Friday, 17 October 2014

004 An Unearthly Child Episode 4: The Firemaker

EPISODE: An Unearthly Child Episode 4: The Firemaker
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 14 December 1963
WRITER: Anthony Coburn
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 6.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

"Are you saying that you don't know how to work this thing?"

The Doctor argues with Kal and exposes that it was Kal who killed the old woman. The tribe drive Kal out. The Time Travellers are once again put in the Cave of Skulls with a guard placed on the other exit. Ian tries to make fire as Za comes to speak with them. Kal kills the guard on the cave and fights Za, but Za kills him and asserts his leadership over the tribe by giving them the fire Ian has made. Ian devises an escape plan: they set fire to a number of skulls in the cave awing the tribe. The travellers flee through the forest and just make it to the Tardis which dematerialises as it is attacked by the cavemen. The Doctor explains that without accurate data he is unable to return Ian and Barbara to London in 1963. Finding themselves on a new planet the travellers crew go to clean themselves up before venturing out to gather data but while the console room is empty they do not see that the radiation meter, which previously showed safe, has edged up into the danger zone and is flashing out a warning.

There's a sequence at the very start of this episode where for the first time in this story the Doctor takes control. He manipulates Kal into showing his knife proving that he, not Za, killed the Old Mother in the previous episode:

KAL: Za and the woman went with them. I, Kal, stop them.
HUR: They saved Za from death near the stream.
KAL: They set them free from the Cave of Skulls and went with them.
HUR: The old woman cut them free.
KAL: Za is so weak a woman speaks for him.
HUR: It was the old woman. She showed them a new way out of the Cave of Skulls.
KAL: The old woman does not speak. She does not say she did this or did that. The old woman is dead. Za killed the old woman.
HUR: No!
KAL: Za killed the old woman with his knife.
HUR: No.
KAL: Here. Here is the knife he killed her with.
DOCTOR: This knife has no blood on it. I said, this knife has no blood on it.
KAL: It is a bad knife. It does not show the things it does.
DOCTOR: It is a finer knife than yours.
KAL: I, Kal, say it is a bad knife.
DOCTOR: This knife can cut and stab. I have never seen a better knife.
KAL: I will show you one.
(Kal pulls out his flint knife)
DOCTOR: This knife shows what it has done. There is blood on it. (to Za) Who killed the old woman?
ZA: I did not kill her.
DOCTOR: (to Kal) You killed the old woman.
KAL: Yes! She set them free. She set them free. She did this. I, Kal, killed her.
DOCTOR: Is this your strong leader? One who kills your old women? He is a bad leader. He will kill you all. Yes, all. (to Ian) Follow my example.
(The Doctor picks up some stones and throws them at Kal)
DOCTOR: Drive him out. Out.
IAN: Yes, drive him out. He killed the old woman.
(The tribe start pelting him with stones)
TRIBE: Drive him out.
(Kal leaves, and Za is on his feet again)
IAN: Remember, Kal is not stronger than the whole tribe
Hartnell is superb during this sequence and it leads later in the episode to Ian acknowledging that it is The Doctor, not himself, that leads "their tribe".

There's two more deaths in this episode: the guard left on the second entrance to the cave of Skulls and then Kal, in a pre filmed fight sequence which I'm told was directed by Production Assistant Douglas Camfield. The fight arranger for this sequence was actor and stuntman Derek Ware who would later found the HAVOK stunt agency. Ware would work on Doctor Who into the 1970s and the Third Doctor's era. His most famous film role is probably as Rozzer on of the crooks in the Italian Job.

Then we get the fabulous image of the skulls on fire as the Tardis crew fake their deaths and escape:


I think they could of made more of this to be honest - the best shots are of Susan holding the Skull! In later years we'd have probably seen all four flaming skulls from the front lined up in a row. Do you think that's a real skull they're using? If not then what's it made of?

Less successful is the sequence where the Time Travellers get whipped with plants while pretending to run for the first time. They're obviously running on the spot and the sequence just doesn't work somehow. Thankfully the end of the episode redeems things as we get our first glimpse of the Tardis dematerialising from the outside and see the tribesman's spears passing through it:


Then at the end of the episode we return to the safety of the Tardis and the Doctor sets up one of the main themes of the series: he can't quite control the Tardis and isn't able to get Ian and Barbara home. And right at the end another great visual image: the radiation meter springing to life and, unseen by the Tardis crew, trying to warn them of the danger that lies outside:


Radiation would have been a worry in 1963 with the threat of the cold war turning very hot and nuclear so I imagine many would have been aware of the danger and it provides a good hook to get the audience back for the next week and Doctor Who's second story. But what the audience then didn't know, and we do now, is that the radiation wasn't the only danger lying in wait for them. And what would happen over the next seven weeks would make television history and change the course of Doctor Who forever.

