An Unearthly Child.

TV The first time I saw An Unearthly Child was in its pilot form in the version which was broadcast during BBC Two's Lime Grove weekend all those years ago. In my memory it double billed with an episode of Quatermass and at the time I found that fairly dreary this was captivating. It seemed like a totally different programme. It was alien to me in every sense. It was closer in fact to The Twilight Zone than anything which I remember from the McCoy era which looked annoying and loud by comparison.

Which means, that in the same way everyone has their favourite Doctor, I'd choose the pilot version of An Unearthly Child any time. With the chance to rewatch both very close together on dvd recently I still believe that something essentially mysterious was lost in the remount. It might make more perfect sense story wise for Susan to be reading a history book but how much more exciting is the ink splot which seemed to me her attempt at creating a paper representation of the time vortex. Then there is the shot of Susan entering the junkyard seen from inside the back of the car that Ian and Barbara are driving, and the excellent attempts at noir lighting (even if in the case of that car scene they didn't get that quite right and Ian's face is obscured by a shadow created by Barbara's head).

The Doctor's an even grumpier old man but that would have meant that when he finally did warm to the TARDIS crew, the effect would have been sweeter. He's just plain shifty, the kind of man who should be visited by social workers let alone teachers. Susan too is slightly more mature and has an even greater ageless quality. Spot the moment in this version when Barbara bursts into the TARDIS and Susan is firmly working at the controls of the ship not randomly standing in the middle of the floor as she is in the second version. The former suggests that they've been travelling for years and this is her usual station. The attitudes of the teachers change far less between the two although the performances of Jacqueline Hill and Bill Russell are slightly more earthy I think, more real.

Something I've always done which tends to annoy people so I do it some more is treat An Unearthly Child and the following three stone age episodes as separate stories. To have the whole of the serial named after the first seems a nonsense since Susan is far from the suggested focus of the story -- caveman politics is. That way we can happily call the second story The Tribe of Gum or 100,000 BC or The Cave of Skulls or whatever we want to whichever week and the purity of the opening episode can be contained.

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