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Doctor Who: The Beginning (An Unearthy Child / The Daleks / The Edge of Destruction) (Stories 1 - 3)

4.6 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Doctor Who: Beginning Collection, The (DVD)


The "unearthly" strains of Ron Grainer's soon-to-be-famous title music announced the arrival of Doctor Who to British TV screens on Saturday, November 23, 1963. It must have been quite a baffling experience for first-time viewers: the swirling abstract graphics, the weird electronic sound effects courtesy of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, the very oddity of the show's title. This really was groundbreaking TV. "I think you'll find there's a very simple explanation for all of this", says schoolteacher Ian Chesterton (William Russell) condescendingly, shortly before being taken on board the TARDIS and transported to an alien planet. For audiences, too, this was something entirely unfamiliar, yet obviously appealing: Doctor Who ran for almost 30 years and remains one of the BBC's most popular shows. His later incarnations were all eccentric in their different ways, but William Hartnell's original Doctor is an irascible and distinctively alien character, not at all happy having to put up with ignorant 20th-century humans. The "Unearthly Child" of the title is his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), temporarily attending school on Earth. She is conspicuously different from her classmates and attracts the attention of two of her teachers who resolve to find out why. After an encounter with her mysterious grandfather they are whisked away on an adventure to a different time and place where angry cavemen are trying in vain to learn the secret of fire. Thus the show's trademarks are established from the outset: the Doctor and his more or less reluctant human companions, the mechanical unreliability of the TARDIS, the cliffhanger ending of each episode. It was a formula that rarely changed but that allowed apparently limitless variation, the only constraint being the BBC's budget. In later years the show tried vainly to compete with blockbuster special effects movies; but its original low-key incarnation relied more on inventive scenarios and good writing--qualities that are just as important now as then. --Mark Walker

The Daleks (sometimes called "The Dead Planet") is the second-ever Doctor Who serial. First broadcast between December 1963 and February 1964, the seven-episode story ensured the program's success by introducing the Doctor's most iconic enemies. Five hundred years after a nuclear war has devastated the planet Skaro, the Doctor (William Hartnell), Barbara, Ian, and Susan materialize in a petrified forest where the pacifist, and decidedly camp, Thals face starvation. Our heroes visit a nearby city, the home of the last remaining Daleks, terrifyingly cold-blooded mutants encased in armed, pepper-pot-like shells, and become involved in a desperate battle for survival. Given a nightmarish atmosphere by Tristram Cary's surreal electronic score, The Daleks proved the template for many a future Doctor Who adventure. Hartnell's Doctor is a surprisingly self-serving hero and the ambitious storytelling, which reflects the Cold War fears of the time, belies a tiny budget. The remastered picture sometimes looks digitized, but this story, remade for the cinema as Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and starring Peter Cushing, is still both an effective, if at times unintentionally hilarious, entertainment and an essential piece of television history. A superior sequel, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, was screened in late 1964. --Gary S Dalkin

One of the rarest of the early Doctor Who series, with William Hartnell as the crusty old Doctor, Edge of Destruction is entirely based in the TARDIS, which has stopped somewhere between worlds and times. The Doctor blames Ian and Barbara, the two teachers who came aboard in search for answers about his granddaughter, Susan, assuming they have committed sabotage in an attempt to return to their own time. They, in turn, in spite of recent shared escapes from Cavemen and Daleks, have no particular reason to trust his sanity. Something is causing one after another of them to act with violent irrationality, and the clock is ticking towards their destruction... This is a claustrophobic two-episode plot in which the series examines closely some of its more beloved assumptions. --Roz Kaveney

Special Features

  • Includes the William Hartnell adventures "An Unearthly Child," "The Daleks," and "The Edge of Destruction"
  • Commentary by producer Verity Lambert, directors Waris Hussein, Christopher Barry and Richard Martin, actors Carole Ann Ford and William Russell and moderator Gary Russell
  • Pilot Episode - a 40-minute unedited studio recording, including outtakes
  • The featurettes "Creation of the Daleks," "Doctor Who: Origins," "Over the Edge" and "Inside the Spaceship"
  • 30-minute condensed version of the lost 7-part story Marco Polo
  • Episode 2 of The Edge of Destruction in Arabic
  • Production note subtitles
  • Still galleries.

Product Details

  • Actors: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford
  • Directors: Waris Hussein, Christopher Barry, Richard Martin, Frank Cox
  • Writers: Anthony Coburn, C E Webber, Terry Nation, David Whitaker
  • Producers: Verity Lambert
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 24, 2009
  • Run Time: 311 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CNESV2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,441 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Doctor Who: The Beginning (An Unearthy Child / The Daleks / The Edge of Destruction) (Stories 1 - 3)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
WHAT A WAY TO CELEBRATE 40+ years in time and space with the first 3 episodes! Presented here are the first 3 William Hartnell stories arcs in 1 set. This is a great way to be introduced to the longest running TV sci-fi series in (and of) history. When we first meet the Doctor's "granddaughter" SUSAN, through her concerned and curious school teachers, IAN & Barbara. The Doctor, very the ANTI-HERO, almost frightening in this story, as he almost abducts the pair to protect his secret (not that he is a Timelord) that he is from "the future" and can travel in time and space. The outer shape of the time machine, A.K.A. the TARDIS remains stuck in the famous police-call-box disguise as it appears on the cusp of the "ice age." After a great 2 episode start, "Unearthly Child" becomes a fairly cliched tale of escape and capture RUNNING from and with cavemen. In 1963, Film and time was at a premium for the fledgling show, so many flubbed lines and missed cues remain in this remastered set. IT IS STILL A MUST SEE/OWN STORY FOR new and old DR. WHO FANS.

