Serial 1: An Unearthly Child – We first meet Susan, the grand-daughter of The Doctor, as an infuriating student at Coal Hill School. She knows more than her teachers, something two of them, Ian Chesterson and Barbara Wright, are most perplexed by. Some things she’s brilliant about, others completely clueless. They begin snooping around…

Silly, isn’t it? I feel frightened… as if we’re about to interfere with something best left alone,” Barbara, as she and Ian have followed Susan to the junkyard listed as her residence on the school records. Foreshadowing, much? They enter the junkyard, and after stumbling about, find a police box… one that seems to be vibrating! (Bet you it’s bigger on the inside.)

 There’s so much content, even in the first 22 minutes – we find out that The Doctor is an exile, but not why, on the run, with nobody to help. The teachers argue with The Doctor and Susan, and the two aliens argue amongst themselves – Susan wants her grandfather to let them go, finally she tells him she’d rather stay in the 20th century, even if it meant without him, and The Doctor pretends to acquiesce, only to activate the TARDIS. Susan struggles with him and the TARDIS takes a bumpy ride. Upon arrival, only The Doctor is conscious, and the TARDIS sits in a craggy, blasted plain, observed by a primitive man in furs, and that’s the end of the first episode (of four).

If you don’t want any more spoilers, stop now.

 

Without meat, we go hungry. Without fire, we die!” Zal, leader of the primitives. The second episode begins with primitives arguing about who should be leader of the tribe.

 There’s a lovely bit where Ian calls The Doctor “Doctor Foreman” (Foreman being the last name Susan using for school), and the Time Lord’s response is, “Eh? Doctor Who?”

 “It’s still a police box! Why hasn’t it changed? Oh, dear, oh dear, how very disturbing.” Ahah, I’m just so enjoying this. So the chameleon circuit had been working, or was believed to be working before they went back in time with the teachers!

 There are things that I didn’t know/don’t recall (the last time I saw this serial was over 25 years ago) – for instance, Susan is the one who coined the name ‘TARDIS’ for ‘the ship’, based on the letters of its name.

 Susan screams a lot.

 “Fire will bring trouble and death to the tribe.” – Old Woman. Hmm, social commentary? Anti-Nuclear message? This is from 1963, was a major issue back then.

 “This is a bad knife, it does not show the things it has done!” – Kal, trying to blame his rival for the old woman’s murder.  I don’t know about you, but this quote resonates with me.  

 The politics between the factions in the tribe remind me of the American political scene. Just saying.

 In short, the factions of the primitive tribe are trying to use the “new tribe” (Doctor and his companions) as bargaining chips for a takeover – whomever knows the secret of fire is the leader – so says Orb (the Sun). The Old Woman doesn’t want fire in the tribe, she sees that it will lead to no good, but obviously, the cold terrain and climate mandates that fire is needed for the tribe to survive. Ian seems to impart upon the tribe that working together is better than being individuals, but in the end the tribe still turns on them.

 There’s a running scene (of course there is, it’s Doctor Who) and our heroes escape. The Doctor does not have precise control of the TARDIS (and on-and-off plot device used throughout the original 26 seasons), but he gets them away from prehistory. They end up in a strange swampy location, but before they depart to investigate, they go to clean up. Susan checks the ambient radiation and announces that it’s normal. The crew goes off to clean up, and the needle on the radiation gauge goes from safe to “DANGER” and the music queues and credits roll.

 I haven’t seen this serial is about 25 years; my appreciation for it has grown immensely. There’s a depth to the story-telling that I wasn’t aware in my younger days, and I’m really looking forward to examining the dynamics of the characters from that viewpoint. (I’ve only seen a smattering of the first two Doctors, and for the most part, not recently.)

 I could inundate you with lots of commentary on The Doctor, as well as other characters and the show itself, but I want to spread out a little with each post, so look for a little bit with each post.

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