At the point that Ian Levine first visited the BBC's Film and Video library in 1978 An Unearthly Child was the only complete serial existing from the entire Hartnell and Troughton eras of Doctor Who! The remaining 43 episode (of 249) that the Film & Video Library were scattered remnants of the rest of Doctor Who's 60s output. Fortunately BBC Enterprises had rather more on their shelves including another complete set of prints of An Unearthly Child.

An Unearthly Child - the four episode story, not the first episode - was recently repeated on BBC 4 on Thursday 21st November 2013 at 10:30 pm following the broadcast of An Adventure in Space and Time, a drama based on the creation of Doctor Who. But this wasn't the first repeat the whole story had had. In 1981 it opened The Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat season on BBC2. The Eighteenth season of Doctor Who had finished on Saturday 21 March 1981 with the broadcast of Logopolis part 4 and Tom Baker's plunge from the Pharos Project radio telescope. For the debut of his successor Peter Davison Doctor Who was being moved away from it's traditional Saturday night timeslot to a twice weekly weeknight slot and from it's usual start in the autumn, which it had had since 1975, to one in the New Year - the first episode of Davison's first story Castrovalva was shown on Monday 4th January 1982. There had been the traditional August repeats from Season 18 - Full Circle & Keeper of Traken but there would be no new Doctor Who for nearly nine months. So Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner arranged for a repeat season of stories from past Doctors during November 1981. Such a thing had never been done before, any repeats that did occur were from the then current Doctor. Of course Tom Baker had by this point been the Doctor for 7 years so showing other Doctors helped train the audience, many of whom had grown up only knowing Tom as the Doctor, to accept someone else as Doctor Who. An Unearthly Child was the opening story chosen for this repeat season.

Monday 2nd November
Tuesday 3rd November
Wednesday 4th November
Thursday 5th November
An Unearthtly Child
Monday 9th November
Tuesday 10th November
Wednesday 11th November
Thursday 12th November
The Krotons
Monday 16th November
Tuesday 17th November
Wednesday 18th November
Thursday 19th November
The Carnival of Monsters
Monday 23rd November
Tuesday 24th November
Wednesday 25th November
Thursday 26th November
Second &
The Three Doctors
Monday 30th November
Tuesday 1st December
Wednesday 2nd December
Thursday 3rd December
Fourth &

The Five Faces of Doctor Who is a seminal moment in Doctor Who fandom. I can remember watching and suddenly the idea that the Doctor had been more than one actor made sense to me. To this day I have a great affection for the stories involved, especially The Krotons and The Carnival of Monsters. Yes they could have showed an Unearthly Child on 23rd November, which would shift the entire repeat season forward to finish on Christmas Eve. Yes they could have showed Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters in the right order, something that tasks me to this day. And yes there's no major monsters: No Daleks, No Cybermen which is a shame. Thankfully the opportunity to remedy that fault would come the next summer with the Doctor Who and the Monsters repeat season when The Curse of Peladon (featuring the Ice Warriors), Genesis of the Daleks and Earthshock (with the Cybermen) would get an airing.

One thing Five Faces made fans aware of was the state of Doctor Who's archives. The big question amongst older fans surrounded the choice of the Troughton story: Why the Krotons? If you're going to choose a 4 part Troughton why not the (then) acknowledged classic The Tomb of the Cybermen? The answer was revealed with the release of the 1981 Doctor who Winter Special: The Tomb of the Cybermen no longer existed and the only 4 part Troughton that did exist at the time that could fill Five Faces Monday to Thursday slot was the Krotons.

Thankfully ten years later The Tomb of the Cybermen was returned to the archives from Hong Kong!

So it was after this episode that we left the ongoing narrative of the start of Doctor Who in 1981's Five Faces season. Personally I'd have loved to have seen what happened next in The Dead Planet, because I knew what was waiting there. I would see it just five years later (more on that tomorrow), but I wonder now if Five Faces might have worked better showing just An Unearthly Child on day 1 and then devoting the next three days and all of the next week to the second Doctor Who story.

Hmmm. What was shown on Fridays instead of Doctor Who during those weeks? Would Monkey have been on then?

On October 15th 1981, to tie in with the Five Faces repeat season, an Unearthly Child was finally novelised by regular Doctor Who Books author Terrance Dicks. I can remember borrowing a first edition copy, complete with metallic foil logo, regularly from my local library. A new Audiobook version of the story was written by Nigel Robinson and recorded with narration by William Russell but the recent collapse of publisher AudioGo has scuppered it's release.

An Unearthly Child was released on Video on 5th February 1990 alongside The War Games and again on 4th September 2000. It was released on DVD as part of Doctor Who - The Beginning Boxset on30th January 2006. Amazon currently have it for sale at £8.75 and for that you get the Pilot Episode, the 4 part Unearthly Child, 7 part the Daleks and 2 part Edge of Destruction. That's 63p an episode.

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