Doctor Who as it began: An Unearthly Child

The BFI’s Doctor Who at 50 Appraised

Saturday saw the launch of BFI’s Doctor Who at 50 – a year-long celebration of the Doctors adventures – and there, breathlessly capturing the moment many Doctor Who luminaries were reunited with the chilling, atmospheric first serial An Unearthly Child was Radio Times reporter Patrick Mulkern.

Doctor Who as it began: An Unearthly Child

In a stunningly geeky love letter to the show, Mulkern just about carolled just about everyone in attendance to sharing their fond recollections on working on or just watching this piece of television magic.

For those not in the know, Doctor Who at 50 promises to be the event leading up to the shows anniversary date. With monthly screenings of a classic episode for each of the Doctor’s – culminating in the premiere of An Adventure in Space and Time, the Mark Gatiss penned Docu-drama about the origins of Doctor Who (Gatiss was in attendance and kept his cards firmly to his chest!)

Needless to say, tickets for Saturday’s event were in hot demand and sold out fast.

It’s amazing to read just how many people from the episodes or just from the era of the First Doctor, William Hartnell, made the journey down to London’s Southbank.

Joining William Russell, Carole Ann Ford (companions Ian and Susan) and Jeremy Young, who played the first villain were Shirley Cooklin (who was married to Who Producer Peter Bryant and appear as Kaftan in Tomb of the Cybermen), Clive Doig (a BBC vision mixer in 1963), Brian Hodgson (former head of the Radiophonic Workshop), Donald Tosh (the only surviving script editor from the Hartnell period), and Waris Hussein (director of An Unearthly Child) to name just a few!

The whole piece is worthy of your time and is a cracking read (seriously, anyone out there that can get me a ticket to Tomb of the Cybermen will have my undying love) but here are a few choice comments from those in attendance.

Director Waris Hussein, who has been actively avoiding watching the serial shot by his younger naïve self (‘I’ve got a DVD box set but deliberately didn’t look at them. I must say there were moments where I thought, Oh my goodness!’) took a moment to share his thoughts on the late, great Verity Lambert:

She was the first important female producer in what was a testosterone-fuelled organisation. An extremely talented, capable person. She made Doctor Who work. It was not an easy task. We became very close friends.

He also thanked the actors for ‘making it feasible and keeping the suspense going’.

Speaking of actors, William Russell shared the reason he believes the show worked during its difficult inception:

I thought it was great. I was astonished! And relieved! The secret, in a sense, was everybody took it very seriously. We believed in it. It may have struck us as we read it as far-fetched, but when we got into it, we were committed.

And finally Jeremy Young related a hilarious tale of a shapely female extra who got more than she bargained for when she answered a called from her agent:

…Who was dismayed to be dressed as a cavewoman and get caked in mud. She was actually a model, whose agent had told her, “Get down to Ealing – they’re shooting something with furs.” She fled the set in horror.

Be sure to read the whole fantastic Radio Times article and remember to periodically check out the BFI London Southback site for more news on each Doctor Who screening.


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