After reading what other people had to say on An Unearthly Child, I was expecting an amazing first episode followed by three that weren’t so good. However, I have to completely disagree with anyone who thinks episodes two to four let the story down because they were almost as superb as the first…
To me, what makes this an amazing story is the way it portrays how everybody feels when they first enter the world of Doctor Who. Let’s look at Ian and Barbara, ordinary people who stumble upon a world of adventure, exactly the same as the viewer; the shock they get when they see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, exactly the same as the viewer. The story is a personification of the mixed up emotions we experience when we first watch Doctor Who, and it’s beautifully written.
If episode one were a separate episode, I would give 10/10 because it is stunning; absolutely stunning. From ‘Three Guitars Mood’ playing on Susan’s radio to travelling through the time vortex, episode one, aka An Unearthly Child, is a Doctor Who masterpiece I will treasure for the rest of my life.
The beautiful portrayal of emotions continues into episode two, aka The Cave of Skulls, as Ian and Barbara get their first feeling of anticipation when they realise they’ve landed in another time period for the first time. It turns out they’ve landed in 100,000BC, when cavemen walked the Earth searching for the secret to fire. However, there’s no time for Ian, Barbara, or the viewer to take in what’s just happened as the very first TARDIS team is kidnapped by a tribe of cavemen.
The story continues into episodes three and four, aka The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker respectively, as Ian, Barbara and Susan try to help an injured caveman they find on their journey back to the TARDIS; The Doctor remains uncompassionate and wishes to get back as soon as possible. Their kindness backfires however as they are soon back where they started and locked up in a cave. In the end, through contributions from all four, including spectacular fire-making skills from Ian, they are able to make a close getaway and the TARDIS takes off.
Throughout the two concluding episodes, there are many tense moments that prove even in the early 1960s, Doctor Who could have you on the edge of your seat just as much as it could today. The fight scene between Za and Kal in episode 4 is particularly tense, with the individual close-ups of our heroes’ horrified faces adding to the tension.
At the end of episode four, the Doctor hits Ian and Barbara with the revelation he can’t pilot his ship efficiently and that it looks like they’ll be stuck with him for a long time yet…