The next story introduces the Doctors 40 yr. nemesis, and easily he revial for pop culture popularity, THE DALEKS in the aptly title story arc, "The Daleks." For a series that was intended to introduce history to children, the show immediately gets off track in this 2nd story, introducing the Doctor's classic alien-cyborg foe, thank God. Overall, not a great story, but it is so monumentous a meeting that it is fun to watch on that merit alone!

The 3rd story arc "The Edge of Destruction" is what the Trek writers refered to as a "bottle episode." In an attempt to cut costs on enough stories to save money for the big shows, we have a story contained completely in the TARDIS control room.
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For those of you who may be considering buying this DVD set as the obvious introduction to "Doctor Who" but don't necessarily know much about it, here is some background to the series (those of you in the know can skip this if you want).

Made by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), "Doctor Who" is the world's longest-running science-fiction TV show, beginning in November 1963 and initially running until December 1989 when the show appeared to run out of both steam and significant viewing figures. A large and loyal global fan base kept the Doctor `alive' however through various alternative medias (such as books, audio CDs and video cassettes) until the triumphant return of the show to television in 2005 where it has once again become one of the BBC's most important, most talked about and most watched TV shows.

Although the program is called "Doctor Who", the main character is consistently known only as "The Doctor" ("Doctor Who" being nothing more than a simple reference to the mysterious lead character). Some of the mysteries surrounding the Doctor are revealed throughout the course of the series when it is established he is part of a race known as The Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey.

At one point in the show's history, it is suggested that the Doctor was bored with merely observing time and space on Gallifrey and decided to "borrow" a TARDIS (which stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) to explore the universe, taking his granddaughter, Susan with him. A TARDIS is a `capsule' engineered by the Time Lords with the ability to travel anywhere in time and space. Its interior is larger than its exterior because it is "dimensionally transcendental".
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Format: DVD
Finally the first 3 William Hartnell stories released in 1 package. This is a great way to be introduced to the series. The 1st story 'An Unearthly Child' starts off great, the first 1 1/2 episodes are excellent then the story becomes a fairly cliched 'be captured, escape, be captured, escape again' type of story. It's worthwhile because it introduces all the concepts still being used in the series today-the TARDIS, the Doctor as an alien on the run from his own race, having human companions to give the series a human perspective.

Story 2-'The Daleks'. What more can be said about this? We wouldn't be watching Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant today if not for this story. While we're on the subject of the Daleks-Hey BBC how about releasing Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker's Dalek stories soon?

Story 3-'Inside the Spaceship'-an interesting little 'bottle' show using only the 4 main characters and the TARDIS set. This story gets into the psychology of the characters and resolves the issue of distrust among the TARDIS crew, leaving them as a strong and friendly group.

I've also heard there will be a telesnap reconstruction of the 4th story 'Marco Polo' in this set as well. I listened to the audio version of this story and it's great. It's a real shame that this story no longer exists.

Thank you BBC for putting out such a great package!
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Most who buy this set will do so because they are, after all, the first three stories of this series, and classics for that fact alone more than the actual content. Others have said a great deal about the stories themselves better than I might, so all I'll add is that the one of the great triumphs of this set is the brilliant work done by the BBC Restoration Team (VidFIRE is just amazing). I've never seen these stories look and sound so clean before; in fact, I don't think I've ever seen a video production (vs film) from this time period look so good.

But the real hidden treasures on these discs are the EXTRAS. There are hours of specials and interviews in this set that dig into the origins of the series and these stories in a way that has only been done before in books by the likes of Jeremy Bentham, Howe-Stammers-Walker and so on. Of particular note is the absolutely fantastic and engrossing special, "Doctor Who Origins". Steve Roberts is to be commended for this unprecedented look behind the the scenes at the year leading up to the production of the first serials. The absolute wealth of photos, footage, BBC memoes and interviews that exist in this special alone are worth the price of the entire set. I've loved and followed this show since the 70s, but this was the first time I felt that I'd really been taken back to 1962-63 and given a glimpse of the wonderful people and unsung heroes that brought this show to our screens. This special was almost immersive, and had me at times giggling like a child, feeling a chill up my spine, and at one or two points almost tearing up. It's not just a DVD extra, it's a historical archive, and I feel so fortunate to have it as a permanent addition to my library.
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Disc Label Numbering?
I'm at work at the moment, and therefore unable to give you an exact answer by referring to my copy, however this box actually holds two different snap cases, one for The Unearthly Child and the other for The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction (and the Marco Polo reconstruction), with two discs... Read More
Mar 27, 2009 by tudnut |  See all 4 posts
Trouble with this set?
I think you must have got a bad pressing of the disk, return it and get a replacement as Minen is just fine with no problems. This happens when the disks are mass produced and they accunt for most of them but some bad disks do get out. Just return for exchange and it will be taken care of as the... Read More
Sep 11, 2008 by Joseph Allen |  See all 2 posts
Production notes, audio commentary on Disc 1?
I just got this and had the same problem.
However, I got it to work if you select the individual episode. It still doesn't work for "play all."
Mar 10, 2007 by KGW |  See all 3 posts
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