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4.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 November 2013
Ever since the first pictures began to leak out earlier in the year there has been a buzz that Mark Gatiss' An Adventure In Space and Time would be something special - and it didn't disappoint.

It had a lot of ground to cover - from the launch of the show in 1963 to the departure of William Hartnell in 1966. In the main, it succeeded beautifully, although there's one caveat which I'll come too in a minute.

Essentially, AAISAT was the story of four people - William Hartnell (The Doctor), Verity Lambert (Producer), Waris Hussein (Director) and Sydney Newman (BBC Head of Drama and the "father" of the series). With only 85 minutes running time it did mean that many other people's important contributions went unrecorded, such as the first story editor David Whitaker and the designers Raymond Cusick and Barry Newbery. But this was inevitable, and the decision to focus on four key people did make dramatic sense.

Cast-wise it would have been difficult to get any better than this. David Bradley was outstanding as Hartnell, capturing both his abrasive side and his more considerate nature. Brian Cox (despite a moustache that looked painted on) was good fun as the brash Canadian, Newman. And Sacha Dhwan and Jessica Raine gave lovely performances as Hussein and Lambert - two outsiders (one an asian, one a woman) who dared to breach the conservative BBC.

The re-creations - Totters Lane, the Dalek city, the breathtaking TARDIS console room - were a massive treat, as were the numerous cameos from some of the great and good of the series' past.

But with a timeframe of three years there were times when things seemed a little condensed, and my only real criticism of Mark Gatiss' script is that whilst Hartnell's difficulty with lines was well illustrated, we maybe could have done with a scene that made it clear that Hartnell was a very good actor who gave many fine performances during the three years he was in the show, right up until the end when he was far from well.

There's no doubting the love Gatiss has for both the show and Hartnell, but a short scene with Lambert and Newman discussing Hartnell's line-fluffs with Lambert championing Hartnell's performance was sadly missing. Hartnell was technically a very good actor and his years of experience in films meant that he instinctively understood the camera. An off-told story (and something else that it would have been nice to see in the show) related to Hartnell's knowledge of when the camera was focused on him in close up - so his movements were restricted - and when the camera was further away - then he could be more expansive in his gestures. This is the sort of small detail that would have illustrated how good Hartnell was - otherwise you could come away from this programme thinking that Hartnell was just an old duffer who couldn't remember his lines.

But that apart, there was so much to enjoy here and by the end, with an ailing Hartnell forced to leave the part he loved, it was truly heartbreaking.

The surprise cameo at the end was a nice touch and an acknowledgement that today Doctor Who owes everything to one person - not Sydney Newman, not Verity Lambert, not even Dalek creator Terry Nation - but William Hartnell. If he hadn't made the Doctor such a compelling character then the series would never have endured. On the eve of the programme's 50th anniversary AAISAT is a fitting tribute to an old-fashioned actor who started something which still entertains today, and, I'm sure, for many more years to come.
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on 21 November 2013
Almost 50 years after the show started, Mark Gatiss sends us back to where it began!

No, not a junkyard on Totter's Lane, even further back than that, to the world of the smoky BBC offices of Sydney Newman. To the casual fan, this may seem like a slight bore, a documentary, or nothing exciting. However, those who took the time to see the broadcast will see that Mark Gatiss has orchestrated a masterpiece.

Pulling in bucket loads of elements surrounding the creation of Sci-Fi legend Doctor Who, Gatiss expertly combines Billy Hartnell's lack of self belief in inspiring generations, Sydney Newman's belief in Verity Lambert's production, helping her overcome the glass ceiling blocking her, Waris Hussein's pressure in successfully directing the first episodes, and later on, Billy's reluctance to leave and eventual realisation that this show will continue without him, becoming more of a legend than just a mere TV program.

Despite the historical and social plot strings, the acting is spectacular. David Bradley throws himself into Hartnell's shoes, and his heartbreaking moment of realisation of leaving the show is utterly spellbinding. Reece Shearsmith, even though he only appears for mere minutes, manages to capture the vivacity of Pat Troughton perfectly. The costumes and recreations of historical scenes are amazing and accurate, an old style Cyberman sat having a cigarette next to the TARDIS, a Dalek operator complaining about the cramped interior, and, in the opening scenes, Bradley walking into the TARDIS' perfectly recreated interior, and gazes up solemnly at the set one more time.

The DVD release, although a while off, does include the perfectly-recreated scenes such as the first encounter with the Doctor, The Doctor's final speech to his granddaughter, and a 'festive greeting' perhaps from the fabled lost Christmas broadcast 'The Feast of Steven?'

