Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ClassicWho Reviews: An Unearthly Child (Or, Erica Realizes She Has Something Else To Review)

     It occurred to me a couple weeks ago when I was posting snarky comments on Facebook while watching Caves of Androzani that I should really have been reviewing Doctor Who as I went along. After all, most people just starting out decide to skip straight to NuWho, whereas I descended into insanity and decided to try to watch 50 years’ worth before the anniversary special. (That didn’t happen, quite obviously.) I couldn’t watch all of them. Some of the serials were wiped so the BBC could reuse that tape. Others just simply weren’t available through the library (and having literally no budget at all for buying or renting DVDs, this was the only place I could find them).

     However, I’ve decided to catch up on that. It will give me something else to review, and that way I’ll have an actual blog buffer. So, without further ado, here is my review of An Unearthly Child, the serial that started it all.


     At Coal Hill School in London, school teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are puzzling over one of their students, Susan Foreman, who understands advanced concepts but still can’t figure out the money system. She is very secretive about where she lives, and so the two decide to follow her home.

     Instead of going to a house, Susan goes to a junkyard and enters a police box. When Ian and Barbara follow, they find themselves in a strange ship and are confronted by Susan’s grandfather, a cranky old man in strange clothes who says he is the Doctor (“Doctor who?” Ian asks, and the audience giggles in their palms.) Before they know it, he’s started up the ship, and the four end up in the Paleolithic Era, where they get caught in the middle of a tribal war.

     It is not the most thrilling of serials, but it does a good job of setting up the characters and their motivations. The Doctor, pre-companions, is rather alien and amoral (as evidenced by his straight-up kidnapping Ian and Barbara), softened only by the obvious influence Susan has on him. Ian and Barbara are there to provide a human perspective on things-they call out the Doctor for wanting to leave one of the cavemen to die, and act as the voice of reason to all. Susan might look frail and delicate, but this is before they flanderized her into a damsel in distress. She throws herself at a caveman who is threatening her grandfather, and comes up with a brilliant plan to save her friends from an angry mob. The serial might be a bit slow at times, but it acts as a nice introduction to this strange new world.

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