Also known as "100,000 BC" or "The Tribe of Gum"
Production Code: A
Season 1, Story Number 1
Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.
An Unearthly Child
23 November 1963 | 23'24" | 4.4 (6.0)* | 16mm t/r
The Cave of Skulls
30 November 1963 | 24'26" | 5.9 | 16mm t/r
The Forest of Fear
07 December 1963 | 23'38" | 6.9 | 16mm t/r
14 December 1963 | 24'22" | 6.4 | 16mm t/r
Original Pilot, version 1 **
24 August 1991 | 25'23" | n/a | 16mm t/r
Original Pilot, version 2 **
n/a | 25'55" | n/a | 16mm t/r
Archive Status: All episodes exist on 16mm telerecordings; all were held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library. The original pilot was discovered around 1978 in a mislabeled film can.
* The first broadcast on November 23 was rated 4.4 million. The subsequent planned rebroadcast, immediately before "The Cave of Skulls," drew a more respectable 6.0 million.
** The pilot exists in two parts - the first section includes all scenes in the school and at the junkyard; the second begins after a recording break and includes all the scenes set in the TARDIS. The second section exists in three forms: Take One includes many technical faults (including the doors refusing to close), Take Two was quickly aborted, and Take Three again includes all material up to the end of the episode. Version 1 of the original pilot was broadcast in 1991 on BBC television using Take One of the second section. Version 2 utilizes Take Three and has never been broadcast, but was included on "The Hartnell Years". A nearly complete version of the pilot, containing all three takes has been released on the "Edge of Destruction/Original Pilot" video release.
At Coal Hill School, teachers Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell) become intrigued by the strange behaviour of one of their pupils, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford). Barbara has discovered that the girl's home address, 76 Totter's Lane, is the site of a junk yard. She persuades Ian to accompany her there after school one evening to see where Susan goes.
Ian and Barbara follow Susan through the junk yard gates, but once inside can find no sign of her. Their search is interrupted by the arrival of an old man (William Hartnell) dressed in Edwardian-style clothes. They grow suspicious, believing that he may have imprisoned Susan within a police box they have discovered in the yard, but he refuses their request to unlock it. They are just on the point of fetching a policeman when the doors open of their own accord and Susan calls out. The two teachers push their way past the old man and into the police box.
Inside, they find themselves in a huge, brightly-lit room control room. Susan explains that the old man is her grandfather, the Doctor, and that this is a time machine called TARDIS, standing for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Ian and Barbara try to persuade her that this she is fantasising, but she maintains that she and her grandfather were born in another time and on another planet. The two teachers decide to leave, but find that the doors are now closed. The Doctor explains that he is unwilling to let them go as they will inevitably tell others what they have discovered. Susan pleads with him to change his mind, but instead he activates the ship's controls and sends it on a journey through time.
The ship arrives in the Stone Age, where its four occupants encounter a tribe whose leader, Za (Derek Newark), is striving to rediscover the lost secret of fire. He is encouraged by the young woman Hur (Alethea Charlton) but mocked by Old Mother (Eileen Way), who believes that fire would bring only trouble. The elders, including Horg (Howard Lang), are growing impatient with Za and beginning to wonder if the newcomer Kal (Jeremy Young) might make a better leader.
Kal seizes the Doctor after seeing him light his pipe and takes him back to the tribe, demanding that he make fire. The Doctor, however, has dropped his matches in the skirmish and is unable to do so. The other travellers are also taken prisoner and all four are then placed in the Cave of Skulls - a cave full of skeletal remains, the skulls of which have been split wide open.
Ian eventually makes fire for Za by rubbing a stick against a stone to create friction, but Za - having killed Kal in a fight and confirmed his leadership of the tribe - insists that they remain prisoners in the Cave. Susan eventually devises a plan to scare the tribespeople by placing skulls on top of burning torches. While Za and his people are distracted by this gruesome sight, the travellers make good their escape. They reach the safety of the ship just before the angry tribe catch up with them, and the Doctor sends it on its way again.
Synopsis from Doctor Who: The First Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.
(Assistant Floor Manager), Mervyn Pinfield
(Associate Producer), Maureen Heneghan
(Costumes), Peter Brachacki
(Designer), Barry Newbury
(Designer), Derek Ware
(Fight Arranger), Robert Sleigh
(Film Cameraman), Norman Kay
(Incidental Music), Elizabeth Blattner
(Make-Up), Verity Lambert
(Producer), Douglas Camfield
(Production Assistant), Tony Lightley
(Production Assistant), David Whitaker
(Script Editor), BBC Visual Effects
(Special Effects), Brian Hodgson
(Special Sounds), Geoff Shaw
(Studio Lighting), Jack Clayton
(Studio Sound), Delia Derbyshire
(Theme Arrangement), Ron Grainer
The series debut. The first adventure with the Doctor; introduction of companions Barbara and Ian and the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan; the first trip back in time; the first mention of the acronym TARDIS. Originally titled "100,000 B.C."
