An Adventure in Space and Time

Sorry progress has been so slow – ridiculously busy week. But as it turns out, the day that we were given our first look at David Bradley in this year’s Christmas special seems like an apt time to be watching this. I wasn’t originally intending to include this in the re-watch, but with what’s coming up, I couldn’t resist. I actually revisited it for the first time as I got to the end of the Hartnell era, and I wrote this on the old version of this blog:

I re-watched An Adventure in Space and Time last night, for the first time since it was broadcast. I adored it the first time round, but oh boy is it better once you’re more familiar with Hartnell’s tenure. It’s the condensed version of a story that I saw play out over the course of three-and-a-bit seasons. By the time Bill was called to Newman’s office, I was in tears. As a viewer, I didn’t want Hartnell to go, but I knew that the time was right. We see Bill reach the same conclusion, and David Bradley is utterly superb.

However, I feel the need to speak out about a little inaccuracy. I don’t care about events being moved around, key people being omitted or anachronistic monsters – that’s artistic license, and it’s what makes for the best possible story being told. I’m aware there are people who despise the whole production because there’s a Menoptera at Verity’s leaving party, but these people are cretins.

No, my only objection is this: William Hartnell was a better Doctor than An Adventure portrayed, and that era of Doctor Who was a much better show than the one we saw glimpses of here. Again, yes, there’s some artistic license, and most of the cock-ups portrayed were based on real events. But seriously, watch some Hartnell stories – particularly from the first two seasons – and he’s a world apart from the bumbling weakling that he’s remembered as.

I love An Adventure in Space and Time – but don’t let it put you off the real thing.

I stand by that, although obviously it barely impacts on how astoundingly brilliant this show is. It was a key component of the anniversary celebrations; equal parts heart-warming and heart-breaking, and a perfect distillation of everything that makes Doctor Who so special. It emphasises how the likes of Waris Hussein and Verity Lambert were complete outsiders, and how the show’s success is the ultimate underdog story.

What struck me this time round, as my industry increasingly feels the effects of so many studio facilities falling by the wayside, is that Television Centre is such a character in the story. It’s a love letter to a version of the BBC that doesn’t exist any more. There are some things best left in the past – the racism and sexism, the boys’ club mentality, the alarming amount of workplace smoking – but the sense of creativity, risk-taking and utter devotion to the cause was what TVC symbolised, and you worry that these ideals are much harder to realise these days, with the corporation constantly under attack and under pressure.

Mostly though, it’s just brilliant to see so many lovely old things lovingly recreated, my favourites being the Marco Polo set, the first annual and of course the Daleks on Westminster Bridge. So many great cameos as well, particularly William Russell as an apoplectic commissionaire. The recreations of particular scenes were all fascinating – it was the bit from the end of The Massacre that inspired that original blog post though, and it’s a shame we didn’t see Bradley do it as well as Hartnell did IRL.

It’s clever the way the story sheds its main players one by one – first Waris, then Verity, then Hartnell. Each one makes you a little more emotional, leading to the absolute heartbreak of Bill breaking down in front of the fireplace. His “I don’t want to go” is much, much sadder than Tennant’s. But then the Matt Smith cameo is lovely, and the glimpse of the real Hartnell doing the Dalek Invasion of Earth speech is a great note to end on. It gets the balance of fanwank and genuine drama absolutely spot on, and it’s a superb piece of television about television.


The Myth Makers

Oh man. I didn’t know this was Vicki’s last episode. Bah. I really liked her, and it feels like we didn’t get enough of her. I suppose I should have seen it coming when she was conspicuously nicknamed “Cressida” and then met a bloke called Troilus. She’s inevitably become the second in a long line of young female companions who immediately shack up with a bloke they’ve only just met, but this one is made a little bit icky by the fact that she was his prisoner earlier in the story. Stockholm Syndrome, much?

Like Susan, she’s been left to rebuild an utterly destroyed society, but unlike Susan, we didn’t get to see the Doctor say goodbye. His quiet “I’ll miss her” moment didn’t feel as real as it did with Ian and Barbara a few serials ago. Of course, Katarina is there as an instant replacement, but I’m afraid I already know what her fate will be…

Meanwhile, another myth being made by our heroes comes about when The Doctor invents the Trojan Horse. It’s a little odd that he doesn’t seem concerned about changing history at any point – all three of the regulars are perfectly happy to meddle with the course of events throughout the story.

