Who knew? Few could have foreseen the enduring success of Doctor Who given its inauspicious origins a half-century ago — a fascinating story of pluck, luck and imagination delightfully rendered in An Adventure in Space and Time, a new TV movie (Friday, 9/8c) airing as part of BBC America's 50th-anniversary Who celebration this weekend.
You don't have to be a Whovian to appreciate this jaunty re-creation of a simpler, scrappier time in TV history. A "year-ometer" (cute touch) dials back to 1963, when the staid BBC's brash new head of drama, Canadian showman Sydney Newman (a marvelously uncouth Brian Cox), greenlights a new sci-fi serial to appeal to kids and fickle sports fans. With a miniscule budget, an overheated "broom cupboard" of a studio and an edict of "no tin robots or BEM (bug-eyed monsters)," Newman appoints an unorthodox team to realize his vision: Verity Lambert (Call the Midwife's Jessica Raine), an ambitious pioneering female producer, and Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), a novice Indian director.