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The Sydney and Verity project
on 9 September 2015
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:
It's also English audio captioned.
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.