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Classic Doctor Who Review: An Unearthly Child Part 1

Posted by: Whochick

An Unearthly Child Part 1 (An Unearthly Child)
The First Doctor: Story 1.1

Here at last is my first Classic Doctor Who episode review. I will be reviewing each episode, rather than each story, as some of those stories are really long. When I finish all four parts of this first episode, I will also review (or rather, discuss) the pilot episode. Luckily, it is available on my DVD. I will try and note any differences.

Back on November 23, 1963, Doctor Who first premiered. Unfortunately for the show, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated the previous day, and this caused the episode to be pushed back a bit. In order to make things a bit easier on the folks who had been watching the news, instead of watching this new show, the first episode was re-run the following week. That must have worked out for them, as the show survived for quite a few years afterwards.

Okay then, let’s get started at the beginning with The First Doctor.

Episode: An Unearthly Child by Anthony Coburn
Rating (1 to 5): 4
Doctor: The First Doctor
Companions: Susan “Foreman” (The Doctor’s granddaughter.), and Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright against their will.
Time: 1963 and somewhere in the far past at the end.
Place: London – Coal Hill School and 76 Totter’s Lane
Baddie: Um…actually…The Doctor a little.
The Doctor’s Alias: Susan’s grandfather.
The Doctor enjoys: Being left alone?
The Doctor dislikes: People sticking their noses in his business.
The Doctor apologizes to: no one.
Doctor-y Strangeness: He ignores questions he doesn’t want to answer, and ruthlessly takes Ian and Barbara with him to avoid losing Susan and/or their secret getting out.
Susan-y Strangeness: Well, that’s what this episode is all about. She finds something incorrect in the book about the French Revolution. She doesn’t know how many shillings are in a pound. (Before decimalisation in 1971 there were 20 schillings to the pound.) She is bored by some of the experiments in Ian’s class, and claims to not be able to do an equation with only three dimensions to it.
Scary Stuff: Being trapped in the TARDIS and taken away.
Does someone local help out? Barbara and Ian try to help out, but they get…stolen for their troubles.
Connections: The band that Susan is listening to in the empty classroom is “John Smith and the Common Men.” John Smith is The Doctor’s favorite alias. Especially during the Third Doctor era and the Tenth Doctor era. The Doctor has taught both History and Science during the course of the new series.
What we learn: Susan is 15 and quite the puzzle to her teachers. Susan’s address is listed at school as “76 Totter’s Lane” which is a scrapyard. Susan’s school is Coal Hill School (which is where Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton work.) The parked TARDIS has a faint vibration to it. The TARDIS door is controlled by a wee switch on the console. We discover for the first time that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. Susan says that she named the TARDIS from the initials of Time and Relative Dimension in Space. The Doctor and Susan are exiles (according to the Doctor.) They are also from another Planet and time. Susan and The Doctor have been here for five months. It’s a bumpy ride to travel by TARDIS.
My Favorite Bits: Susan enjoying music in the empty classroom. Barbara feeling that they are about to interfere in something best left alone. (Which they are.) Apparently, The Doctor has always had the ability to ignore questions he doesn’t want to answer. The very first case of someone encountering the bigger inside of the TARDIS. The very first bumpy ride in the TARDIS.

Observations and musings:

In The Doctor’s first appearance on the screen he is a cantankerous old man who is not afraid to kidnap two of Susan’s school teachers in order to keep Susan with him, and their secret safe. He’s a bit like the Ninth Doctor, but without the love of Humans that is so evident in his later incarnations. It is interesting to see that the TARDIS started out with a bumpy ride. So bumpy that it knocked out two people.

Susan loves 20th Century London, and doesn’t want to leave it. She has been something of a mystery to her History and Science teachers, so they decide to investigate. Susan did try to warn Barbara that her Grandfather doesn’t like strangers. Perhaps she should have listened?

Poor Ian and Barbara. They are curious about Susan Foreman, so they decided to try and find out where she lives. Barbara has already been to the address that the school Secretary had, and found a junk yard. Once the two of them arrive, Barbara feels a strange foreboding. She should listen to her intuition more often. The Doctor, fearing to lose Susan and/or their secret, takes them with him.

Well, there you go. Quite a bit of information for a whole 23 or so minutes of film.

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About the Author

Whochick is a huge Doctor Who fan. She loves the show so much that she not only co-authors a blog on the topic, but also a podcast that you should listen to. Whochick resides in California with her husband (the Shadow Architect), and occasionally refers to herself in the third person.

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