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article imageMark Gatiss on the difficult birth of Doctor Who

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 13, 2013 in Entertainment
Mark Gatiss has been speaking about the difficulties faced by those involved who were trying to first get "Doctor Who" on television back in the early 1960s.
The long-running science-fiction drama series celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, having received its first-ever broadcast on Saturday, 23 November 1963.
Exactly 50 years to the day, on Saturday, 23 November 2013, the TV birth of the iconic sci-fi show will be celebrated with a brand-new 75-minute film, The Day of the Doctor, which will be simulcast on TV and in cinemas in at least 75 countries around the world.
However, two days before that, on Thursday, 21 November, the UK will broadcast the TV premiere of a 90-minute drama that looks at the creation and early years of Doctor Who itself.
Written by Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones), An Adventure in Space and Time stars David Bradley (Broadchurch) as William Hartnell (Brighton Rock), the first man to have played the role of the Doctor.
Yesterday, An Adventure in Space and Time received its premiere screening at the BFI in London, where it was attended by Gatiss, Bradley and other members of the cast.
Among the audience were other names from Doctor Who's long history, including Matthew Waterhouse, who played the Doctor's companion Adric during the early 1980s, Carole Ann Ford, who played the Doctor's onscreen granddaughter, Susan, and Hartnell's own granddaughter, Jessica Carney.
Speaking to BBC News earlier, Carney said that her grandfather would have been thrilled with the film. At the event itself, she thanked Bradley "for playing my grandfather so wonderfully".
After the BFI screening, the audience gave Bradley, the drama and everyone involved in it a very long standing ovation. Writing in the Radio Times, Patrick Mulkern, who was at the event, said of Bradley, "His is a truly wonderful performance, capturing the crabbiness, the twinkle and the pathos of William Hartnell."
An Adventure in Space and Time was filmed earlier this year, and holds the distinction of being the last-ever TV drama to go before the cameras at BBC Television Centre in London, before the building closed. According to Radio Times, many of the scenes for the drama were filmed in the actual offices where the events being depicted took place, as opposed to sets being built for the purpose.
Dalek Invasion of Earth  2013
Dalek Invasion of Earth, 2013
Radio Times
Gatiss first had the idea for a film telling the story of how Doctor Who came to be more than a decade ago and approached the BBC with it at the time of the show's 40th anniversary. However, mirroring the BBC's reluctance to commit to Doctor Who in the very beginning, the corporation was less than receptive to it.
"There was quite a lot of resistance," Gatiss told the Belfast Telegraph. "And obviously no one liked the Daleks, they thought it was going to be a disaster! And then after they went out everyone proved them wrong."
Again, in the mid- to late 1980s, the "powers that be" at the BBC were determined to rid the corporation of Doctor Who for good.
How times change. Since its relaunch in 2005, Doctor Who has become a worldwide phenomenon, hence the massive pre-anniversary publicity surrounding it. Even then, however, the BBC's then Director General, Mark Thompson, tried (with no success) to strangle the show at its (re)birth.
Fans take over the Universe!
Gatiss, a self-confessed Doctor Who fan, has already admitted that he had to reign himself in somewhat when writing the script, telling the BBC News website that the film was aimed at a general audience, not just fellow fans.
"Obviously if I was writing a film about [the BBC TV police series] Z Cars, I would feel a bit more dispassionate," he said. "I had to put my anorak away and treat it very straight."
Basically, Gatiss's "love letter to Doctor Who," as the writer himself describes An Adventure, concentrates on four people: Sydney Newman, a Canadian who, as the BBC's Head of Drama, came up with the initial idea for the sci-fi series, Verity Lambert, the show's first producer and the first female producer at the BBC, Waris Hussein, who directed the first adventure, An Unearthly Child, and, of course, William Hartnell.
An Adventure in Space and Time will be broadcast in the UK on BBC Two, on Thursday, 21 November 2013, at 9 p.m. It will be followed on BBC Four, from 10.30 p.m., by the first four episodes of Doctor Who ever to be screened.
Bradley is joined by, among others, Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy) playing Sydney Newman, Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) as Verity Lambert, Sacha Dhawan (The History Boys) as Waris Hussein and Lesley Manville (Mayday) as Hartnell's wife, Heather.
The Day of the Doctor, which stars three of Hartnell's successors as the Doctor — Matt Smith (How to Catch a Monster), David Tennant (The Escape Artist) and John Hurt (The Absinthe Drinkers) — will air on Saturday, 23 November 2013. It also stars Jenna Coleman (Dancing on the Edge) as Clara Oswald, Billie Piper (True Love) as Rose Tyler and Jemma Redgrave (Dracula) as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.
A third special will follow later in the year. Showing in the UK on Christmas Day, the as-yet-unnamed feature will mark Smith's last adventure as the Eleventh Doctor and will introduce Peter Capaldi (Maleficent) as the Twelfth Doctor. Coleman returns as Clara and is joined by Joanna Page (Gavin & Stacey) as Queen Elizabeth I.
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