Thursday, January 27, 2011

"An Unearthly Child"

Aired Nov. 23 - Dec. 14, 1963

Episode 1 – An Unearthly Child
Episode 2 – The Cave of Skulls
Episode 3 – The Forest of Fear
Episode 4 – The Firemaker

Story 1

Written by Anthony Coburn

Directed by Waris Hussein


Coal Hill Schoolteachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesteron have the same problem student; Susan Foreman, a strange teenage girl who seems to be incredibly advanced in some areas, hopelessly ignorant in others, and overall an otherworldly presence in their classroom. 

Consumed by curiosity and concern for the girl, they visit her home address and are astounded when it turns out be a junkyard. Following Susan inside, they find what they assume to be an abandoned police box and encounter Susan's guardian, her grandfather. The old man is rude and secretive and dismissive of the two teachers, which only increase their suspicions. When Ian and Barbara hear Susan's voice from inside the police box, they force their way inside.

To their amazement, the police box is much larger on the inside than it appears, and the teachers find themselves in a huge, highly advanced control room. Susan and her grandfather, known as the Doctor, are aliens who travel through time and space in this ship, which is called the TARDIS. The Doctor, fearing that Ian and Barbara will reveal their presence in this time, sets the ship in motion, taking them all to a desolate freezing wasteland in Paleolithic times. There they become involved with a tribe of prehistoric humans who are in the midst of a power struggle over who has the knowledge to make fire. With their lives under threat, the travellers narrowly make it back to the TARDIS and escape. 

Setting off again, it is now all too clear to Ian and Barbara that the Doctor does not have full control over their travels, and returning to their own time may take far longer than they thought. The ship next materializes in a strange forest, and as the crew set outside to explore, the radiation meter on the TARDIS console begins to register "Danger."

Genesis of the Doctor

It began with a Canadian and a vacant time slot. In December of 1962, Sydney Newman, a Canadian television executive and producer who had previously overseen projects at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and England's ABC Television, became Head of Drama at the BBC. Newman was a science fiction fan, and the BBC had been considering developing a science fiction series for most of that year. Newman began looking for a slot that would accommodate just such a series.
Sydney Newman

He became aware of a gap in schedule; there was room on Saturday evenings between sports show Grandstand and pop music showcase Juke Box Jury. Newman felt that a science fiction series, aimed at children but sophisticated enough for the rest of the family, would be perfect. He began meeting with Donald Wilson, Head of the Script Department, and staff writer C.E. "Bunny" Webber to develop a viable idea.

Early on, the central concept of a crew adventuring through time and space in a fantastic machine was settled on. While Wilson and Webber did the nuts and bolts writing and came up with the core of the central characters and concepts, it was Newman who suggested the idea that the time machine would be larger on the inside than it appeared from the outside, and that the central figure of the show would be a mysterious old man known as "the Doctor". Newman even provided a title for the series; Doctor Who.

The Beginning...

Welcome to The APC Net, a project dedicated to a critical analysis and appreciation of Doctor Who. This won't be a news site, mostly because there are plenty of sites around the Interwebs that offer news from the world of Doctor Who. The crux of this blog will be a complete critical review of each televised Doctor Who story, from An Unearthly Child all the way to the present day. I'll be looking at the stories themselves, their places in the overall structure of the series and offering a small look into the history of the production of the show.

Hopefully, if you're a fan, you'll find some info and insights that you maybe haven’t considered that may increase, in some small way, your enjoyment of the show. If you're a fan of the new series and have never seen the classic show, this project hopefully will inspire you to go back and check out the stories that made this show a phenomenon in the first place. And if you've never seen any Doctor Who before, then hopefully you'll read some of this and then check some out.

I'll be reviewing only televised adventures; no novels, comics, audio plays, etc. This isn't to say I won’t dive into those eventually, but to keep things simple I'll be looking at the series only. The only exception will be the two feature films starring Peter Cushing that were made in the 1960s.

I'll also be doing research into the production history of the show, offering tidbits that will hopefully give a broader view on why certain decisions were made and how they affected what arrived on the screen. At the close of each respective Doctor's era, I'll be offering an overview of that time in the show's history, including my selections for the best and worst stories of the era.

Doctor Who is my favourite television series ever. I truly believe the central concept of an enigmatic alien who travels through time and space in blue police box is one of the great concepts created for television. I also think that the Doctor himself is one of the great children's heroes of all time; a man whose only authority is his own moral code and whose only weapon is his brilliance. What better message to send to kids than the fact that you don't need a gun or a badge to be a hero, only the willingness to stand up for your beliefs and the conviction and intelligence to defend those beliefs. The Doctor stands for imagination, exploration, tolerance and adventure.

If you're wondering about the name of the project itself, it comes from The Deadly Assassin, and stands for the Amplified Panatropic Computer Network. We'll get to what it means when we get to that story.

My next post will go over how the series was created, and the people behind it.