Magic Bullet Productions

47 Stupid Things About “An Adventure in Space and Time”
(And 3 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)

By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

(with thanks to Steven Allen, Jonathan Morris and Paul Cornell)

Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 481

1. “This is the BBC. The following programme is based on actual events. It is important to remember, however, that you can't rewrite history, not one line. Except, perhaps, when you embark on An Adventure in Space And Time”, In other words, it's largely a fiction, and it shows.

2. OK, let's get this out of the way at the start: although Hartnell did indeed have arteriosclerosis, it was not diagnosed until some time after he left the programme. The idea that Hartnell's illness made it impossible for him to continue in the show is largely a myth spread about by the Innes Lloyd administration to excuse the fact that they sacked him.

3. Arteriosclerosis can, depending on which arteries are affected, cause memory loss and symptoms of vascular dementia. However, there is no real indication as to what extent this was actually affecting Hartnell at the time; indeed, the number of "Billy fluffs" actually decreases in later serials, and when playing the Abbot of Amboise in "The Massacre", Hartnell is near word-perfect. What is rather more certain is that he wasn't getting on with the production team, and, as the last member of the original cast and crew, was starting to believe that he was the most powerful person on the programme.

4. Mind you, Innes Lloyd and his entire team have been written out of this story, so perhaps it's a form of revenge.

5. Barnes Common, where Hartnell approaches a police box at night in his car, is a nod to David Whitaker's novelisation Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure With The Daleks, in which Ian meets Barbara, Susan and the Doctor at this particular location.

6. Much Internet time has been spent on enumerating various anachronisms relating to the cars used in this story. It has to be said, though, that they are all absolutely gorgeous.

7. In David Banks' Cybermen, Sandra Reid notes that the tubing on the 10th Planet Cybermen was green, yellow and magenta, and thus looked rather more dashing than the version we see here.

8. The actress playing Jacqueline Hill is so much like her that it's scary. Although Jamie Glover looks a lot less like William Russell, his performance is also spot-on.

9. Guess what? Verity Lambert was not Sydney Newman's first choice to produce Doctor Who. His first choices were Don Taylor and Shaun Sutton.

10. “They've never had a female producer here before”. Not true; there had been several female producers at the BBC prior to Lambert, albeit mainly in the Children's department (but, since Doctor Who was a family programme, one could argue that this had set a precedent for Lambert's appointment).

11. What exactly does the blatantly shoehorned-in line crediting Mervyn Pinfield with inventing the autocue contribute? Verity Lambert smiles as if it gives her some kind of insight into his character, but all it indicates is that he's reasonably clever and neglected to register a patent.

12. Delia Derbyshire used a system of tape loops to play and record the Doctor Who theme; while the Radiophonic Workshop did have a small home-made keyboard, it was not a piano-style synth, but a jury-rigged system made up of 12 keys, for controlling the Workshop's oscillators.

13. Lambert saying that the sound effects are made with the “latest technology” followed by a shot of Delia Derbyshire using a key and piano wire to create the Tardis noise is clearly meant to trigger smug laughter that the technology was actually so primitive. In fact, the Radiophonic Workshop was a cutting-edge institution pioneering early sound effects, and indeed, one of its members was an influence on modern computing.

14. That member, by the way, was another woman, Daphne Oram.

15. And, not to detract from the achievements of women at the Radiophonic Workshop, but it was actually Brian Hodgson who created the Tardis noise.

16. Rehearsals, in the 1960s, never took place on finished sets, but in rehearsal rooms. In the case of “An Unearthly Child”, the cast ought to be in the Drill Hall on Uxbridge Road.

17. The plotline where a BBC designer (apparently Peter Brachacki) repeatedly refuses to work on the sets he's been told to create for Doctor Who, then does a half-arsed job well after the deadline has passed, is not only inaccurate, but a complete insult to the professionalism of the design department.

18.From the BBC website, in an article about the original Tardis floor plans: “while the actors rehearsed... the BBC Design Team and setbuilders were constructing the sets according to these floor plans at nearby Lime Grove Studios”. So there.

19.The nature of TV production at the time meant that no one was particularly concerned about sticking to the absolute letter of the script, so Hartnell becoming angry because he got one word wrong in the line “fetch a policeman” is really unlikely.

20. And while we're at it: Hussein, as he had worked for the BBC on Compact, would have been perfectly aware that they could only make a limited number of edits, and so would likewise have been largely unconcerned with fluffs, provided the sense of the line was unaffected.

21. The bit where Sydney Newman sweet-talks Hartnell by reminding him of all the wonderful movies he's appeared in, is in fact taken directly from the memories of Donald Tosh.

22.The sequence with the shadow of the caveman falling across the landscape in front of the Tardis was filmed at Ealing, so why is Hussein apparently attempting to stage it in Lime Grove?

23. A sprinkler system which goes off on top of actual electrical equipment would not be allowed to operate, even by the health and safety standards of 1963, as it would have electrocuted everybody in the room.

24. Watching the pilot episode footage on the “Doctor Who: The Beginning” box set, Hartnell copes perfectly well with his scarf, and says “unwarrantable intrusion” without a single hesitation; ironically, it's in the version of the episode that was finally broadcast that the Doctor has a problem with his scarf.

