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If you could touch the alien sand, and hear the cry of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?—Part Two - "The Cave of Skulls"
We commence with the World's Trippiest Title Sequence and the first time an audience would hear the "Oooh-ee-oooh" of the theme tune.
Two teachers think their super-bright pupil, Susan Foreman (a brown-eyed girl, complete with transistor radio, though she is not heard to actually sing sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la), is a bit on the strange side: she's bored with regular physics and math and wants to move on to multi-dimensional physics and maths, and she thinks that the UK has decimalised its currency (which hasn't yet happened in 1963). So, they decide to follow her home one night. This being 1963, it's benign concern for the welfare of a child, and not at all creepy.
Now, neither of these teachers fit the model of the later companions. They're in their thirties. One is male and the other is female. They are not having an extra-curricular relationship. Not yet.
They arrive at Susan's home address. It's a junkyard. They hear Susan's voice coming from inside a police box. Thinking that her grandfather, "I. M. Foreman", has locked her in there, they proceed to open the door.
And enter the TARDIS. Which is of course bigger on the inside than out. Her grandfather, a crotchety old man, is the Doctor.
Deciding that he can't have them tell the world about the Cool Ship and that the "Foremans" will need to leave, he starts up the TARDIS. Ergo, acquiring the first two companions via abduction. For the only time ever, Ian and Barbara are knocked unconscious by the time travel.
When they've landed again, the foursome step out of the TARDIS and Susan quickly exposits that it was supposed to have changed shape: the first clue that it's somewhat less than reliable. Before long, the Doctor is kidnapped by a tribe of cavemen when they seem him smoking his pipe which he never smokes again. This tribe has lost the ability to make fire, and the Doctor agrees to placate them by giving them fire, but unfortunately he has lost his matches. His three companions try to rescue him, but only succeed in getting themselves captured, too. The tribe of primitive humans with monolithic names keep their captives in a cave full of skulls. Charming.
A friendly (well, less hostile) tribesperson unties them, and they make tracks.
NB: This story is commonly also called "100,000 BC", and less commonly called "The Tribe of Gum". "An Unearthly Child" is the title of the first episode (episodes were individually named until season 3) and is applied to the entire first serial through synecdoche.
- Action Girl - Susan attacks one of the cavemen with a rather disturbing enthusiasm.
- Adult Fear: After recapping Susan's living situation, Ian and Barbara worry that she lives in an abusive home. She's very knowledgeable about many things but ignorant of so many others, her grandfather doesn't like strangers (despite being a doctor), and her address is fake. When Ian and Barbara find the junkyard, Susan is locked inside a small box.
- Bigger on the Inside: Guess what.
- Characterization Marches On: In one episode, the Doctor--y'know, the poster boy for Technical Pacifism--is prepared to bash a helpless man's head in with a rock... because he's in the way.
- Although his flustering when caught is pretty much spot on compared to the rest of the series.
Doctor: I thought I might get him to... draw the way back to the TARDIS.
- At the end of episode 1, the TARDIS lands in a nondescript desert... with an ominous shadow approaching.
- In episode 4, the TARDIS crew escapes to another planet. The Doctor asks Susan to check the radiation count. Susan tells him that it's normal... then the dial dips into the danger zone.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The unaired pilot has the Doctor act almost like the Master and Susan, who outright said that she was born in the 42nd century, acted and dressed in a more "unearthly" manner. Hilariously, much of their attitudes, and what the Doctor said of their home planet, would gel with Gallifrey.
- The Doctor smokes a pipe for the first and only time (justified as the plot is kicked off by the caveman seeing him make fire). He's also very insistent about no one learning about him or the TARDIS (though this could be justified by him trying to hide from the Time Lords).
- Ian and Barbara faint the first time that the TARDIS takes off.
- Susan claims to have come up with the TARDIS acronym. Later media establishes that the name long predates Susan though it would offer the explanation that TARDISes have become known as "time travel capsules" in Time Lord society, so perhaps Susan's generation simply didn't know that.
- When the TARDIS lands, the Doctor claims to need to take some soil samples to make a guess as to where and when they are. Later media establishes that Time Lords instantly know.
- Future Imperfect: What draws the teachers' attention to Susan.
- Insult to Rocks: The Doctor is most certainly not treating Ian and Barbara like children. Time Tots would be insulted to be treated in such a manner.
- Line-of-Sight Name: It is implied that Susan got her last name from the junkyard where she and her grandfather were hiding out.
- Mundanger: The very first villain that the Doctor faces is politics.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: Ian is known to the tribe as "Friend".
- Never Mess with Granny: The oldest cavewoman is also the most vicious, and the most politically adept schemer.
- No Name Given: The Tribe of Gum is never referred to as such on-screen.
- One Million BC
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The Doctor and Susan.
- Styrofoam Rocks: Naturally, as the whole thing was filmed in a studio.
- Title Drop:
- Ian addresses the Doctor as "Dr Foreman"; the Doctor responds, "Eh? Doctor who?"
- Then, later, Ian to Barbara: "Who is he? Doctor who? Perhaps if we knew his name, we might have a clue to all this."
- This all becomes the setup for the show's longest running question, lasting until the era of the Eleventh Doctor, the last incarnation in the Doctor's original regeneration cycle. By "The Time of the Doctor", Rassilon and the other Time Lords would really like an answer to that question.
- What Do You Mean It's for Kids?: The oft quoted truism that Doctor Who was originally supposed to be an educational programme for children seems somewhat dubious in light of this story. There are a lot of dark, violent themes and moments, such as the sight of Za's slashed up, bloody chest after an animal attack, the Doctor trying to smash open the head of an injured man and the heroes being trapped in a cave full of broken skulls, foreshadowing their possible fate. The most shocking part is a lot more subtle however, as Ian and Barbara's attempt to get a policeman, and in particular their fear of what the Doctor might being doing to Susan in the mysterious blue box imply that they (wrongly) fear he may be molesting her.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Ian calls the Doctor out for his aforementioned attempted rock bashing.