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An Unearthly Child

An Unearthly Child is the first serial of Doctor Who to be produced, in 1963. The episode was originally supposed to be called 100,000 BC, but would later be titled after the first episode in the serial, An Unearthly Child. The story featured the first appearance of The Doctor, travelling with his granddaughter, Susan Foreman, and two school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Ian and Barbara would, unwillingly at first, become The Doctor’s first companions. The Doctor’s TARDIS seems to have some issues with the navigation, as it was a retired Type-40 TARDIS. His TARDIS, he would explain, also has a broken Chameleon Circuit, forcing it to remain in the shape of a blue police box. In An Unearthly Child, the TARDIS lands in prehistoric Earth, where they are treated as Gods for arriving in a magic box. Ian and Barbara will also be forced to come to grips with the fact that an alien being has kidnapped them and doesn’t know how to return them.


Episode 1: An Unearthly Child

When the episode opens, a police officer passes I.M. Foreman’s junkyard at 76 Totter’s Lane. A police box is seen inside the junkyard…

After the school day ends at Coal Hill School, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton discuss a student that they have in common, Susan Foreman. They discuss that she seems to be more knowledgeable than anyone in the class, including teachers. She will ask questions about concepts that are well beyond human knowledge at that time. Barbara encourages Susan to specialize in History and offered to provide her with in-home tutoring. Susan tells her that her grandfather doesn’t like strangers, so she will not be able to accept her offer. When Susan leaves, Barbara tells Ian that she has gotten Susan’s address from the school secretary. The address leads them to 76 Totter’s Lane, the junkyard seen earlier. The next day, Ian and Barbara find Susan so that Barbara can lend her a history book. Ian offers to give her a ride home, not believing that she lives in a junkyard, and Susan declines. They decide to follow her home. When they arrive at the junkyard, they see Susan enter through the front gate. They follow her into the junkyard to find that she is missing. All they are able to see is a humming blue police box. They hear someone approaching and hide behind some crates. An old man approaches the box and Susan’s voice is heard telling him to come in. They confront the old man, who shuts the door again and ignores them. When they threaten to call the police, he scoffs at them. The door opens by itself and they hear Susan’s voice again. before the old man can do anything else, the two teachers push past them, finding themselves in a very large room, filled with futuristic electronics and a large, hexagonal control console in the center.

Now that the secret is out, Susan and her grandfather consent to tell them what the blue box is. Her grandfather, referring to himself as The Doctor, explains that the police box is simply a disguise for his spaceship that can travel through time, as well as space. Susan calls it a TARDIS, or Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. They are from another planet and time. The Doctor proceeds to prepare the TARDIS for takeoff. While Susan tells him to stop, he says that the only way to protect themselves, he must kidnap them and not allow them to return to their homes. The TARDIS takes off.

Episode 2: The Cave of Skulls

Za is the son of the previous leader of a tribe of cavemen. He is supposed to become the next leader, but only if he is able to create fire, something that his father has failed to teach him. One woman states that Kal, a stranger from another tribe, would make a better leader. This angers Za, but Hur, his mate, pacifies him while also telling him that if he cannot make fire and become leader, she will leave him, as her father is intent on her bearing children for the leader of the tribe.

At the TARDIS, Ian and Barbara wake up to see The Doctor and Susan at the console. When The Doctor tells them they have gone back in time, Ian demands that he prove it. As they exit the TARDIS, The Doctor is confused to see that the TARDIS has maintained the shape of the police box. He explains that it has taken other forms in the past and walks off to check the environment for radioactivity. A caveman attacks him and drags him away. Ian, Barbara, and Susan hear this and run to protect him. When they arrive at where he was taken, all they are able to find is his hat, bag, and Geiger Counter, which has been smashed. Susan runs off to find him while Ian and Barbara follow close behind.

Back at the tribe’s cave, Hur’s father tells Za that Kal has been able to make fire in his old tribe. This angers Za, and he reminds him that Kal’s tribe died out, as Kal would have without their help. Hur tells him, again, that Kal has been bringing meat and winning favor with the tribe. Just then, Kal enters the cave, dragging The Doctor. Kal tells the tribe that The Doctor could make fire and that he had immense strength and fighting prowess and that he should be the new leader. Za is angry and announces that The Doctor will be taken to the Cave of Skulls to be sacrificed.

The Doctor wakes up and says that he can make fire for the whole tribe without killing. He discovers that he is missing his matches and tells them that he needs to go back to the TARDIS to get them. When Za mocks Kal, stating that he lied about The Doctor creating fire, Kal tries to kill The Doctor. Just then, Ian, Barbara, and Susan arrive to stop the cavemen. Kal goes to kill Barbara, since she knocked him off of The Doctor, but Za stops him, telling him that it would be better to sacrifice them in the Cave of Skulls.

Episode 3: The Forest of Fear

Ian, Barbara, and Susan attempt to escape the cave while The Doctor remains unhelpful. After Ian shouts at him to help, he offers the solution of using the bones scattered across the cave to cut the ropes that bind them. They begin to do just that. Back at the main cave, the female elder wakes up and steals a knife from Za. She heads to the Cave of Skulls. Hur follows her to the cave and blocks the door with a large stone.

Inside the Cave of Skulls, the Doctor and the others are trying to free Ian. Susan screams as the elder female bursts though a gap in the undergrowth that blocks the cave. Hur wakes Za to inform him that the elder took his knife and headed to the Cave of Skulls. Hur believes the elder is afraid of fire, so she will kill the four strangers to prevent the tribe from learning the secret. The elder is using the knife to free the travelers, while Za and Hur try to move the stone. Just as they move the stone, The Doctor and his companions escape from the back of the cave.

Lost in the forest, The Doctor and his companions try to find their way back to the TARDIS. Ian and The Doctor continue to argue as Ian takes the lead. When Barbara falls down and screams, Za and Hur hear and head in their direction. When they find them, Za is attacked by an animal and is injured. The Doctor says they should leave him there, but Barbara and Ian try to help Za. When Susan goes to help as well, The Doctor tells her that he will leave Ian and Barbara behind. When they help Za, they make a stretcher to carry him back to the TARDIS, where they could heal him.

Kal returns to the cave to find it empty and asks the elder what has happened. She admits to setting The Doctor and his companions free, causing him to kill her. He tells the tribe that it was Za who let The Doctor go so that he could keep the fire to himself. When the tribe doesn’t believe what he is saying, he tells them that the elder female will tell them the same story. When he takes them to the cave and sees the elder dead, he tells them that it must have been Za that killed her, declaring himself leader and leading a party to find Za. The Doctor and his companions find the TARDIS along with a group of cavemen waiting for them.

Episode 4: The Firemaker

The four travelers 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. 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.

After going out hunting, Za decrees that the travelers will merge with his tribe rather than leave and orders them confined to the Cave indefinitely. 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 travelers to escape into the forest. This time, the four travelers make it back inside the TARDIS; the Doctor only just makes it in before the tribesmen catch up with them. The TARDIS dematerializes as the tribesmen throw spears at the craft, leaving them staring in amazement. Za, however, looks on in defeat.

The Doctor explains that he has no idea where or when they will end up next because 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, the radiation detector’s needle passes into the “Danger” zone…


The First Doctor
Susan Foreman
Ian Chesterton
Barbara Wright