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The Quest ~ An Unearthly Child

The Quest begins…

Teachers wander in

Unusual Police box

Adventure awaits

An Unearthly Child

The opening shot shows a policeman walking in the fog. He walks past a scrapyard with the name I.M Foreman on it. As the camera zooms in, the door opens. The scrapyard is deserted and the camera pans around until it closes in a Police Box which appears to be emitting a strange humming sound. The camera zooms in onto the notice on the door.

20/20 hindsight The last words on the notice are “PULL TO OPEN”. This is odd as in every episode I have seen, the TARDIS doors open inwardly (i.e. PUSH TO OPEN). If memory serves, this is also true of the real Police Box seen in Logopolis. Addendum ~ I was reminded that this puzzle was answered in The Empty Child  (and also Logopolis) when the area where the sign is located can be pulled to reveal a telephone.

The story starts out as if it was a police story but then brings an air of mystery before becoming a school drama as the scene shifts from the TARDIS to a school. We are introduced to two of the main characters as school teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright discuss one of their pupils. The pupil in question is Susan Foreman, the unearthly child of the episode title. During their discussion, Ian refers to Susan’s grandfather as “Doctor”. They then go to speak with the child who seems to be ahead in knowledge in some areas but something is not quite right about her. On the first on-screen appearance, Susan is listening to a radio playing a song by “John Smith and the common men”.

20/20 hindsight The name “John Smith” becomes a favourite pseudonym for the Doctor in future stories, but no mention is ever made of a pop career (but with Doctor Who, you never know).

The story so far could be mistaken for a drama concerning a school pupil with an unusual home life. Ian and Barbara even decide to follow her home.

20/20 hindsight The Doctor makes his first onscreen appearance, wearing items that have been worn by other Doctors throughout the series, a hat and a scarf.

Once Ian and Barbara manage to gain entry to the TARDIS, they see that it is bigger on the inside. Ian is disbelieving and the Doctor is concerned about what will happen should he let Ian and Barbara go. Ian presses some controls on the console looking for the door control but the Doctor flips a switch that electrifies the console and gives Ian a shock.

20/20 hindsight I can’t recall the Doctor doing this to the console again (although it would have come in handy in other episode) but he does electrify the entrance to the Tomb of the Cybermen (or rather re-electrifies it).

The TARDIS takes off, quite literally judging by the view on the scanner. The first episode is wonderfully made and the Doctor is definitely NOT the heroic character he would later develop into. In fact the viewer may even be a little untrustworthy about how he refused to let Ian and Barbara leave the TARDIS.

20/20 hindsight The Doctor refers that he and Susan are fugitives from their home planet and the Doctor says that one day he will go back. This speech is reminiscent of the one he says to Susan (although he is inside the TARDIS and she outside) at the end of The Dalek Invasion of earth. The Dalek Invasion of earth speech is also repeated at the start of the 20th anniversary story, The Five Doctors.

20/20 hindsight The opening titles are used to depict the ship travelling in time, the first of many occasions when this shall be used. Click here to see a clip.

Cliffhanger: The TARDIS lands in a wasteland, in the bottom corner of the screen, a shadow is cast of someone watching the ship…

Episode Titles

  1. An Unearthly Child

6 Responses

  1. I watched this with my Mum recently. She didn’t believe me that the Doctor had been an alien right from episode one, she was convinced it had been added later, in ‘the modern ones’. 😀

    • Perhaps she remembered the films with Peter Cushing as the Doctor. I seem to remember that he was an inventor and was human in the two Dalek films.
      Thank you for visiting and THANK YOU for your comments 🙂

  2. His double hearts were added later on though, but when exactly is a debatable point

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