An Unearthly Child (TV story)

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An Unearthly Child was the first serial of season one of Doctor Who. It was the first televised Doctor Who serial and the beginning of the Doctor Who franchise in general.

It saw the first appearances of the Doctor, Susan Foreman, Ian Chesterton, and Barbara Wright, played by William Hartnell, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell, and Jacqueline Hill, respectively. Ian and Barbara became the Doctor's first companions, unwillingly whisked away on the Doctor's TARDIS. At the end of the fourth episode, "The Firemaker", the jungles of the recurring alien world of Skaro (not named in this story) were briefly seen before its first full appearance in the following serial.

This adventure also introduced the Doctor's TARDIS, which, in spite of it usually possessing the ability to change its outward appearance (having already previously disguised as an Ionic column and as a sedan chair), was stuck in its most recognisable form of a police box after leaving London in 1963.


Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, two humble teachers during 1963, are surprised by a bright student named Susan Foreman. Confused by the contradictions in Susan's knowledge, Barbara had decided to visit her home, only to learn that the address on record is a junkyard. She and Ian decide to wait at the location until Susan or her grandfather show up. There, they discover a junkyard inhabited by her grandfather, simply known as "the Doctor", and he doesn't want them lurking about.

When the teachers refuse to leave, they discover that an ordinary police box is actually bigger on the inside. The Doctor decides they know too much about his and Susan's otherworldly origins and takes them on a journey across space and time in his TARDIS, the place he and Susan now call home.


An Unearthly Child (1)[[edit]]

Ian and Barbara watch the Doctor unlock the TARDIS.

On a foggy London night, a policeman makes his rounds, passing I.M. Foreman's junkyard at 76 Totter's Lane. In the junkyard stands an incongruous-looking police box emitting an eerie hum.

Another day of classes ends at the Coal Hill School. History teacher Barbara Wright and science teacher Ian Chesterton compare notes on an enigmatic student, Susan Foreman. Her knowledge of history and science surpasses the rest of the class and possibly the teachers. However, she has very curious gaps about present-day culture — for example, she forgets that the UK has yet to adopt a decimal currency. Barbara has encouraged her to specialise in history, but Susan is resistant to her suggestion about in-home tutoring, saying her grandfather, with whom she lives, doesn't like strangers. Barbara tells Ian she got Susan's address, 76 Totter's Lane, from the school secretary. She went there and found, not a house, but a junkyard. They find Susan so Barbara can lend her a book on the French Revolution. Ian offers Susan a ride, but she declines. Ian and Barbara resolve to follow her home. After they leave the room, Susan reads the history book and remarks, "That's not right!"

Arriving by car at 76 Totter's Lane, Ian and Barbara see Susan enter the junkyard alone. Following from a distance, they search the junkyard for her in vain. Ian is transfixed by a police box there which hums. Touching it, he exclaims that it's alive. They hear someone coming and hide. An old man approaches the police box and unlocks it. The teachers seem to hear Susan's voice from inside, greeting him. They confront the old man, who brusquely shuts the door and refuses to acknowledge that anyone is inside the box. When they threaten to go to the police, the old man calmly dismisses their claims. The door opens from the inside. Hearing Susan's voice again, the teachers push past the man. They are astounded to find themselves in a much larger space, with futuristic electronic panels and a central hexagonal control console. Susan is shocked to find her teachers there. The old man, her grandfather, is furious at their untimely intrusion.

Susan and her grandfather, who calls himself simply the Doctor, say the police box is actually a disguise for their space-time ship, the TARDIS. They are alien refugees from another planet and time. Despite Susan's protests, the Doctor prepares the TARDIS for takeoff, saying he must kidnap Ian and Barbara to protect Susan and himself. The sudden takeoff renders the two schoolteachers unconscious. The TARDIS arrives on a Palaeolithic landscape, over which falls the shadow of a man.

The Cave of Skulls (2)[[edit]]

The shadow is of a man dressed in animal skins. He watches the TARDIS ominously.

A tribe of cavemen is gathered around one of their members, Za. Za is the son of the tribe's previous leader, who never taught his son the secret of making fire. As Za futilely tries to make fire, a female tribe elder throws scorn on Za's abilities and states that Kal, a stranger from another tribe, would be a far better leader. This frustrates Za. Hur, a young cavewoman, tries to pacify him but also warns him that if he loses his position as the leader of the tribe he will lose her; her father is intent on her bearing children for the leader.

