An Unearthly Child

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001 – An Unearthly Child
Doctor Who serial
Unearthly Child 2.jpg
Ian and Barbara moments after forcing their way into the TARDIS.
Cast
Others
Production
WriterAnthony Coburn
C. E. Webber (episode 1, uncredited)
DirectorWaris Hussein
Douglas Camfield (film inserts, uncredited)
Script editorDavid Whitaker
ProducerVerity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s)None
Production codeA
SeriesSeason 1
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started23 November 1963
Date ended14 December 1963
Chronology
← Preceded byFollowed by →
The Daleks
 
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001 – An Unearthly Child
Doctor Who serial
Unearthly Child 2.jpg
Ian and Barbara moments after forcing their way into the TARDIS.
Cast
Others
Production
WriterAnthony Coburn
C. E. Webber (episode 1, uncredited)
DirectorWaris Hussein
Douglas Camfield (film inserts, uncredited)
Script editorDavid Whitaker
ProducerVerity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s)None
Production codeA
SeriesSeason 1
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started23 November 1963
Date ended14 December 1963
Chronology
← Preceded byFollowed by →
The Daleks

An Unearthly Child (also referred to as 100,000 BC) is the first serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on BBC TV in four weekly parts from 23 November to 14 December 1963. Scripted by the Australian writer Anthony Coburn, it introduces William Hartnell as the First Doctor and original companions Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and William Russell as Ian Chesterton. The first episode deals with Ian and Barbara's discovery of the Doctor and his time-space ship TARDIS in a junkyard in contemporary London. The remaining episodes are set amid a power struggle between warring Stone Age factions who have lost the secret of making fire.

The first episode, now generally considered to be also called "An Unearthly Child", was originally filmed in September 1963. Following several technical and performance errors, producers Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert decided to refilm the episode, while making subtle revisions in the Doctor's characterisation. The second attempt was filmed in October 1963.

The launch of Doctor Who was overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous day. The serial received favourable reviews, and the four episodes attracted an average of 6 million viewers. However, it became overshadowed by the subsequent story, The Daleks.

Contents

Plot

The first episode starts in a junkyard in contemporary London and introduces the four characters who were to form the core of the first year's production: Schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are concerned about one of their pupils, Susan Foreman, who seems to have a very alien outlook on England. She is precocious, but seems to have strange gaps in her understanding of the world. They have come to her listed address to investigate.

The programme's main prop, the TARDIS, is also introduced, when the teachers hear Susan's voice apparently coming from inside a police box. At the time, such boxes were a fairly common sight on the streets of London, but only police officers held a key to open them. The TARDIS proves to be no ordinary police box: when Ian and Barbara enter, they discover it to be much bigger on the inside than the outside, and furnished with futuristic-looking controls. The time machine retains its outward appearance when it travels through time, which Susan explains as a malfunction in the circuitry that is supposed to adapt its appearance to its surroundings.

Susan lives with her grandfather, the mysterious Doctor, who does not otherwise identify himself. He is a cranky, hostile, suspicious old man who appears to be a fugitive. Fearing that Barbara and Ian will give away the secret of the TARDIS and make life impossible for him in London, he takes the machine to the Stone Age.

In the remaining three episodes, the four become involved in a brutal power struggle within a Stone Age tribe. In "The Cave of Skulls", the group encounters a Paleolithic tribe and are subsequently imprisoned by them in a large cave. In "The Forest of Fear", they are shown to escape from the settlement, but are subsequently intercepted before reaching the TARDIS. They barely escape with their lives by exploitation of Ian's knowledge of how to produce fire, which induces fear and respect in the primitive Stone Age society. The final episode, "The Firemaker", has the group mediating separate factions of the tribe before fleeing successfully to the TARDIS. They travel, seemingly at random, to a new destination; even the Doctor does not know where. The TARDIS's view screen shows a mysterious scene, a petrified forest, which acts as a teaser for the next story. As the time travellers leave their machine, a radiation meter is shown on the console of the machine, unheeded by them, registering "Danger".

