iconic actually. There’s no way that in any sense this could be mundane, it’s not like that docu-drama they did a while ago about Coronation Street. Iconic as Corrie is, it’s set in Manchester, not the moon or wherever else. The drama gets perfectly right how wonderful Doctor Who has been for decades and will go on to be, you hope, for many more.