Doctor Who drama 'a wonderful tribute' to William Hartnell

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News

image captionA poster image showing David Bradley as William Hartnell's first Doctor

William Hartnell's granddaughter has described a new drama about the origins of Doctor Who as "a wonderful tribute" to her grandfather.

Written by Mark Gatiss, An Adventure in Space and Time features David Bradley as Hartnell, the first actor to play the Doctor in 1963.

Jessica Carney, who was six when her grandfather took the role, said he would have been "thrilled" by the show.

She was clearly overcome with emotion after a screening in London on Tuesday.

Some fans had queued up for hours for return tickets to the preview, held at BFI Southbank, which was attended by a number of former Doctor Who stars.

Afterwards, Carney thanked Bradley "for playing my grandfather so wonderfully".

The 90-minute TV film will be shown on BBC Two at 21:00 on 21 November.

An Adventure in Space and Time is set in the first half of the 1960s and focuses on the people who created the sci-fi show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next week.

It was the last TV drama to be filmed at the BBC's Television Centre in west London before the building closed earlier this year.

Its cast includes Jessica Raine as Doctor Who's first producer, Verity Lambert; Sacha Dhawan as its first director Waris Hussein; Lesley Manville as Hartnell's wife, Heather; and Brian Cox as the BBC's colourful head of drama, Sydney Newman.

image captionSacha Dhawan (left) as director Waris Hussein and Jessica Raine as producer Verity Lambert

Doctor Who was first broadcast on 23 November 1963 with a four-part adventure known as An Unearthly Child.

Waris Hussein, who directed that first story, said it was "very surreal" to see his pioneering time on the programme recreated.

"It was seminal in my career and it led to bigger things, and now it's come full circle back to square one."

Among the celebrity guests at Tuesday's screening were original companion Carole Ann Ford, who played the Doctor's on-screen granddaughter Susan Foreman.

image captionThe production team recreated the interior Tardis set seen in the first episode in 1963

Others included Anneke Wills, who played 1960s companion Polly; Louise Jameson, who played Leela alongside Tom Baker's fourth Doctor in the 1970s; and Sophie Aldred, who accompanied Sylvester McCoy's seventh Doctor in the 1980s.

Writer and executive producer Gatiss described the drama as his "love letter" to Doctor Who.

Speaking to the BBC News website, he said the film was aimed at a general audience.

"Obviously if I was writing a film about [BBC TV police series] Z Cars, I would feel a bit more dispassionate, so I had to put my anorak away and treat it very straight."

Hartnell, who died in 1975, was better known for playing "hard man" roles prior to being cast as the Doctor.

He was in charge of the Tardis from 1963 to 1966, when illness forced him out of the part and Patrick Troughton took over.

Gatiss said: "Anyone could watch this and hopefully be very moved by it because it's a universal story in that we all discover we are replaceable."

Speaking to the BBC, Jessica Carney recalled visiting the Doctor Who set as a little girl in the mid-1960s during the filming of a story called The Web Planet.

"I sat in the dressing room with my grandfather, and it was fascinating to watch the wig and make-up being put on.

"On the main set there were actors wandering around in very odd costumes. The cameras were so cumbersome and there were loads of huge cables everywhere."

She added: "Because there were so few TV channels the numbers of people watching were huge. On Monday in the school playground everyone would be talking about the programme.

"All my early memories of my grandfather are muddled up with Doctor Who because he was Doctor Who and I watched him every Saturday on the television."

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