An Adventure in Space and Time investigates the origins of Doctor Who

The BBC’s 50th Anniversary special will include parts for all 11 incarnations of the Doctor.

All 8 surviving actors have already signed on to play their parts, but the first three actors, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee are no longer with us, and thus cannot sign on to be a part of this grand project. Currently, it’s theorized that their parts will be played by digitally modified footage from their surviving episodes.

BBC America, however, can’t take that route for their part in the celebration. This week, the network confirmed it would be producing its own 50th anniversary special, separate from the one that the BBC is producing. It will not be an episode of the show, however. This special, entitled An Adventure in Space and Time, will tell the dramatized origin story of Doctor Who, and so they need a real actor to play the part of Hartnell, who passed away in 1975. To that end, they’ve signed up David Bradley (whom you might recognize as Argus Filch from the Harry Potter Films).

The origins of the show were recently revealed in a series of historical documents, which became the source material for this special.

“I’m absolutely thrilled. I first heard about this role from Mark while watching the Diamond Jubilee flotilla from the roof of the National Theatre. When he asked if I would be interested, I almost bit his hand off!” said Bradley.

Mark has written such a wonderful script not only about the birth of a cultural phenomenon, but a moment in television’s history. William Hartnell was one of the finest character actors of our time and as a fan I want to make sure that I do him justice. I’m so looking forward to getting started.”

Doctor Who’s original creator, Sydney Newman, who was creative director of BBC at the time, will be played by Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Identity) and the producer, Verity Lambert, by Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife). The director of the first episode An Unearthly Child, Waris Hussein, will be played by Sacha Dhawan (History Boys).

Mark Gatiss, writer and executive producer for the special said: “What a cast! I’m utterly delighted that everyone’s favorite Time Lord will be in such brilliant and stellar company. We have a terrific team who can’t wait to tell the fascinating and surprising story of how the Doctor began his journey through Space and Time.”

Doctor Who returns to television for the second half of this season on March 30, 2013 on BBC One and BBC America. The season finale will lead into the 50th Anniversary episode, and the various 50th anniversary special projects are going on all year, including comics, radio dramas, toys, documentaries, ebooks, and even postage stamps.

Update: First version of the article contained a photo of the wrong Brian Cox.