In 1963, a show that shouldn’t have been more than a blip on the radar was launched. It concerned a strange, older alien man, his granddaughter, and two teachers traveling across space and time. It should have failed. It didn’t, and in 2013, the BBC released a made-for-TV movie about the creation of the series. And here we are.
This show covers the creation of Doctor Who from the beginning all the way up to the end of the First Doctor’s time on the show. It includes David Bradley as William Hartnell. He does an amazingly good job of playing the man with all his faults, failures, and wonders. Brian Cox shows up as Sidney Newman, the creator of the series. Rounding out the cast is no one you’ve ever heard of, but it’s a good crew.
The bulk of the story focuses on Verity Lambert and her struggle to launch the series while also fighting back against the sexist attitudes of the day. Alongside her is Waris Hussein, a gifted young director struggling against not only racism, but also, shown only in a subtle way, homophobia.
The story itself is written by Mark Gatiss; a man who is no stranger to Doctor Who or to homophobia. It’s a very tightly-paced, well-written script with no real dross or excess, which is nice.
Naturally the history isn’t perfect. The movie depicts Hartnell as being very reluctant to leave the series, and not being overly-impressed by the casting of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. In point of fact, Hartnell apparently recommended Troughton for the role, and while we can assume he wasn’t overjoyed to leave, he seemed to know his limits.
Speaking of history, there’s a certain special cameo at the end, that makes no sense, really doesn’t belong, and shouldn’t be there, but…fuck it. It works and works amazingly well. The show earns it, and that’s saying something, all things considered.
Really, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. As history of TV, as a story about a series we love, as pure entertainment, it really is something incredible, and if you somehow haven’t seen it yet, you really should.