50 years ago today, history was made in the UK at 5:16:20pm with the first ever broadcast of the British science fiction series, Doctor Who, with the episode “An Unearthly Child”. The 80-second delay from the advertised start time was due to extended news coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The first episode introduced the science fiction world not only to Doctor Who, but to William Hartnell as the Doctor and original companions Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and William Russell as Ian Chesterton. ‘An Earthly Child’ deals with Ian and Barbara’s discovery of the Doctor and his time-space ship TARDIS in a junkyard in contemporary London.
The original serial, which was actually supposed to be the second set of episodes, was filmed in September 1963. Because the episodes were predominantly videotaped as live, there was little to no time built in for re-takes or breaks in recording. While this created a production scenario that allowed for quick completion, left room for the many mistakes that were glaring in the early days. Following several technical problems and errors made during the “An Earthly Child” performance, the serial was re-filmed in October with changes made to costuming, effects, performances, and the script and was subsequently premiered on 23 November 1963.
The initial episode in 1963 came to be known as the unaired “pilot episode”. Oddly, since the practice of producing pilot episodes really didn’t come into play in Britain in the 1960s so this particular episode was never intended as such. You be the judge as to which one is better….
Doctor Who “An Unearthly Child, Pilot Episode”, part 1
Doctor Who “An Unearthly Child”, part 1
So, Happy 50th Doctor Who. You don’t look a day over 49…