Become a Podshock Supporting Subscriber
Now more than ever, we need your support! Become a Supporting Subscriber today.

AN UNEARTHLY CHILD


Chase - Posted on 30 October 2009

The 35 minute compliation unaired pilot

Just watched this and I must say it's lost none of its charm, atmosphere, or imagination. I love that Susan is so weird and she says, later on, that she was born the 49th century. It's amazing seeing this as two older school teachers are the hero and heroine, not some prattling 19 year old blond or some love sick black girl or some big blustery redhead (not that I don't like them) but ALL of these four characters are, for THIS time and age, so unlikely main characters. Back in 1963 maybe not as old whacky scientists, teachers, and strange genius alien kids were the norm and DOCTOR WHO, even in this inception has its roots in tons of other stuff and other media and tends to "borrow" from dozens of other things but nothing like this has ever been accomplished all under one banner and all with the same mysterious lead characters that continue.

The TARDIS is huge here and there are HUGE roundels that are the size of a human being, huge alcoves, a box like device, a strange giant pump like thing in the background, one wall being a curtain of roundels and curtains, strange devices and scientific markings of all kinds AND that huge lamp thing above them all. The CONSOLE doesn't have the platform on it.

That take off: maybe something is wrong with the TARDIS but it's probably the longest take off ever and the strangest with all those weird designs and everyone standing still and/or blacking out, passing out or just being weird.

Even menacing and nasty, William Hartnell has the charm and he was supposedly toned down in the finished version that did air but I love him in all three (or is that four?) versions.

This is probably, arguably, the best episode of DW ever and certainly the most imaginative as one can predict all sorts of far out adventures in time and space and other universes as the TARDIS can go ANYWHERE. The funny thing is it only goes someplace else in the last few minutes, spectacularly. Remember this is before or rather just before VOYAGE TO THE BTTOM OF THE SEA show, a few years before LOST IN SPACE, and more before STAR TREK and LAND OF THE GIANTS and THE TIME TUNNEL. True, again, there are roots in other things. DW here has little effects, little gloss and little by way of hardware...but none of it matters as the ideas here are imaginative and set the stage for far out adventures in time and space. It is all just so fresh even if it isn't. It feels like it has that special something that can spark imagination, ideas, and positive growth while also making us care about the teachers and Susan and leaving us wanting more and to find out about Susan and the Doctor. In short, it loses nothing today and isn't really even dated, even with the talk of the decimal system, Beatles sounding music (although I think for the aired version, a Beatles song was used but I might be wrong), London fog, classic cars, and other things.

Just WHAT is Susan drawing on that piece of paper...a Rorchach ink blot? A TARDIS? WTH? It's a strange bit there and she looks scared of what she drew and I think she crumbles it up. The actors are all pretty good, Carole Ann Ford as Susan being the weakest but even she does okay. The other three are very strong in this and Hartnell I found almost always great. He imbibes the Doctor with realism right from the start and even though he is in his 50s he seems so much older and at times, much scary as a villain almost.

Though this didn't air, there are some flubs, problems with the door, a camera showing up, camera shakings, etc but I don't care about that. It's just ...

A fantastic 35 minutes!         

the 25 minute version

This is  essentially the same as the first one and I'm not sure what versions were edited together but years ago a member aquired the versions of the pilot and they were quite enjoyable. There are less flubs in the wrong places but more it seems in others: a shadow on the wall of the interior of the TARDIS, a mike, and the statue still falls behind Ian as it is knocked over by Barbara. This seems more polished in some areas and we still have the 49th century thing talked about briefly. Watching it so soon after the first version takes none of the fun out of it and while fans are correct in saying DW is the audios, the comics, the novels etc THIS is what REAL Doctor Who is: audio and video and excitement on an idea level launching into time and space. I wish the TARDIS sound effect of taking off is louder but the other sound effects of this first launch...has other sound effects and it pulls back from Earth as if it is flying away. It's still brilliant no matter what one can criticize against it. Again Carole Ann Ford is weak as Susan and I feel the character had potential but the actress...isn't that great to be honest and she never really gets better, however she does have her moments. She looks and sounds very alien, too. A great start to the series...         