An utter masterpiece celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who, the people who started it all, and of course, the wonderful William Hartnell, played with style, gravitas and an air of humbleness.

I would easily give such a beautiful piece of drama more stars if I could. Definitely a must buy.
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Originally broadcast in 2013, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who, this is a feature length dramatisation of the early years of the show. How it came to be. The struggles to get it made. And the end of it's first era when William Hartnell left.

How can get all that into one feature? By concentrating on a couple of things...

Beginning in 1966, with a scene that lays some symbolism on a unsubtly, it then flashes back to three years before. When Canadian Producer Sydney Newman [Brian Cox] wanted to fill a gap in the saturday evening schedules. A show about an eccentric time traveller was the idea they devised. He trusted Verity Lambert [Jessica Raine] to produce the programme. The very idea of a woman doing such an important role at the bbc in 1963 was not something many went along with.

Her choice for leading man was William Hartnell [David Bradley] a professional actor of many years, who'd become stereotyped in hard man roles. A complex man who could be difficult to work with.

Little did any of them know they were creating a tv institution...

As ever, the BBC never let you down with period drama. And this recreates the time of it's setting, the fashion and the way tv was produced back then, absolutely perfectly. The script has to condense a lot down. Some people, such as head of serials Donald Wilson, who was heavily involved at the time, get written out. And it barely touches on the behind the scenes troubles in the show's third year. But it manages to get the story by focusing on two main things.

Firstly, Verity Lambert's struggles and ultimate success. Jessica Raine does very well in portraying a lady who had to find the inner strength that Syndey Newman knew she had. There's a pretty compelling performance in that role from Brian Cox, also.

But when Verity moves on, the focus moves over to William Hartnell. David Bradley is amazing in the role. Not trying to copy Hartnell, but acting the part. A man who had some of the attitudes of his time. But who came to love this role he'd been hesitant about taking. Only for the ravages of illness to mean he couldn't keep it forever.

As the story moves on through his days struggling to keep his health and keep the role, it becomes incredibly moving. And you really are left feeling so very sorry for him.

There's an ending that strives for emotional impact. Which might not work for some. But if it does for you, then it really will leav you with a lump in the throat.

A perfect tribute to a tv legend, and those who brought it to us. And an excellent drama with it.

Look out for cameo appearances from original companions Carole Ann Ford and William Russell. And keep watching after the end credits.

The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:

Languages: English.

Subtitles; English.

It's also English audio captioned.

Extras are:

William Hartnell: the original. A five minute long profile of him with various people sharing their memories. This is the material from post the closing credits. It's a bit short to have much substance, but it is occasionally touching.

Behind the scenes: narrated by Carole Ann Ford, this is a nine minute long making of feature. It's also a bit too short to have much substance, but occasionally touching as well. Do watch this otherwise one of the next batch of extras will catch you out.

Said next batch is reconstructions and regenerations: the cast and production team recreate scenes from the original pilot episode and first story. One from the tv story the Dalek Invasion of Earth. And the christmas greeting. From the 1965 episode 'The Feast of Steven' when the Doctor wished viewers a happy christmas. These are all superbly done and great to watch.
Regenerations recreates the first regeneration. But not in the manner you might expect...

Title sequences is a short look at the difference between the original title sequence for the show, and the one used for an adventure in space and time.

There are also two very short but very good deleted scenes, that are both worth a watch.
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on 25 August 2014
Bluray plays OK in the UK though imported from the US however, though the product is therefore billed as region free please note that the second disc is a DVD and is not compatible with UK region players. Is able to use a region unlocked DVD player in place of my bluray player for this but if you don't have one you won't be able to play these extras. Even so I'm happy as this is currently the only way to purchase this film. With that said, just afterwards I read that the BBC is planning to include this in a UK release box set with other recent Doctor Who bluray discs in September 2014.
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on 21 November 2013
I remember clearly the impact Dr Who had on me as a six year old child in 1963. I was full of wonder for this unique atmospheric new drama, with the most Incredible Theme Music i had ever heard. William Hartnell was captivating and charismatic as the Doctor. His companions likable and memorable. One would have to be my age (or older ) to have experienced the first ever entrance of the Daleks which was mesmerising and so totally
original . It was the year of the Beatles and
James Bond. A time of real excitement in Britain. 50 years on, the Beatles, James Bond & Dr Who are more popular than ever !
Mark Gattiss has done a Brilliant job with this drama. William Hartnell's final scene in the Tardis had an unexpected feature which i personally found very moving and emotional.
I think the drama will appeal more to the First wave of fans (although i may be wrong) those who followed William Hartnell's Doctor.
I enjoyed it immensely, and will buy the DVD.
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on 30 December 2013
We are huge Doctor Who fans (I started watching in 1973 when I was 6) and this was a perfect addition to the anniversary celebrations. Whilst some aspects (especially the final few scenes) have divided fans, for myself I found it strangely moving and I don't mind admitting I cried during those last few minutes of the programme. David Bradley is a good fit for Hartnell - he's not quite as good a fit facially as Richard Hurndall was in 'The Five Doctors', but the effort put into the characterisation more than makes up for it. Verity Lambert is ably played by Jessica Raine (and looks very like her) and Sacha Dhawan inhabits the character of Waris Hussein in a very believable way. To see Hartnell's gradual decline played out on screen (which has been well-documented over the years) is sad - and there's no doubt he was a grouchy old devil in real life, rather snobbish about how he viewed himself as an 'character actor' rather than simply a 'variety actor', but he was passionate about Doctor Who and didn't patronise the children who watched the show - that is clearly shown in key scenes such as the one where he says to some producer who doesn't care about the detail, that as The Doctor he has to make sure he always uses the same knobs and dials on the console for the same thing each week, because if he didn't the children would notice.

