Doctor Who was designed by Sydney Newman, the director of the BBC in 1963, who was faced with a dilemma. He was to produce a program for the family audience, which could be played between a sports programme, Grandstand, and a teen pop music programme, Jukebox Jury. Newman wanted the programme to entertain and educate people at the same time, in the ways of science and history. Newman, himself an adamant science-fiction fan, came up with the idea of a man, whom the people know little of, who travels around the cosmos in his 1960’s blue police box, his TARDIS.
However, he needed some way to get the information from the Doctor to the public. Thus he created the companion, a normal person who accompanies the Doctor on his travels. He would introduce them in the first episodes, such as “Rose” and “An Unearthly Child”. 60’s audiences needed a programme that was not only entertaining, but also educational, since the whole family was to watch it. It also had to be appropriate for children to watch. Many families complained that the show was too frightening and gory. In fact, interest declined greatly if the Daleks did not feature in an episode.
However, towards the late 1980s, interest bottomed out completely. The director of the programme at the time decided to take it off air. In 2005, we wanted shows that could make us ask questions, gave us an adrenaline rush or related to real life. Our expectations of television shows, especially in science-fiction and film, have risen with the new technology and special effects that can be used in a programme or film. Therefore, “Rose” uses special effects One of the show’s producer’s commented that she thought that the show may be too gory or frightening for the younger generation.
The theme music was also a cause of complaint, as one mother said, “The theme music alone frightens my son”. A report showed that 3% of a surveyed audience found the show unsuitable for “family viewing”, because of the violent and frightening content. The show Doctor Who was a programme designed to educate families about space, science and history. However, nowadays, a typical family would not watch this together unless most or all of the children were teenage or grown up.
We expect that a science-fiction programme should be dynamic, violent and exciting, because we want to have something to be scared of. It has, in recent times, leant over to the special effects and entertainment side of programmes in general, we do not expect a science-fiction programme to be educational as well as entertaining, and we feel that we only need documentaries for educating people. Doctor Who has merely become a source of entertainment. Rose, in “Rose”, is a blonde savvy East Londoner, speaks with a typical East-London accent and is a tough, here-and-now girl.
Susan, in “An Unearthly Child” is a strange girl, seems to be the age of a secondary school girl, but with a much higher IQ and much more intelligent. We need the companions to ask questions, to help the public learn about the Doctor. There have always been no more than 3 companions at one time who travel with the Doctor. In “An Unearthly Child”, the first aired episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor traps 2 teachers in the TARDIS and takes them to the planet of the Daleks with his “grand-daughter”, Susan. Susan is around 16 years old.
She seems to be the perfect student, according to the conversation which science teacher, Ian, who is worried that she may be too intelligent, and who is worried about his own intelligence has with Barbara, Susan’s history teacher, who is worried about her home life. The conversation is mixed with flashbacks of Susan in class, showing a more superior knowledge than her classmates. She has a high breathy voice, as was expected in actresses in the 1960s, and a 60s-style haircut, although it is very severely cut. These are the first clues that Susan is truly and “unearthly child”.
When Barbara voices her worries, we are told that Susan has explained that she lives at a certain address. However, when Barbara visits to drop off a book that Susan has requested, there seems to be no legitimate address; it is a dump site, and when Barbara asks about Susan’s grandfather, Susan says that he prefers not to see people, although she mentions that he is a doctor. This plants the first seeds of doubt in the viewers’ minds, because although the flashbacks were strange, they could have just been referring to Susan as an overly intelligent child who doesn’t quite fit in with school life.
We think that surely such an intelligent girl cannot live in a dump with only her grandfather. It also brings the viewers to worries such as, Is the grandfather a criminal, hiding away like that? and Is Susan really safe, living with such an old man?. We begin to think with the history teacher. When the teachers decide to go see Susan in a classroom, we have already learnt many of her qualities. The scene cuts to a shot of Susan in a classroom by herself. She is holding a small handheld music device to her ear and she is dancing to it.
