Episodes 43, 44 & 45: Planet of Giants, Dangerous Journey & Crisis

Written By Louis Marks
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield & Douglas Camfield (part of episode 3)

These days, most people who actually pay attention to what they shovel into their gobs would rather work hot shards of broken glass up their pisshole than eat non-organic food. Organic seems to be the new kosher, with my local supermarket actually having special implements to handle the organic produce, so as not to taint it with imperceptibly tiny traces of wronggrown grain of vegetable. Meanwhile, everyone else just crosses their fingers and hopes its not made of  horse.

The genesis of this interest in how our food is produced can be traced back to the 1957 US banning of the DDT pesticide. This then lead to Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring in 1962, just two years before this story was written. Even by then though it was not something so widely thought about that it would be expected to turn up as the plot in a hugely popular family sci-fi show on an early Saturday evening.

The idea of shrinking the TARDIS crew was one of the first stories ever suggested for Doctor Who. Luckily, they held off until the second season, allowing the shoe to be established as a time/space travel show, rather than a prototype for the ‘Honey, I…’ film series. Writer Louis Marks also made the brilliant decision to have actual human villains, rather than pitting the Doctor and Co against ‘giant’ bugs. Not only did this remove Sydney Newman’s eyed ‘bug eyed monsters,’ it added a really interesting and highly original dynamic, where the protagonists and antagonists never directly interact with each other.

Its also impressive just how good this story looks. Ray Cusick’s giant size sets are wonderful, putting to shame many large budget attempts to do exactly the same thing. And, importantly, they’re actually a constant scale, our heros do not appear to grow and shrink as they move from set to set.

The three episode structure works to the story’s advantage as well. Originally shot as a four parter, it was edited down to three in order to up the pace. Compared to the mostly six parters of the previous season, four would probably have felt quite snappy, but this edit really moves along, only being outpaced by Marinus.

Its not all brilliant. There is some really bad science throwing an oversized dead fly into the ointment, particularly the notion of ‘space pressure.’ What the fuck does that mean? Often, I feel that doctor Who is better when rather than explaining something with obvious bullshit, the Doctor just says ‘I’ll explain later*. Also, its a rather quaint idea that a huge pesticide research project would be conducted entirely by two men in a sleepy country cottage.

As a bit of a greeny, this story was always going to be close to my heart, but the quality of the writing, acting and production here more than lived up to my expectations. It firmly establishes f Doctor Who as a show that can carry itself for more than one season, and establishes that there might be room for stories set entirely on comntempory earth, something that would become important in later years.

So far,each story in Who had been about a new place or time, and with it a new villain. That was not to last, however, as demand for the return of a highly popular plunger armed eugenicists grew. Next up: The Dalek invasion of Earth, though if you really can’t wait, the Guardian published a story in it earlier today.

*oddly, the bit of ‘bad science picked up on the commentary is not bad science at all. It’s not ‘time distortion,’ you gaggle of nonces, it’s that relative to their diminutive stature sound waves are bigger, and therefore sound lower. I can understand the rest of them, but you, Mark Ayres, you’re a fucking audio wizard for a living. Get it right. P.S, I love your work.


Episodes 37, 38, 39, 40, 41 & 42: A Land of Fear,Guests of Madame Guillotine, A Change of Identity, The Tyrant of France, A Bargain of Necessity & Prisoners of Conciergerie

Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Henric Hirsch (1,2,4,5,6) & John Gorrie (3)

I’ve been to France. I quite liked it. The food is shit, the wine is overrated and the Parisians in particular will pretend not to understand perfectly competently spoken french if it’s delivered in a vaguely british accent, but everywhere has downsides, and overall it’s quite a nice place. If Dennis Spooner’s Reign of Terror is to be believed, however, its a bleak shithole full of cunts. Just about every French character in this story is either an entitled toff prat who swaggers around calling everyone a dirty pleb, or a half educated revolutionary with an itchy guillotine finger. Not, in short, the sort of person you’d want to hang out with.

Classic Doctor who has a few weak points. One of them is the frequency with which the Doctor and his companions turn up somewhere and are promptly arrested for no particularly good reason. The historical episodes commonly fall prey to this annoying habit. This story is no exception. The entire plot revolves around people getting captured and imprisoned and escaping again. Long running script editor and occasional Who writer, Terrance Dicks, described such a device, where the characters are captured, escape, run around for a bit, and are captured again without the plot advancing at all as being a ‘loop’. It was something writers used to pad out stories that were running short. Here, as with many of the historical stories, the entire plot is nothing but one big loop.

