“We’d better keep an eye on him. He seems to have a knack of getting himself into trouble.” – Ian
The Daleks: the Doctor’s most famous set of foes debuted in the second-ever serial of the series: 1963’s “The Daleks”. Far from a “Christmas special” (the first episode aired on December 21), the moody and tense first episode established a world far removed from the campier caveman serial that had just ended. They were no longer on Earth, and the possibilities of the series were endless.
Much has been written about the Daleks becoming the signature enemy of the series and the “Dalekmania” that spread throughout the UK as the series progressed. But what Terry Nation brought in this first episode at least was just as valuable: he set a tone and a status quo for the series, established “scientific facts” (to steal a term from MST3K) about how the passengers ate and slept on board the TARDIS, and generally laid the groundwork for the whole series in a tense, but not scary, 22 minutes. The final scene with Barbara being menaced by an unseen beast (with a plunger attachment) is rightfully one of the most famous of the show.
Continue reading Doctor Who: The Daleks, Part One: The Dead Planet
“Are you saying you don’t know how to work this thing.” – Barbara
And so the first serial of Doctor Who ends with a whimper rather than a bang. This episode felt extraneous, the careful build-up of tension over the previous episodes was tossed aside quickly. Much of the intelligence of the script and characters are gone here, although the Doctor’s speech to the tribesmen stands out as the first time in the series that the Doctor talked himself out of a mess.
More after the recap.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part Four: The Firemaker
“Fear makes companions of all of us.” – The Doctor
This second caveman-focused episode is an improvement over the first, in large part because the first had to spend so much time setting up the conflict and the story. This episode flows quickly, establishes a clear villain, and is overall fun to watch. We also get some running!
More after the recap.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part Three: The Forest of Fear
“If we knew his name, we might have a clue to all this.” – Ian
After a fantastic first episode, the second has a reputation for being terrible. It is not, but it is also not the classic that the first was. The script is poor and the acting is worse. That said, the premise is decent and the episode is mature fiction: there is no clear antagonist and the relationships between the characters are complex, as are what drives the plot forward. But even so, the script isn’t as tight as the first episode, the direction and costuming not as well done. The guest stars here are simply unable to build the gravitas they need while covered in fake dirt and furs. It is worth watching, but just.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part Two: The Cave of Skulls
“You’ve discovered television, haven’t you?” – The Doctor
“An Unearthly Child”, the first episode of the serial now given that name, is a science fiction classic. How could it not be? First airing on November 23, 1963 (the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy), the episode has held up surprisingly well over time – but only as an introduction to the characters, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan. There is no villain of this episode, except perhaps the Doctor, and most of the 22 minutes are spent establishing the characters. As a result, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are better painted than most of the later companions of the classic series. It does not hurt that this entire episode is told through their eyes as they perceive the alienness of the Doctor and Susan.
Continue reading Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Part One