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For the 'Who' 50th, Back to the Beginning

TV movie will explore the origins of the TV Doctor and his TARDIS


Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss

Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Updated August 13, 2012

If the first salvo in what's likely to be a yearlong campaign to ensure that the golden anniversary of Doctor Who is lodged at the very forefront of every sci-fi fan's skittering consciousness, Steven Moffat and the folks on the Doctor Who team have started doling out morsels about the upcoming events associated with the show's fiftieth anniversary.

And while it was certainly true that in the days of the classic series producers like john Nathan-Turner might merely have looked wistfully across the Atlantic at the largely untapped masses of potential stateside fans, today Moffat and company are directing their efforts as solidly at America as they are back home in the UK.

Reintroducing the Doctor

Season 6 of Doctor Who was the most-watched series ever on BBC America and the most downloaded on iTunes, and the anniversary is an opportunity to draw johnny-come-latelies on this side of the pond -- some of whom might not have seen, or even been aware of, earlier Doctors than Matt Smith and David Tennant -- fully into the fold of fully fledged devotées of the entire Who experience.

So it's a shrewd move to make a 50th anniversary TV movie that explores the origins of Doctor Who itself. It's An Adventure In Space And Time, a 90-minute dramatic exploration of the genesis of the character and the series. The intent, we're told, is to explore all aspects of the series to date. The BBC says it will also look at the many personalities involved in bringing the series to life. It's scheduled to air on BBC Two next year, probably close to the show's actual anniversary, Nov. 23, 2013.

A Trusted Writer

Moffat's next step -- who to write it -- was equally smart: he handed the project to Mark Gatiss. Gatiss is not only a highly feted A-list writer these days thanks to his work on the BAFTA-winning Sherlock (as its co-creator with Moffat and as an actor playing Mycroft Holmes) and also a longstanding hero of the genre (many still know him as the creator of The League of Gentlemen). He's also high among the pantheon of respected Doctor Who creators, having written four Doctor Who novels, two Who plays, and four episodes of the new series, all of them unusual and unformulaic ("The Unquiet Dead", "The Idiot's Lantern", "Victory of the Daleks", and "Night Terrors").

Gatiss, who announced the drama's commissioning on Twitter, said he was "thrilled".

"This is the story of how an unlikely set of brilliant people created a true television original," Gatiss said. "And how an actor -- William Hartnell -- stereotyped in hard-man roles became a hero to millions of children."

"I've wanted to tell this story for more years than I can remember! To make it happen for Doctor Who's 50th birthday is quite simply a dream come true."

Long-Range Plans

Showrunner Steven Moffat made the connection between the series and how it developed alongside its medium in Britain. "The story of Doctor Who is the story of television -- so it's fitting in the anniversary year that we make our most important journey back in time to see how the TARDIS was launched."

Is this all that the Who team have planned for the big event? Hardly. But Moffat & co. are still concentrating on launching season 7, in which the Eleventh Doctor faces the Daleks, dinosaurs on a spaceship (say it with me: "Dinosaurs are cool!"), an appearance by Cleopatra and a baby Weeping Angel, as well as the departure of the Ponds and a new companion, Clara.

To watch the new season 7 trailer, click here.

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