That’s not to say it’s not a good story. While the structure of it does get on my nerves a bit as an example of imaginative plotting, it does hold up as a perfectly serviceable vehicle to showcase the historical period being focused on here. The BBC were, and to a large extent still are, much more proficient at making historical drama than science fiction, and the sets and costumes here are much more convincing than the previous story. The acting is great across the board too, with a particular highlight being Ronald Pickup’s backstabbing physician, in what I believe was his first television appearance.

Once we get passed the first few episodes though, and we get into some actual plot, with Jules and the smuggling of toffs to England, rather than just loops, the quality of the story skyrockets. The ingredients of secret identities, complex conspiracies, double agents and hidden messages recall cold war spy stories more than 18th century costume drama. It gives the cast some great stuff to play with as well. Hartnell in particular seems to positively love the wonderfully over the top costume he gets to wear in the second half of the story.

Sadly, like many of the black and white Doctor Who episodes, the fourth and fifth episodes of this story are missing. Unlike most of the missing stories, however, these two have been marvelously constructed with some beautiful animation to compliment the Ayersized* soundtrack. At times the animation looks better than the existing episodes, but it does sometime suffer from fast cuts, over use of extreme closeups and a few other techniques not easily available to 1960s television directors, and while it looks good on its own merits, feels out of place in a classic Who.

At times The Reign of Terror can come across as being a bit pro-aristocracy. Not all the time, but for most of it the revolutionaries are portrayed very much as Bad Guys. We do get a bit of balance from Barbara in A Bargain of Necessity, but for the most part they’re all brutal thugs. Of course, much like the one the Bolsheviks tried in Russia some time later, the French revolution was doomed to failure as it tried to replace one corrupt hierarchical power system with one that was much the same**, but with different folk at the top, so it’s not all that unfair to depict the revolutionaries in this way.

In all, I think that the first season of Doctor Who remains one of the finest runs in its almost 50 year history. Some of the stories were perhaps a little on the long side, but there are no out and out stinkers in there, and one or two excellent examples of the show at its best. It’s also, thankfully, one of the best preserved of the early seasons, with only two of the stories in it missing any episodes.


I want that hat. I want it sooooooooo much.

Clearly, this show was capable of running for much more than the thirteen episodes originally commissioned, but would it be able to keep up its quality and viewership for a second season? Find out next time, as The Doctor and co finally return to 1960s England, though not in exactly the way Ian and Barbara might have hoped.

*If Ayersized doesn’t become a common adjective within the next six months I’ll be very disappointed.
**Yeah, I’m gonna Kropotkin it up. What if it?

Episodes 31, 32, 33, 35, 35 & 36: Strangers in Space, The Unwilling Warriors, Hidden Danger, A Race Against Death, Kidnap & A Desperate Venture

Written by Peter R. Newman
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield (1, 2, 3 & 4) & Frank Cox (5 & 6)

I don’t like to go on about western imperialism*, but The Sensorites, perhaps even more so than The Aztecs, has a fair amount to say on the subject. The Sensorites, like their more modern cousin the Ood, act almost as a mirror to humanity, by and large a peaceful group of people, open to trusting strangers and when presented with a situation in which they must defend themselves, but with individuals capable of lying and murdering for their own gain. Their gentleness and easiness to beat in a fight – they’re afraid of shouting and the dark for fuck’s sake,  ultimately reveals the true characteristics of any humans coming into contact with them. Unsurprisingly, it’s the Doctor who comes off looking best.

As evil as the city administrator is, the real villains of this story are all human. The destruction caused by just a few greedy men, behaving exactly as the europeans I mentioned in the previous post, was devastating to the Sensorite people, ultimately killing around a third of them.

One of my favorite things about Doctor Who is that, unlike many sci-fi shows, is that alien creatures are not either good or evil depending on what race they are, and the Sensorites is the first example of this. The Doctor is the perfect hero for this type of dynamic, setting aside all other considerations and deciding what action to take purely on the evidence of what he has so far observe, not allowing prejudice to colour his outlook.

And Susan actually gets to do something! Finally. Its nice to see her do something better than the Doctor for a change. Its a real shame that she didn’t seem to have this potential in the rest of her run.

