Say Something Nice – Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

In an effort to find something quick that can be written as part of Daily Doctor Who, we are kicking off Say Something Nice, where I look back at each of the Doctor Who stories and pull out one cool thing about it.

(Daily Doctor Who #24)

We start with the series’ first story…

An Unearthly Child

Written by Anthony Coburn, directed by Waris Hussein. Also known as 100,000 BC, or sometimes An Unearthly Child / The Tribe of Gum, in an effort to better break down the stories from back in the day when every episode had its own distinct name.

Even better known as An Unearthly Child, The Cave of Skulls, The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker.

Say Something Nice…

(Named for Missy–aka the Master–and her catchphrase from her first full appearance in Dark Water)

So many nice things to say about this story, especially the first episode. The whole series is introduced with an effectively moody four-character drama, which does quite a nice job creating the illusion that it has a much larger scope than it’s modest production process (everything filmed in one or two takes on a single connected sound stage) would suggest. The four lead characters are all performed well by William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford, and are nicely contrasted with one another.

But because we’re equal-opportunity fans here, we’re not going to only be sycophantically complimentary.

You craven-hearted spineless poltroon!

(Another cry from the Master, but not exactly a catch-phrase, this time from The Deadly Assassin)

After the first episode, An Unearthly Child decreases in strength. Much has been said of the cavemen having British accents but I think this is mostly a comment from Americans–of course the British actors playing cavemen would have British accents, just like American cavemen tend to have American accents. But more than that, there is something about three continuous episodes of caveman politics that doesn’t exactly allow the character or the concepts to shine. If we were rebooting it today, we’d surely take it straight to the next story, The Daleks–just like Captain America is always part of The Avengers from the get-go nowadays, and indeed just like the first Doctor Who novelization did back in the day.

Catch you next time!

One thought on “Say Something Nice – Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

  1. When I understood how the TARDIS’ translation powers enabled the cavemen to apparently speak in English for the Doctor and his companions, it didn’t occur to me at the time why their accents in their primitive tongues would also sound British. When it comes to Doctor Who as a British show, as for Star Trek as an American show, maybe fans who can catch on at very young ages as I did are most likely to look passed that much. The benefit of course is more attention to the sci-fi story and its interestingly viable characters. But nowadays, looking back on many adventures with both the TARDIS translation powers and Star Trek’s universal translator, I can understand how ponderable it can be from cultural perspectives regarding the easily audible accents.

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