Sunday, November 23, 2008

"An Unearthly Child"

The Historian here, welcoming you to the official beginning of the TARDIS Project! Our format for these posts is still a bit in flux, so I invite our readers to offer suggestions of what you'd like us to talk about in regards to each episode. But until then...

Today, Ketina and I, along with this week's companion contingent of Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Kroroboros and BlueRaccoon, sat down to watch the first episode of Doctor Who, "An Unearthly Child," originally shown on November 23rd, 1963. The summary: schoolteachers Ian Chesteron (science) and Barbara Cartwright (history) decide to investigate the home life of a strange schoolgirl, Susan Foreman. They follow her to her home address, discovering it is a junkyard run by a mysterious old man, her grandfather. They force their way into a Police Box, from which they heard their student's voice, discovering the TARDIS and beginning a journey in time and space....

The reactions from our group was generally positive. I opined that the whole thing felt a bit like a stage play, given that the studio scenes were shot in order with minimal editing. Ronelyn found the set-up and characters reminicent of a John Wyndham novel, with ordinary people stumbling into an extraordinary situation and trying to figure it out logically. (See Ian's bafflement with the interior size of the TARDIS: "I walked all around the thing!") Kroroboros: "Susan was cute."

All in all, this was an auspicious start. I can see how it would have intrigued both children and their parents. It presented a mystery and doled out just enough information to whet the appetite for more. And the ending, with the shadow falling over the landscape before the TARDIS was a great cliffhanger. Even though I know, I still can't wait to see what happens next!


Turning things over to my Partner In Time, Ketina:

Sorry, technical problems are causing me difficulties in blogging on my own. Reversing the polarity just ain't working. Ketina here, the impatient companion. I call myself impatient as watching only one episode per week is gonna result in my gnawing my own arm off before this is over, but I digress.
Loved the episode. I relate best to Susan's character - I would have loved to have been a girl like her when I was young. The pacing of the episode wasn't as slow as I remembered it being, in fact it didn't seem very slow at all. At least so far. There's also a nice mystery too things. She's smart and savy, yet still naive. She's not willing to outright disobey her grandfather, but she'll still stand up to him when she doesn't agree with his actions.
Something else I noticed in particular was the episode's sound track. I noted how long the opening music continued into the episode. Rather than ending as soon as the scene started, it continues well into the scene, although thankfully not over any dialog. The background music continues setting the mood throughout the episode and I liked it.
Other characters. Ian is rather mean and pushy, barging past "grandfather" and shoving his way into the Police Box. Barbara is quite noisy but more curious and concerned. I loved the scene in the car when Barbara comments that they are there as much out of curiousity as they are concern for their student. I like that honest part of her character, which establishes her well.
The Doctor is just awesome. His mumbling to himself is great, the way he hints at what he's thinking. I agree with The Historian's earlier assessment about the stage play feel, as The Doctor's side comments in this epsiode feel like asides in a stage play. A little Shakespeare in feel. But is still cool to see in his head a bit. He doesn't come across as a nice man, given that he's supposed the main character, and yet he kidnaps half the cast in opening episode.
Okay, that's my stream of consciousness on the spot review. Both the Historian and I may add more to this later, and we refine our process. Like the first story of Doctor Who, we're still trying to figure everything out.
Until next week!


1 comment:

Alzarian said...

Well, speaking as a "time traveller" from the year 2011, I can happily report that the plan to stick to one episode a week seems to be holding, and what a wonderful idea that was, though I'm sure a bit forboding sitting as you are in 2008. As for the first ever episode, so much has been written about it over the years, and yet it really does bear mentioning that it holds up extremely well almost 50 years later. It does an amazing job of introducing our four regulars, the idea of the TARDIS, setting up a mystery... and what a fantastic cliffhanger! I suppose it is a bit stagey, but that is more a product of the times really. The use of flashbacks is something the show rarely ever returns to, but was a common device in those days. I still marvel about Susan's line thinking that the UK used a decimal currency, only they hadn't started yet. Nice. Also, it is interesting how at this early date, this is very much a show about two schoolteachers investigating a mystery.