As with the previous two stories, it was time for one of the cast to have a break. In this instance it was Jacqueline Hill who disappeared for tho episodes. In later years it would be common for the Doctor to travel with younger women and men of a variety of ages, but its been rare for him to have a female companion over that age of thirty, and since the first TARDIS crew unheard of if he already has a younger female companion. I think that this is a bit of a mistake, personally, and feel that the hole left by Hill is every bit as noticeable as the absence of The Doctor in The Keys of Marinus.

In the end, the Doctor manages to dispose the evil sensorites, save the good sensorites and root out the reprobate humans poisoning their water supply. Will he fare as well in the French revolution? find out next time, in this exciting mission to the unknown.

*That is a lie, I love to go on about it.

Small side note: ‘A Race Against Death’. Best title ever?

Episodes 27, 28, 29 & 30: The Temple of Evil, The Warriors of Death, The Bride of Sacrifice & The Day of Darkness

Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by John Crockett

Western imperialism tends to bring out the worst in people. The Aztecs may have been a group of thugs who terrorised any nearby local civilization into paying them outrageous tributes, and would sacrifice and eat anyone who disobeyed, but their crimes pale in significance when compared to the atrocities committed by the europeans who leveled the Aztec cities in a desperate bid to steal all the gold their ships were capable of carrying.

The doctor’s companions do not disgrace themselves to quite that extent here, but their haughty and unthinking attitude towards the Aztecs and their civilization comes from the same casual dismissal of anything thought to be of a ‘lower’ culture. Even Ian, initially dead set against interfering with their ways, ends up murdering an Aztec warrior*. Of all of them, only the Doctor himself takes a stance of total non-interference, and only wants to regain access to his TARDIS, locked away in a seemingly impenetrable tomb.

As for the Aztecs themselves, they are portrayed with a surprising amount of balance, particularly for the time. Yes there are some outright Aztec bastards here, Tlotoxl and Ixta for example, but there are also genuinely good people among them, such as Cameca and Autloc. Indeed, Cameca is one of the very few humans the Doctor ever shows any sort of romantic attachment to; after becoming accidentally engaged to her, he actually seems quite happy about it.

Its also noticeable here that, for the second timed in a row, the actor’s holiday schedule was leaving its mark on the production. Susan disappearing into a seminary for two episodes makes more sense than the Doctor’s departure in the previous story, but it still leaves an odd hole in the cast. The show had been running non-stop for more than six months by this point though, so it was only fair that the cast get some time off.

Getting shoved off to some seminary was only the last in a rather long list of humiliations Susan was forced to bear, particularly compared to her initial conception. Would the character ever be able to meet the potential she had as the granddaughter of the Doctor? No, not really, as it turns out, but she did come pretty close in the next story.

*The only time I can recall when one of the Doctor’s companions kills another human being, unless you count Sara in the Dalek’s Master Plan, though there are bound to be other examples.

Episodes 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 & 26: The Sea of Death, The Velvet Web, The Screaming Jungle, The Snows of Terror, Sentence of Death & The Keys of Marinus

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by John Gorrie

Nowadays it’s more or less expected that politicians and cardinals might get a bit rapey, but it has been pretty unusual in the history of Doctor Who characters. Of course, the two men I just referenced here are, at time of writing, only accused of inappropriate behaviour and are quite rightly presumed innocent of any wrongdoing until a jury of their peers declares otherwise, because despite its deficiencies, we live in a country far more civilized than Marinus’ ‘highly civilized’ society. A society in which the courts still employ presumption of guilt, the death penalty, trial without jury, detention without trial, and any number of other frankly barbaric practices.

The Keys of Marinus is a rather unusual Doctor Who story in that each episode is a short tale in its own right, the six of them only being linked together by a rather daft MacGuffin hunt for a bunch of keys. This idea would be reused some fifteen years later by then producer Graham Williams in the far longer Key to Time saga, but whereas The Key to Time is a number of four part stories, each by a different writer, the Keys of Marinus is a much snappier set of single episode stories, all written by Terry Nation.

Nation had made quite a name for himself a few months earlier with his creation of the Daleks, os when the BBC wanted another sci-fi Doctor Who story he was the obvious choice. The villains here, the Voord, were not as successful, not appearing in any other televised story to my knowledge*. But then, they are just guys in rubber suits. Not even monsters that looks like guys in rubber suits, they actually are just evil dudes dressed if daft costumes. They’re hardly even in it either, only really appearing at the beginning and end of the story, with the four episodes in middle somewhat lacking their presence.