But still, this is a bloody good serial – it invokes The Aztecs a lot, what with The Doctor and Vicki being mistaken for a god and a sorceress, but it does an even better job of creating intrigue right from the start. It’s funny too – nothing major, but there’s a much more subtle style of humour than we got in The Romans, and it’s a lot more successful as a result. Both the Greeks and the Trojans act like sit-com families at times, and I’m all in favour of that.

The hook into the next serial is great – Steven is seriously wounded and there’s a mad-eyed Trojan on board. You’ve got the sense that they’ll all be in danger right from the off, and the next episode slide popping up with “The Nightmare Begins” certainly helps.

Oh, and that reminds me: “Small Prophet, Quick Return” and “The Horse of Destruction” are silly titles for episodes. Although, I read that one of them had the working title of “Is There A Doctor In The Horse?”, which is much better.

The Daleks’ Master Plan next, then. Looking forward to it, especially the episodes that actually exist – it will have been over a week since I’ve been able to actually watch anything properly. As it’s such a long one, I might do a mini-update halfway through, or maybe just one or two short tweet-length posts if anything occurs to me.

(PS. I was intending to change the header image on this blog every time the line-up of regulars changed. This will usually happen at the end of the first serial with the new cast, but as I know that Katarina won’t make it past the end of her first serial, I thought I’d make an exception…)


Galaxy 4

Aaaaand, now we’re up to date – this is the first entry to be written directly after finishing the serial in question, and without having watched any more since. Hooray!

After the luxury of only eleven missing episodes in the whole of the first two seasons, the missing ones are in the majority throughout the next two. Looking at the spreadsheet, I’ve got a huge block of red to get through, and I must admit it’s a little daunting.


Galaxy 4 kicks off this poor run of form, and I found it a little tough going – very hard to get into, which wasn’t helped by the stop-start nature of how I had to watch it. You see, the special edition DVD of The Aztecs features all the existent material from Galaxy 4 – a six minute chunk of the first episode, and the whole of the third, with recreations filling in the gaps. Brilliant… except the recreations are truncated, with the original soundtracks edited down. This is quite annoying – surely the target audience for this feature wants to see the most complete version available? I had to keep switching between the DVD and unofficial recreations in order to see the most complete version of the story that I could. Irritating.

But anyway. This is somewhat of a standard “choosing between two rival factions” story, but with a nice little twist in that the crew pick the wrong side at first, and have to defect when it turns out that the Drahvins are complete shits.

The Chumblies are pretty good; for some reason they reminded me of Bertha. Odd that the Rill wouldn’t have thought to fit them with cameras or something to prevent them from being blind.

1960s Attitude Watch: I detected a slight whiff of anti-feminism in the portrayal of the all-female Drahvins as heartless and clinical bastards. However, there was a nice anti-fascist message in the way The Doctor treated the Rill, the moral being that it doesn’t matter what people look like at the outside, it’s the inside that counts.

I managed to get into it a little better towards the end, and enjoyed the last couple of episodes. It was a bit odd that the Drahvins were just left to die on the exploding planet. They had it coming to them, but I feel that nowadays The Doctor would have rescued them regardless, and then enacted a proper punishment.

The set-up for Mission to the Unknown is a little cheesey – The Doctor pretty much says “fuck it, let’s have a week off” – but I’m really looking forward to it…


The Time Meddler

An absolute classic as far as I’m concerned – possibly my favourite story so far. I’d seen it before, but I’d forgotten how good it was, and seeing it in context makes you appreciate that it’s another huge step forward in establishing themes and concepts that would dominate Who for years.

It was the first story to properly blur the lines between historical and sci-fi stories – it was the best of both. And it’s the first time we meet another Time Lord, although that phrase was still several years away from being used. Vicki and Steven discovering that the Monk has a TARDIS is a fantastic, jaw-dropping moment – as is the reveal of how The Doctor had punished him.

Steven seems a decent enough chap, and we see him warming to the idea of TARDIS travel as his cynicism slowly disappears. I worry at this stage that he’s just a bit too similar to Ian, but then it took quite a while for Vicki to establish herself properly – it’s only when they’re not in direct peril that we get to know people.

The faces of the newly re-established crew appearing over the closing credits is a beautiful way to end the second season, as is this story itself – so much hope for the future at this point.

Oh, and is there any fanon whereby The Meddling Monk regenerates into Roger Delgado at some point? And if not, why not?