Back at the TARDIS, Ian and Barbara regain consciousness to find the Doctor and Susan puzzled over readings displayed on the TARDIS' main console. The Doctor tells them they have gone back in time. This annoys Ian, who demands concrete proof. The Doctor opens the door, revealing the barren desert, and all four go outside. The Doctor professes confusion as to why the TARDIS has retained the shape of a police box. Ian apologises to Susan and Barbara for stubbornly disbelieving the Doctor's story. Susan is also surprised that the TARDIS is still in the shape of a police box. The Doctor is elsewhere, looking for samples of rocks and plants to estimate the current date when the caveman who was watching the TARDIS sneaks up on him and attacks him. His three companions hear him shout and run to his rescue. When they get there, all they find is the Doctor's bag, hat, and Geiger counter smashed. Susan hysterically runs off to look for him. Ian and Barbara soon follow but not before Ian finds the sand is freezing cold.

Ian stunned by his new surroundings.

Horg, Hur's father, tells Za that Kal claims he knew how to make fire in his old tribe. Za angrily responds that Kal's tribe all died out. Kal would have died too if this tribe had not saved him.

Hur again warns him: Kal is bringing in meat and winning favour amongst the tribe. Za says if he has to kill a few people to exert his authority, he will. At this point, Kal, who attacked the Doctor, comes in with the old man's unconscious body. Kal tells the tribe that he saw the old man come out of "a strange tree" and fire "came out of his fingers", and he should be the leader of the tribe now — as well as saying the old man had immense strength and fighting prowess. Za scorns and mocks Kal, but Horg states that Kal is doing far more for the tribe than Za and if his captive can create fire, Kal should be made the leader. Za says the old man should be taken to the Cave of Skulls and sacrificed so Orb will return.

At this point, the Doctor wakes up. He says he can create fire for the whole tribe without any need for killing, but he soon realises he has lost his matches. When he tells the tribe he will need to go back to the TARDIS before they get fire, Za mocks Kal, saying his promise of "an old man who can make fire" was lies. The tribe turns against Kal. In his frustration, he pulls his knife on the Doctor. Kal is on the verge of killing him when Susan, Barbara, and Ian attack the tribe, knocking Kal off the Doctor. The companions are soon overpowered. Kal approaches Barbara. Before he can kill her, Za gets in the way and says the four must be taken to the Cave of Skulls and sacrificed as a gift to Orb. The Doctor and his companions are led away. Horg tries to take Hur from Za, but Za insists that with the Doctor's sacrifice, Orb will return and fire will return also. The tribe will retain Za as the leader. Horg seems to accept this.

The four travellers are sealed in the tribe's Cave of Skulls with the bones of many prisoners - where Ian notices that the skulls have all been split open.

The Forest of Fear (3)[[edit]]

Still in the Cave of Skulls, Ian, Barbara, and Susan try to escape; however, the Doctor seems disconsolate and unhelpful. Ian reprimands him, prompting the Doctor to suggest that they use the bones of the dead to cut the ropes that bind their hands and legs. The group begins to unify.

Back at the main cave, the tribe is asleep. The female elder wakes up. She steals Za's knife and heads towards the Cave of Skulls. Unbeknownst to the old woman, Hur has seen her. When she arrives at the Cave of Skulls, she is met by a large stone that blocks the door. However, she seems to know an alternate route.

Inside the Cave of Skulls, the Doctor and the others are trying to free Ian so he can defend them if needed. Susan screams as the elder bursts through a gap in the undergrowth that blocks the cave.

Hur wakes Za and calls him out of the cave to inform him that the elder took his knife and headed out of the cave. They decide she went to the Cave of Skulls. Hur believes the elder is afraid of fire, so she will kill the four to prevent the tribe from learning the secret.

However, the elder is using the knife to free the four, whilst outside Za and Hur try to move the stone. Just as the stone budges, the four escape out the back of the cave. Za, frustrated, throws the elder to the floor. Hur convinces Za that the only way he will retain the tribe's leadership is by capturing the Doctor and harnessing the fire. Za and Hur plunge into the forest in pursuit of the Doctor.

The four are lost in the forest, trying to find their way back to the TARDIS. Yet again, Ian and the Doctor fall out as Ian takes the lead. Whilst they argue, Barbara trips and falls. She lands on a dead boar and screams which alerts Za and Hur. The movement of the undergrowth impels the Doctor and his companions to hide.