by the production team; and "The Tribe of Gum"
on early scripts. The working titles of individual episodes were "The Fire-Maker" (two), "The Cave of Skulls" (three) and "The Dawn of Knowledge" (four). The Doctor returned twice to the Foreman junkyard: in "Attack of the Cybermen," where the TARDIS was able to temporarily change its shape, and "Remembrance of the Daleks," which featured the Seventh Doctor and Ace returning to the same time period as this pilot story; we find out what the Doctor was doing on Earth. I.M. Foreman is a character in the BBC novel "Interference". The original storylines for this serial were titled "Nothing at the End of the Lane" and then "The Giants" (a miniscules story that was eventually rewritten for Season 2's "Planet of Giants"). Another script, "The Living World," written by Alan Wakeman, was also considered. Susan says she made up the acronym TARDIS (from "Time and Relative Dimension in Space," although later it is referred to as "Dimensions" in the plural). The first episode was originally repeated just before the broadcast of the second story because of a power outage. Companion actress Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) eventually returned to play Lexa in "Meglos" for Tom Baker's final season; she passed away in the late 1990's. Several versions of the pilot exist (see above).
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
Released as "An Unearthly Child" as part of "The Beginning" DVD boxed set in the UK [January 2006] and Australia/New Zealand [March 2006] (BBC DVD catalog #1882), US/Canada [March 2006] (WHV catalog #E2487); episodic format; photomontage cover (UK version by Clayton Hickman.) Includes commentaries by Verity Lambert, Carole Ann Ford and William Russell on "An Unearthly Child" (episode 1) and by Waris Hussein, Carole Ann Ford and William Russell on "The Firemaker" (An Unearthly Child episode 4). Christopher Barry and Verity Lambert do the commentary on "The Survivors" (The Daleks 2), Barry, Russell and Ford on "The Ambush" (The Daleks 4), and Russell, Ford and Richard Martin on "The Rescue" (The Daleks 7); a 30-minute reconstruction of the fourth serial of the series "Marco Polo"; PDFs of Radio Times listings; an Arabic soundtrack option for "The Brink of Disaster" (The Edge of Destruction 2); both a 25-minute form of the pilot as well as the complete and unedited 36 minutes of footage; theme music video allowing viewers to experience the original theme arrangement in mono, stereo and 5.1 surround sound; the documentaries "Doctor Who: Origins," "Creation of the Daleks," "Inside the TARDIS" and "Masters of Sound"; photo galleries; several Doctor Who comedy sketches including from "The League of Gentlemen"; and production notes.
Released as "An Unearthly Child" in the UK [February 1990] and Australia/New Zealand [July 1990] (BBC catalog #4311), US/Canada [January 1991] (WHV catalog #E1096); episodic format, cover art by Alister Pearson. Re-released in UK [September 2000] and Australia/New Zealand [October 2000] in remastered format (BBC catalog #6959); no North American release was issued. The 'next episode' caption was removed from "The Firemaker" for the original VHS release but was re-instated in the re-release. The pilot (version 2) released on "The Hartnell Years" in UK [June 1991], Australia/New Zealand [May 1992] (BBC catalog #4608), US/Canada [January 1992] (WHV catalog #E1098). A further, remastered version containing all three takes released on "The Edge of Destruction & Dr. Who: The Original Pilot" in UK [May 2000] and Australia/New Zealand [May 2000] (BBC catalog #6877), US/Canada [February 2001] (WHV catalog #E1578; see notes for "Edge of Destruction" concerning recall and re-release of this tape).
Some selections from this story (music and/or sound effects) have been released on "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Volume One - The Early Years, 1963-1969" (BBC Music WMSF 6023-2).
Novelised as "Doctor Who and An Unearthly Child" by Terrance Dicks (Target #68), first released in 1981, with cover by Andrew Skilleter; new printing in 1990 with cover by Alister Pearson. Also released as "The Tribe of Gum" script book from Titan Books, edited by John McElroy, cover art by David McKean.
For more details on the various novelizations of this story, with additional background material, artwork and details of both UK and foreign releases, visit On Target
Descriptions of each story screen capture above right, top to bottom:
- The initial Doctor Who title sequence
- The first title hits the air
- The Doctor… the first incarnation, that is
- A dark night on Totters Lane
- the Coal Hill School, where Susan Foreman goes to school
- schoolteachers Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesteron (William Russell)
- the Doctor (William Hartnell) speaks to Susan (Carole Ann Ford) in the TARDIS
- the TARDIS is marooned in Earths distant past
- the primitive tribe gathers
- a moment of concern with the tribe