The strength of this story, however, does not lie in the ‘main’ villains. Each of the shorts that make up the overarching plot have a great villain in their own right from the wonderfully macabre, and to the best of my knowledge unnamed, Brain Things in The Velvet Web, to the somewhat rapey trapper in The Snows of Terror**.

The unusual structure of this story works to its advantage in that it of all the classic Doctor Who stories I’ve ever watched, this is the only one that can match the pace of the current series. I’m actually a big fan of the more leisurely pacing of the 60s and 70s, but The Keys of Marinus is bracing proof that the classic series could keep up that kind of pace. if it had wanted to. Which it clearly didn’t, and that’s just fine by me.

Barbara hints at her interest in the native architecture of Mexico and Central America in the first episode of this story, The Sea of Death. Perhaps some of that information might be useful in the next story. Or not: detailed understanding of the Aztec’s temples probably won’t stop them from sacrificing you.

*or any audio plays. In fact, the only other story I’ve come across with them is a comic by legendary writer Grant Morrison.
**Yeah, see, that tangent was tots relevant.

Episodes 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20: The Singing Sands, Five Hundred Eyes, The Wall of Lies, Rider from Shang-Tu, Mighty Kublai Khan & Assassin at Peking

Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Waris Hussein

Marco Polo is pretty much about a bunch of people who want to go home. That’s all anyone really wants in this story, except for The Doctor, who just doesn’t want to be stuck in one place and time. I wonder if John Lucarotti realized how much deeper this theme is, set against the backdrop of the nomadic mongols, whose former capital, Karakorum, was little more than a group of tents around one central building.

Rather surprisingly, Marco Polo is just about the villain of this story, though a sympathetic one. The part of out and out bad guy is taken by Tegana, one of Doctor Who’s all time great human baddies. He’s not overly sadistic or violent, but his constant lying always rings unsettlingly true, even when we the viewer know it to be nothing but untruths. Unlike many later lying villain actors, Derren Nesbitt plays him completely straight, with none of that smarmy obvious liar acting that fucks me right off. Unfortunately, the reprobate mongol warlord end up getting his ass kicked by an Italian merchant, rather making him look like a bit of a lame warlord really.

The Doctor here is on great form, as usual, though there could have been more of him. The show at this point was very much an ensemble piece, often having episodes where The Doctor doesn’t turn up at all, and the story is carried by his companions. The time Hartnell does get here is not mis-spent though. He’s one of the few characters you can actually believe would be capable of winning half of Asia from Kublai Khan in a game of backgammon. It often easy to forget that William Hartnell was only in this 50s when he played The Doctor, as he not only gives a wonderful physical performance that sells great age, but brings a great deal of gravitas and wisdom the the character, making him seem a vast age.

But the real hero here is Chesterton, constantly almost gaining Marco’s trust, only to lose it again as soon as Tegana shows up.

The story does have its weak point. There is nowhere near enough story to fill seven episodes, and the constant almost escaping really grates on my nerves. Perhaps at the time there was a real sense of jeopardy, but given that I know that this is a seven part story, I know full well that they’re not getting away in part four, so any escape plan that comes before the end just feels like a waste of time. The same can be said for any of the companions being put in any mortal danger, though not to the same extent.

By this point Doctor Who had proven that it could do the historical stuff and still remain engaging, but how would it fare in the sci-fi stakes without the Daleks? Next up, Terry Nation attempts to repeat his previous success with The Keys of Marinus.

Episode 14: The Roof of the World

Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Waris Hussein

Some very sad news today, as it has been reported that Ray Cusick, the production designer for Doctor Who between 1963 and 1966, has died. The news has mostly been describing him as the designer of the Daleks, and while this was indeed a fantastic achievement, it does rather overlook the brilliant job he did for the rest of his three year tenure as production designer on a show with a more or less negligible budget.

Sadly, I can’t comment on the quality of any of the sets, costumes or special effects in this story. As with a large number of early Doctor Who episodes, all seven that make up Marco Polo were wiped by the BBC for reasons best known to themselves. Television at the time was viewed as something completely disposable, and so its not that surprising that it was treated that way, just irritating. Luckily, the intrepid fans of the Doctor tapped the soundtracks to just about all the  early episodes with tape recorders. The legendary Mark Ayers has taken these recordings and with some mystic audio wizardry has made them into something that is indistinguishable from, and is some cases better than, what you would expect from a surviving episode.

