5. Friday · Fan Girl Friday

Doctor Who – Right back to the start



Now it may seem strange putting up the phrase spoilers on a programme that has stretched back 50 years but I am aware when discussing the older stories there may be some people who have not seen them.  The older series many stories were told over 4-6 episodes so I will briefly discuss each episode then an overview of the story as a whole.

I decided that the best place to start would be at the beginning, the format of these review is still a work in progress so please bear with me, all feed back welcome as always.

Story Title; An Unearthly Child


the First Doctor played by William Hartnell


Susan Foreman played by Carole Ann Ford

Barbara Wright played by Jacqueline Hill

Ian Chesterton played by William Russell

First Aired in the UK;

Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
An Unearthly Child 23 November 1963 23:24 4.4
The Cave of Skulls 30 November 1963 24:26 5.9
The Forest of Fear 7 December 1963 23:38 6.9
The Firemaker 14 December 1963 24:22 6.4
Barbara, Susan, the Doctor and Ian
Barbara, Susan, the Doctor and Ian

Episode 1; An Unearthly Child

We begin with the two teachers, Ian and Barbara, from the school which Susan has attending becoming suspicious about the girl and her erratic knowledge base, highly intelligent in some aspects get incredibly naive in others Susan has not quite managed to fully integrate herself unnoticed into life as a teenage girl.  She loves the music and the twentieth century yet it is in the details her ‘otherness’ shows through her inability to grasp old money, and some of the more basic concepts of social interactions give her away and this failed with a down slide in her homework standards lead to Barbara decides to visit her home.  Unable to find the address the school have for her she enlists the help of Ian to follow Susan home with the intention of talking to her grandfather however instead of a house they find themselves outside a junk yard.

I want to keep the clips to a minimum but as this was the first glimpse we get of the Doctor I could not resist we also get our first look inside the TARDIS.  Although we now are familiar with the idea of the TARDIS it is worth stopping and considering just how different this was to anything else at the time of its broadcast. Spaceships and time travel were of course well documented topics in literary works as well as in film but the idea of something existing in different dimensions was as far as I am aware unheard of.  The choice of the Police Box for the ship was am amazing choice as it took the ordinary and created something extraordinary.

It is worth mentioning here that in trying to be impartial rather than just the squealing fan girl that I do think in many ways unless you are already a Who fan you are not going to fall in love with the series from this episode if you watch it as your first episode today.  By today’s standards the camera work seems clumsy and the picture quality is poor although the BBC are showing a restored version as part of the 50th celebrations.  The other failing is really the story line.  Strange girl gets followed home from school by two teachers who would in today’s climate be reported for stalking her, follow her to a junk yard where she appears to be living and confront her grumpy old granddad.  In any other genre this would be the point social services were called instead they force their into her home and are shocked by what they find.  The episode ends with the Doctor setting the ship in flight after refusing to allow Ian and Barbara to leave and they land on what appears to be a strange beach.  The cliff hanger ending lacks impact compared to many of those modern viewers are used to,

Episode 2; The Cave of Skulls

I need to keep the summaries briefer for the next episodes or it will be a ridiculously long post lol so here goes

We start with a group of cavemen arguing about making fire and failing.  Lots of shouting, and political squabbling about leadership.

Meanwhile in the TARDIS the Doctor is arguing with Ian about the possibility they have travelled anywhere before opening the doors to reveal the prehistoric landscape.  Once outside the Doctor notices that the TARDIS has failed to camouflage itself to blend into the environment.   Susan, Barbara and Ian explore together while the Doctor wonders off to take samples, the Doctor disappears and Susan has hysterics before they go looking for him.

The Doctor is held captive by the tribesmen as they fight for leadership, the others are captured as the search for the Doctor and before long are reunited in captivity.  We leave them prisoners in a cave surrounded by skulls that have evidently met with a violent ending.

Episode 3; The Forest of Fear

After a little plotting and squabbling our intrepid travellers work out how to escape from the cave, Barbara nearly gives them away by screaming about a dead wild boar which is rather amusing considering where they had just escaped from. We do begin to get character building in this episode revealing the main characters personalities more possibly because they are isolated for most of the episode.

When the leader of the tribe is attacked they rush to his aid and lose their chance to escape.

Episode 4; The Firemaker

We open with a view of the Tardis surrounded by savages before seeing our daring explorers dragged back to the caves.  The Doctor tries to re-establish the power balance within the tribe and actually instigates the stoning of one character to drive him from the tribe which is rather a disturbing image when you consider what the Doctor has come to represent in later years.  They are thrown back into the caves, and discovered making fire, eventually they make there escape and return to the Tardis.

Overall view;

This was a brilliant opening story for the series, it is worth bearing in mind that the actual intention of the series was still being tweaked and was intended to provide an element of historical education as part of the programme so heading back to the primitive beginnings of man was apt in more ways than one.


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