What I Learned From Doctor Who: “An Unearthly Child” (One, 1963)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The Stone Age.  Or maybe the Ice Age.  Cavemen abound.

Place: Earth.


1. “An Unearthly Child” (Season One, Episode One)
2. “The Cave of Skulls” (S1, E02)
3. “The Forest of Fear” (S1, E03)
4. “The Firemaker” (S1, E04)

Today’s Lessons

1. One is a grumpy, grumpy guy!  This first incarnation of the Doctor is really impatient with humans and suspicious of them too.  It doesn’t help that Ian and Barbara, Susan’s schoolteachers, followed her to the junkyard where he parked his TARDIS.  He really talks down to them most of time and childishly fights with Ian over who should be the leader.  Question: Hasn’t he ever met humans before this?  Also: how old is he here?

2. The Doctor has a granddaughter, allegedly, named Susan!  Questions: Is she biological?  So, he had children?  A wife?  On Gallifrey?  I remember Ten and Eleven both referencing children they had.  Maybe it’s too early to speculate on Susan.

3. Women are just so hysterical, be they caveman (woman), schoolteacher, or alien granddaughter.  Thank you, 1963.

4. Cavemen are surprisingly articulate.  Monosyllabic though they may be, they still use full sentences with English accents, but their names sound like something out of comic books. “Za,” “Kal,” “Old Woman.”  Question: Is the TARDIS’ universal translator up and running so early, even though the ship itself isn’t flying too straight as of these episodes?

5. Time paradox alert! Did the cavemen make fire without the sun eventually and without the help of our trusty Doctor and his companions independent of their random arrival, or did Ian change history by providing Za with that whole Boy Scouts stick rubbing skill?

6. Ian and Barbara were initially captives of the Doctor.  Question: Does he ever intend to bring them back to Earth?  The TARDIS is apparently broken right now, but he seemed dead set on keeping them indefinitely.  Like I said: grumpy!

7. One appears to be “on the lam,” possibly for stealing the TARDIS.  Question: Is he running from the Time Lords?  Why is Susan with him?

8. One likes “Victorian/Edwardian” attire.  Question: What inspired that look?

9. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to film chase scenes, it’s important that the camera zoom in really really close on faces, wet with perspiration.  That’s how you know they’re in it for their lives.

10. So far, the hero of the piece seems to change from the Doctor to Ian and back again.  Question: Is our early Doctor learning about humanity through the eyes of his first official companions?

Next serial: “The Daleks” (Season 1, Episodes 5-11).


One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · November 27, 2013

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