I have to admit, this Story is one of the few black and white ones that I hadn’t seen/heard until I started doing this, though I had seen the half hour reconstruction included as a special feature on the Edge of Destruction DVD. The half hour version, unsurprisingly, cracked along at a hell of a rate, but I was a bit dubious about whether it could sustain any sort of pace for seven episodes. I was happily surprised therefore when this episode at least filled its twenty five minute slot easily. It did, however, get through most of the plot, so I am still a bit dubious about the next 6 episodes*.

Another happy surprise, some accurate science at last! Chesterton explaining to Marco that its the altitude, not the temperature, that causes water to boil colder than at sea level is probably  one of the few accurate bits of science in the show’s history. I’m not all that up on 13th century chinese or mongolian history**, but there aren’t any glaring historical inaccuracies here either. How refreshing.

After being a bit dubious about this one, I’m actually looking forward to the rest of this story.

*Its a common feature of the longer stories that the first and last episodes are great, but there is a bit of a sag in the middle.
** despite having played rather a lot of Age of Empires II

Episodes 12 & 13: The Edge of Destruction, The Brink of Disaster

Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Richard Martin (1) & Frank Cox (2)

So it turns out that Chris Morris is actually a precognitive documentary filmmaker. Who’d have thunk it? I half expect the news tomorrow to carry a warning telling us to watch out for a peadofile disgised as a school. Up until this point, the Doctor has clearly though that all humans have the cognitive capacity that the Metro would have us believe that these men have, but that was about to change*.

In some ways this forgotten classic could well be the most important Doctor Who story. For a start it’s the first story in which the Doctor actually shows affection, rather than just acceptance, towards of any of his human companions. Secondly it marks the end of the show’s beginning, as it were, transitioning from something that had been commissioned for 13 weeks, to a full year. And thirdly, it introduces the TARDIS as a character in her own right. Yup, despite his seeming distrust of computer, the Doctor’s only constant companion throughout the entire length of the show if an AI.

The fact that it contains anything worth commenting about is pretty remarkable given that
it was written as no budget filler in order to make up the allotted 13 episodes commissioned. It would probably be obvious that this was the case, given that the entire story is set in the TARDIS and the only actors in it are the crew themselves, but just to make sure you know, its mentioned in the liner notes in the DVD.

Despite this, writer David Whitaker delivered a great tense bottle episode filled with backstabbing and mistrust that is genuinely engaging to watch. Much later on in the series script editor Christopher Bidmead seemed to have a fetish for aweful seemingly endless runs of episodes that were all set completely within the TARDIS, and nothing fucking happens (we’ll get to that though), but this story proves that it is possible to tell a great tale while not going outside for who whole episodes.

Hartnell gives a stupendous performance as the Doctor here, turning on a dime between menacing and frail, and ultimately showing a good degree of kindness. At one point he roofies the entire crew, but you still forgive him in the end. The rest of the cast all give good performances too, each of them having at least one point of being sinister, and the rest of the time seeming like victims.

Ultimately though, everyone was just being a dick, but that’s okay, because it brought them closer together. Cos that’s the way it works, see.

Next up, Yetti, no, wait, that’s not for a few years yet. Susan just isn’t able to recognise a human footprint.

*Yeah, the links between my tangents and Doctor Who are becoming increasingly less substantial. What of it?

Episodes 5,6,7,8,9, 10 & 11: The Daleks

The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal, The Rescue
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Christopher Barry (1,2,4,5) & Richard Martin (3,6,7)

So yesterday I read this rather horrible news story about some police officers in London brutalizing a transgender woman for the heinous crime of feeling a bit sick, which is apparently illegal now in England, at least it is if you’re not a “normal human being.” I hesitate before comparing the Metropolitan police force to the Daleks, lest they point their stick like weaponry in my direction, but these officers at least would appear to have something in common with Terry Nation’s ‘normal’ loving automofashists*, at least if the witness in question can be believed.

6.4 million viewers is a good number for this type of show, particularly since is was operating on a budget of £2000 an episode, plus regular staff salaries. Throughout this story, however, ratings climbed steadily, settling in at around 10 million and staying there. The reaction by the viewing public is most often described as Dalekmania**. A fair bit of discussion has gone on about what made them such an extraordinary success, mostly by people attempting to replicate it, but I think they all miss the point. What makes this a great story, for me at least, is the Doctor.

In creating the Daleks, Terry Nation basically took the two big fears of the time: eugenics and nuclear war, shoved them together, and dressed them up like a condiment container***. Genius. but ultimately, as Nation himself would discover a few years later after he attempted to give them a life outside of Who, their appeal is pretty strictly limited to acting as an antagonist for the Doctor to butt up against.