Everything that's been written about this is true. The changes I mean. The Doctor is more toned down and I'm not sure I like that, in some ways he's nicer and that's nice and in some ways i like the meaner laughing at them Doctor. Susan is also toned down and she seems less alien somehow and I'm not sure I like that either. The 49th Century thing is gone. There are less flubs and mistakes and better sound effects. The junkyard looks good in all three versions as does the interior of the TARDIS, although it looks very much more like a machine and alien in the unaired pilots. The person sized roundels are gone, the pump is gone and the rectangluar glass like box/cabinet is gone. The DVD text tells us that the TARDIS was supposed to be inside a shed but isn't it shed itself? In a script draft, Ian has more anti feminist jokes and was younger and buff, Susan more sexy, and then in another draft Ian is consider square by Susan. And one must mention the two girls who are looking at picture of a pop star and a boy comes between them. One girl says Good Grief after the boy leaves and whispers something to the other girl about the boy possibly. IN addition to the draft differences, the unaired pilots had something about Barbara being drunk when she followed Susan home, in the event that she imagined the junkyard. Susan doesn't do the strange drawing and get upset, instead here, she says that something in the book about the French Revolution was wrong. That is much better. The clothing is different and the whole thing is tighter and shorter at 22 minutes. The TARDIS sound effect we all know and love, that was made partly from a string on a violin, is louder and to good effect. Again,  even with the changes, this is a great start to the show. And some of the dialog, that was added, is better and makes thing more clear...and at times, more mysterious while the Doctor tries to explain. My goodness, a 10/10.  

Most people dismiss the rest of this story but the truth is it is not too bad and it also sets up more of the conventions of the show whereas the first ep set up the devices and launching, this sets up a lot of what is to come: something happens first without the travelers and the time zone is set up...and oh, there is nothing to state that this is Earth. Surely the production team meant this to be Earth in the far past however there is enough incongruities to tell us that this is not Earth so judge for yourself. The conventions are: something happens among the people of the time zone, the travelers exit the TARDIS after checking the stats of the planet, something is wrong with the TARDIS, Ian mutters, "Doctor Who," just as Hartnell did in ep1. An outsider Kal is among the other tribe. There are primitives. The companions are separated from the Doctor. The Doctor is knocked unconscious AND he dares to interfere with history by introducing fire to a tribe that doesn't have it. AND others have already died before the start of this. There are children among the cast but only as backdrops. There is a main conflict between of the major guest stars. There's a viscious woman calling for the death of the Doctor and his friends; there's a cave and skulls. The entire thing is studio bound but it looks pretty good. Oh, one thing that seems to happen only here is that the Doctor smokes a pipe. He also wear a hat, something that happens a lot in the future.  

THE AZTECS aside for this moment, the Doctor will interfere with history so he can escape. Ian seems somewhat dazed confused by his travel and quite wimpy in this whole ep probably from that. There is a sort of cliffhanger but nothing to hang your cliff from. The main cast of the show don't appear for a lot of this and that too is something that happens in DW of the future.

For the first time that we know of the TARDIS is stuck in the Police Box form as Susan tells Barbara and the Doctor tells the audience or rather talking to himself, a  convention of Tom Baker's Doctor and others and apparenlty THE WEDDING OF SARAH JANE's Sarah Jane.

All in all this episode is not bad at all and moves fast despite long scene of the cave men (if they are cavemen but again, this could be an alien planet or some alternate or parallel Earth).  I would give it a 4/5 or a 5/5         

One more thing, ma'am, the dvd text tells us that Barbara was originally going to be called Lola or something like that and Mrs McCormick or something like that and that she was to be an art teacher! 

3

If one takes this for what it is, it's rather great. A daring escape, a near hopeless Doctor whom Ian may think is the weakest link in their party, a few Hartnell flubs, "I must get my breathe." or something like that. A camera shake or two. A panther that can't be seen. Yet this holds out a brilliant adventure in the forest, pursued by Za and Hur, two believable cave people. The first death in DW is a woman killed by a man, Kal killing the old woman mother. The entire trying to find the TARDIS is very well done and believeable, all the reactions are noticable. The Doctor has a rock to kill the injured Za, Barbara gets to hysterics but then bucks up and tells Ian they must save the caveman. The Doctor wants to leave the two school teachers but Susan won't. The Doc says, "They are all out of their minds."  A really good episode. Ian sees the logic of the Doctor's words as he declares the rest of the tribe will be on them and that these primitive people change their minds rapidly with little logic behind them. I can't wait to watch more! Finally an adventure without fob watches, pull devices out of your buttox, and no, NO MONSTERS! If this were done today, perhaps the panter fight would be shown...if it were panther. Originally Barbara was supposed to scream at the blood on her hands after she fell into the dead animal. That was changed and the Old Mother's actual death was cut away from. The DVD is neat crisp picture and the stock music adds to the overall effect.