Production

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewers
(in millions)
Archive
"An Unearthly Child"23 November 1963 (1963-11-23)23:244.416mm t/r
"The Cave of Skulls"30 November 1963 (1963-11-30)24:265.916mm t/r
"The Forest of Fear"7 December 1963 (1963-12-07)23:386.916mm t/r
"The Firemaker"14 December 1963 (1963-12-14)24:226.416mm t/r
[1][2][3]

The serial that became An Unearthly Child was originally commissioned from writer Anthony Coburn in June 1963, when it was intended to run as the second Doctor Who serial. At this stage, it was planned that the series would open with a serial entitled The Giants, to be written by BBC staff scriptwriter C. E. Webber.[4] Webber had been heavily involved in the brainstorming meetings which had led to the creation of Doctor Who, and — with BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman and Head of Serials Donald Wilson — had co-written the initial format document for the series.

By the middle of June, however, Wilson and Doctor Who's initial "caretaker producer" Rex Tucker decided to reject The Giants. This was partly because it was felt the serial lacked the necessary impact for an opener, and partly because it was felt that the technical requirements of the storyline — which involved the leading characters being drastically reduced in size — would be beyond the capacities of the young series at this point, given the facilities available.[5] Due to the lack of scripts ready for production, it was decided to move Coburn's serial up to first place in the running order.[5]

By the end of June, responsibility for getting Doctor Who off the ground was handed over to producer Verity Lambert and script editor David Whitaker, neither of whom were greatly impressed with Coburn's serial as a series 'opener'. The writer was asked to carry out major rewrites.[6] Some consideration was even given to dropping the scripts altogether, with writer Terence Dudley briefly sounded out about providing a replacement, but a lack of time necessitated Coburn's serial going ahead.[6]

The moving up in the schedule of Coburn's story necessitated his rewriting the opening episode to include some introductory elements of Webber's script for the first episode of The Giants; as a result, Webber received a co-writer's credit for the episode "An Unearthly Child" on internal BBC documentation.[7] Coburn did, however, make several significant original contributions of his own, most notably that the Doctor's time machine should externally resemble a police box, which subsequently went on to become one of the main icons of the show. Coburn had the idea for the design when he came across a real police box while on a walk near his office.[7] Concerned to avoid any possibility of sexual impropriety implicit in having a young girl travelling with an older man, Coburn also insisted that the character of Susan Foreman should be redrawn as the Doctor's granddaughter, rather than simply his travelling companion.

The serial as a whole was originally to have been directed by Rex Tucker, but when he moved on from the series, young staff director Waris Hussein, who had been attached to Doctor Who from an early stage, was given the assignment.[7] Some of the pre-filmed inserts for the serial, shot at Ealing Studios in early October, were directed by Hussein's production assistant, Douglas Camfield.[7] The incidental music score was provided by Norman Kay. The scenic designer assigned to the serial was Peter Brachacki, who originated the distinctive TARDIS interior set, but he eventually handled only the very first episode before being replaced by Barry Newbery, as he was unhappy working on the programme.[7]

The early series, says cultural scholar John Paul Green, "explicitly positioned the Doctor as grandfather to his companion Susan."[8] Unlike most Doctor Who episodes, the Doctor is accompanied in the TARDIS by not only one companion, Susan, but also her school teachers, Ian and Barbara (William Russell and Jacqueline Hill). Scholar John R. Cook reflects that the teachers' presence echoes Doctor Who's original educational remit.[9] The New Scientist reflected, in 1982, that the serial was set in the stone age because the show's original intention was "to bring to life the Earth's history."[10]

The first version of the opening episode was shot at Lime Grove Studios on the evening of 27 September 1963, following a week of rehearsals. The second attempt at the opening episode was shot on 18 October, with the following three episodes being shot weekly from that point onwards on 25 October, 1 November and 8 November.[7] As with much British television of the era, the episodes were predominantly videotaped "as live", with little scope for re-takes or breaks in recording. This left room for many mistakes that are evident on the show- but actually got the shows finished extremely quickly.

Pilot episode

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Original Pilot, version 1"26 August 1991 (1991-08-26)25:231.716mm t/r
"Original Pilot, version 2"unaired25:23n/a16mm t/r
[1][2][3]
William Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford in the original pilot episode. Note the change in costumes compared to the screen capture of the same scene, above.

