Written by Anthony Coburn C. E. Webber
Directed by Waris Hussein
An interesting start to the series. For the most part, it revolves around two teachers talking about an odd pupil they have, Susan Foreman. Sadly, many of the things hinted at in this episode about Susan, such as her extraordinary intelligence, mentioned by both Ian and Barbara, or her slight precognitive ability, never seem to be mentioned again. Apparently this is due to the producers, not for the last time, wanting to make the Doctor’s companion more relatable to young people. In fact, in many ways this is Susan’s finest episode. She doesn’t even sprain her ankle once.
Oddly, the obvious villain in this episode is the Doctor himself. Our access characters, Ian and Barbara, are concerned about a pupil, but on attempting to find out why she is living in a junk yard are met with only disgruntled obstructiveness from a fussy old man, who then kidnaps them. William Hartnell plays this more dangerous Doctor with a chilling unpredictability which no other actor has ever been able to replicate. The kindness and warmth he often shows in later stories are notably absent in these early days, and in this episode he doesn’t even show much kindness towards Susan, his granddaughter, to whom he is almost always affectionate.
Some of the writing does leave a but to be desired, particularly when they’re talking about maths and physics (you don’t need a separate dimension for space, thats what the first three are fucking for), but the snappy dialogue from the Doctor later as he attempts to get rid of Barbara and Ian (almost*) makes up for this.
Worth noting: Susan is listening to a track that she claims is by John Smith and the Common Men, which is:
a) a great piece of music. It’s actually “Three Guitars Mood 2” by Nelson & Raymond/The Arthur Nelson Group. Some time later Dodo states that it’s “a bit past it,” adding to the already overwhelming evidence that she’s a bit of a shit companion.
b) the name the Doctor later adopts on a number of occasions, though as the band name hints at, its is a common name.
Overall, a promising start to the series. If I had been watching this when it first aired I would have been intrigued to see where this went.
*Maths is easy.