It’s a bit of a banner year for British sci-fi this year, what with it being the year of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, an’ all. Yup, that’s right – on the 23rd November this year, it will be exactly 50 years since Doctor Who first came onto BBC screens and began to delight a nation. Well, I think it automatically began to delight them, but I am a dedicated Whovian here, people, I can’t imagine my show doing anything but delighting people. Maybe that’s a narrow minded view set, but we’ve all got it when it comes to our favourite shows, don’t you try and deny it. So what, I hear you ask, is Fandom Wanderers doing to celebrate this momentous occasion in television and sci-fi history?
… Well, we thought we’d do a series of reviews, looking at each Doctor in turn really. Nothing ground shattering, I’m sure, but with any luck you’ll find it a bit of a laugh, and it might even encourage some to go and seek out the Classic Who series – which isn’t a requirement for being a Who fan, but trust me, since the show came back to screens in 2005, knowing those references to the Classic series can sometimes be incredibly helpful. There’s a couple of moments in particular that come to mind, but I won’t list them, just … if you have Tumblr, someone will explain. Probably. But yes! We are planning at looking at each Doctor in their turn, starting with the very first (… we think) Doctor, as played by William Hartnell back in 1963. And what better episode to look at for the First Doctor, than the first episode – An Unearthly Child.
First thing you need to be told about this very first episode? Yeah, the Doctor doesn’t actually appear in it until near the end of the episode. So, there’s that. The episode actually really focuses on two teachers at Coal Hill School, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton. Both of these teachers need to deal with a strange pupil, a Susan Foreman, and their first appearances on screen together are to discuss this strange girl. Who can only seem to do chemical equations within five dimensions, and who seems unaware that – in 1963 – Britian is not on the decimal system yet when it comes to their money.
Susan, for the record, seems to be a perfectly normal girl, interested in the music hits of the day. That is, until she mentions she’ll have a really thick book finished by the next morning. And how reluctant she is to have anyone to come and speak with her Grandfather, Doctor Foreman – or at least, Ian and Barbara assume that’s his name. Feeling concerned, Barbara and Ian decide that it’s for the girl’s own good that they go to her home address and try to speak with her Grandfather. So, into Ian’s car they go. Except the address on file leads them not to a home, but rather to a run-down junkyard.
Understandably, Ian and Barbara are a bit worried for the girl, more so when they see her come along, and follow her inside the junkyard to find her … nowhere inside. They continue to look around and, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the Doctor appears! And he’s a grouchy old man in vaguely Edwardian looking clothing who seems rather irritated by these busybodies being in his place of … home?
And no, I’m not going to spoil the ending of the episode for you, but I have to admit, for this being the very first introduction to the Doctor, he is nothing like the charasmatic hero he will become. The First Doctor is, in his first few episodes, a grouchy old man, who wants nothing more than a quiet life, and to be left alone with his granddaughter in peace and quiet, and has no time for these interfering busybodies. Susan is interestingly bland in these first few episodes, really just serving as the Doctor’s morality pet, and occasionally adding bulk to the party. This does change later in the series, but we’re not looking at that episode now.
Ian and Barbara are the first human companions that the Doctor will have – and he has plenty of companions throughout the years – and our first introduction to them shows them as quite no-nonsense people. They’re strong enough in themselves to go up against the Doctor when he starts his nonsense, and are only thrown when … well, the episode will be on soon enough, you’ll get to see for yourself.
So there it is. Our first step in the Doctor Who timeline. Where shall we end up next?
Z McAspurren (Do wee dooo…)