An Unearthly Child, aka "100,000 BC"
Originally aired 23 Nov 1963 through 14 Dec 1963

Episode 1 reviewed 17 Aug 09
Episode 2 reviewed 18 Aug 09
Episode 3 reviewed 19 Aug 09
Episode 4 reviewed 20 Aug 09

Episode 1
An Unearthly Child, episode 1
Writers - Anthony Coburn and C. E. Webber
Director - Waris Hussein

Susan Foreman is a strange child. That's what her teachers think. At times, she seems to possess knowledge far beyond that of her teachers. At other times, she doesn't seem to understand basic things at all.

One of those teachers is a busybody named Barbara. She talks another teacher, Ian, into finding out why Susan is so weird. Ian readily agrees, and they arrive at the home address provided by the school's office. It is a junkyard, with I. M. Foreman written outside.

Inside they go, where they meet a curious old man who, they discover, is Susan's grandfather. Ian, taking the tough guy routine to an absurd level, tries to bully the old man into letting him inside the Tardis. The old man just laughs.

But they push their way inside anyway. It's bigger on the inside than outside. Ian, a pompous quack, again tries to bully the old man - we know him as the first Doctor. Again, the Doctor laughs him off, which just infuriates him.

Ian starts randomly pressing buttons on the control, and they disappear into the past.

* * *

I have fond memories of Ian and Barbara, but based on just this episode, I can't fathom why. It's been ages since I've watched any stories with these two, and I'm finding it hard to like them. Ian's an ass, and Barbara .. Oh, gosh. I have this image of her watching her neighbor and screaming "Abnah! Abnah!" straight out of Bewitched.

William Hartnell as the Doctor is aloof and mysterious, perhaps even a little dangerous. I think that even if I didn't know the series already, and was watching this as a brand new (to me) series, I would be fascinated by this actor and character.

And then there is Susan. Now, unfortunately, in later stories, I remember her degenerating into just a typical screaming teenager with nothing special about her. But here? Here, she's as alien as can be. While listening to music, she dances along in a fascinating, alien sort of way, as though her bone structure was something other than Human. She is also aloof, and watches those around her through ancient eyes.

She has seen the universe, and it brings her joy.

I could go on, but the simple fact is, I love this show, and it's an excellent introduction to the basics - the Doctor, his ship, and the concept of this character traveling through time and space.

And I also find it amusing that the Doctor's alternate name of "John Smith" gets a name drop here, though it's the name of the musician Susan is listening to.

The audio and video are pretty decent, considering this was filmed over 45 years ago. It's almost like watching it live.

Episode 2
Doctor Who - An Unearthly Child, episode 2 - "The Cave of Skulls"
Written by Anthony Coburn
Directed by Waris Hussein

The Tardis has landed roughly 12,000 years earlier than when Ian and Barbara came from. They are in the caveman era. It is a time of cold, as the sun goes into hiding behind the ... well, clouds, or dust, or something.

There is a tribe of cavemen. Their leader, a firemaker, has died, taking the secret to making fire with him. When one of the cavemen sees the Doctor light up a pipe, he kidnaps the Doctor to force him to give up the secret of making fire.

Soon enough, his companions are also kidnapped, helpless to free the Doctor or themselves. The Doctor is given a command - make fire or die.

* * *

Well that was quick. Susan (referred to here as Suzie) has already degenerated into a stereotypical scream queen. I think there were at least three times in this episode where all she did was scream. It gets old. Very quickly.

Barbara falls into Uhura-ness with her "I'm frightened" dialogue, contributing exactly nothing to this episode.

As for Ian, well, this whole thing is his fault. Were it not for his button-pushing, the ship never would have left London. Even when shown that outside, they have moved, he refuses to believe it. As Londo once said, "Arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you." That sums up Ian so far.

Both Susan and the Doctor make comments about the Tardis not changing its appearance. Even now, in 2009, it's still a blue phone box. Now we know. It's Ian's fault.

Nowhere near as good as the first episode (which itself isn't as good as the original, nearly double-length pilot), this leaves a LOT to be desired.

Only one bit of fun here -

Ian: "Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman."
The Doctor: "Doctor who?"

Episode 3
An Unearthly Child, episode 3 - The Forest of Fear
Written by Anthony Coburn
Directed by Waris Hussein

The old woman helps the Doctor and his companions to escape their prison, only to be attacked and left for dead by the son of the former firemaker. There is an awful lot of running through forests, then the son returns to the tribe and blames his rival for the old woman's death. The rest of the tribe reach the Doctor just as he gets in sight of the Tardis.

* * *

An awful lot of running, an awful lot of filler. The name of the game is "stretch" and that's all they do here. It's just filler. When the story is watched as a whole, it's not as noticeable, but on its own, it fails.

The entire episode could be cut and nothing would be missed. And I'm half tempted to keep a running tally of how many times Susan screams. So far, it's already too many. Once again, Ian is useless.

Three episodes down, eight hundred sixty-eight to go.

One more day of this, I really hope the next story improves. If not, I have Friday to look forward to. The Daleks is one I remember as being an excellent story.

Episode 4
An Unearthly Child 4 - "The Firemaker"
Written by Anthony Coburn
Directed by Waris Hussein

Recaptured, the group provides fire to one of the members of the tribe, effectively handing him leadership. Susan screams some more. Barbara screams some more. Ian admits that the Doctor is the group's leader. Susan screams some more.

With a less than elaborate rouse, they escape and take off in the Tardis, to the amazement of the cavemen.

* * *

I've decided that the pilot episode, co-written by C. E. Webber, is brilliant. The three episodes which follow are not. Actually, I think they're pretty much crap, saved only by a director who is able to rise above the garbage on the page. It's hilarious watching the actors jump up and down, pretending that they are running through a big forest.

I am getting tired of the female characters adding nothing to the story, except for screaming, which they do a LOT.

After watching this episode, I went straight into the first episode of the Daleks, and it's helped wash the bad taste of this one away. But I'm sticking to the schedule and will post about that episode tomorrow.

Four episodes down.