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Books, and An Unearthly Child

My birthday haul was (mostly) waiting for me when I got back from Sweden, and was much appreciated:
  • The Medieval Cookbook, by Maggie Black;
  • Old Man's War, by John Scalzi and Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (actually not explicitly a birthday present, but happened to arrive at the right moment)
  • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
  • The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The DVD set of Doctror Who: The Beginning
I am going to watch last night's episode again later on, but Anne and I watched the very first ever episode of Doctor Who from November 1963 more or less as soon as I could got the wrapping off. It is rather surprisingly good.

Did the theme music continue playing over the opening scenes with the policeman, after the title sequence had finished, when it was first shown? An awfully good touch.

Susan's line about decimalisation must have sounded a bit irrelevant in 1963. In 2006 it is a really palpable hit.

The title character does not even appear until over halfway through the 25 minutes, and unless I missed it, he is never once addressed as "Doctor". The answer to the question "Doctor Who?" is really given only in the closing credits, when you have to work out that he was the character played by William Hartnell.

Once he is there, though, he totally owns the show. The lines themselves could have done with a little fine-tuning, but are delivered with great conviction:
You have heard the truth. We are not of this race. We are not of this Earth. We are wanderers in the fourth dimension of Space and Time. Cut off from our own planet and our own people by aeons and universes far beyond the reaches of... err, your most advanced sciences.
The "aeons and universes" are at the centre of a dubiously mixed metaphor, in that they are both a mechanism for cutting off the Doctor and Susan from their home, and also potentially within the reach of sufficiently advanced science. But if I hadn't had the subtitles on, I would not have picked up on this point.

I was actually expecting also the lines, "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be travellers in the fourth dimension? Have you? To be exiles?" - and am now wondering if I accidentally watched the pilot episode by mistake. No doubt someone knowledgable on my friends list will put me right.

When I first saw this in 1981, the repetition of the title sequence over the Tardis dematerialising seemed to be tedious and long, but trying to imagine how it would have seemed to a new viewer in 1963 I felt it was pretty memorable and effective.

Some day I'll read through all this commentary. But in summary, I thought it was pretty good.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 30th, 2006 10:36 am (UTC)
Susan's line about decimalisation must have sounded a bit irrelevant in 1963.

Apparently the Halsbury Committee reported on proposals for Decimalisation in the UK in 1963. Uninteresting to the population at large perhaps, but not irrelevant.
Apr. 30th, 2006 10:49 am (UTC)
Plus, the writer of An Unearthly Child, Anthony Coburn, was Australian, and Australia was fumbling its decimalisation in 1963 as well.
Apr. 30th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
If Hartnell was wearing a 'modern' suit, you saw the pilot. The Victorian/Edwardian costume was adopted for the re-shoot.
May. 1st, 2006 07:56 am (UTC)
From Paul Cornell -
If Susan made a Rorshach ink blot, then that was the Pilot. And the actual first episode is, way, way, better.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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