The iconic Doctor Who brand has recently enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, attracting new fans who now rub shoulders with the steadfast old guard. Doctor Who is listed in the Guinness book of Records as the longest running science fiction television show, even so, its difficult to believe that there are 783 episodes in over 26 seasons. Doctor Who’s continued popularity stems from the intriguing storylines, the terrifying monsters and the BBC’s ability to produce a science fiction show on a budget so tight, that most of the props and backgrounds were painted cardboard. Whist its difficult to separate all that has aired from one another due to the intertwined nature of time, its the intention of this weekly column to recap on the plot of each episode, sprinkled with some trivia and personal opinions, with the hope that it sparks further discussion and extra insights from fans. Sadly, many of the earlier episodes have been lost and therefore not available to watch, so there may be gaps as the weekly column progresses.
Its my honour to being the review process with the first episode, Unearthly Child, which was originally aired in November 1963. Tingles ran like mad spiders up and down my spine when the original opening theme song began. As the old psychedelic title swarmed the screen, memories of watching the original Doctor Who on our black and white television, when I was a child, flew back.
The episode opens with schoolteachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton discussing a troublesome student they have in their classes. Their concern focuses on Susan’s apparent genius and unexplainable lack of common daily knowledge. The audience meets Susan who is listening to a music device which looks strangely like an ipod. She has a weird fairylike air about her as she evades questions from her teachers.
What would border on stalking now days, the pair decided to visit the address Susan has given as her home and wait outside in the care until she arrives. They discover that she lives in a junkyard and follow her inside to explore it. Its here that her grandfather, the Doctor meets them; displaying all the grumpy traits of an old man whose privacy has been threatened.
Most regenerations of the Doctor has at some point have his costume include an iconic hat; started perhaps by the strange peaked cap the first Doctor sports.
Barbara and Ian, being bossy teachers, force their way into the police box where they believe Susan has been captured and held prisoner. The look on peoples faces when they enter the TARDIS is always priceless and I can only imagine what it might have been like for audiences when it first aired.
The Doctor becomes angry with Susan, blaming her for bringing the unwelcome visitors into his ship. He decides that if the teachers are allowed to leave, then it will be uncomfortable for Susan and the Doctor to continue to live in London. The TARDIS takes them all to a Palaeolithic landscape where they encounter a tribe that has lost the secret of fire.
Although the episode is very dated, from the obvious black and white shots and limited setting; to its language usage and the social attitudes, it is the scripting which detracts from the overall story the most. It is important to note that the concepts were completely new, however, the ‘all tell and no show’ style of conveying information produced a dialogue heavy with information.
Photo of the First Doctor and Susan via Wiki