DVD Review: AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE & TIME

ADVENTURE IN SPACE & TIME Combo Pack

Photo © BBC/BBC WORLDWIDE 2013

(Special thanks to BBC Home Entertainment for providing a complimentary DVD/Blu-Ray set for review)

One of the highlights of last year’s Doctor Who anniversary celebration was the premiere of An Adventure in Space and Time, a docudrama penned by Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock) focusing on the early years of the program. Thankfully, it has been released in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack….and is a must-own for Who fans of all stripes.

If you’re looking for a hard, history based docudrama….An Adventure In Space and Time will disappoint. (For the factual truth, check out the Doctor Who: Origins featurette contained within the In the Beginning boxed set. But for a reference-filled love letter to the series, Adventure contains just enough to make it an entertaining – and emotionally moving – view. Focusing on the first three years, the film focuses on how the show was a make-or-break experience for Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine, from the Who episode Hide and the BBC’s Call the Midwife), a female director in a male-dominated realm, and William Hartnell (David Bradley, via Game of Thrones and the Who episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship), a fading film actor who believes television is “beneath” him. Assisting Lambert in launching the series is director Waris Hussein (Sascha Dawahn), who is – like Lambert – working against the grain in the BBC. Lambert has great expectations placed upon her by Sidney Newman (Brian Cox, X-Men 2), a producer who has a blustery exterior (“They asked me for an idea – I told them The Avengers!…I don’t know what it’s about, but it’s a great title!”), but who has no problem putting both Lambert and Hussein on the firing line (especially during a very uncomfortable lunch at a Chinese restaurant).

Photo Credit: HAL SHINNIE, © BBC/BBC WORLDWIDE 2013

Photo Credit: HAL SHINNIE, © BBC/BBC WORLDWIDE 2013


One of the main strengths of An Adventure in Space and Time is that there are numerous references to Doctor Who woven throughout the script. Not only do we get the obvious nods towards the first three years of the show (you will never think of the Cybermen in the same way after the first fifteen minutes), but elements are used in very creative ways. One sequence has Newman reading Terry Nation’s Dalek script against a montage portraying the assassination of John F. Kennedy; another has a frustrated designer creating a mockup TARDIS interior with a few household items. But there are some references that are much more subtle – a Dalek voice is overlaid when Hartnell first suspects potential health issues; a clever reference to a new Who episode reveals the depth of despair towards the end.

An Adventure In Space and Time, despite its sentimentality, also contains some harsh truths about the time: we see examples of rampant sexism, racism (especially Hartnell’s telling response to Hussein about directing A Passage to India, and unhealthy behavior (there is as much smoking and drinking as in your average episode of Mad Men). But don’t let that dissuade you from watching – An Adventure in Space and Time tells a great behind-the-scenes story without descending into tabloid-style revelations.

Photo Credit: HAL SHINNIE, © BBC/BBC WORLDWIDE 2013

Photo Credit: HAL SHINNIE, © BBC/BBC WORLDWIDE 2013


Both the DVD and Blu-Ray of the film have tons of bonus features, including reconstructions of classic Doctor Who moments, a behind-the-scenes making of, and a great five minute featurette focusing on William Hartnell (featuring long-lost footage which first premiered on the Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet). The DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack also features a bonus DVD with An Unearthly Child, the first Doctor Who story….and which contains its own bonus features, including the unaired pilot, information text, and several comedy sketches. (If only they had included Doctor Who: Origins…but that’s just a minor quibble).

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, classic television, or even docudramas….An Adventure in Space In Time is a must-own….and a must-watch.

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