The first episode, "An Unearthly Child", was originally recorded a month before full recording on the series began. However, the initial recording was bedevilled with technical problems and errors made during the performance. A particular problem occurred with the doors leading into the TARDIS control room, which would not close properly, instead randomly opening and closing through the early part of the scene. Two versions of the scene set in the TARDIS were recorded, along with an aborted first attempt to start the second version.

Sydney Newman, after viewing the episode, met producer Verity Lambert and director Waris Hussein. He indicated the many faults he found with the pilot and ordered that it be mounted again; a consequence of this was the delay of the show's planned 16 November 1963 premiere date. This initial episode is now known as the unaired "pilot episode", although it was never intended as such, since the practice of producing pilot episodes did not exist in Britain in the 1960s.

During the weeks between the two tapings, changes were made to costuming, effects, performances, and the script (which had originally featured a more callous and threatening Doctor and Susan doing strange things like flicking ink blots onto paper). Changes made before the final version were filmed include a thunderclap sound effect being deleted from the opening theme music; Susan's dress being changed to make her look more like a schoolgirl than the original costume, which made her appear more alien and sensual; the Doctor's costume being changed from a contemporary jacket and tie to his familiar Edwardian clothing; a reference to the Doctor and Susan being from the 49th century was replaced with the line "[from] another time, another world"; the TARDIS door being repaired so that it closed properly; and a refinement of the TARDIS sound effect.

The original episode was not broadcast until 26 August 1991, when the BBC aired a version that edited together the first half of the taping with one of the two completed second halves. As it happened, the version chosen was the one in which the TARDIS doors would not close; other errors included actress Carole Ann Ford flubbing a line of dialogue, Jacqueline Hill getting caught in a doorway, a camera banging into a piece of scenery during one of the scrapyard sequences, and William Russell accidentally knocking over a mannequin in the scrapyard. Earlier, in June 1991, a version with the first half edited together with the other take of the second half of the pilot was released on the VHS compilation The Hartnell Years;[11] later, in 2000, the complete version (including both takes) was released in a remastered form on VHS, along with The Edge of Destruction.[12] In 2006, the Doctor Who: The Beginning DVD set contained two versions of the episode: an unedited studio recording including all takes of the second part of the show, and a newly-created version of the pilot that uses the best footage from the original recording, with additional editing and digital adjustments to remove blown lines, technical problems, and reduce studio noise. Like the other episodes from this serial, both versions of the "pilot" were remastered for DVD release, using VidFIRE technology that simulated the original video look of the 1963 production.

Alternative titles

As was usual at the beginning of the series' history, no overall title appeared on-screen, and each episode has its own title. 100,000 BC is the title that was used by the production team at the time of transmission. However, due to the absence of an overall onscreen title for the four-episode storyline, reference works have used various titles, some originating from the BBC Production Office and others seemingly invented by fans.

Titles used for the story include, in rough chronological order:[13]

Many documents lack any title at all (whereas for later stories they are clearer), including the 1974 BBC Enterprises listing A Quick Guide to Doctor Who, which was the main source of titles for most early fan reference works.

Which title should be used is a subject that has generated controversy amongst fans of the series. Fan researchers such as David J. Howe argue that since 100,000 BC was used by the production team at the time of transmission, it is the most accurate title. However, the BBC markets the story as An Unearthly Child. Consequently, this became the most common title used for the story.

Cast notes

Derek Newark later played Greg Sutton in the serial Inferno. Alethea Charlton later played Edith in the serial The Time Meddler. Eileen Way later played Karela in the serial The Creature from the Pit and appeared in the film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD. Jeremy Young later played Gordon Lowery in Mission to the Unknown.

