Reflecting on AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME (spoilers)
I haven’t posted anything here about the recent Doctor Who anniversary productions; I never seem to have gotten into the habit of discussing current TV on the blog, since I mainly do that on sites like the The TrekBBS and Tor.com. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed all of it — the wonderful return of Paul McGann in the short ‘The Night of the Doctor,” the anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” which tied off a lot of continuity threads quite beautifully and had me jumping off the couch in amazement a few times, the Internet comedy film The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot in which the surviving classic Doctors who weren’t in the special get their turn in the sun… and the biopic An Adventure in Space and Time wherein writer Mark Gatiss lovingly recreates the spirit (if not the factual details) of the formative years of Doctor Who and William Hartnell’s tenure in the role. Yesterday on the TrekBBS I made an observation about the ending of that film that’s been quite well-received by the other posters, so I felt it was worth reposting here. Naturally there are spoilers.
The discussion was about the final scene of the film, in which Hartnell (played by David Bradley) is about to film his final scene as the Doctor, and he looks over and sees the current Doctor, Matt Smith, standing across the TARDIS console and smiling at him. Several people felt that was an odd moment, saying that it took them out of the movie or that it didn’t make sense within Hartnell’s point of view. Some said maybe he should’ve seen a montage of all the future Doctors, or something. But here’s the thought I had about what the meaning of that concluding shot was:
It’s occurred to me that the shot of Smith at the end wasn’t really meant to represent Hartnell’s POV. Smith was standing in for us, the modern audience, looking back at Hartnell from our POV. I mean, this is really a pretty sad movie. Hartnell finally finds a role he loves, a professional family where he feels he belongs, but everyone leaves him and then he gets too ill to continue and they kick him out and his career withers and then he dies young and it’s all very sad. So I think that final moment reflected our wish as fans — and Mark Gatiss’s wish as the writer — that we could go back and communicate with Hartnell and tell him that what he started would leave a legacy stretching forward 50 years and more, and that he would always be remembered and cherished. To let him know, as it were, that there should be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties, because Doctor Who had gone forward in all its beliefs and proven to him that he was not mistaken in his.