The pilot episode! Pilot episodes are exciting, aren’t they? They’re like the first issue of a comic, a whole new world opening up before you. Normally, they have a difficult job of setting up loads of characters, but Doctor Who starts with just four people, and two of them are purposefully vague. The other two, our ‘reference point’ as viewers, are the two teachers, Ian and Barbara, who follow their student Susan home to her grandfather, and by accident, end up inside his time machine as it travels back to the days of cavemen.
“Susan, why did you bring your teachers home with you?”
The Doctor is a mystery, with no name other than The Doctor. He and his granddaughter are travellers of some kind, in their time machine that looks like a police telephone box from the outside, but inside is an enormous control room. This is all thrown at you in quick succession in the very first episode, but is never dwelled upon. It’s just “boom, time machine!” “Boom, prehistoric era!” “Boom, cavemen trying to kill us!”
The Tardis had seemingly spent a lot of time in 1960s London, so much so that Susan had enrolled in the school there. It’s implied that they’ve travelled around a lot before landing there, but her exact origin is wrapped in as much mystery as the Doctor himself.
Part 1 ends with this creepy shot of a mysterious shadow approaching the Tardis. It’s downhill from there, unfortunately.
If it was me, I’d ask more questions! Who is this Doctor man? Where are you from? Are you both aliens? Will we be able to get home again? Ian and Barbara are far too accepting of their fate for my liking. They’re teachers, they should be more curious. Still, interesting tidbit of info from Susan – the Tardis has a camouflage system that helps it blend into its environment – that’s why it looked like a 1960s police box. However, she mentions that it’s broken, so it can’t change its form any more. Maybe that’s why they stayed in 1960s London for so long – there aren’t many places in time and (relative dimensions in) space where a police box is inconspicuous.
Some cave-dwelling people study the unconscious Doctor. Then talk about fire for three whole episodes.
So the first episode is quite good, but then they go back in time and spend three episodes talking about fire with some cavemen. Then it’s a bit boring.