An Adventure in Space and Time
Written byMark Gatiss
Directed byTerry McDonough
Music byEdmund Butt
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
ProducerMatt Strevens
CinematographyJohn Pardue
EditorPhilip Kloss
Running time83 minutes[1]
Original release
NetworkBBC Two
Release21 November 2013 (2013-11-21)[2]

An Adventure in Space and Time is a 2013 British biographical television film, starring David Bradley, Brian Cox, Jessica Raine and Sacha Dhawan. Directed by Terry McDonough, and written by regular Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss, it premiered on BBC Two on 21 November 2013, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the science fiction television series. Further, international broadcasts of the television film were made after its premiere on British television.[3][4][5][6][7]

The biographical film focuses on a dramatised version of events surrounding the creation of Doctor Who in the 1960s, with emphasis on actor William Hartnell, portrayed by Bradley, as he took on the role of the original incarnation of the show's main character, the Doctor. Alongside Hartnell, the story also focused on the behind-the-scene events with the production staff, including the involvement of Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein. The television film received positive feedback after its broadcast and received a number of award nominations. Following his role in the film, Bradley would take part in Doctor Who in the role of the First Doctor, for the 2017 episodes "The Doctor Falls" and "Twice Upon a Time",[8] and the 2022 special "The Power of the Doctor",[9] as well as for a series of audio adventures for Big Finish Productions.[10]


In 1963, Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) becomes the BBC's new Head of Drama. To plug a gap between the broadcasts of Grandstand and Juke Box Jury, he devises a new science-fiction series, to be titled "Doctor Who", which will cater to children and sports fans alike, and feature a central character who is an old man and a "doctor". Newman recruits a former production assistant Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) to head the programme as its producer, despite the difficulties she faces from others in her new role. Lambert and Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), the programme's director, recruit William Hartnell (David Bradley), typecasted for army roles, to portray The Doctor, despite his trepidation over how it will aid his acting career.

Meanwhile, Lambert strengthens her assertiveness and secures a set piece for the programme for the interior of the TARDIS, the Doctor's spaceship. Production of the pilot episode "An Unearthly Child" is beset by difficulties. Newman dislikes the end results and orders a re-shoot, including a request for Hartnell's character to be gentler and kinder on screen. Lambert and Hussein manage to complete the re-shoot in time for the pilot to be broadcast on its scheduled transmission date. Upon learning that the programme is to be cancelled, due to the diminished audience the pilot episode received in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lambert successfully appeals to Newman for it to be broadcast again before the second episode is transmitted and for the next serial to introduce monsters into Doctor Who, against Newman's beliefs. After The Daleks is broadcast, he admits he was mistaken upon seeing strong viewing figures.

Meanwhile, Hartnell takes delight in his role, becoming attached to his character and the popularity it brings him with children. However, as the programme progresses, and both cast and crew change over time (including Lambert and Hussein), Hartnell's health begins to decline. Concerned over his failure to properly remember his lines, Newman agrees to his superior's request to replace Hartnell for a new actor, Patrick Troughton (Reece Shearsmith), for the next series. Hartnell agrees to leave, but breaks down upon telling his wife the news, stating "I don't want to go". As Hartnell prepares for his final scene in 1966, recalling how Doctor Who began and his involvement with it, he commends Troughton for being his successor before his first scene is filmed. As filming begins, Hartnell looks across the TARDIS console and sees a brief vision of another actor playing the Doctor decades later,[a] silently acknowledging his work.

The film ends on an epilogue narrative of each of the main real-life figures in the story, before closing on the real Hartnell's speech made at the end of the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth.


A number of the cast have appeared in Doctor Who at one time or another, most notably original companions William Russell and Carole Ann Ford. David Bradley appeared in the Series 7 episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", while Jessica Raine was in the Series 7 episode "Hide" and the Call the Midwife charity cross-over mini-episode; Jeff Rawle was in the Season 21 serial Frontios; Mark Eden appeared as the title character in the Season 1 serial Marco Polo; Nicholas Briggs, who has voiced the Daleks since the series was revived in 2005, portrayed his own predecessor; and Brian Cox voiced the Elder Ood in "The End of Time". Jean Marsh and Anneke Wills, who both played companions to Hartnell's First Doctor also appeared during Verity Lambert's leaving party scene, while William Russell appeared as security guard Harry. Sacha Dhawan would go on to play the Master starting with the Series 12 episode "Spyfall", while Bradley would re-don the First Doctor costume to play the part himself in the 2017 Christmas episode, "Twice Upon a Time", and then again five years later in Jodie Whittaker's final episode as the Doctor "The Power of the Doctor". Bradley also appeared as the Doctor in a series of audio adventures produced by Big Finish Productions alongside Jamie Glover, Jemma Powell and Claudia Grant as Ian, Barbara and Susan.[12]

Doctor Who actors

Behind-the-scenes personnel

Uncredited cameos




For the thirtieth anniversary of Doctor Who in 1993, filmmaker Kevin Davies pitched an idea called The Legend Begins to the BBC.[23] The Legend Begins would have mixed documentary interviews with those responsible for the creation of Doctor Who with a dramatised strand showing the programme's beginnings.[24] Eventually, the dramatisation idea was abandoned in favour of a standard documentary format looking at the entire history of Doctor Who, which was broadcast on BBC1 as Doctor Who: Thirty Years in the TARDIS in November 1993.[23] Ten years later, for the fortieth anniversary, writer and executive producer Mark Gatiss pitched the idea for the film to BBC Four, unaware of Davies's previous attempt. However, the proposal was rejected, and Gatiss was told that there was no available slot or budget.[24]


