The Whoseries: An Unearthly Child

Alright, so I made it, finally. A return to the Whoseries. For this first installment, I watched the first serial. For those of you who, like me, have watched the show mostly through memes and other fans’ Facebook statuses, here’s the skinny:

The first serial aired in the UK in 1963, split into 4 weekly installments;  there seems to have been some dispute over the name, but since the BBC called it “An Unearthly Child” for their DVD release, I’ll go with that one. Each episode is about 25 minutes long. This is the first incarnation of the Doctor, William Hartnell.

The first Doctor-image courtesy of TV Tropes-click through for link
The first Doctor-image courtesy of TV Tropes-click through for link

And guys, no one told me that the First Doctor is a bit of an arsehole. In the first serial, “An Unearthly Child,” we’re introduced to Susan two teachers, Ian and Barbara, (William Russell and Jacqueline Hill) who are concerned about a student they have in common; from their conversation the problem seems to be that she knows too much. They decide to follow Susan (Carole Ann Ford) home to find out why. (Gracious. Times have changed.) Susan leads them to a junk yard, where they find the Tardis and follow her inside. Anyway, Susan’s teachers discover the Tardis and the grumpy First Doctor. He’s annoyed with Susan (and I’m thrown that the first companion is his granddaughter, given what companion as come to mean.) The Doctor decides that the teachers must go the Stone Age, and everyone is knocked unconscious as the Tardis lands sometime in the Paleolithic age. Boom. First serial ends

This first flight of the Tardis might be one of my favorite moments from the first serial. It’s cheese-tastic, futuristic 1960s technology at its best:

In serial 2, “The Cave of Skulls,” we begin with cavemen and -women surrounding one man trying to make fire. He is ridiculed (and I’m confused by how they’ve developed a complex understanding of modern English without technology, but that’s TV.) Meanwhile, the Doctor and his 3 companions wake up, and of course the science teacher is demanding proof of their having gone back in time (seriously dude, you walked into a police box that’s bigger inside than out and were knocked unconscious. Don’t go outside.) But they go outside, and the Doctor is attacked. Apparently, the cavemen want him to make fire-but he can’t without going to the Tardis to get some matches. Then there are some fisticuffs, and the companions show up, but in the end they’re all captured and sealed in the Cave of Skulls to become human sacrifices.

A chilling moment from The Cave of Skulls
A chilling moment from The Cave of Skulls

Serial 3 (“The Forest of Fear”) is my favorite, although the Doctor is at his worst. Or maybe it’s one of my favorite because he’s at his worst and the writing is complex. The Doctor and the three companions are set free by an elder from the tribe (unfortunately, she is later killed by a caveman in an effort to cover up a lie regarding one of the tribe’s two possible successors.) The other potential leader, meanwhile, is out hunting the Doctor and companions when he is wounded by a boar. The companions attempt to help him, but they are looked upon suspiciously by the cavewoman. She doesn’t understand friendship. Or at least that’s what they say. My brain is busy swimming in postcolonial theory.

Serial three ends with the Doctor and his companions, who have brought the caveman to the Tardis to heal him, confronted by the rest of the tribe, who are waiting by the Tardis.

The last installment in the first serial, “The Firemaker,” begins with Doctor Who and his companions convincing the tribe that their leader has tricked them into believing a lie. But then the caveman who Doctor Who expects to be an ally decides they must be sacrificed anyway. How’s that for gratitude? (Postcolonialism.) In the cave, companion Ian makes fire, a final caveman-battle occurs, and the four are left in the Cave of Skulls yet again. (Postcolonialism.) They escape by playing a fire-and-skull related trick on the cavemen, and the four dive into the Tardis and take off. They’ve not a clue where they’re going, but I know I’m up for some Daleks next.



Leave a Comment

  1. I find the dynamic between the Doc and his companion is interesting when portrayed as a “granddaughter” while considering the “younger” incarnations of that character almost always have a constant sexual tension with their female co-stars. I


    1. Yes. I think, though, that we lose Susan pretty quickly in the season, and we end up with the doctor traveling with the teachers. Guess we’ll see, though-I’m trying to avoid spoilers even as I compose the posts.


  2. I’ve watched one season of the “new who” and loved it. I’m going back and watching as you write the series, provided netflix is streaming correctly 🙂


  3. This is the First serial of Doctor Who I ever watched, last summer. I just can’t bring myself to watch the new episodes until I have caught up with old… so I should be watching new episodes with everyone else in 2023.


    1. ha! I saw the pilot for the new series in 2005, but that’s the only other episode I’ve seen. Like you, even if it takes me 10 years or so to do it, I can’t start with the new ones. It just feels wrong.


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