An Adventure In Space And Time: All you need to know

An Adventure In Space And Time producer reveals which classic Doctor Who monsters are back

David Bradley as William Hartnell and Claudia Grant as Carole Ann Ford in An Adventure In Space And Time
David Bradley as William Hartnell and Claudia Grant as Carole Ann Ford in An Adventure In Space And Time

An Adventure In Space And Time is a docu-drama from long-time Whovian Mark Gatiss, exploring the real-life origins of the 50-year-old TV show. SciFiNow spoke exclusively to producer Matt Strevens, who also worked on Misfits, to find out everything you need to know…

1. It’s not afraid to tell the truth

“I think there’s been a distance of time now, no pun intended, so you can go back and look at what happened with objective eyes,” says Strevens, referring to how difficult it was to get Doctor Who made. “It was a very conservative organisation at the time and they liked costume dramas, that’s all they wanted to do. They had a very narrow idea of what drama was and science fiction was seen as very niche and ‘out there’. We’ve been quite honest about the struggles and also that William Hartnell himself was not an easy man. He wasn’t cuddly and he did have his demons, but I think what we show is that he was a great actor and that he had a redemptive quality to him by doing the role. It made him loved by children all over the country.”

2. William Hartnell is at the heart of the story

The story is as much about the show’s stars and creators as it is about the programme itself, says Strevens. “William Hartnell is the spine of the story, but it also focuses on Verity Lambert and her journey as a young woman in television in a very male dominated world, trying to make this bonkers show based on an idea that was completely left field, with no money and no respect from the design departments,” he continues. “It was considered a children’s programme that they weren’t really bothered about, but it was the vision of Sydney Newman, the new Head of Drama, and his belief in Verity, that pushed the show forward and made it a huge success.”

3. It will make you cry

Onscreen, the Doctor traveled with his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) but his adventures were documented by his real-life granddaughter, Jessica Carney, in the biography ‘Who’s There? Life And Career Of William Hartnell’, which has been updated and published to coincide with the 50th anniversary. Carney often visited the set to watch filming of An Adventure and was very moved by what she saw, reveals Strevens, “She told me that on the night this film goes out, the family are going to have to have a box of tissues nearby, because it’s quite emotional.”

4. The TARDIS is an exact replica

“The original console would have been made in a prop store with lots of old dials and gas gauges, but nowadays none of those parts are available so every single part had to be moulded and cast from the original and put together,” he explains. “We could have stuck on any old knobs and levers but we wanted it to match exactly so it was all painstakingly designed and put together. We’ve recreated the original junkyard from prop for prop from the first episode, and the costumes were all handmade, along with the original Cybermen and Daleks.”

5. There will be classic monsters

Classic episodes and moments have been recreated, beginning with An Unearthly Child where they closed Westminster Bridge in order to send Daleks across it. These metal menaces aren’t the only adversaries we’ll see, as Strevens reveals: “The Menoptra and the Zarbie [from Series Two episode The Web Planet] knock around, too. We’ve recreated moments of lost episodes as well, like [the fourth serial] Marco Polo and the original actor who played Marco Polo [Mark Eden] is playing the head BBC Drama guy who bugs Sydney Newman, so there are lots of little moments for people who went right back and watched the original series.”

An Adventure In Space And Time is available from 2 December 2013. Pre-order it on DVD now from the BBC Shop for £13.99.