Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: An Unearthly Child
Review by: Michael Hickerson
For a beginning this is a remarkably good one. At least for the first episode. The entire episode "An Unearthly Child" established many of the principles and concepts that are still inherent in the series over thirty years later. We are quickly introduced to the mysterious Susan Foreman by a series of intriguing flashbacks and discussion by Ian and Barbara. Natural curiosity gets the better of the two school teachers and they follow the young Miss Foreman to her home, which appears to be an abandoned junkyard at 76 Totters Lane. Here they find a strange police box and meet a mysterious man who we will later come to know as the Doctor. A scuffle occurs when Susan's voice is heard from inside the ship and Ian and Barbara are thrust into the world of the TARDIS.
All of this set-up gives "An Unearthly Child" a nice, otherwordly type of feel throughout the entire first episode. Indeed, even after we are hurtled into the world of the TARDIS and the Doctor, we are still only given hints of the truth that serve to stimulate interest in just who these people are and how they can travel through time and space.
It's only once the TARDIS makes it's first on-screen journey through time that the storyline begins to break down. Indeed, in many ways you can almost separate the introductory episode from the other three episodes. The first episode is a high concept episode with some fascinating sci-fi premises (the alieness of the Doctor, the TARDIS being larger inside than without, the references to another time and place) while the remaining three are rather pedestrian. What the other three episodes boil down to is a lot of arguing betwen Ian and the Doctor and numerous attempts to escape. By the end of episode three, it's beginning to wear thin and the whole cave-man thing is becomeing quite boring. Indeed, the battle for leadership of the tribe is laughable at best when it finally does come. At this point, I'd completely lost interest and was wondering when we'd move on to our next desination. And knowing that the debut of the Daleks is just around the corner only adds to my general eagerness for the end of the story...
At this point, Dr. Who is very much in its formative stages. Ian and Barbara are the "heros" of the show while the Doctor is very much the antagonist. Over the course of seasn one, you can see the Doctor's coarse exterior begin to melt away and Ian and Barbara begin to take a more diminished role (though they are still two of the strongest companions in the show's history IMHO). But here we see them struggle with the realities of time travel and their anger and resentment at the Doctor. It makes an interesting combination and it's interesting to watch how each side begins to feel the other out in terms of establishing any kind of relationship. It's a very realistic and interesting portrayal of the new friendship that our group is experiencing and this conflict will weigh heavily into other stories in the future (such as the afore mentioned "Daleks").
All in all, the first episode is great and the other three are just there. A good start, but not a great one to the series. It's only when the Daleks come into the picture that things begin to get really interesting.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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