Doctor Who: Season 1, Episode 1

An Unearthly Child (23 Nov. 1963)

TV Episode  -   -  Adventure | Drama | Horror
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 679 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 7 critic

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


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


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

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Release Date:

23 November 1963 (UK)  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

An Unearthly Child (Episodes 1-4)
19 July 2007 | by ( – See all my reviews

"An Unearthly Child", the first episode of the story with the same title, is absolutely magical and in my opinion one of the greatest first episodes any television series has ever had. It introduces all the main characters the show would have in its first season, establishes the mysterious and alien nature of the Doctor, and clearly develops the characters and conveys Ian and Barbara's emotions wonderfully and realistically- all in the space of a self-contained 23 minute episode that has little to do with the rest of the first Doctor Who serial. The fact that this was intended, at this point, as an educational programme for children makes it even more worthy of praise because the script, acting, and direction prove that this production crew were taking the programme seriously and not talking down to the audience.

The follow-up, "The Cave of Skulls", is a really excellent episode as the Doctor and his companions travel back in time and attempt to determine where they are while we learn more about the struggle within a caveman tribe, a struggle centered around fire. The character development here, both for the tribe and for the main characters, is absolutely astonishing, in particular the writing for Ian and Barbara. Sadly "The Forest of Fear", the third episode, is very mediocre and outside some nice atmospheric moments quite boring. At this point Coburn seems to be running out of ideas, but "The Firemaker", the conclusion to the story, is quite solid and enjoyable and at times tense particularly toward the end.

"An Unearthly Child", also known as "The Tribe of Gum", is notably well-directed. Warris Hussein, particularly with the first episode, uses many stylistic devices quite brilliantly, especially considering this was shot on video on massive cameras one could barely move! Hussein really makes the episodes feel cinematic and not theatrical like many Doctor Who stories would feel throughout its initial 26 year run. Hussein deservedly went on to a solid career directing films, working with several notable actors and making one much-remembered classic, "Melody", in addition to several other films and miniseries that are fondly remembered.

"The Tribe of Gum"/"An Unearthly Child" is a surprisingly effective and solid start to Doctor Who's 26 year run (I'm sure the idea that it would run so long never crossed the producers' minds), and although the story itself is not too exciting or memorable on paper it is written quite well here.

Episode 1: 10/10, Episode 2: 8/10, Episode 3: 5/10, Episode 4: 7/10.

Average: 7.5/10

12 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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