C001 An Unearthly Child


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Teachers Ian and Barbara follow Wunderkind pupil Susan to a junkyard, where they meet her grandfather, The Doctor.



In the beginning, there was a junkyard, and in that junkyard stood a Tardis. But we’re not there yet.

Teachers Ian and Barbara are bewildered by Wunderkind pupil, Susan “Foreman”, who’s great at science but not hip to chronology. Not thinking it creepy at all, they decide to stalk Susan to the junkyard where she allegedly lives with her grandfather… whom they meet and who turns out to be The Doctor. He kidnaps said teachers in his time machine, transporting them back in time to caveman days and refusing to bring them back home.

That’s right; he’s a bastard.

The Doctor disembarks the TARDIS, wanting to take some scientific samples and also to smoke his pipe, but in the process manages to get kidnapped himself – by a caveman no less, who believes the Doctor’s matches to be some sort of fire-making witchcraft that will allow him to take control of his tribe.

While looking for the abducted Doctor, the rest of the group are kidnapped (once again – this time by cavemen as well) and the whole troupe is held captive in “The Cave of Skulls”. Madness ensues.

PS: Pipes are cool.

(The Ratings and Reviews of this Doctor Who story kick in at the 34m45s mark.)

5 Responses to “C001 An Unearthly Child”

  1. Peter Zunitch

    I’m about a year out from the start of this podcast but am doing an in-order rewatch of my own. I’ll catch up someday. At this writing I’m up to the smugglers. Would have loved to have been around for the missing eps. I would have volunteered to be on the show. I’m okay with recons for the most part.

    This is a great start to the series, even if some of the concepts here are altered later. It only makes sense that the first ep be to the proverbial dawn of man. Susan is played so young and innocent here. I and v are excellent right out of the gate and it is interesting to see their relationship grow over time from now to the Romans and beyond. WH is the perfect choice for the doctor, suave, mysterious, smart and crochety.

    The story itself is okay but falls short in its simplicity, and the speech patterns are a bold move for a series on its first attempt to snag an audience. Production is adequate, but the jungle running is comical.

    Not a perfect start, but hey, it hooked an audience for the next 50+ years.
    2.7

    Reply
    • Peter Zunitch

      Oh and the episode 1 should get its own review. That would get a 4.5. It’s a near perfect start with instant chemistry across the board. WH steals the spotlight the moment he steps into it. My only wish is that the classroom montage were treated differently.

      Reply
  2. So I am now embarking on this Odyssey myself, trudging down the temporal road while the main party are many years in my future. Perhaps I will meet them some day. In the meantime, let me record my own findings as I proceed, and we shall see if there may be a future convergence of the timestreams!

    AN UNEARTHLY CHILD
    There is some debate as to whether the first story in the Doctor Who series should be called ‘An Unearthly Child’ or ‘100,000BC’. This probably reflects the fact that there are two stories in one.

    The first involves history teacher Barbara Wright and science teacher Ian Chesterton following their mysterious pupil Susan home to a junkyard and to a strange police box in which she lives with her grandfather, the Doctor. Finding them snooping around, the Doctor immediately abducts them, plunging them into an adventure in time and space.

    The second story brings us to caveman times where a bunch of dull savages sit around in a cave arguing about who should be leader.

    THE MAJESTY
    I loved the first story: the Doctor as antihero is lots of fun; the whole set up-with Ian and Barbara ensures that the series is grounded in normal human reality, and their journey from that normality into the alien landscape of the cavemen is brilliantly done.

    THE MISERY
    Sadly things really fall apart as soon as we met the cavemen. They are all equally underdeveloped, uninteresting and unpleasant. They all speak in stilted English (“Me Leader. Make Fire.”) that no doubt left the scriptwriter feeling very pleased with himself but is actually sheer twaddle.

    MAGICAL MOMENTS
    The opening shot: a long swoop through a junkyard to finally discover the TARDIS for the first time ever.
    The first conversation between Ian and Barbara in her classroom, not knowing all that’s still lying before them.
    The first appearance of Susan, eccentrically dancing to some light rock. She’s more ‘alien teenager’ here than she ever will be again.
    The Doctor appears for the first time, slinking into the junkyard wearing a most wonderful hat.
    When Ian challenges the Doctor to open the TARDIS and prove Susan is not inside, the Doctor instead pretends to get distracted by a picture frame. “I’ve never noticed this before”. Does he really think this will work as a decoy?
    Some of the Doctor’s dialogue in the TARDIS is delightfully epic: “Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Susan and I are exiles, but one day we shall get back. One day…”
    Again, arguing with Ian, “If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cry of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that convince you?”
    Ian and Barbara take their first steps out of the TARDIS doors into an alien world. They don’t take it in their stride, as future companions might do – their shocked behaviour is much more believable.
    The giant boar’s head in episode three is actually a very impressive prop. (Sadly it’s upstaged by the general hysteria and moaning of the cast).
    The moment where the Dr is about to murder Za – bashing out his brains with a rock – and Ian stops him. (The Doctor is probably at his most psychopathical moment here, and it’s wonderful!)
    The fight between Cal and Za is full-blooded dynamic violence and surprisingly entertaining! It’s very Game of Thrones: I fully expected a spray of blood to hit Barbara in the face when Za crushes Cal’s head with the rock.

    IN SUMMARY
    The first episode alone would get a solid 4.8 out of 5. Not only is it the basis for the whole series, but it’s excellent drama and hooks me right in. The remaining episodes sadly are, for me, very lame. The scenes with the main four work reasonably well, though they don’t really accomplish anything. But I really couldn’t care less about any of the cavemen. These episodes get perhaps a 2.4.

    Overall: 3.0

    Reply
    • Welcome aboard, Murdo! You’re in for a treat — the temporal road is pretty great. Bravo for writing an excellent review!

      Reply
  3. Peter Zunitch

    Hi Murdo
    Hope you can catch up. I m watching in order too and it’s amazimgly gratifying. In the meantime I look forward to reading all your reviews.

    Reply

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