Got ahold of a copy of this, and re-watched it last night. I’ve got a few thoughts on it below:
1)David Bradley does fairly well as Hartnell. He doesn’t quite capture him for me, but I’m willing to forgive a bit, since Hartnell was such a one-off that I don’t imagine anyone could quite capture him perfectly. Certainly, he’s miles better than the fellow picked to play Troughton, who looks more like a bad Moe Howard impersonator than anything else. Of course, Hartnell was another one-off, but he didn’t come near as close as Bradley did. To the best of my knowledge, they did reasonably well portraying Hartnell historically – they perhaps glossed over certain aspects of his character (i.e., his being widely said to be a bit of a bully and a racist) a bit.
2)Brian Cox did quite well as Sidney Newman, I thought. A friend of mine who isn’t quite so big of a Who fan as I am watched this with me and was quite impressed by the fact that Cox was in it. They played a little loose with his history, too, I think. For example, from what I’ve read, Newman wasn’t the one to come up with the idea of regeneration, although the story seems to imply he did. I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t him who fired Hartnell personally, either.
3)I thought Jessica Raine did quite well as Verity Lambert. Hers is a story that definitely deserves to be told, really a fascinating figure in the history of British television.
4)I liked Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein, but again, from what I know, the story exaggerated his place in the show’s history a bit. He did direct the show’s first story, but only ever directed one other story (“Marco Polo”) that I know about.
5)The actors who played his companions largely get short shrift. There are a few scenes with Jacqueline Hill, William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, but Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills get only the briefest of appearances, and no lines. I grant that it was difficult to fit all of the nuances of his three years on the show into a relatively short film, but a little more depiction of his relationships with the actors he worked with would have been nice. Speaking of the companion actors, watch for William Russell as the guard who berates Newman for his pass, and Ford as the woman calling children in for their tea. I’m told Wills was one of the guests at the party Lambert was at, but I didn’t spot her.
6)They did a good job re-creating certain elements of the show. I liked the use of howl-around for the opening credits, and they re-created the original console room well. (I hope they kept that set!) Seeing the Zarbi and the “Tenth Planet” era Cyberman on a modern TV set really shows up how primitive the effects were back then.
7)By and large, Gatiss did an OK job writing it. Some dialogue fun:
8)There’s Nick Briggs playing Peter Hawkins. Gosh, it’s going to be weird if/when Briggs ever moves on. The old show had lots of different actors do the Dalek voices, but the new show’s only ever had Briggs.
9)The bit with Matt Smith was cheesy, but forgivable cheese, I think. Hartnell himself famously said that he thought the show could go on for years (and it certainly has), so this might be seen as a visiaul representational of that. One of my failed predictions for “The Day of the Doctor” was that we might see Bradley in a brief part actually playing the First Doctor, but it was fun to (sort-of) see the First and Eleventh Doctors together, if only for a moment.
Overall: This wasn’t perfect, but overall I quite enjoyed it. It was reasonably well-acted and fairly well-written. If it didn’t quite stick to historical fact, I can see the dramatic reasons why it might not have. Besides, they almost have to put in some inaccuracies to stay true to the ethos of the show, and to give sad old obsessive fanboys like me something to go on about!
My favorite part was when Hartnell and his wife were in the park and all the kids came up to him. If that truly happened I think it was one more happier days of his life.
Jean Marsh, who played Sara Kingdom and Morgaine LeFay and Richard the Lionheart's sister, appeared in that crowd scene at the party, too. She's right up front and right behind "Lambert" as "Newman" calls her his best appointment.
"This wasn’t perfect, but overall I quite enjoyed it."
Pretty much my thought, as well. Glad to read your thoughts.
I watched this again last night in anticipation of going to see this year’s Christmas special in the theater tonight. (We recorded it on the 25th but haven’t watched it yet.) I also wanted to re-watch it, not only in anticipation of the Christmas special, but also in anticipation of the first set of “The First Doctor Adventures” due next month from Big Finish. Not only has David Bradley been cast as the Doctor, but they actors who played Carole Ann Ford, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill in “An Adventure in Time and Space” have been cast as Susan, Ian and Barbara. “The First Doctor Adventures” will also introduce James Dreyfus as “The First Master.”