About this Story
|Title||An Unearthly Child|
|No. of Episodes||4|
|Broadcast Dates||23rd Nov - |
12th Dec 1963
|Viewers get their first glimpse|
of the TARDIS interior
BackgroundWritten by Anthony Coburn, this serial was originally meant to be the second serial of the season, but it was brought forward after plans for the first serial fell through. Production staff reworked the script so that it was able to be used as an opener, though there were several attempts to drop the story completely and write a new script. However, time constraints meant that production carried on regardless. This serial would be Coburn's only contribution to the show, though he did write other drafts, all of which were rejected. Waris Hussein later went on to direct the missing Marco Polo.
|Ian and Barbara are essential in setting up the|
mystery surrounding the Doctor and Susan
However, once in the Stone Age setting, the plot begins to fall away, with the pace slowing as new plot threads are introduced. As the group of travelers are sealed in the cave to die, the story loses direction, at least until they escape again, giving the story a stop-start feel. One scene that was done particularly well was the fight scene between Za and Kal.
Structurally, the story peaks at the end of the first episode, with the remaining episodes acting as build up to a less important peak, the fight scene between Za and Kal. The early peak means the rest of the story seems a bit flat, thought it doesn't completely lack direction and still reaches a secondary peak.
Plot Score: 5/10
|The tribe of cavemen offer little|
in terms of a scare factor.
The direction of the story makes the viewer take on the viewpoint of Ian and Barbara for much of this story, as they're the outsiders to the Doctor and Susan's travelling. Therefore, in scenes in which the Doctor wants to leave them behind in the Stone Age also come a cross as a threat to the main characters, which is quite unusual, and a little disturbing, to see the Doctor acting in such a way.
Overall, the story suffers due to the absence of a major threat, though there are some minor, yet not as effective, moments in which you feel the main characters are in danger.
Threat Score: 3/10
|The Doctor and Ian get off to a shaky, |
albeit well acted, start.
The guest cast are grating, though that's more their characters' caveman language than anything. Acting as a caveman isn't exactly a great way to show off an actor's ability, though they tried their best, with Derek Newark's Za probably being one of the strongest performances.
On the whole, the acting in An Unearthly Child was great, though let down somewhat by the restrictions of the cavemen.
Acting Score: 7/10
|The Doctor's attitudes towards Ian and Barbara|
alerts the viewers perception of him.
The story also makes the viewer get involved in the politics of the tribe of cavemen. When Za is wrongly accused of killing the Elder, the viewer is left waiting for justice, which comes when the Doctor unmasks Kal as the killer. Other than this, the cavemen characters aren't easy for the viewer to identify with.
Considering we have only just met the main characters, there is a considerable amount of opportunity to relate to them and identify with them, with much of this coming in the first episode.
Audience Engagement Score: 8/10
OverallFirstly, despite some rather negative comments above, I'd like to highlight this as a MUST WATCH just because it is the first story. However, if you do watch it, go into it thinking of two stories, a one-parter and a three-parter, because the opening episode is in another league compared to the rest. However, in reality this is one large story, and the score is given on that basis.
On the whole, a fairly average story with some outstanding moments surrounded by endless padding and irritating caveman-speak.