The Fourth Dimension

An Unearthly Child


Although thorough research has proven that 100,000 BC is the ‘correct’ title for this story, it is popularly known as An Unearthly Child which is also the name of the first episode. In fact, the BBC DVD release uses this title. The adventure has also been known as The Tribe of Gum, although the cavemen are only referred to as ‘Gums’ in the script and this name is not referenced on screen.


When the TARDIS lands on prehistoric Earth, both the Doctor and Susan are surprised that the exterior of the ship still looks like a police box. Prior to this journey, the TARDIS had always changed its appearance to blend in with its surroundings.


For the first and last time in the history of the series, the Doctor is seen to smoke a pipe.


The bones in the Cave of Skulls were the genuine thing, having been obtained from an abattoir by designer, Barry Newberry. Apparently they were a bit smelly when left to cook under the studio lights!


Susan explains that the vehicle that she and her grandfather travel in is known as the TARDIS. This is an acronym that Susan claims to have made up herself from ‘Time and Relative Dimension in Space’.


Twenty-five years later, the Doctor – in his Seventh incarnation – would return to Coal Hill School and the junk yard in 1963 in Remembrance of the Daleks, where we would find out what he had been doing during the day whilst Susan was at school. The Sixth Doctor also pays a return visit to the junk yard in 1985 in Attack of the Cybermen.


A pilot version of the first episode, including alternative versions of the latter half, was made but was considered unsuitable for broadcast at the time. However, one version was eventually shown by the BBC on 24 August, 1991. The pilot is available as part of the DVD release.


The story was released on DVD in 2005 as An Unearthly Child, along with The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction as part of the The Beginning box set. Also included on the disc are commentaries by Verity Lambert (Producer), Warris Hussein (Director), William Russell (Ian), and Carole Ann Ford (Susan).


President Kennedy had been assassinated the day before the broadcast of the first episode of this story. This shocking news rather overshadowed the start of a new science fiction series. As a result, and also partly due to a power cut in one part of the country, viewing figures were quite low. So, it was decided that the first episode would be shown again immediately before the screening of the second episode the following Saturday.


When the TARDIS dematerialises at the end of episode one, we hear the now very familiar dematerialisation sound for the first time. It was partly created by recording the sound of a key being scraped along a piano wire.

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