Sunday, January 12, 2014

Documentary Review: An Adventure in Space and Time

For Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary they really went all out and had a big special, screenings in theaters, and honest to goodness simulcast in the US and they also had this little thing, a nearly 90 minute dramatization of the situation surrounding Doctor Who as it just started and how it succeeded. I think that, almost more than anything, shows just how big this show has become, can anyone else think of any other show which has had a documentary on the making of it? I'm sure there might be a few others but I can't think of any at the moment, especially considering just how niche the audience for something like this must be.

An Adventure in Space and Time

Today people all around the world have heard of Doctor Who but when the series was just getting started it seemed hard to believe that even a majority of Britain would hear about it. Like any new show it took some time for the cast and staff to fall into a routine and with the troubles the show faced, the unfortunate timing at it's start, it's non-conventional producer and director, characters that started out as a bit unlikable, and rather ambitious ideas for stories it certainly had an uphill road before people realized that just maybe this show would work out.

I was mostly unfamiliar with the history behind Doctor Who (except that it began airing the weekend that JFK was killed so of course nobody was watching it) and was rather surprised to find just how interesting and engaging this was. I liked how while William Hartnell is arguably the "main character" of this that it seemed like it was just as much producer Verity Lambert's story as well, I hadn't even known that Doctor Who's first producer was a woman! A woman and the first director, Waris Hussein, was Indian which is a combination that would be unusual even today and I'm glad this documentary focused so much on them. Admittedly, as I already noted, I don't know much about the history here so if there was anything glaringly wrong I wouldn't have noticed. Glancing through wikipedia I can see that things were a bit more muddled in real life, understandably, like that Hussein directed the first and fourth serials (and therefore probably wouldn't have been on the set as much as it seemed here) but, especially since I haven't seen any complaints, I think it did a rather good job at being historically accurate.

On the side of the "actors," I have a bit of a hard time recognizing faces but I did think that they did a remarkably good job at casting people who looked like the original actors and it felt like they even brought some of the elements of the show's characters with them. Again, I have no idea how closely their actions mimicked what happened in real life but having seen some of the early serials it was rather fun to see the actors interacting and going "ah yeah, this seems familiar" and I had never realized before just how sad it must have been for Hartnell to leave the show. I suspect that when I watch more of the First Doctor serials that they'll be a little sad, while I know that Hartnell's sadness doesn't come through just the knowledge will make those all just a little more bittersweet.

Finally, this is a given but it was quite novel for me to actually see the show being made in, well, color! Whenever I watch a black and white film I get used to thinking that the sets and costumes actually are black, white, and shades of grey so it was fun to see that the daleks originally had little blue knobs and stuff like that. I think they even incorporated some of the original footage into the show and liked how they went out of their way to recreate one of the lost episodes, Marco Polo, for a scene. It was the details like that that made this go from "interesting and informative" to "interesting, informative, and fun to watch", I'd recommend it to any Doctor Who fan, whether you've seen any of the classic series or not. Sadly it doesn't seem to be streaming anywhere unless your cable has it on-demand (it's not even on the BBC's site anymore) but hopefully it'll be up on Netflix and such in another few months or so, they've gotten much faster at putting shows up there recently which makes me rather happy. 

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