However, her dancing is not the typical 1960s dancing you would expect – it is very smooth and flowing, not something the audiences would expect from a teenager in 1963. The dancing makes her seem as if she has never heard the music before. This is another sign to show she is not really “from this world”. When the teachers ask her whether she would like a lift home (for it is dark), she declines the offer, saying that she likes the dark, “it’s mysterious”. She is also lent a book by Barbara, which appears to be one she has asked for. It is about the French Revolution.
When scene ends, the shot is of Susan sitting on the table, holding the book and saying, “That’s not right! ”. This almost seems as if she knows better, that she may have been there. This is the first proper hint of the fact that Susan is a time traveller. The previous hints may have shown that Susan was an odd child, that she had an active imagination. In “Rose”, we are introduced to Rose when she is finishing her shift at a department store. This shows that she is short of money, and implies that she did not receive a good education, because of the simple idea that uneducated people get jobs in Boots and Tescos.
We cut to several shots from different angles within the space of a few seconds, as if to show the hectic speed that her life is played out at. This effect has been used because today, we are all familiar with Music has always played a key feature in television programmes, especially in dynamic and exciting shows like Doctor Who. For example, in “An Unearthly Child”, not much music is played, because much of the programme is conversation. The music that was played was spooky music, designed to scare the listener.
It was mostly orchestrated, although some was edited with the “latest” 1960s equipment and technology. If the modern audience heard it today, they would think it is old-fashioned and outdated, because the music we hear today has a stronger beat and is we use more electronics to edit it. The props used in both “Rose” and “An Unearthly Child” have been synonymous to their times. The props used in the school scene of “An Unearthly Child” are only normal school desks and chairs. In the dump scene, outside the TARDIS, the dump is filled with typical things you would expect to find in a dump then.
These props were well within budget, and because there were no stunts involving those scenes, the producers did not have to continuously pay money to have replacements built. This therefore, was cost effective. However, in “Rose”, to get the shots right when the department store blows up, the BBC had to pay for various things including safety screens for the cameras, insurance if the pyrotechnics went wrong, explosives and models for repeated shots. This however, was not too much of a problem, as the more modern episode had a bigger budget to account for the modern audience’s tastes – action, adrenaline, mystery and adventure.
The camera shots also had to be cost effective, meaning that the ways in which both episodes were filmed both had to be appropriate and as accurate as possible. In “An Unearthly Child”, people were not used to people getting hurt on screen or otherwise. The budget and the technology could not stretch to the limits that we possibly might expect today. For example, the only major “stunt” scene is when the TARDIS starts up and Ian falls over. This effect was achieved by shaking the camera about while the actors fell about on set.
This effect is laughable when watched today, but the 1960’s audience will have been filled with concern. Nowadays, the effect is achieved with a moving floor and a shaking camera. The shots in “An Unearthly Child” were produced by a camera which could not be zoomed in. This meant that between close-ups, the camera had to be moved. This was obviously time-consuming. The shot where the camera is moving around the TARDIS is achieved by placing the camera on a moving platform on rails or wheels. This is then moved while the camera is filming.
Nowadays, we can pre-set the movements of the camera with a computer. In “Rose”, many computer generated effects were used to bring a sense of something that could not be created by man. For example, the Nestene Consciousness was a CGI effect. The effect had to be backed up by sound. The sounds that were needed were computer generated also, because the effect could not be achieved through instrumental music. . The actor Christopher Eccleston actually had to talk to a blank area on the ground while filming. Today the effects have moved on even more, and we can simply use greenscreen to solve the problem.
The older episode, “An Unearthly Child” obviously could not have achieved these effects, as the technology to design them had not been created yet. As a viewer, I prefer the episode “Rose”, because the effects used in it created a sense of what the modern viewer wants – action, adrenaline, mystery and adventure. It is also longer, providing more entertainment for a longer period of time. This meant that the producer could cram a lot of information and adventure into one episode. The plot is more intriguing because the effects can be created by computer and other technology, not just physical objects.