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Two teachers, Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) grow
way too curious about one of their students, the somewhat weird Susan
(Carol Ann Ford) to not investigate ... and find out she lives on a
scrapyard with her rather grumpy and egotistical grandpa (William
Hartnell), who calls himself the Doctor and claims to have superior
knowledge. Furthermore he claims that a police phone box on his scrapyard
is really a machine travelling through time and space called the TARDIS
(for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), and since the two teachers
won't believe him, he invites him into the box (which is bigger on the
inside, way bigger), and the next time they open the door, the Doctor,
Susan, Ian and Barbara all are in the stone age.
Before long, they get drawn into a conflict between cavemen Za (David
Newman) and Kal (Jeremy Young) over the leadership of their tribe ... and
leader should always be the one who can make fire - but since none of the
cavemen can, but everybody knows the Doctor and company can, soon our
quartet is incarcerated in the Cave of Skulls. They manage to get
away, but when on their escape pursuing Za is attacked by a beast, they
decide to turn Samaritan and not only save his life but help Za to learn
how to make fire, get control over his tribe and expell Cal.
Does Za thank them though ? Nope, he throws them back into the cave of
skulls. Only when putting up a spookshow for the tribe do our heroes
manage to escape - but not to present day London, but to the far future
... but that is another story ...
The very first story of Doctor Who, a series that would
eventually run for 26 consecutive seasons (until 1989) and make a
triumphant return in a new series in 2005.
That said, however, was An Unearthly Child all that good, and
would it herald things to come ? The answer, quite simply, is no, the
story is not too well developed and not too engaging, the direction is
incredibly stagey, the sets are obviously too cheap, and William
Harntell's Doctor comes across as quite an arsehole in this one. That
said, the episode is not all bad, it ahs a certain cheap charm to it, and
some elements are unintentionally funny (like the cavemen speaking perfect
English), but on this episode alone, noone would probably have expected
the show to run more than its originally intended 13 chapters (and this
episode alone runs for four chapters). The next episode though, The Daleks
(7 chapters), would show a quite different, and far more interesting
aspect of the series.