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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing of the day: the ‘Guardian’s 1963 review of the first two episodes

Doctor Who An Unearthly Child

The 48th anniversary of Doctor Who’s debut was last week, which I neglected to highlight. To make up for that, please enjoy the Guardian’s December 2, 1963, review of the show’s first two episodes (via the Guardian’s From the Archive Blog). Enjoy is more than can be said of critic Mary Crozier’s reaction to the show:

A chance to see the first episode of the BBC’s “Dr Who” over again on Saturday before the second, turned out to accentuate that the space and time serial has fallen off badly soon after getting under way. Anthony Coburn’s science fiction story started off traditionally with a strange, unearthly girl and her grandfather, who are travelling about in space and time. To some people anything like this is anathema, but to anyone lured by time travelling, there is always the hope when a new venture starts that it will capture a genuine thrill, that slight shiver of uneasiness that means a barrier has been broken.

The first episode, in which a young man and woman, both schoolteachers, track down Susan and follow her into the mysterious police ’phone box (which inside is a space-time ship) got off the ground predictably, but there was little to thrill. The time travellers were whisked off, the young teachers too, and thanks to the strange sound effects and whirligigs on the screen, it was possible to get mildly worked up about the outcome. Part two was a depressing sequel. The vessel came down in a prehistoric landscape, and the hairy savages who lived there got busy with prolonged debates and quarrels about their inability to make fire. Wigs and furry pelts and clubs and laborious dialogue were all ludicrous. Were these serious Stone Agers or not? The space ship, for some unexplained reason, remained looking like a police box in the dusty desert. I hope this will be explained later.

Oh, it would be explained later, indeed. And it would become an absolute icon.

See the image of the original paper at the Guardian’s archives. I wouldn’t normal quote the entire thing, but the image quality isn’t great and the text does not appear to exist in a digital form, so I’m just doing my part for searchable text.

FYI, my review of “An Unearthy Child” is here.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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