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Doctor Who: The Beginning (An Unearthy Child / The Daleks / The Edge of Destruction)
DVD | Box Set
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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
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having watched them all, I do disagree.
while I admit the first episode of an unearthly child is by far the best of the story, the cavemen side of it isn't bad.
the daleks doesn't drag to me, but holds my attention, and I see a logical development of character in ian and Barbara. it deserves to be regarded as iconic.
the edge of destruction is very underrated to me. it's a character driven story, more than anything else. but the hysteria and fright that the characters undergo when being in the TARDIS feels like a precursor to legendary episodes in New Who like 'Midnight'.
as long as you go into classic who understanding that the pacing is slower, and that it's more about the tension that the show causes to the characters, then you will love this collection. a very good intro to the show! three very good episodes
I also think it's important for people to know that this DVD set does include a condensed version of the "lost" episode Marco Polo (Story #4). I bought the "William Hartnell Lost in Time" set, thinking that was the only way to watch or hear Marco Polo, which is not correct. Very awesome feature.
It's great fun to watch the old shows. The remastering is very good considering the age and condition of the original tapes. I'm very glad these first episodes survived to live again.
Just a quick update. The actors name has been fixed in the product description. I dont know how common this mistake will be but the disks 2 and 3 have their labels reversed on my copy. Its not a problem for me. All the proper content is there just the wrong labels.
Those who come to this through the new show will be surprised. This isn't the Doctor you're used to: he's not yet the man entire species fear and want dead -- he's a jerk-ass. The TARDIS is a mere machine, neither Gallifrey nor Time Lords are mentioned, and the Daleks are the canned survivors of a nuclear holocaust, confined to their city (they would not become the show's perennial villains until 'The Dalek Conquest of Earth').
It was intended originally to alternate between science fiction and historical stories, with the historical stories intended as educational. All the Doctor would be was the chauffeur (and occasional plot driver) while the companions did all the heavy lifting. Eventually, those features changed, and the show -- while still with a budget that seemed to be drawn from petty cash and turned-out pockets -- became the one most people think of now.
An Unearthly Child: A start to a legacy. Two different takes on the pilot episode are included. They are very similar in most aspects but in certain others they are two different shows. Make sure to watch both so you can see the evolution of the show, and what could have been and thankfully wasn't. As far as the rest of the serial goes, it is weak. There is a lot of character development that takes place, which is necessary to the show, but can make the show seem to move really slow. However, there are some good moments in it.
The Daleks: The daleks, the Doctor's oldest enemy, is the star of the second serial. For being a Dalek's episode, it is the weakest I have seen, but that is because it is the first and Terry Nation had to figure out what to do with them. However it is in this serial that Doctor Who starts to actually feel like Doctor Who and not just something trying to figure out what it is. Definitely recommend watching it. It is reward for making it through "The Unearthly Child."
The Edge of Destruction: Set entirely in the TARDIS, we see only the four main characters interact with one another. They do a fantastic job. It finally gives a chance for the characters to develop their relationships with one another. It is a little dry and anticlimactic, but the character development is a must see.
Marco Polo: One of the completely lost serials, it has been included as a 30 minute telesnap and audio reconstruction. I found this to be a little boring, just because you have to condense 7-25 minute episodes into 1 30 minute episode. However I recommend watching it to see what happens between "The Edge of Destruction" and "The Keys of Marinus."
Hopefully that helps a bit. Remember that most likely the second and third discs will be mislabeled, but that is something that is minor. Enjoy "The Beginning."