The travellers come upon the injured Za.

While Za and Hur catch up with them, Za is attacked by a wild beast and is injured badly. Against the Doctor's wishes, Barbara and Ian try to help Za. The Doctor tries to stop Susan from going, insinuating that he would leave Ian and Barbara behind. Ian and Barbara help Za, much to Hur's bemusement. She does not understand the idea of friendship, and is openly hostile to Susan, thinking she is trying to steal Za from her. The Doctor picks up a stone and makes for Za but Ian stops him. The Doctor claims that he was going to get Za to draw a map with the stone showing the way to the TARDIS. The Doctor reminds his companions that the tribe elder is still with the cavemen. He worries she may wake them and set off in pursuit of the travellers. Ian builds a makeshift stretcher to carry Za back to the TARDIS to heal him there.

Back at the settlement, Kal has returned to the cave to find it empty. He questions the prostrate elder, who says she set the Doctor and his companions free. Kal kills her. He returns to the tribe to inform them that it was Za who let the Doctor free so he could keep fire to himself. The tribe are sceptical and Kal says the elder will back him up. When Kal returns to the cave to "discover" the dead elder, he says it must have been Za who killed her. Kal declares himself leader and takes his new tribe off to find Za.

The Doctor and his companions happily find the TARDIS. However, their escape attempt is foiled when they see the tribesmen appear. They turn to flee but they find the way blocked by Kal and the other tribesmen...

The Firemaker (4)[[edit]]

The four travellers are returned to the encampment. At first, the tribe is hostile to Za and his friends, especially when they accuse him of killing the tribal elder, but the Doctor convinces the tribe that Kal killed Old Mother by tricking Kal into showing the tribe his bloody knife. The Doctor and Ian lead the tribe in an attack which drives Kal into the forest. The recovered Za is again declared leader, but instead of expressing his gratitude by freeing the travellers as the Doctor expected, he orders them returned to the Cave of Skulls where he will either learn the secret of fire from them or sacrifice them to Orb.

In the Cave of Skulls, Ian makes fire for Za, using friction for a spark, hoping this gift will convince the tribe to set them free. Za comes to speak with them and is entranced by the fire. Ian says that in his "tribe" all members know how to make fire. Za asks Ian if he is the leader of his tribe. He responds (with a nod to Susan) that the Doctor is the leader.

Meanwhile, Kal sneaks back into the camp. He kills the guard outside the cave and attacks Za. Kal sees the fire and immediately slashes at Za with his axe. Za grabs a thick branch to defend himself and breaks Kal's axe with it. Finally, Za gains the upper hand, chokes Kal in a headlock, and knocks him to the cave floor. Za picks up a big stone, while Barbara turns her head away, knowing what Za intends to do will be too gruesome to watch. As Kal's neck is being strained, Susan looks away in horror. Za smashes the stone on Kal's head with a skull-crushing blow, killing Kal and confirming his leadership; the Doctor is visibly disturbed by this barbaric action. With fire at his disposal, Za is now undisputed. However, he still leaves the Doctor and his companions to languish in the cave.

Susan's moment of inspiration.

After going out hunting, Za decrees that the travellers will merge with his tribe rather than leave and orders them confined to the cave indefinitely. Meanwhile, the four try to think of a means of escape; absentmindedly, Susan places a skull in a flame. This leads Ian to devise a plan to scare and distract the tribe enough to let them flee. Four skulls are placed on top of burning torches. This ghoulish vision distracts the cave dwellers, allowing the travellers to escape into the forest. But when one of the skull torches collapses, Za realises they have been tricked and he and the tribesmen set off in pursuit. This time, the four travellers manage to make it back inside the TARDIS; the Doctor just about enters before the tribesmen catch up with them. As the tribesmen throw spears at the TARDIS, it dematerialises — leaving them staring in amazement. Za, however, looks on in defeat.

The Doctor explains to Ian and Barbara that he cannot take them back to 1963, because he has no idea where or when they will end up next. The TARDIS is not displaying any data to help him direct the ship. In time, the scanner shows their new destination; a mysterious jungle with strange-looking trees. Before they go out to explore the planet, the Doctor asks Susan to check the radiation levels. They are at the normal level. As the four leave the console room to clean themselves up, the radiation detector's needle starts to move, passes into the zone marked DANGER and a warning light starts flashing...


