What can viewers expect from the drama?
it’s the story of how Doctor Who was created, so we concentrate on the
very beginnings and the first few episodes. There are lots of treats for
the fans but it’s also the story of William Hartnell, the first Doctor
and how the part transformed his life.
Why did you want to tell this story?
I’m a life-long Doctor Who fan and the origins of this beloved show
have always fascinated me. But, above all, I wanted it to strike a chord
on a human level. These were brilliant, complex, talented people making
something revolutionary. And, in William Hartnell, we have the very
affecting story of a man redeemed by the role of a lifetime who then,
sadly, had to let it go. I think we can all relate to something like
that in our lives.
What was the casting process like? Did you set out to find such good lookalikes?
had David Bradley in mind for some years but it wasn’t simply a
question of a good likeness! David is such a fine and delicate actor, I
knew he’d find something wonderful in the part. With everyone else, I
stressed that we must first and foremost get the right people for the
job. But it turned out the right people also bear the most amazing
resemblances to the originals! Costume and make-up, of course, played a
huge part in that.
Could you explain a little bit about the research process?
Who is probably unique in terms of TV shows in that its history has
been exhaustively researched for years. Happily, this means that there
are lots of interviews existing with people who are no longer with us.
I’d wanted to tell the story for years – I sort of grew up with it. How
no-one wanted the Daleks. About the first episode going out just after
JFK was shot. But I wanted to get deeper than just the details of
production and find the human story. I conducted new interviews with a
lot of the original cast and crew. They were all hugely enthusiastic and
Did you uncover any facts or information that you didn’t previously know as a Doctor Who fan?
few bits and bobs but, as I say, most of it is very well documented
now! It was very touching, though, to talk to people about a part of
their loves that was often very happy and to discuss people long gone.
were so many people involved in the show’s beginnings, why did you
decide to focus on the four central characters of Hartnell, Newman and
Lambert and Hussein?
I had to focus it down. Simple as
that. This is a drama, not a documentary, and though it’s extremely
painful to have to leave out some people who played a huge part, it
makes dramatic sense. You simply can’t do everyone justice in 90
minutes. For instance, the story of how Terry Nation and Ray Cusick
created the Daleks is almost a film all on its own! Jeff Rawle plays
Mervyn Pinfield, who was the Associate Producer, and his character sort
of absorbs several others including Donald Wilson and the brilliant
David Whitaker – the first script editor – whose contribution was
Set in the 1960s the drama brings to life
that era through the costumes, hair and make-up and the sets, including
the first ever TARDIS console. What was it like being on set?
was extraordinary. To see the original TARDIS recreated genuinely took
my breath away and everyone who came to the set had the same reaction.
It was frequently quite uncanny. We used some of the original Marconi
cameras and, on the black and white monitors, seeing David, Jemma, Jamie
and Claudia was like looking back through Time. Spooky and very moving.
Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from the drama?
is my love-letter to Doctor Who! In this 50th anniversary year, I hope
fans will enjoy and be thrilled by it and all the kisses to the past
it’s laden with. But my greatest wish is that it appeals to people who
know very little or nothing about Doctor Who and see the struggle of
talented people (almost) accidentally creating a legend!
to do something for children’s TV, I think he [William Hartnell] was quickly convinced that
it was the right thing for him to do. He felt quite insecure about it
as it was new territory for him, but once he started he embraced the
whole idea of the part. I know he had a reputation at times for being cantankerous and rather difficult and one has to play that.”
that he was a perfectionist. He demanded a lot of himself and he
expected everyone around him to show the same level of commitment. He was
invited to school fetes in the full outfit and I thought how brilliant
and touching that was. It’s clear that he absolutely loved it and found
it very hard to let go. That’s an element that Mark Gatiss brings out
in the script.”
maybe when people joined the show later, different
directors and different actors, if they showed a lack of commitment then
it would upset him and he would let people know that’s how he felt.
There are moments of sadness in Space And Time where he becomes aware
that he hasn’t got the strength to do it anymore.”
been one of those great jobs and an experience I’ll always remember.
We’re honouring something that’s been part of television history for 50
years and I hope I’ve done justice to an actor that I admire greatly.”