In 2013, Doctor Who turns 50 – thus easily making it the longest-running science-fiction television show in history. This is a milestone made all the more impressive by the fact that the popular BBC series once looked like it might fade into obscurity during more than a decade of dormancy.

Amid rampant speculation about what current showrunner Stephen Moffat (Sherlock) is cooking up to celebrate Who‘s big birthday, we’ve learned that BBC and BBC America are creating a rather different sort of special to mark the occasion. Titled An Adventure in Space and Time, this 90-minute telemovie will feature a dramatic retelling of Doctor Who‘s beginnings in 1963.

TV Line reports that casting has begun for An Adventure in Space and Time. The man who embodied the first incarnation of the Doctor, William Hartnell, will in turn be played by David Bradley (of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones infamy). The inimitable Brian Cox (The Campaign) is set to portray BBC drama executive Sydney Newman, who helped spearhead the initial push to get Doctor Who off the ground. Jessica Raine (The Woman in Black) and Sacha Dhawan (After Earth) will play young producers Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein, who were responsible for shepherding the first Doctor Who episode, “The Unearthly Child,” into being.

An Adventure in Space and Time is being written by longtime Moffat collaborator and Sherlock scribe Mark Gatiss. Terry McDonough of Breaking Bad and Hell on Wheels will direct.

An image from the first ‘Doctor Who’ episode, ‘The Unearthly Child.’

In aggregate, An Adventure in Space and Time is gathering quite the collection of talent for what might otherwise be considered a throwaway based-on-a-true-story drama. Of course, executive producer Stephen Moffat will want as lavish a treatment as possible for the origins of his pet show. The possibility for interesting dramatic tension is certainly inherent in the premise: in the early days, Doctor Who apparently encountered much network resistance because of plots deemed too frightening when it strayed from its initial format as quasi-educational children’s programming. Whether any of this is worth 90 minutes of screen time is another matter.

If anything, the production of An Adventure in Space and Time proves that Moffat and the BBC are gearing up for some rather robust festivities for Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary. If they’re devoting this much effort to a movie chronicling the inception of Doctor Who, what kind of surprises are in store for the series itself?

Doctor Who returns to BBC and BBC America March 30, 2013. An Adventure in Space and Time will air on the same networks later this year.

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Source: TV Line