Uncredited cast[[edit]]



Astronomical objects[[edit]]


The Doctor[[edit]]

  • The Doctor smokes a pipe.
  • The Doctor carries a notebook with him.
  • The Doctor has a karakul hat for travelling, also known as an Astrakhan.



  • Ian tells Hur to fetch water.



  • This is the first Doctor Who episode broadcast on television and in any medium.
  • The very first words in Doctor Who were "Goodnight, Miss Wright."
  • This story is also known as 100,000 BC, The Tribe of Gum, The Firemakers and The Cavemen. See disputed story titles for more information.
  • At no point is the name "Tribe of Gum" uttered on screen. The working title of The Tribe of Gum originated in earlier drafts of the script where the character of Kal was instead called Gum. The name was later used to describe the tribe in the 1994 novel Venusian Lullaby and in their second major appearance, the comic story Hunters of the Burning Stone.
  • The episodes of this story went by different titles during the production stage. Working titles included "Nothing At The End Of The Lane" for the first episode; the second episode was entitled "The Firemaker"; the third episode was called "The Cave of Skulls"; and the fourth episode was entitled "The Dawn of Knowledge".
  • All episodes exist as 16mm telerecordings and are held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.
  • A trailer was filmed for this story.
  • Originally, the premiere storyline was to have been a serial by C. E. Webber that carried the working titles Nothing at the End of the Lane and The Giants, with An Unearthly Child initially scheduled to be the second serial of the first series; when Webber's storyline was rejected, Coburn's script was promoted to premiere and retooled accordingly. A short story titled Nothing at the End of the Lane 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 Giants, meanwhile, was partially reworked for Season 2 as Planet of Giants.
  • 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, feeling it would have been too expensive to build a new, disguised spaceship for every story. At one point, they also considered making the TARDIS invisible. This episode establishes that the TARDIS had only recently taken on the police box appearance. Except for brief moments in TV: Attack of the Cybermen, The Name of the Doctor and a few other stories, the ship will only ever be shown as a police box.
  • 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 Living World, written by Alan Wakeman.
  • A pilot version of "An Unearthly Child" was made and exists in various versions. For more info, see the Pilot Episode.
  • Bernard Lodge was the uncredited designer of the original title sequence. (INFO: "An Unearthly Child")
  • The Doctor smokes a pipe in "The Cave of Skulls", but is never seen to do so again after he loses both this and his matches on Stone Age Earth when he is attacked and kidnapped by Kal.
  • It is never explicitly stated on-screen whether the Stone Age episodes of the story are set on Earth or some other planet. However, the comic story Hunters of the Burning Stone confirms that these episodes are indeed set on Earth.
  • 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 later wear the same striped top in the 1966 film The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery.
  • Carole Ann Ford's hairstyle as Susan was created by famed stylist Vidal Sassoon.
  • This story was one of those selected to be shown as part of BSB's Doctor Who Weekend in September 1990.
  • The story was also repeated on BBC Four on November 21, 2013, to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary, following the premiere of An Adventure in Space and Time, a docudrama starring David Bradley as William Hartnell. Notably, this repeat did not take the form of an omnibus but a succession of the four episodes.
  • A lizard was accidentally brought on set along with the tropical plants for the forest; Carole Ann Ford took it home and kept it as a pet, but not before keeping it alive by placing it in a sink full of water in her dressing room.
  • 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. "3 Guitars Mood 2" was reissued — this time credited to John Smith and the Common Men — for a special vinyl single in 2013.
  • 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 the novel 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 until the 2005 BBC Wales revival (Courtney Woods and Mason Bennett are both sick after their first trips in TV: The Caretaker and Before the Flood, respectively).
  • Due to the original airing being overshadowed by news of the John F. Kennedy assassination the previous day, on Wednesday 27 November, the Programme Review board decided to repeat "An Unearthly Child" immediately before "The Cave of Skulls". This repeat, which was not shown on BBC One Northern Ireland, 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.
  • The story was repeated on BBC Two on consecutive evenings from Monday 2 to Thursday 5 November 1981 as part of the repeat season The Five Faces of Doctor Who. The Radio Times programme listing for the repeat transmission of "An Unearthly Child" was accompanied by a black-and-white head-and-shoulders publicity shot of the Doctor, with the accompanying caption "The Doctor (William Hartnell) leads his companions into a strange land and the unknown dangers it holds... The Five Faces of Doctor Who: 5.40". (original published text)