Mark Gatiss is one of the semi-regular writers for Doctor Who in its current incarnation and is clearly a deeply passionate fan in his own right - that shines through in this tribute drama, which is one of the best things he's ever written for the world of Doctor Who. Whether or not you agree with his decision to cross-over into something that brings the current Who into what had been, until that point, all original Who, (trying not to spell it out in case anyone hasn't seen it - I'm probably not making much sense!) it shouldn't be enough to put you off if you want to watch a very well-made, affectionate-in-its-way tibute to the people who started it all - and who had to fight to keep it going, and then found their saviour in the Daleks!

And the rest, as they say, is history. The DVD comes with some extras, although not as many as there might have been, but if you've enjoyed the 50th anniversary year and Doctor Who as a whole then this DVD should be part of your collection.
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on 22 November 2013
I was three days old when Dr Who began and it's played a big part in making me the person I am today (although I do plan to regenerate before this week is out). I was overjoyed watching the show last night. It was unashamed nostalgia and absolutely lovely. Christmas has indeed come early for us fans of The Doctor. I have just one question of the BBC, why oh why isn't there a blu ray release? The show looks exquisite and demands it. Please BBC I want to spend more money.
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on 21 November 2013
What a fantastic story of the First Doctor, William Hartnell.
Extremely well written and Acted by all involved,
And very moving ending, I had a tear or two,
I will be ordering this, and would recommend all Doctor who fans to purchase this also,
A highly deserved 5 stars.
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on 19 December 2013
This was a stunning piece of television, it was funny, uplifting and heartbreaking and the cast were mostly superb. The whole production looks fabulous, serious money has clearly been spent on it. David Bradley gives a near perfect performance as William Hartnell, the always excellent Jeff Rawle may only have a small role as Mervyn Pinfield but he is on top form while Brian Cox excels as Sydney Newman and Jessica Raine does a fine job as Verity Lambert. It has to be said that the resemblance many members of the cast bear to the people they are portraying is remarkable.

Mark Gatiss' script is brilliant; it moves at a very nice pace and has clearly been written by someone with enormous admiration for Doctor Who. The scene towards the end where Hartnell says 'I don't want to go' and breaks down in tears after being informed that he is being replaced as the Doctor is one of the most moving things I have ever seen.

The moment at the end where Hartnell seems to have a hallucination and sees Matt Smith standing by the Tardis console for a few seconds is odd. It seems jarring because it's almost as though they're trying to suggest that Hartnell possessed psychic abilities. Presumably it has only been included because the producers were determined to shoehorn Smith into the programme somehow.

On the whole this is a wonderful special and, for me at least, it was the highlight of the 50th anniversary; as good as Steven Moffat's 'The Day of the Doctor' was it couldn't touch this.

Special features include a near 11 minute 'Making of' documentary which includes interviews with David Bradley, Mark Gatiss, Waris Hussein, Carol Ann Ford and others.

There are also some original Doctor Who scenes which have been reconstructed with David Bradley and company, some of these are very impressive. Also included are two very short deleted scenes.
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on 21 November 2013
I don't usually bother with reviews but this story had me gripped from the start, by the end I was sitting on the floor in front of the telly, just like I did when I was a kid watching the original Hartnell. The end moved me to tears and was a complete surprise and really touching. I will buy this DVD and a Blu ray when it comes out, extremely well written and deserving of 5 stars
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