An Adventure In Space And Time

As part of my personal Who Fest this past week – brought on by the excitement for the Series 8 premiere, but mostly by my depression about Matt Smith’s departure, which I am handling with good old denial, watching all his episodes over again –  I also watched the BBC’s Doctor Who 50th Anniversary TV movie.

I was incredibly surprised by how heartwarming it was. Or heartbreaking, actually. It’s all about how the show started, and focused on the actor who played the First Doctor, William Hartnell. The reboot has done an amazing job of paying homage to Hartnell that even someone who hasn’t seen any classic Who will know enough to respect the original. It’s more an intellectual thing – you know that he’s the First Doctor so you will always like him for that. But there’s no affection yet, the way you feel it for Eccleston or Tennant or Smith.  But this show has made it official – Whovians love all the Doctors.

The most poignant part is how Hartnell insisted that every button or control on the TARDIS had to mean something. If it was used as an energy switch from the first episode, then it was the energy switch from then on. And he knew how to operate the console. There was a scene towards the end that showed how much Hartnell put into his role.  The crew was just treating the set as a dispensable science fiction prop, so only Hartnell knew how to turn on the TARDIS. And that scene was his last time to do it.  And somewhere in the movie is also a reference to Ten’s last line, which was just so rude for starting the waterworks.

And did I mention that Filch plays Hartnell? It’s Filch! Actually, it’s the actor David Bradley, but it’s Filch! Also, the screenwriter was Mark Gatiss, which should have been a clue that this would actually be good, since the man can apparently do no wrong. And – this is the best part of being unspoiled when watching these things:

… a totally unexpected, uncredited Matt Smith appearance! No dialogue, just a look between One and Eleven. Again a cue to start the waterworks.

Don’t worry Mr. Hartnell, the Doctor’s future is safe and sound.