As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who, the BBC has
produced this movie about the origins and Bill Hartnell years of the TV
show. Writer Mark Gatiss, a longtime Whovian, has dug through all the
stories and legends and has produced a fine script.
The thesis of the movie is that Sydney Newman chose a novice producer, Verity Lambert, who proceeded to build an unlikely team: the first Indian director of the BBC; an actor frustrated at his lack of advancement; and the already worn out facilities at Lime Grove. Somehow she managed to hold this together long enough to create a series which has prospered for half a century, despite the best the suits at the BBC could do.
There's some fine casting in this one, especially David Bradley as William Hartnell. It's rather shocking to me to see him, clean-shaven and well dressed and he gives a fine performance as the William Hartnell of the standard story: old, collapsing under the impact of ill health, but unwilling to give up his claim to fame.
That's not precisely the reality of the matter. Doctor Who ran on a killing schedule during Hartnell's term: forty episodes a year, dialogue filled with scientific bafflegab. Almost anyone would have crumbled under it.
Still, the story as written is cogent and should please the series' fans. the production values are top notch and the actors are excellent and look like the ones who played the original roles. I'd like to give a shout out to the stand outs, but I'd have to name just about every member of the cast.
This movie probably won't appeal to people who are not rabid fans of the show, but for those who, like me, are, it's a great treat.
In 1963 Sydney Newman, progressive head of BBC TV's drama department, wants to fill a Saturday tea-time slot with a show with youth appeal and hits on the idea of an august figure, like a doctor, leading a group of companions on time travel adventures. He engages inexperienced young producer Verity Lambert to expand the idea. Fighting sexist and racial bigotry Verity and young Indian director Waris Hussein persuade crusty character actor William Hartnell to play the doctor figure and, despite technical hiccups and competition with coverage of the Kennedy assassination, the first episode of 'Doctor Who' is born. As the show becomes a success Hartnell displays an obsession with his character but, after three years, ill health catches up with him and he starts to forget lines. Newman tells him that Doctor Who will 'regenerate' and he will be replaced by younger actor Patrick Troughton. Though attached to the part and reluctant to give it up Hartnell wishes every success to Troughton, the...
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