On Saturday I went up to London to see the BFI screening of “An Unearthly Child“, the first ever Doctor Who story. To celebrate the show’s fiftieth anniversary this year, the BFI are showing one story a month, working their way through each of the eleven Doctor’s eras. Watching the story on the big screen was an opportunity to see it afresh, without the distractions of one’s own home. The first episode in particular was spectacular in almost every regard: The acting was nuanced, the camera work and lighting mysterious and dark, the effects and sets disconcerting and alien. The other three episodes are smaller in scope but have much more careful direction and are much darker in tone than the show was to become within a year or so.
The screening was introduced by Mark Gatiss (of all round fame fame) and Caro Skinner, one of the current executive producers on Doctor Who. Between the two episodes, there was a brief chat with Clive Doig (vision mixer) and Brian Hodgson (Radiophonic workshop), the former revealing that William Hartnell believed in a conspiracy theory about the role of steel in the world. Someone out there must know more about this!
After the screening, there was a panel consisting of (L-R above) Jessica Carney (William Hartnell’s granddaughter and biographer), Donald Tosh (60’s Doctor Who script editor), Waris Hussein (director), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Jeremy Young (Kal). Despite the half century since the show was made, there were a number of interesting points prompted by having re-watched it. Waris Hussein confessed that he hadn’t watched the story since he worked on it until the screening!
After the screening and panel, Leeson and Harry from Radio Rassilon treated the assembled podcasters and the rest of the South Bank to a flash gig, a medley of some of their Doctor Who-related songs. Carefully standing off BFI premises the gents avoided being run over by three cars, surely the only ones on the South Bank that day, and braved the confused looks from tourists as they worked through their set.
Topped off with a pizza afterwards, it was an enjoyable afternoon and evening. Next stop “Tomb of the Cybermen” in February…