Broadcast and reception

The first episode was transmitted at 5:15 on Saturday 23 November 1963. The assassination of John F. Kennedy on the previous day overshadowed the launch of a new television series.[14] It has been written that the transmission was delayed by ten minutes due to extended news coverage; in fact, it went out just eighty seconds late.[15][16] The first episode was repeated a week later, on 30 November, preceding the second episode, "The Cave of Skulls".[14]

The first episode was watched by 4.4 million viewers (9.1% of the viewing audience), and it received a "higher-than-average" score of 63 on the Reaction Index.[14] Across its four episodes, An Unearthly Child was watched by an average of 6 million (12.3% of potential viewers).[14] Mark Bould, however, suggests that a disappointing audience reaction and high production costs prompted the BBC's chief of programmes to cancel the series, until the Daleks, introduced in the second serial in December 1963, were immediately popular with viewers.[17]

The Guardian reviewer Mary Crozier was unimpressed by the serial after the first two episodes, thinking that it "has fallen off badly soon after getting underway". Of the first episodes, she wrote that it "got off the ground predictably, but there was little to trill". She went on to write that the second part was "a depressing sequel" and the "wigs and furry pelts and clubs and laborious dialogue were all ludicrous".[18] It also received a short favourable review in the Daily Mail, who claimed that it "must have delighted the hearts of the Telegoons who followed".[14]

Retrospective reviews are mainly positive towards An Unearthly Child. Referring to the serial while discussing the early years of Doctor Who, the New Scientist's Malcolm Peltu praised the script, acting and direction, although he was less complimentary about the scenery, which, he says, looks like cardboard.[10] Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern praised the casting of Hartnell, the "moody" direction and the "thrilling" race back to the TARDIS.[19] In 2010, Christopher Bahn of The A.V. Club labelled An Unearthly Child an essential serial to watch for background on the programme.[20] In his review, he noted that the first episode is "brilliantly done; the next three together could be about a half-hour shorter but get the job done". He praised the characters of Ian, Barbara, and the mysterious Doctor, but noted that he was far from the character he would become and Susan was "something of a cipher" with the hope she would develop later.[21] DVD Talk's John Sinnott called the first episode "excellent", but felt the "story goes down hill a bit" with the introduction of the prehistoric time period. He cited the slower pace, the discussions in "Tarzan-speak", and the lack of tension or high stakes.[22] The opening episode's cliffhanger was commended by the Daily Worker,[14] and in 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed it among the show's greatest cliffhangers.[23]

Scholar Mark Bould discusses how the serial establishes Doctor Who's socio-political stances. He writes, "The story represents the separation/reunion, capture/escape, pursuit/evasion that will dominate the next twenty-six years, as well as the program's consistent advocacy of the BBC's political and social liberalism." He cites Ian and Barbara's attempt to teach a cavewoman kindness, friendship and democracy, writing "a tyrant is not as strong as the whole tribe acting collectively".[24]

Merchandise

In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
An Unearthly Child
SeriesTarget novelisations
Release number68
WriterTerrance Dicks
PublisherTarget Books
Cover artistAndrew Skilleter
ISBN0-426-20144-2
Release date15 October 1981

Writer David Whitaker omitted the An Unearthly Child adventure from the first spin-off novelisation, Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (later retitled Doctor Who and the Daleks and Doctor Who - The Daleks), with Ian and Barbara's entrance into the TARDIS leading directly into an adaptation of the second televised serial, The Daleks.[25] Historian James Chapman highlights this as a reason that, in an age before home video, many people believed the Dalek serial to be the first Doctor Who story because the novelisations published by Target were the "closest that fans had to the original programmes".[25] Similarly, Cornell et al. report that the second serial overshadowed An Unearthly Child to such an extent that many people believed that Terry Nation (writer of The Daleks) created not only the famous monsters but the entire show itself; this error became so prevalent that it was mistakenly included in an edition of the board game Trivial Pursuit.[26]

Terrance Dicks wrote the Target Books novelisation of this story, initially published as Doctor Who and an Unearthly Child in October 1981. A French language version of the novelisation with the title Docteur Who entre en scène (literally, Doctor Who takes the stage) was published in 1987. A 1990 German edition published by Goldmann was one of six Doctor Who novels from that publisher, this being the only not involving the Daleks. The German title was Doctor Who und das Kind von den Sternen (Doctor Who and the Child from the Stars). It was the first Target novelisation to feature the "neon logo" and early editions featured a red foil logo. The First Doctor's appearance in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Eight Doctors, also by Dicks, occurs during this story.

