An Unearthly Child
An un child
The First Adventure...


1st Doctor







Waris Hussein


Verity Lambert


Season 1

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The first televised Doctor Who serial was produced under the title 100,000 BC, but later marketed under its more popular name, An Unearthly Child, which it also shared with its own episode one. It introduced viewers to the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, and the Doctor's TARDIS.

As the first story, it laid the groundwork for the Who story of capture and escape; in this case,  the Doctor and company are captured by primitive humans. An Unearthly Child was the only televised story in which the Doctor smoked.

By 1963 standards, An Unearthly Child and Doctor Who were launched with a publicity blitz. A trailer ran a week before broadcast and Hartnell narrated a radio advert. Radio Times ran a large feature on the show; it was originally intended to be the cover story but Kenneth Horne's return to radio was judged more important.

Rex Tucker was originally listed as the director, but filming schedules interfered with a holiday he had planned to Majorca. The seat went instead to the inexperienced Waris Hussein.

Summary Edit

Schoolteachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton are intrigued by one of their pupils, Susan Foreman. They visit her home address - a junkyard at 76 Totter's Lane. There they meet her grandfather, the Doctor. The Doctor and Susan are aliens who travel through time and space in their ship, the TARDIS. It looks like an ordinary police box but actually houses a huge, gleaming control room. The TARDIS takes them all to a Palaeolithic landscape where they encounter a tribe who have lost the secret of fire...

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

Astronomical objects Edit

  • The cavemen worship the Sun God, which they call Orb.
  • Both Space and Time are said by Susan to be related (with regard to dimensions).

Culture Edit

  • Za attempts to create fire. He references his father, who made fire, but was killed for it. Later, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan are forced to give the cavemen fire in a struggle for the leadership of the tribe.

Cultural references Edit

  • Susan refers to decimalisation and then realises has not happened yet in England. In 1963, the United Kingdom had a system of two hundred forty pence to a pound. Decimalisation actually took place on 15 February 1971. The implication is that they have visited the UK after 1971.
  • Reference is made to the Doctor and Susan having visited the French Revolution (1789 - 1799) when Susan says something she reads in the book Miss Wright lends her on the subject, titled The French Revolution, is wrong.
  • Susan is listening to John Smith and the Common Men when Ian and Barbara walk in.

Devices Edit

  • Ian uses a torch while in the junkyard. When he drops it, Barbara suggests he uses a match.
  • Za uses and wields an axe.
  • Ian, Susan and Barbara make a stretcher.
  • The tribesmen uses spears.

Technology Edit

  • The Doctor refers to television to help describe how the TARDIS is bigger on the inside.
  • The TARDIS took on the disguise of a London police box during the Doctor and Susan's stay at 76 Totter's Lane. However, it didn't change appearance when it reappeared in the past, due to a problem with the chameleon circuit.

The Doctor Edit

  • The Doctor smokes a pipe. Interestingly, he is never seen to smoke on-screen again after losing both the pipe and his matches when he is attacked by Kal.
  • The Doctor carries a notebook with him.
  • The Doctor states that he and Susan are "wanderers in the fourth dimension".