In the end, I don’t really care what makes this a great story. I’m happy to just watch it and accept that it just is. Hartnell is at his most irascible, and though no longer the villain, definitely not the hero yet either. His role here is mostly as idiot savant, using his genius to get everyone out of danger he put them in in the first place. The hero role goes to Ian, who in his reluctance to persuade the Thals to help them, shows many of the traits that would later be attributed to the Doctor. He gets to hit some folk too, which is something that he’s oddly proficient at, given his profession.

If I’m going to look for negatives I would have to mention the Thals. Having a race of bad guys that looked very alien and a race of good guys that look very human seems to go against much of the ethos of the show, a view that show co-creator and then BBC head of drama Sydney Newman apparently took. Its a situation that would be repeated often later in the show, but for every story that its a problem in, there’s another story in which the opposite is true, so on balance it works out.

Its never really explained how the Daleks returned to invade earth in 2167, but that’s as it should be. Things are much scarier when their not explained.

*I was going to use Nazibots, but by Godwin’s Law I would have lost the argument I’m not having. Incidentally, typing this I’m delighted to discover that both ‘automofashist’ and ‘Nazibot’ are words recognized by my spellchecker.
**another word my spell checker not only recognized, but insisted I use, rather than dalek mania.
***I love the slightly lame look of the Daleks. Coupled with the fantastic vocal performances by Peter Hawkins and David Graham they’re terrifying, but the costume by itself is, well, not. One of my favorite moments in Who is when you first see any of a Dalek, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Barbara is being menaced by some sort of intergalactic plumber.

Episodes 2, 3 & 4: The Cave of Skulls, The Forest of Fear, The Firemaker

Written by Anthony Coburn
Directed by Waris Hussein

Doctor Who was commissioned with the remit to educate as well as entertain. Two of the Doctor’s original companions, Ian and Barbara were made school teachers, in science and history respectively, and it was decided that the stories would be alternately set in the future, to allow the writers to talk about science through Ian, and earths past to allow them to inform the viewer about, well, history. With this aim in mind, they did not get off to the best start.

The Cave of Skulls introduces us to a group of early humans struggling to make fire. Sadly, current thinking would suggest that by the time homo-sapiens had evolved our distant ancestors had been making fire for some 740,000 years previously in the lower-paleolithic when they were still homo-erectus. Oops.

Admittedly, a story about the Doctor and his friends (or acquaintances as they are at this stage really) interacting with some homo-erectus probably would not have been that interesting, not least because their anatomy would suggest that they were not capable of complex speech, though they may have communicated in a reasonably sophisticated proto-language. And if these cave dwellers are indeed homo-sapian, as they clearly appear to be, then why are they all morons? They may not be particularly educated, that’s fair enough, but this lot are downright fucking stupid. There’s no evidence to suggest that our species has gotten a whole lot brighter in the last 50,000 years, but this lot make Daily Mail readers and Republicans look kinda smart.

In fact, rather than listing all the inaccuracies, I think it would be quicker to list the things they got right. None. None things.

Despite all my bitching, I actually do quite like this story. Putting all that stuff to one side and looking at it for what it is, a kids show about a crazy man who lives in a time traveling box, it has quite a bit of drama and fun. It cracks along at a pretty good pace and although the plot is made up mostly of loops (more on them later) it kept me from wondering off halfway through, not something that can be said for every episode of Who.

Not that it is completely without problems. The most troubling thing about it for me is the way that women are treated. Barbara and Susan, who both started out as capable and intelligent in the opening episode of the show are soon reduced to hysterical wrecks. Ian shows a bit of misplaced chivalry, making a frail old man do heavy lifting while there are several fit women who were probably much stronger right there. The homo-nonspecific women don’t fair much better, either being male dependant shils of superstitious conservatives. The setup of Who could sometime be a bit patronising towards women simply because the Doctor is a man, and he’s smarter than just about everyone else, but in the early days it was often quite well balanced, perhaps due to the producer Verity Lambert being a driven and talented woman herself, so its in some ways quite surprising to see a story with this type of view being shown, even in 1963.

An unearthly child was the only Doctor Who story that’s been made when the show was not a household name in the UK, and as such is a highly interesting artifact in the show’s history. Aside from the wonderful first episode, however, its not alot else. Next up, the Doctor and his companions get to meet some besties who would catapult them into just about every living room in the country and give the show the momentum to still be around today, almost 50 years later.