  • For the remounted "An Unearthly Child" transmission, the TARDIS prop had a wash of matte blue paint applied as well as a covering of matt black to dirty it down. This was supplemented by heavy distressing to the overall paintwork to give it a more weathered feel, as the original paintwork made the prop look too pristine as seen in the pilot episode. However, the original Ealing Studio filmed inserts made before the studio recordings both for the Pilot and transmitted episode resulted in a continuity error surrounding the look of the TARDIS prop. In the establishing filmed shot of it standing on the barren landscape at the end of "An Unearthly Child" and the beginning of "The Cave of Skulls", as well as its dematerialisation shot in "The Firemaker", it reverts to its pristine condition; gloss blue paint and door handles on both the "Pull to Open" panel and the main entrance doors. The door handles were removed after the prop was refurbished for the studio recordings.
  • TCH 1, and the production notes within it, establish all four episodes as a single serial. So too do the audience poll results seen in Doctor Who Magazine issues 474 and 589, and the official Doctor Who website.[7]
  • Certain reference books and episode guides; including The Discontinuity Guide, TARDIS Eruditorum, Adventures with the Wife in Space, the Eyespider timeline, and a number of others, treat the first episode of this story as a separate story to the following three.
  • Leslie Bates has the distinction of playing the first villain to ever be seen in the series. Although Jeremy Young played Kal in most of the serial, it is Bates's shadow that is seen at the cliffhanger conclusion of "An Unearthly Child".
  • Rex Tucker was the original choice to direct the serial — he left after feeling that he should move on from the show.
  • In the original script, the PRIVATE notice at the junkyard was originally supposed to appear significantly newer than the lettering on the gates. The junkyard was also supposed to contain "a broken-down old shed".
  • In the original script, Ian was Susan's form master, and called her "the all-time, A1, dyed-in-the-wool enigma of Coal Hill Comprehensive".
  • The first school scene was re-written to reduce the tension between Barbara and Ian. In the original script, Ian says, "When I've had a bad day, I come in here [the staff room], and I want to smash all the windows." Barbara retorts, "It hasn't been a bad day", and Ian remarks, "You're just naturally like that?" Barbara replies, "I hope not. I've had another kind of day. A very puzzling kind of day."
  • Ian and Barbara's relationship was originally much more overtly romantic. This was toned down by David Whitaker.
  • There is a dummy with a crushed head in the junkyard, perhaps foreshadowing the caved-in skulls that the time travellers later see in the Palaeolithic era.
  • Susan is reading a book titled The French Revolution. In the final serial of the season, The Reign of Terror, the travellers actually go to Revolutionary France.
  • Margot Maxine was originally hired to play a cavewoman misunderstood her part; she thought she was going to be modelling furs for Dr. No, rather than wearing rags. When she learned she was to have some of her teeth blacked up, she stormed off the set and never returned. No other actress was hired to replace her.
  • Actors who auditioned for the cavemen were asked to show their chests to see if they were hairy.
  • In the original script, the cavemen make peace with the time travellers after Ian shows them how to make fire.
  • The serial was originally going to end with the TARDIS materialising near a Frank Lloyd Wright-style house floating in the air. This was to lead into The Masters of Luxor, a story which was never produced.
  • On the official Doctor Who website, the individual pages of each episode of this serial credit William Hartnell as "The Doctor", instead of his on-screen credit of "Dr. Who".
  • In a DVD commentary, Waris Hussein stated that the fight between Kal and Za in "The Firemaker" was one of the first things recorded for the story and that they had to find a way to link this pre-recorded footage to the rest of the episode during the actual studio recording. The reactions of the four cast members to this fight were also shot during this pre-production stage.
  • While the original intention was to name the story 100,000 BC, the setting was never mentioned in the story itself. It wasn't until 1997's PROSE: The Eight Doctors that a setting of "circa 100,000 BC" was confirmed for this story.
  • According to Carole Ann Ford, the plants and animal skins were infested with insects and fleas, which caused some discomfort to the cast.
  • During the first three episodes, the credits were aligned to the left of the screen, however in the fourth episode, the text box was moved to the center but still retained the left text alignment.
  • The fight scene was directed by Production Assistant Douglas Camfield. Waris Hussein had a limited knowledge of film, whereas Camfield had worked on numerous BBC projects. Derek Ware also had a say in the final cut of the scene.
  • Waris Hussein was mindful that the series was conceived for a family audience and kept the violence to a minimum, preferring to keep violent scenes offscreen, such as the death of Old Mother. Jacqueline Hill raised concerns about the scene where Barbara finds the remains of a dead animal.
  • To simulate the chase scene near the end of the serial, the actors were shot mostly in close-ups whilst running on the spot to give the illusion that they were running.


