"Doctor Who" fans have heard and read a lot about the very beginnings of the franchise from the early 1960s, but come 2013, they'll have a chance to see it, too.
BBC Two has hired Mark Gatiss to write what we describes as his dream project: A historical drama chronicling the genesis of "Doctor Who."
Called "An Adventure in Space and Time," no one has been cast, and there is no director yet attached, but BBC Two expects the project to be done within the next year, and ready to air by the weekend of Nov. 23, 2013.
"This is the story of how an unlikely set of brilliant people created a true television original," Gatiss told BBC News. "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."
Gatiss is a highly popular British writer and actor, with an acclaim probably second only to current "Doctor Who" showrunner Steven Moffat. He co-created "Sherlock" with Moffat, and even plays Mycroft Holmes in the series. Gatiss also wrote several "Doctor Who" episodes, including "The Unquiet Dead," "Night Terrors," and the upcoming episode, "The Crimson Horror," expected to be the first non-holiday episode to feature new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman.
Gatiss was also a writer on the British series "The League of Gentlemen," as well as his own television series documentary, "A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss."
The 90-minute drama will explore not just the beginnings, but the life of the series over the decades, according to the BBC. Moffat will executive produce the project with Caroline Skinner. The project was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, who heads drama for BBC, and Janice Hadlow, who runs BBC Two.
"Doctor Who" premiered on Nov. 23, 1963, overshadowed by the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy at around the same time. It was the project of Sydney Newman who was BBC's drama head at the time, as well as Donald Wilson and C.E. Webber. Also heavily involved in those early days were Anthony Coburn, David Whitaker and Verity Lambert.
William Hartnell was cast in what was then the title role, but when it seemed obvious that Hartnell's health was affecting production, the producers instituted a plot point that would play a key role in the series' continued success for decades to come: regeneration.
Hartnell was followed by Patrick Troughton in 1966, Jon Pertwee in 1970, Tom Baker in 1974, Peter Davison in 1981, Colin Baker in 1984 and Sylvester McCoy in 1987, before the show went off the air in 1989.
BBC worked with the Fox television network in 1996 with a backdoor pilot starring Paul McGann as The Doctor, but both sides decided not to pursue a series. However, it was Russell T. Davies, fresh off his success with dramas like "Queer as Folk," that revived the show in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, returning the show as one of BBC's No. 1 scripted properties.
Eccleston would be replaced later in 2005 with David Tennant, and then Tennant would be replaced by Matt Smith in 2010.
"The story of 'Doctor Who' is the story of television," Moffat said. "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."
This is the first official announcement of any plans surrounding the "Doctor Who" anniversary next year, although Moffat told Airlock Alpha last month at San Diego Comic-Con that more plans were in the works. It's not clear when the drama would be broadcast in the United States, but it could follow the track of other "Doctor Who" programming on BBC America, and be a same-day re-broadcast across the pond.
"Doctor Who" itself returns Aug. 25 on BBC and BBC America. Get a look at the new trailer right here.
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