  • Seasons/Series watched: 2 of 34
  • Stories watched: 17 of 253
  • Individual episodes watched: 81 of 813

The Chase

This time round, I knew that The Chase had a bad reputation, but had little idea what to expect. It was The Keys of Marinus but with Daleks – what’s not to love?

This is Doctor Who as a sketch show, and most of those sketches are successful, particularly the Time-Space Visualiser stuff, the Mary Celeste scenes and Peter Purves’s performance as the wide-eyed American tourist atop the Empire State Building. The only duff bit is the haunted house stuff, which just comes across as confusing and convoluted.

The final couple of episodes, set on Mechanus provide a more traditional format, and it’s all good stuff. The Robot Doctor is a little badly executed – why did they use the double for scenes where the real Doctor wasn’t present? – but you can easily look past that.

Now, the ending. I had no idea that this was Ian and Barbara’s last story, so it was as much as a surprise to me as it would have been if I’d been watching in 1965. It comes a little out of the blue, simply because their ongoing goal to get back home hadn’t been mentioned for a while, but you’re with them every step of the way as they make their decision to take the risk and part ways. The montage of them back in contemporary London is heart-warming and superb. And then when it cuts back to The Doctor, who finally admits his true feelings of loss and sorrow… well, I may have done a little cry.

I’ll miss them too, Doctor.


The Space Museum

Like The Keys of Marinus, I had no idea this was poorly received until after I’d finished watching. I couldn’t believe it – I bloody loved this. Such a great concept, with the crew struggling to avoid a pre-determined fate, and it’s executed so well – every time they think they’re breaking the chain of events, they wind up exactly where they were destined to be anyway.

Aside from the pre-determinism, the main plot is somewhat of a staple at this stage of the series – two rival factions on a planet, the crew have to figure out which ones to side with. Vicki inspiring the goodies to follow through on their plans for revolution further cemented my fondness for her as a companion.

The bit of business with the Dalek casing early on was great, but the cliffhanger to the last episode was even better. Even though – thanks to the DVDs coming in a twin pack – I knew The Chase was next, and that it was a Dalek episode, their sudden appearance at the end made me cheer out loud and grin with joy.


The Crusade

Ah, this is more like it. A proper story of intrigue, political machinations and betrayal. There’s some decent moral ambiguity going on here, with Richard The Lionheart being a bit of a shit at times, while Saladin is portrayed as noble and kind despite being in charge of the baddies.

The blacking up is a bit unfortunate, though.

This four-parter has two surviving episodes, but I had to rely on reconstructions for the other two. It’s a shame the fourth episode is one of the missing ones, especially as I couldn’t tell what the hell was happening in the cliffhanger leading into the next serial – the effect of the crew being frozen in time has much less impact when portrayed as a series of stills!


The Web Planet

Well, I quite like the premise and it started off well enough, but by God did this one drag. There really isn’t much to it beyond the anthropomorphised insects being quite cool. The story seemed to just go around in circles, with very little progress made from episode to episode. I did like the creepy weirdness invoked when Ian and The Doctor were first exploring the planet, but that wore off pretty quickly.

Oh dear, two stories in a row that I wasn’t too keen on. But on the plus side, Vicki is starting to come into her own at this point, establishing herself as a ballsy young gal, much more resilient and harder to freak out than Susan.


The Romans

Well, that cliffhanger resolution was a pile of shit. The TARDIS topples over, falls down into a ravine… and then we cut to months later, with the crew just pissing about in a Roman villa.

This set me and The Romans off on the wrong foot, and the rest of the story wasn’t quite good enough to win me round. I really wasn’t keen on the portrayal of Nero, nor the Benny Hill-esque manner in which he went about his attempted rape of Barbara.

There was clearly a conscious effort to lighten up The First Doctor’s character in this second season, but the main effect seems to be a vast increase in Hartnell chuckling to himself and going “hmm?” in a high pitch. This can get a bit grating at times – the chuckling in particular – and detracts from the concurrent ongoing attempt to establish The Doctor as a moral guardian.


The Rescue

Just a little mini story, designed to introduce new companion Vicki, but the plot is decent enough and the twist at the end is superbly executed. You don’t get much of a chance to get to know Vicki, but the conflict between her and Barbara over the latter inadvertently murdering the former’s pet gives you a good flavour of her personality.

Oh, and the cliffhanger at the end of episode two is great – it’s an actual cliff hanger!