  • "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



  • "An Unearthly Child" 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, overrunning.[8] A related myth is that the delay occurred due to coverage of the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, but Oswald was not shot until the following day, 24 November.)
  • 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.)[9]
  • 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.)[9]
  • 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.[9] (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 Suspense — according to Ford's recollection.)
  • Jacqueline Hill worked as a model in Paris. (She didn't.)[9]
  • The original police box was a prop left over from Dixon of Dock Green. (It was specially made for Doctor Who.)[9]
  • 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 car crash and had her jaw wired shut, and was unlikely to have been in any shape to take on an acting role.)

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Jacqueline Hill noticeably dries on a line 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 mic can be seen for a few seconds.
  • Before Ian gets zapped by the console, somebody in the studio calls out a cue for William Russell to make a pratfall.
  • William Hartnell and William Russell interrupt each other whilst examining the TARDIS.
  • The studio can be seen several times during the TARDIS console room scene in "An Unearthly Child".
  • 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.
  • When the Doctor explains that he and Susan are "wanderers in the fourth dimension", it is obvious that the wall behind them is fake, as it has creases and is piled up at the bottom.
  • At the end of the episode, the caveman's shadow extends too far across the landscape.


  • The Doctor tells Ian and Barbara that he and Susan are cut off from their own planet. (AUDIO: The Beginning)
  • Shortly before departing 1963, the Doctor had arranged with a local undertaker to have the Hand of Omega buried in Shoreditch Cemetery. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks) After defeating WOTAN on 20 July 1966, (TV: The War Machines) he returned to check that it had been buried as per his instructions, only to discover that it had been removed. He determined that his future self would arrive at an earlier point in order to deal with it. (PROSE: The Rag & Bone Man's Story)
  • In 1903, after receiving a wealth of information from the future, Grigori Rasputin foresaw Ian and Barbara's first meeting with the Doctor in Totter's Lane in 1963. (AUDIO: The Wanderer)
  • Before the Doctor and Susan settled down in Shoreditch in 1963, they took a brief trip to St Albans on 17 December 1997 to ensure that the United Kingdom would remain safe during and after the 1960s. Unbeknownst to either of them, the Fourth Doctor and his companions Romana II and K9 were in the vicinity on the same day. (PROSE: The Little Things)
  • Later in this incarnation, the Doctor returned to 76 Totter's Lane in the company of Steven Taylor in 1966, shortly before meeting his new companion Oliver Harper. (AUDIO: The Perpetual Bond) He later did so again in 1963 during his both his fourth and seventh incarnations (PROSE: Those Left Behind, TV: Remembrance of the Daleks) and in 1985 during his sixth incarnation. (TV: Attack of the Cybermen) By 2021, Totter's Lane was a commercially zoned area of Shoreditch which was mostly made up of office blocks. A car park had been built on the former location of the junkyard. (AUDIO: The Harvest)
  • The events of this story are passed down as a trickster myth. (PROSE: The Cabinet of Light)
  • Different sources give different lengths for the Doctor and Susan's stay in 1960s London. Susan says in this story that "the last five months have been the happiest of my life". This is supported by COMIC: Operation Proteus, set in October, in which their arrival was detected "four months ago". However, in PROSE: Matrix the Doctor says that "for six months it was perfect"; PROSE: The Rag & Bone Man's Story states that the Doctor had been paying rent for "the last nine months"; and in PROSE: Time and Relative, Susan says in a March journal entry that they've been in 1963 for "five months", making their total stay thirteen months.
  • On 23 November 1963, the Fourth Doctor and K9 Mark II returned to Totter's Lane to retrieve a Heshrax insect which he had been tracking the day that he left. While there, they met Debbie, Susan's best friend from Coal Hill School. Debbie, who turned fifteen that day, was concerned about Susan's sudden disappearance as she knew that Susan would never miss her birthday. She had met the First Doctor on one occasion but the Fourth Doctor did not recall seeing her before. He also did not remember Susan ever mentioning Debbie but admitted that he was not always the best listener. He told Debbie that Susan decided to stay on 22nd century Earth but then amended this by adding that he chose for her, expressing the hope that this decision was for the best. Debbie was thankful that she met the Doctor as, while she knew that she would never see Susan again, she could at least live her life safe in the knowledge that she was safe in the future rather than spend it wondering what happened to Susan and fearing the worst. (PROSE: Those Left Behind)
  • After arriving in the past, the Doctor is puzzled over why the TARDIS is still a police box. The Eleventh Doctor travelled back to 1963 and sabotaged the chameleon circuit, shortly before this. (COMIC: Hunters of the Burning Stone)
  • The Eleventh Doctor hears various voices from his past when a time rift from the past leaks into the TARDIS. One of those voices is Susan saying, "I made up the name 'TARDIS' from the initials: Time and Relative Dimension In Space". Another voice is Ian asking, "A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?" (TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)
  • During this story, the First Doctor is seen lifting a rock, preparing to murder a caveman who is slowing down the group. He then later, seemingly without explanation, puts it down. One account states that after losing his memories during an incident with the Bruce Master, the Eighth Doctor visited the First Doctor to regain some of his past memories. His presence was stated as being the reason behind the First Doctor's change of heart. (PROSE: The Eight Doctors) Another account, given by the Doctor himself, states that it was, in fact, Ian who had persuaded him not to do so. (AUDIO: The Sontarans)
  • Susan had a John Smith and the Common Men album aboard the TARDIS. The First Doctor did not like it much but he came to enjoy the group's music by the time of his fifth incarnation. (AUDIO: 1963: Fanfare for the Common Men)
  • The Doctor states "Fear makes companions of all of us." This is a sentiment subconsciously given to him as a child by Clara Oswald in the barn where he sometimes slept. (TV: Listen)
  • Whilst trapped in the Cave of Skulls and preparing to trick the cavemen into believing they have become fire demons, Barbara tells the Brothers Grimm tale of Godfather Death. The Doctor in his eighth incarnation would later tell the same story to Brian the Ood, and again to Rose in his ninth. (PROSE: The Knight, The Fool and the Dead)

Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

This story was released as Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child as part of the DVD box set The Beginning, together with The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction. This release was also included with the 2014 US Bluray release of the 2013 docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, and includes all of the bonus features noted below.


PAL - Roadshow ????
NTSC - Warner Video E2489
NTSC -Warner Video

Special Features[[edit]]

Box sets[[edit]]

This story was released along with The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction in a box set called The Beginning.

DWM 366 released an illustration by Roger Langridge in their review of this box set.

Digital releases[[edit]]

This story is available:

Video releases[[edit]]

Original release[[edit]]

This story was released on video as Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child. The "Next Episode" caption has been removed from the end of "The Firemaker".


PAL - BBC Video BBCV4311
PAL - ???? ????
NTSC - CBS/FOX Video 3401
NTSC - Warner Video E1906

Second release[[edit]]

This was an unedited, remastered edition that the BBC originally intended to release in a box set with The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction. They changed their plans and decided to release each story individually. A version of the Pilot was released on The Hartnell Years video with a complete take being released on The Edge of Destruction video.


PAL - BBC Video BBCV6959

External links[[edit]]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 INFO: "An Unearthly Child"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 INFO: "The Cave of Skulls"
  3. Newbery has uncredited involvement as designer of "An Unearthly Child". Brachacki, designer of "The Pilot Episode", had fallen ill and was unavailable, and under Newbery, the sets were remade to Brachacki's original designs, which had been broken up between filming of "The Pilot Episode" and the remount of An Unearthly Child. (INFO: "An Unearthly Child")
  4. For the fight between Za and Kal, Douglas Camfield directed. (INFO: "The Firemaker")
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 INFO: "The Forest of Fear"
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 INFO: "The Firemaker"
  7. [1]
  8. Howe, David J., Stammers, Mark, Walker, Stephen James, 1992, Doctor Who: The Sixties, Doctor Who Books, an imprint of Virgin Publishing Ltd, London, pg.12
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Howe, David J., Walker, Stephan James, The Television Companion, BBC Worldwide Ltd, 1998. pg.9