Doctor Who: Season 1, Episode 1

An Unearthly Child (23 Nov. 1963)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Family
8.4
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.4/10 from 722 users  
Reviews: 10 user | 7 critic

Two schoolteachers investigate the personal life of one of their brilliant students and her mysterious grandfather.

Directors:

, (uncredited)

Writer:

0Check in
0Share...

On Disc

at Amazon

IMDb Picks: May

Visit our IMDb Picks section to see our recommendations of movies and TV shows coming out in May, sponsored by COVERGIRL.

Visit the IMDb Picks section

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 25 titles
created 03 Jan 2013
 
a list of 24 titles
created 23 Oct 2013
 
list image
a list of 42 titles
created 28 Dec 2013
 
a list of 30 titles
created 10 months ago
 

Related Items

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: An Unearthly Child (23 Nov 1963)

An Unearthly Child (23 Nov 1963) on IMDb 8.4/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Doctor Who.
1 of 695 Episodes | Next Episode »
Edit

Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
...
William Russell ...
Jacqueline Hill ...
...
Edit

Storyline

Two schoolteachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, become concerned by the unusual behavior of their fifteen-year-old student, Susan Foreman. When they follow her home, they meet her mysterious grandfather, the Doctor, and find themselves unwilling passengers on his time ship, the TARDIS... Written by Sarah Hadley

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

23 November 1963 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

In the original script, Ian was Susan's form master, and called her: "the all-time, A1, dyed-in-the-wool enigma of Coal Hill Comprehensive". See more »

Quotes

Ian Chesterton: Let me get this straight. A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?
Susan Foreman: Yes.
The Doctor: Quite so.
Ian Chesterton: But that's ridiculous!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Verity Lambert: Drama Queen (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Three Guitars Mood 2
(uncredited)
Performed by the Arthur Nelson Group
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Doctor Who at its best
12 November 2006 | by (Brooklyn, NY) – See all my reviews

I like pretty much every era of the original Doctor Who, but lately I've developed a particular fondness for the first season, featuring William Hartnell as the Doctor.

In fact, I think "An Unearthly Child" is the best single episode of Doctor Who ever made. It's got a creepy atmosphere and an aura of genuine mystery (something that's sadly lacking in modern Who). William Hartnell gives a great performance - his Doctor comes across as brilliant, paranoid, xenophobic and downright sinister. Later on, the character would become a heroic stereotype, but here he's three-dimensional and very real (considering that he's an alien).

William Russell and Jacqueline Hill also give good performances as the schoolteachers who are drawn into the Doctor's weird universe, though I should note that their acting gets even better and more naturalistic in later episodes. Carol Ann Ford does pretty well with the key role of the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan, though sometimes she comes across as too whiny and petulant (in fairness to her, I think this is because series creator Sydney Newman told her to play up these aspects of the character).

The episode is also very well-written and directed. The script intelligently explores the stark contrast between the everyday world and the somewhat surreal existence of the Doctor. And director Waris Hussein, who labored under very primitive conditions (he was reportedly stuck working with huge, practically immobile cameras), manages to enhance the drama with some interesting camera angles and plenty of dramatic close-ups.

Unusually for Doctor Who, "An Unearthly Child" even boasts a pretty cool special effects sequence, when the TARDIS first takes off from Earth and enters the swirly-whirly time vortex. I suppose it's rather primitive by modern standards, but I think it remains an eerie and arresting sequence and it looks much better than you'd expect, given the series' reputation for cheapness.

Though I've focused most of my comments on the first episode, I should also note that the subsequent three-part caveman adventure is much better than its lowly reputation among fans would suggest. I once read a review that mocked the cavemen for appearing to be "dental-flossed," which in retrospect I find bizarre, since the cavemen in fact have busted-up and dirty-looking teeth, and generally filthy appearances. In fact, their semi-realistic presentation is part of what makes the story so good.

Perhaps the only strike against "An Unearthly Child" is that it's very different, in many ways, from traditional Doctor Who. The character of the Doctor here is self-absorbed, somewhat cowardly and semi-evil, which is strange considering that he would quickly evolve into a straight-up good guy. Also, there's a distinct lack of alien monsters in this serial; starting with the very next adventure, "The Daleks," Doctor Who would establish a tradition of featuring such monsters in pretty much every story.

But, if you're open to a slightly different vision of Doctor Who, you should definitely check this out. Compared to the episodes that followed, "An Unearthly Child" is surprisingly adult and sophisticated, and it represents the very best of science fiction television.


18 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
How many episodes in Season 1? Dr Wily
The Chase on home video in North America Dr Wily
Terry Nation's rights to the Daleks Dr Wily
Not enough New Who in Classic Who clewis100
Humanoids Dr Wily
What is the Best Doctor Who Theme Song? jonajmc01
Discuss An Unearthly Child (1963) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page