Science Edit

Story notes Edit

  • This is the first Doctor Who story broadcast on television.
  • The very first words in Doctor Who were spoken by Barbara Wright: "Wait in here please, Susan. I won't be long."
  • This story is also known as 100,000 BC, The Tribe of Gum, The Firemakers and Cavemen. See disputed story titles for more information.
  • The episodes of this story went by different titles during the production stage. Episode 2 was originally known as "The Fire-Maker", Episode 3 was originally known as "The Cave of Skulls" and Episode 4 was originally known as "The Dawn of Knowledge".
  • All episodes exist as 16mm telerecordings and are held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.
  • The original storyline was entitled Nothing at the End of the Lane. A short story by the same name written by Daniel O'Mahony can be found in Short Trips and Side Steps. It suggests the entire first season of the show may just be a psychotic fantasy in the mind of Barbara Wright.
  • The names for the Doctor's companions were originally to be Bridget ("Biddy") instead of Susan, Lola McGovern (instead of Barbara Wright), and Cliff instead of Ian.
  • The makers of the show originally considered the idea of having a functioning chameleon circuit but ruled it out on cost grounds.
  • The bones in the Cave of Skulls were real bones taken from an abattoir and were very unpleasant to smell under hot studio lights.
  • Other proposals considered for the first story included The Giants by C. E. Webber. It was partially reworked for the Season 2 episodes Planet of Giants and The Living World, written by Alan Wakeman.
  • A pilot version of episode 1 was made and exists in various versions. For more info, see the Pilot Episode.
  • Episode 1 has come to be seen as a classic of science fiction, in contrast to the less-positive reaction of critics when it was first broadcast.
  • Bernard Lodge was the uncredited designer of the original title sequence. (INFO: "An Unearthly Child")
  • The Doctor smokes a pipe in episode 2, but is never seen to do so again after he loses both this and his matches on Stone Age Earth. It can only be assumed that the Doctor was put off smoking for life after being attacked and knocked unconscious by Kal.
  • According to the DVD info text, the striped top Susan wears in this and later stories belonged to Carole Ann Ford and was part of an alternate costume she suggested for the character after it was decided to abandon the more adult, futuristic look of the unaired pilot. According to the commentary, Ford's suggested outfit also included black leggings and boots, which were rejected as too sexy, so jeans were worn instead. Ford would wear the same striped top in her later movie The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery.
  • Ford's hairstyle as Susan was created by famed stylist .
  • This story was one of those selected to be shown as part of BSB's Doctor Who Weekend in September 1990.
  • A lizard was accidentally brought on set along with the tropical plants for the forest. Carole Ann Ford took it as a pet.
  • The piece of music that is purported to be John Smith and the Common Men is called "3 Guitars Mood 2," by The Arthur Nelson Group. It is featured on a CD called DOCTOR WHO: SPACE ADVENTURES. This piece of music was also used in the documentary "Verity Lambert: Drama Queen", a tribute to the late Verity Lambert which was first broadcast on 5 April 2008 on BBC4.
  • Susan claims that she made up the term TARDIS from the initials of Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It is later revealed that Gallifreyan society is several million years old. One explanation for this apparent inconsistency is proposed in NA: Lungbarrow. Other speculative explanations also exist.
  • When the TARDIS dematerialises for the first time, both Ian and Barbara faint. This effect is unique to this story as Ian and Barbara show no further ill effects in subsequent dematerialisations (at least not of this nature and not caused directly by the TARDIS activating), nor do any future new TARDIS passengers. It's possible the rather chaotic way the TARDIS entered flight somehow messed with the humans' equilibrium, as opposed to later, more-orderly dematerialisations.
  • The first broadcast of Episode 1 had only 4.4 million viewers. This was likely due to a power outage in some parts of Britain that prevented more viewers from tuning in.
  • For this reason, on Wednesday 27 November, the Programme Review board decided to repeat the first episode immediately before the second episode. This repeat gained a significant number of viewers – 6.0 million. Although such replays are common today (particularly on American networks), such a rerun was almost unheard of in 1963.
  • An Unearthly Child was the first Doctor Who story to be broadcast internationally, appearing on New Zealand's Christchurch regional channel CHTV-3 on 18 September 1964.
  • Ninth Doctor director Joe Ahearne was born on the day that episode 1 was first broadcast.

Ratings Edit

  • An Unearthly Child - 4.4 million viewers
  • The Cave of Skulls - 5.9 million viewers
  • The Forest of Fear - 6.9 million viewers
  • The Firemaker - 6.4 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • Episode 1 was broadcast ten minutes late due to an extended news report on the assassination of President Kennedy the previous day. (It was transmitted only one minute, twenty seconds later than the scheduled 5.15 p.m., due to the previous show, Grandstand, over running)
  • C. E. Webber co-wrote the story with Anthony Coburn. (Webber had actually been working on a proposed episode known as The Giants, which was originally intended to be the first story but was rejected.)
  • This story was broadcast live. (No episode was ever broadcast live. This rumour likely originated due to the fact episodes of the day were often videotaped in one continuous take with only occasional recording breaks.)
  • Jackie Lane was offered the role of Susan. (Although Lane auditioned for the part, she withdrew herself from consideration when she discovered a one-year contract was involved; she was never actually offered the job.)
  • Waris Hussein spotted Carole Ann Ford in BBC play called The Man on a Bicycle when he was looking for someone for the role of Susan. (This play was actually broadcast months before Hussein became involved with Doctor Who. However, according to a documentary included in the DVD box set "The Beginning", Hussein spotted her in an episode of Z-Cars.)
  • Jacqueline Hill worked as a model in Paris. (She didn't.)
  • The original police box was a prop left over from Dixon of Dock Green. (It was specially made for Doctor Who.)
  • Pop singer Billie Davis appears as one of the females. (This has been mentioned on a number of websites, including the Internet Movie Database, but according to the DVD production notes, the Billie Davis in this story is a male actor; the singer Davis at the time the episode was produced was still recovering from a serious automobile crash and was unlikely to have been in any shape to take on a acting role.)

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

  • When Ian and Barbara are talking in the car in the first episode, Jacqueline Hill noticeably flubs a line. It happens again in the Cave of Skulls near the end of the final episode.
  • When Ian and Barbara enter the TARDIS and talk with the Doctor and Susan, a boom microphone can be seen for a few seconds.
  • Before Ian gets zapped by the console, somebody in the studio calls out a cue.
  • The studio can be seen several times during the TARDIS console room scene in episode 1.
  • At one point, a stagehand can be seen through a gap of around 10 to 20 centimetres in one of the corners of the TARDIS.
  • The great stone is evidently made of sculpted polystyrene. The stone wobbles after being touched and at one point squeaks as Za attempts to move it.
  • William Hartnell and William Russell interrupt each other whilst examining the TARDIS.
  • When the Doctor explains that he and Susan are "wanderers in the fourth dimension", it is obvious that wall behind them is fake, as it is creased and has piled up at the bottom. This can be seen multiple times.

Continuity Edit

Timeline Edit