The DVD text tells us alot of interesting stuff about the original idea Verity Lambert had for the theme music; that one of the cavemen actors (one of the two leads, possibly the actor who played Za) told Hussein that he was a smooth man when the team inquired about if he was hairy of not; and that Hartnell and Eileen Way (Old Mother) had a bet. She bet the show would be off the air in a year; he bet it would last for a long, long time. Granted that she played in the much later CREATURE FROM THE PIT (from 1978 or 1979 I think and which also has jungle, natives, and a need for something-in that case metal and in that she gets to stab a man dead!) she lost the bet.

Every one of the foursome begin to bond. The Doc tells Barbara "Fear makes companions of us all," while he tries to keep her concentration on the road back to the TARDIS even before they escape the Cave of Skulls. Yet that bonding was toned down as they shouldn't have bonded too fast too soon and this is somewhat made up for by the tone of Ian and the Doc's conversations in the forest about who should lead and that Ian would leave him to get his own way back to the Ship (as they mostly call it the Ship) but the females are with them and Ian wn't abandon them. Conversely, the Doc seemed ready to abandon Barbara and Ian at one point but doesn't. He also seemed ready to brain Za at least somewhat. It's notable that Susan is loyal to Ian and Barbara.

For one moment I thought the story I knew so well was ending at ep3 but then the cave men and Za are ambushing the travelers...and in what is the first proper cliffhanger we get the caveKal moving up on the travelers, with Ian shouting, "Back, get back!" And a close up Kal's face! A first real cliffhanging cliffhanger! How great is this show?    

One more thing: the DVD text tells us originally the Doctor was searching for something and running from something and one other idea that was nixed was that he rejected and hated science and wanted to return to a simpler life in the past someplace and that some unidentified enemy was hunting him or was against him.  

4

Great finish. A big finish. A nasty deadly fight. The wily old Doctor tricks Kal into revealing it was he who killed the Old Mother. In fleeing in the last chase, the Doctor runs right past a fallen Barbara! The chase is good even if some of it is that the staff are brushing plants past the foursome's faces. They all look as if they've been through some muddy, dirty adventure, not the last time this happens in the Hartnell era. It's very realistic and the dirt on Barbara's blouse or jacket is supposed to be, I believe, blood from the animal she fell on. The entire thing is really well done and I'm glad they started with this and as Will Russel and Carole Ann Ford say on the commentary, if they started with the Daleks, the emphasis would be off the characters' relationships and in-fighting and more on the machines and mechanics and aliens. THIS was the perfect story to start with. The last scene in the TARDIS is amazingly simple and continues the in-fighting and sets up the Dalek story and gives us a cliffhanger into the next "story" but at this time, the show really was just one ep after another. Spears fly through the vanishing TARDIS and the Doc admits to Barbara that not only is the Ship not operating properly but he can't fix it or fly it properly! Barbara has one flub when she says something about a hole in a rock and mixes it up somewhat but who cares about that. In this ep a man kills a man for the first time in DW and it happens again later as Za kills Kal. I kept mixing up their names though and it's annoying me! Again a 10/10.   

Verity had told Hussein or was it Wussein? to tone down the violence and he threatened to resign. Glad he didn't. Not much else say about this except that the original story was to have ended on a much friendlier note and the cavemen bid the travelers a fond farewell. I'm glad they scrapped that and made it like this: it's much more dangerous and real. Once they give the fire, the cavemen want them to stay longer. Also the next story was to have been DOCTOR WHO AND THE ROBOTS and the cliffhanger was to have been about some ultra modern city as the type Frank Llyod Wright would have made I think and in mid air. Instead, we get our look at the petrified forest of white trees. And it's marvelous.    

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

New Doctor Who Podshock schwag

Podcast Feeds

Subscribe to
the Doctor Who podcast
Doctor Who: Podshock


iTunes users click here
Podcast
Gallifreyan Embassy - Doctor Who: Podshock - Doctor Who: Podshock


Direct podcast feeds:


Doctor Who: Podshock
Podcast


MP3 Format Podcast:
Doctor Who: Podshock MP3
Podcast


  More feeds and info

  Supporting Subscribers

BEST PODCAST

Doctor Who: Podshock Awarded BEST PODCAST
Doctor Who: PODSHOCK

DW Podshock App

iPhone, iPad, iPod touch podcast companion app

Doctor Who: Podshock Podcast Companion App

Doctor Who: Podshock Companion App

Syndicate (RSS Feed)

Syndicate content

Poll

How do you rate Doctor Who: Deep Breath? (5=Fantastic)
5 TARDIS Groans
50%
4 TARDIS Groans
0%
3 TARDIS Groans
0%
2 TARDIS Groans
50%
1 TARDIS Groan
0%
0 TARDIS Groans
0%
Total votes: 2

Amazon US Store


Doctor Who Episodes

Amazon UK Store

Latest image

DW Podshock 307 Cover

BBC Shop (UK & Europe)