“Are you saying that you don’t know how to work this thing?”
Broadcast Date: 14th December 1963
As we move onto the final part of Doctor Who’s first ever story, we sadly have no Old Mother to keep us company. What we do get from her untimely demise is some fun Hartnell trickery involving Kal, some bloodstains and a knife. There is a lot of clever dialogue, especially in this scene.
Every time I warm to this story, somebody emphasises the word ‘fire’, almost spitting the word at another cast member, as if they’re as bored as I am about the need for fire. Surely they can just freeze and we’d all be happier? This time I was really enjoying the story, Kal had been exiled (he deserved to be after killing the best character) and then we get dragged back to the cave of skulls. It’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.
The fun thing with classic Who is when we get the odd scene not featuring any regular that works. We get it here between Za and his gal as they share their thoughts on where the TARDIS team emerged. However then they go back to talking about fire.
One of my favourite things about this story is how weary and tired the crew look. They genuinely look like they’ve been dragged through the wars. That’s something I don’t feel as much with any other Who, although Moffat has recently brought back that feeling with things such as Rory waiting two thousand years for Amy. He’s really been through it and we see and feel that repeatedly, as we do here. Torn clothes, faces that make you feel for them and just general exhaustion in the acting does this for me.
|The worn-looking TARDIS crew|
It was fun seeing the fire making skills from the sixties being compared to the skills of 100,000 BC (the original title for this four parter). Back then the Leader only could make fire whereas Ian from the sixties has to make fire because he’s the least important. I always enjoy this little transfer of dialogue and it’s a nice meeting point between two civilisations.
Unfortunately Kal ruins this by turning up again, although only to provide us with one of the most shocking fight scenes in Doctor Who history. And this DVD is still only a Universal rating! This scene is superbly directed and for a second there you feel scared and shocked at the savagery of the cavemen. This scene really is there to remind you who these people are. Even the Doctor looks on in stunned silence. These cavemen aren’t civilised and they certainly mean business!
A great trick with fire and skulls, some running-on-the-spot padding shots and a very well shot run back to the TARDIS and we’ve escaped from the cave of skulls! Just leaving us with time for the first of many times we’ll hear about the Doctor not being able to fly the TARDIS, this explanation is a tad rushed I think and the cliffhanger leading into the next serial isn’t perfect, but does certainly strike intrigue into my mind. Although silly uncharacterised Susan is the cause. The BBC are certainly giving me so many reasons to not like that girl.
|'An Unearthly Child' cover art|
‘An Unearthly Child’ is the first ever Doctor Who serial, comprising four episodes. It is available on DVD as part of 2006’s ‘The Beginning’ boxed set alongside the following two serials (reviewed shortly). There aren’t a whole lot of special features on this disc, however there are some fantastic comedy sketches featuring Mark Gatiss and David Walliams.