In order to make the film comprehensible among a general audience, not all personnel involved in the creation of Doctor Who are represented. For example, the role of original story editor David Whitaker is merged with that of associate producer Mervyn Pinfield; co-creator Donald Wilson and writer C.E. Webber are also excluded.[25]

Part of the production involved the recreation of scenes from the classic series, including missing episodes such as Marco Polo.[26] Gatiss also had ambitions to recreate the death of Sara Kingdom from The Daleks' Master Plan using original actress Jean Marsh to play the increasingly aging Sara, and to use Super 8 footage of a recreation of the Radio Times publicity photo-shoot for The Three Doctors, with himself as Jon Pertwee, but the budget did not accommodate these ambitions.[25]


Principal photography for the film began in February 2013. Filming primarily took place at Wimbledon Studios in London,[27] and the BBC Television Centre;[28] it was the final drama to be recorded at the latter, which closed one month after filming concluded.[29]

Location filming took place on 17 February 2013, on Westminster Bridge in London. This involved replicas of 1960s Dalek props crossing the bridge, in a recreation of a famous scene from The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964).[30] Interior scenes replicating early Doctor Who production at Lime Grove Studios were also filmed, with replicas of early television equipment being used.[31]

2023 alterations

On 23 November 2023, the program was rebroadcast on BBC Four to coincide with Doctor Who's 60th anniversary, and featured some alterations, including Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith's cameo replaced by Fifteenth Doctor actor Ncuti Gatwa.[11] Scenes featuring dialogue originally used in An Unearthly Child were removed, which many assumed was due to the family of writer Anthony Coburn withholding licensing rights from the BBC.[32][33]


Ratings and reviews

The drama was watched by 2.71 million viewers in the UK.[34] Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 95% approval rating based on 22 reviews, and an average score of 8.5/10. The website's critics consensus reads "Fun, clever, and eminently accessible, An Adventure in Space and Time offers entertaining viewing for Doctor Who newcomers and diehards alike."[35] On Metacritic, it holds a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 11 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[36]

Awards and nominations

On Monday 24 March 2014, An Adventure in Space and Time was nominated for three BAFTA Craft Awards; Suzanne Cave for 'Best Costume Design', Philip Kloss for 'Editing - Fiction' and Vickie Lang for 'Make Up and Hair Design'.[37] Lang was successful in her category, with Gemma Chan presenting her the award on Sunday 17 April 2014. Speaking to Jenni Falconer, she described how she 'absolutely loved the project, [and that] it was a hair and make up artist's dream.' [38]

Further nominations for the production from the BAFTA Awards for 'Best Single Drama' and the Hugo Awards for 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form' were received on Monday 7th and Saturday 19 April 2014.[39][40] The BAFTA Award was won by Channel 4's Complicit at the ceremony on 18 May.[41] The winner of the Hugo Award was announced on Sunday 17 August 2014. The award went to the Game of Thrones episode "The Rains of Castamere".

Home media

An Adventure in Space and Time was released on DVD in Region 2 on 2 December 2013. Special features included Scene Recreations, Deleted Scenes, and a Making of documentary, narrated by Carole Ann Ford.[42] A three-disc Blu-ray set was released in North America on 27 May 2014. The set includes the feature on Blu-ray, DVD and An Unearthly Child on DVD.[43][44] The special was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray on 8 September 2014 as part of a "50th Anniversary Collectors Boxset" alongside "The Name of the Doctor", "The Night of the Doctor", "The Day of the Doctor", "The Time of the Doctor" and "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot".[45]

Soundtrack release

Edmund Butt's score was released by Silva Screen Records 3 March 2014.[46][47]

Track listing

1."Main Theme – An Adventure in Space and Time"0:38
2."The Right Man"1:17
3."The First Woman Producer"1:21
4."I've Got an Idea..."1:34
5."The Daleks"2:52
6."Kill Dr. Who"1:48
7."What Dimension?"1:24
8."This Is My Show"1:50
9."Autograph Hunting"2:31
10."Sydney Newman"1:00
11."Scarlett O'Hara"1:03
12."Piss & Vinegar"1:24
13."Dressing Room"1:18
14."JFK Assassinated"1:48
15."The TARDIS"0:57
16."Goodbye Susan"2:37
17."10 Million Viewers"0:57
18."The Fans"0:41
19."I'm So Sorry Bill"2:45
20."Kiss Goodbye"1:05
21."My Successor"1:06
22."Isop Galaxy"0:50
24."The New Doctor"3:55
25."Time's Up..."1:15

Potential sequel

In November 2023, Gatiss expressed interest in creating a sequel centred around the events surrounding the 1986 storyline The Trial of a Time Lord, including the programme's nine-month hiatus and the eventual firing of Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker.[48]


  1. ^ Matt Smith in the original 2013 broadcast, Ncuti Gatwa in the 2023 rebroadcast.[11]


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