Friday 26 November 2010

004 An Unearthly Child Part 4: The Firemaker

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

"This knife is a bad knife. It does not say what it does"
"It's a better knife than yours!"

A fabby exchange between the Doctor & Kal exposes who killed the old woman. Ian then makes fire for the tribe. Kal kills the guard on the cave the Tardis crew are once again imprisoned in before becoming victim number 3 in a fight with Za. Then we get the fabulous image of the skulls on fire as the Tardis crew fake their deaths and escape, a chase where the crew get whipped with plants while pretending to run for the first time and we get our first glimpse of the Tardis dematerialising. Finding themselves on a new planet the Tardis crew go to clean themselves up before venturing out to gather data. But they're not noticing the radiation meter, that previously showed safe, edge up into the danger zone and flash out a warning.

It was here we left the narrative 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?


  1. This episode redeems the previous two, I think. It is a little bit of a slog, with the TARDIS crew running back and forth through the palaeolithic jungle, but as you rightly point out, the script sparkles with outstanding moments.

    "Fire will kill us all in the end..." leads quite well into the nuclear wasteland of the next story...

  2. I have a huge fondness for this first story, as a whole. The change from the high-tech wonder of discovering TARDIS in the first episode to the politics of the cavemen in the next three episodes is jarring, but I feel like it works that way. There is a real sense of being uprooted and flung in at the deep end with the disparity, which promotes even more our identification with the series viewpoint characters Ian and Barbara. There is also a real sense of danger - the tribe clearly live on a knife-edge of survival and there is absolutely no doubt that they will kill the travelers in a heart-beat. This then is our introduction to adventures in time and space - not fighting space monsters but trying to survive in the face of mans very distinct ability to kill his fellow man.

    As you say this last episode has some cracking dialogue too.