25.Also, a careful scrutiny of the pilot episode footage indicates there's no break at that point, so, once again, the scene as depicted never happened.

26. William Hartnell complains about the hectic pace and schedule of filming Doctor Who, and says he's never done anything like it before. Because The Army Game was such a leisurely production in which Hartnell played such a tiny role with no difficult lines at all.

27. The Doctor's habit of getting Chesterton's name wrong began as a deliberate ad-lib by Hartnell in Episode 1 of "The Daleks", as a means of showing the Doctor's absent-mindedness; the team liked it so much that they wrote the next "Chesterton fluff", in Episode 5, into the script. Having them implied to be down to Hartnell's illness is like suggesting that the Ninth Doctor's continually calling Mickey Smith “Ricky” is because Christopher Eccleston had arteriosclerosis.

28. The line “brave heart” is bad enough when Peter Davison says it. It's appalling here when Verity Lambert says it to Waris Hussein.

29. Ealing filming for “The Daleks” had been completed by November 3rd, and in-studio footage for Episode 1 of “The Daleks” was finished on November 19th. Nonetheless, in the argument Newman has with Lambert shortly after the transmission of "An Unearthly Child" on November 23rd, it appears no material has been recorded.

30. The decision to repeat the first episode was taken by the BBC Programme Review Board, and was not down to an off-the-cuff suggestion from Verity Lambert.

31. Yes, the shot looking up from inside a Dalek is very nice, but real Dalek balls are not translucent, and real Daleks are made of fibreglass, not wood.

32. One of the Daleks in "The Daleks" reconstruction has a silver eye-ball, which wouldn't come in till “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”.

33. In all the publicity surrounding Russell Enoch's appearance as a BBC security guard, Carole Ann Ford's cameo as a housewife calling her children in seems to have gone completely unnoticed.

34. Hartnell doesn't fluff the word “drugs” in the interrogation scene of “The Daleks”; it's in the subsequent scene in the detention cell.

35. In contrast to the present, the BBC of the 1960s was not concerned about ratings to the exclusion of all other measures of quality.

36. Also, the Daleks' first two episodes had ratings of 6.9 and 6.4 respectively; ratings didn't start to climb until January 1964. So having Newman announce they were 10 million in 1963... well, you get the picture.

37. The “Degaullek” caricature, according to Google, appeared in the Daily Mail on 16 December 1964. Somehow, though, Hartnell can show it to Verity Lambert prior to the completion of "Marco Polo"-- which wrapped on 13 March 1964.

38. And while we're on the subject: the Doctor Who Annual Hartnell reads during the filming of "The Reign of Terror" (which wrapped on 14 August 1964) is based on one from 1965, and depicts a Menoptera, a creature from a story which wasn't even commissioned until September 1964.

39. “The Isop galaxy. Yes... many light ear... many light...years... from Earth. And yet the Vortis hasn’t the moon’s and here, there... there are several, look, you see? You can see for yourself. ” And this is the line that Hartnell thinks he could convey “with a look”?

40. Verity Lambert's leaving party would have taken place during the making of “Mission to the Unknown”. Not on the Vortis set, with Menoptera in attendance.

41. Paddy Russell, who directed “The Massacre”, has apparently had a sex change and become a man. For a programme supposedly made to celebrate the achievements of women in early television drama, this programme seems awfully keen on airbrushing all the ones who aren't named Verity out of the picture.

42. And the Doctor's speech took place when the Tardis was stationary, not in flight.

43. How come we can hear the sound of the Tardis hum louder when Hartnell peers into the base of the Tardis console? It was a sound effect which was played onto the set, not something emanating from the prop.

44. You'd think, considering that none of them are speaking parts, that they could have found people who looked more like Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves, Anneke Wills and Michael Craze.

45. Despite being dead, Mervyn Pinfield smashes his way out of the grave and drags himself to Sydney Newman's office to complain about Hartnell's performance. And feast upon brains.

46. David Bradley is pretty good at playing William Hartnell. He's less good at playing Doctor Who.

47. The material set on the Antarctic plain in “The Tenth Planet” was recorded at Ealing with a double for Hartnell, when the Tardis scenes were recorded later at Riverside Studio 1. So without serious disruption to the space-time continuum, there's no way Hartnell and the fag-smoking Cyberman were in the same studio at the same time.

48. The regeneration scene shows Polly wearing a skirt, not a fur-trimmed coat over a sweater-dress and leggings, which she actually wore in “The Tenth Planet”.

49. What does the appearance of Matt Smith's doctor actually mean? That Hartnell was capable of seeing into the future? That Doctor Who is real? That the dramatisation is a complete fiction, and therefore a fictional character can turn up in it?

50. Why does this matter? Because now, and after this programme has been repeated umpteen million times on BBC4 (and you just know it will), those of us who know better are going to be continually fighting the myth that Lambert was the only woman in an important job at the BBC in the 1960s, that Hartnell was some kind of babbling senile fool, and that the designers, composers and scene-shifters at the BBC were all such a pack of Heath-Robinsonesque bumbling amateurs that it was a wonder they managed to remember to breathe.

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