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23 December - 14 December 1963

Average Viewing Figure: 5.9M


When two school teachers follow one of their pupils home they stumble upon a Police Box and are hurdled to 100,000BC


William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carole Ann Ford (Susan Forman)

Derek Newark (Kal), Derek Newark (Za), Alethea Charlton (Hur), Eileen Way (Old Mother), Howard Lang (Horg)

Uncredited Cast

Reg Cranfield (Policeman), Carole Clarke, Mavis Ranson, Francesca Bertorelli, Heather Lyons (Schoolgirls), Cedric Schoeman, Richard Wilson

Brian Thomas (Schoolboys), Frank Wheatley, Al Davis, Roy Denton, Bill Nichols, Billie Davis, Leslie Bates, Bob Haddow (Tribesmen), Jean Denye, Brenda Proctor, Elizabeth Body, Veronica Dyson, Diane Gray, Doreen Ubells, Lyn Turner (Tribeswomen), Antonia Moss, David Rosen, Julie Moss, Trevor Thomas, Elizabeth White, Janet Fairhead, Timothy Palmer (Tribeschildren), Leslie Bates (Double for Kal's Shadow)


Anthony Coburn (Writer), Special Effects by the Visual Effects Department of the BBC, Derek Ware (Fight Arranger)

Ron Grainer (Title Music), Norman Kay (Incidental Music), David Whitaker (Story Editor)

Peter Brachacki, Barry Newbery (Designers), Mervyn Pinfield (Associate Producer), Verity Lambert (Producer), Waris Hussein (Director)

Uncredited Crew

Maureen Heneghan (Costumes), Robert Sleigh (Film Cameraman), Elizabeth Blattner (Make-Up), Douglas Camfield, Tony Lightley (Production Assistants)

Brian Hodgson (Special Sound), Geoff Shaw (Lighting), Jack Clayton (Sound Supervisor), Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement)

Catherine Childs (Assistant Floor Manager), Bernard Lodge (Graphic Designer), Norman Lodge (Graphic Supervisor), Alan Mancey (Props)

Adrian Bishop-Laggett (Grams Operator), Clive Doig (Vision Mixer), Valerie Speyer (Producer's Secretary), Jim Ward (Special Effects Supervisor)

Derek Ware, Billy Cornelius (Stunt Doubles), John House (Film Editor), Pauline Mansfield-Clark (Artists' Booker), Robert Fort (Floor Assistant)

Peggy Lupton (Director's Assistant), Margaret Allen (Director's Secretary), Beryl Anderson (Make-Up Assistant), John Griffiths (Title Sequence Film Editor)


Critical Response

  • Review Range: Mixed to Positive.

  • Doctor Who Magazine 2014 Poll: 78th/241st

  • Michael Gower of the Daily Mail praised the first episode of the serial as did a writer for the Daily Worker.

  • Mary Crozier of The Guardian was highly critical of the overall serial after the first episode, and was unimpressed with the second episode, commenting that the serial was on a downwards spiral.

  • Marjorie Norris of Television Today commented that the series will eventually capture a wider audience if the show keeps up the standards of the first episodes.

  • Variety was critical of certain aspects of the story, but held the camerawork in high regard.

  • A review in 1982 praised the script, acting, and direction but was critical of the sets and scenery.

  • Patrick Mulkern of the Radio Times wrote a positive review in 2008 praising the casting of William Hartnell, and the ‘race back to The Tardis’ scene.

  • Christopher Bahn of The A.V. Club highlighted An Unearthly Child as an essential watch for background information on the show. He praised the characters of Ian, Barbara, and The Doctor, but commented that there was room for improvement with regards to Susan.

  • John Kenneth Muir writing in A Critical History of Doctor Who, praised the writing, the cinematography and the production techniques.

Filming Locations

  • Ealing Film Studios: Stage 3A

  • Television Centre: Studio 5

  • Lime Grove: Studio D


  • Kal [murdered by Za]

  • Old Mother [murdered by Kal]

  • Cave of Skulls Guard [murdered by Kal]


  • BOOK: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870, Jules Verne)

  • BOOK: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950, C. S. Lewis)

  • BOOK: The Inheritors (1955, William Golding)

  • BOOK: The Time Machine (1895, H. G. Wells)

  • FILM: One Million BC (1940, Hal Roach, Hal Roach Jr.)

  • TV: Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76, created by Ted Willis)

  • TV: Steptoe and Son (1962-74, created by Ray Galton, Alan Simpson)

  • TV: Target Luna and its sequels (1960-61, created by Malcolm Hulke, Eric Paice)

Production Days

  • 12 Days between Tuesday 20 August - Friday 8 November 1964

Production Errors

  1. A boom microphone enter the frame when Ian and Barbara first enter the Tardis 

  2. Before being zapped by the Tardis console, somebody can be heard calling a cue for William Russell to perform a pratfall to the floor

  3. The great stone is evidently, not made out of rock, but polystyrene. The stone wobbles whenever somebody touches it and squeaks as Za  move it 

  4. Some of the Tardis walls are evidently back drapes instead of constructed set pieces

  5. Ian points out that The Doctor closed the doors to the Tardis, when in fact Susan was the one who closed them

Working Titles

  • The Firemakers

  • 100,000 B.C.

  • Episode 2 - 4: The Tribe of Gum

  • Episode 2 - 4: Doctor Who and the Tribe of Gum

  • Episode 2 - 4: Doctor Who in 100,000 B.C.

  • Episode 4: The Dawn of Knowledge


The beginning of the legend starts here. The first episode is a captivating piece of television throwing both the audience and Ian and Barbara into a world where everything is about to be turned upside down. The Doctor and the Tardis are both introduced in a negative light; The Doctor comes across as someone whom everyone should run away from, with his seemingly sinister motivations and Edwardian attire. There is some clever writing at the helm here, Ian dismissing the possibilities of time travel one moment, and finding himself unwillingly taken back in time the next. The take-off sequence is almost cinematic in its execution, not only transporting Ian and Barbara through time, but also the audience. The rest of the production is top-notch. It’s interesting that the very first antagonists to feature are not your typical BEMs (bug-eyed monsters) but rather a tribe of cave dwelling humans who are desperate to make fire to survive the approaching cold. The writing says a lot about human nature where Kal, a sole survivor of another tribe, wants to take control of The Tribe of Gum simply because he has a dislike for Za. There’s little motivation behind Za’s bloodthirsty acts, but the simplicity of the plot makes this excusable, and his ultimate failure is uncomfortably satisfying. Things get a little brutal throughout, a risky move considering Doctor Who would be a family show, rather than late night entertainment. There is also a light heartedness to the narrative. The Doctor, and his ‘unwanted’ companions are brought together as prisoners, but end up as allies as things progress. They’re given time to appreciate one and other, where the only hope for escaping is by banding together. It’s a smart move since the audience, whether they like them or not, would be stuck with the characters for weeks on end. The overall production values are superb; no-one would believe at the time that the skulls in the caves were actually real! An Unearthly Child has the honour of establishing the show’s format, where more thrilling adventures are just around the bend. *****

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