Tag Archives: An Unearthly Child

Doctor Who Story 001 – An Unearthly Child Parts 2-4


Synopsis: A tribe of cave people have lost the knowledge of how to make fire creating a power vacuum within the tribe. The Doctor is kidnapped after being observed using matches. He must make fire for the cave people or die.


We see an interesting power struggle between Cal and Za. Neither of these characters can control fire, but one is the son of the now-deceased fire-maker and the other a great hunter. Paralleling that, there’s a power struggle between Ian and The Doctor. At first, Ian is adamant that they’re not possibly standing in a time machine, and that they’re still in 1963 London, while The Doctor knows the TARDIS is standing on alien soil.

If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you? – The First Doctor (William Hartnell) to Ian


Ian tries to lead while The Doctor is busy sulking, but he can’t get the team to follow. Instead The Doctor ends up leading out of default. We see The Doctor kidnapped, rather than the usual companion in danger. This leads to an insanely panicked Susan, who should be a seasoned traveller. Her screams are getting annoying and it’s only the first serial. Soon after Barbara seems to join in on the screaming, too. Oh those wacky women!

This story sets up an early trope of Doctor and companions are captured, Doctor and companion escape, captured, escape, use their wits, win!


I think my favourite part of this story is the beginning of episode four where Cal proclaims that Za killed the old woman “with this knife” and produces a stone. The Doctor replies, “this knife has no blood on it. I said, this knife has no blood on it.” Cal is confused and replies with, “It is a bad knife, it does not show the things it does.” The Doctor uses this to prove that Cal is no leader. It also seems to firmly put The Doctor as the leader, and Ian as the strong arm of the team.

Halfway through the final episode is a brilliant fight between Cal and Za. What makes it so amazing is the beat-poetry-esque percussive music during the fight. Usually the music is very incidental and bleep-bloopy, that one scene sets a precedent that the show probably won’t live up to again.

To learn more about the making of this serial, watch the recent BBC docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time

Doctor Who Story 001 – An Unearthly Child Part 1


After watching the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, I felt it was only appropriate to go back to the beginnings in 1963. Aired on November 23, 1963, Doctor Who told the story of Susan Foreman, an eccentric girl from an alien world who arises the suspicions of her teachers.

Susan Foreman

Most stories I will treat a whole, but “An Unearthly Child” is really two stories, the pilot and the cavemen stories that are episodes 2-4. So let’s start with episode 1.

The premise of this story is a bit ridiculous. Two teachers, Ian and Barbara are concerned with their student Susan. She eccentric. She thinks the UK is on the decimal system for its currency. She insists that history books are wrong, and that one cannot calculate using only three dimensions, but one must also use D and E to represent time and space1. So the teachers decide that the solution is to have a stakeout.


I hope that if any teachers where I work decided to do this, they would be fired. They see Susan enter the scrapyard, and follow her in. Once in they find a police box and an old man who wants to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

William Hartnell

They hear Susan’s voice and they stumble inside the police box to find a large room which is the control centre to time machine. The Doctor refuses to let them go, as they might tell people about him and his granddaughter Susan, instead he kidnaps them and the TARDIS takes off.

The TARDIS control room

The Doctor isn’t what we grow to love about The Doctor. He’s a real prick. He’s literally kidnapping people for no real reason. No one would believe an insane teacher who says that her student’s grandfather is a time travelling alien. He’s grumpy and impertinent. He purposely hurts Ian, Barbara seems to be an non-entity to him, and he treats Susan without respect.

Back when I first started at the very beginning, I was always trying to be old and grumpy and important like you do when you’re young. – The 11th Doctor (David Tennant) to the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) in Time Crash

Susan’s a moron, and Ian and Barbara are supposed to be the action heroes of Doctor Who, but instead we’re just left questioning their judgement as to why they followed The Doctor in the first place.


  1. Ignoring for the moment that A, B, and C are space. []