A verbatim transcript of the transmitted version of this serial, edited by John McElroy and titled The Tribe of Gum, was published by Titan Books in January 1988. It was the first in what was intended to be a long series of Doctor Who script books.[27]

VHS and DVD releases

The story was originally released on VHS in 1990,[28] and the unaired pilot (edited with the second take of the TARDIS scene) was released as part of The Hartnell Years in 1991.[29] The story An Unearthly Child was rereleased and remastered in 2000 (this edition was only released for the United Kingdom and Australia).[30] It was remastered again and subsequently released on DVD in January 2006 with The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction in the DVD box set The Beginning, which includes all footage from the pilot (as well as an edited and enhanced 'special edition' of the pilot episode).[31]

References and notes

  1. ^ a b Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "An Unearthly Child". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080506061533/http://www.gallifreyone.com/episode.php?id=a. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  2. ^ a b "100,000 BC". Doctor Who Reference Guide. http://www.drwhoguide.com/who_A.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  3. ^ a b Sullivan, Shannon (2006-07-23). "100,000 BC". A Brief History of Time Travel. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. http://www.shannonsullivan.com/drwho/serials/a.html. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  4. ^ Howe, Stammers & Walker 1994, pp. 181–2
  5. ^ a b Howe, Stammers & Walker 1994, p. 186
  6. ^ a b Howe, Stammers & Walker 1994, p. 195
  7. ^ a b c d e f Howe, Stammers & Walker 1994
  8. ^ Green 2010, p. 7
  9. ^ Cook 1999, p. 116
  10. ^ a b Peltu, Malcolm (21 Jan 1982). "Dr Who". New Scientist 93 (1289): 177. ISSN 0262-4079.
  11. ^ "The Hartnell Years". The TARDIS Library. http://www.timelash.com/tardis/display.asp?773#uk. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  12. ^ "The Edge of Destruction & The Pilot Episode". The TARDIS Library. http://www.timelash.com/tardis/display.asp?872#uk. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  13. ^ Pixley, Andrew (15 January 2001). "By Any Other Name". Time Space Visualizer. New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club. http://homepages.bw.edu/~jcurtis/Pixley_3.htm. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Chapman 2006, p. 25
  15. ^ Howe & Walker 1998, p. 9
  16. ^ Howe 2003
  17. ^ Bould 2008, p. 215
  18. ^ Crozier, Mary (2 December 1963). "Television". The Guardian: p. 7. http://archive.guardian.co.uk/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=R1VBLzE5NjMvMTIvMDIjQXIwMDcwMA==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english-skin-custom. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  19. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (1 October 2008). "Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child". Radio Times. http://www.radiotimes.com/blog/2008-10-01/doctor-who-an-unearthly-child. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  20. ^ Bahn, Christopher (8 April 2010). "Doctor Who: Primer". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/doctor-who,39924/. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  21. ^ Bahn, Christopher (5 June 2011). "An Unearthly Child". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/an-unearthly-child,56915/. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  22. ^ Sinnott, John (1 April 2006). "Doctor Who: The Beginning". DVD Talk. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/20936/doctor-who-the-beginning/. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  23. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. http://io9.com/5625151/greatest-doctor-who-cliffhangers-of-all-time. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  24. ^ Bould 2008, p. 214
  25. ^ a b Chapman 2006, p. 26
  26. ^ Cornell, Day & Topping 1993, p. 303
  27. ^ Coburn 1988, pp. 4, 7
  28. ^ "An Unearthly Child". The TARDIS Library. Edition: UK (original). http://www.timelash.com/tardis/display.asp?874#ukoriginal. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
  29. ^ "The Hartnell Years". The TARDIS Library. Edition: UK. http://www.timelash.com/tardis/display.asp?773#uk. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
  30. ^ "An Unearthly Child". The TARDIS Library. Edition: UK (remastered). http://www.timelash.com/tardis/display.asp?874#ukremastered. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
  31. ^ Couzens, Gary (30 January 2006). "Doctor Who: The Beginning (1963–1964) Region 2 DVD Video Review". Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix. Poisonous Monkey. http://homecinema.thedigitalfix.co.uk/content.php?contentid=60182. Retrieved 12 June 2010.

Bibliography

External links

Reviews

Target novelisation