One of the extra features on the DVD/BluRay set forAn Adventure in Space and Time is an extra disc containing both the rejected pilot for Doctor Who and the version of “An Unearthly Child” that aired on the BBC on November 23, 1963, as well as the rest of the first storyline.
While the script of both versions is pretty much the same, I’m going to make note of interesting differences between one and the other as I go through the story that introduces us to the Doctor and his original companions.
Tardis scene: Rejected Pilot
Tardis scene: Aired Version
We start with a policeman on patrol a foggy night outside the tall, closed wooden gates of a scrapyard belonging to I.M. Foreman. He doesn’t go inside, but after he walks on, the camera “pushes” the gate open to show us something that the policeman would have found strange and remarkable: a contemporary police box sits quietly humming among the bits of scrap metal and a number of creepy-looking manikins or statues.
“This is the BBC. The following program is based on actual events. It is important, however, to remember that you can’t actually rewrite history–not one line. Except, perhaps, when you embark on an adventure in space and time…”
This TV movie, made for the BBC in 2013 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for Doctor Who, is about that show’s origins and the people both aboard the Tardis and behind the scenes who made it what it was. For nerdy, long-term fans like me, it’s a delight.
After the opening announcement above, the story begins with a police box sitting by the side of a country road at night. A car drives up and stops. The old man inside (David Bradley, playing William Hartnell, the first Doctora) sits quietly for so long that a policeman emerges from the box to tap on the car’s window, ask if he’s all right, and to tell him he’ll have to move on.
Cut to Mr. Hartnell in his dressing room at the BBC, smoking fretfully and telling the stagehand who knocks on his door to “sod off”. He doesn’t want to go out.
In the studio, an original-style Cyberman hangs around beside the Tardis, also smoking while the stage crew throw fake snow over everything. They’re waiting to start shooting the scene, whenever their star is ready.
Tell him to get his skates on,” the Cyberman says impatiently. “Some of us have got a bloody planet to invade.”
People who are up on their Dr. Who trivia will realize that the Cybermen made their first appearance in “The Tenth Planet,” William Hartnell’s final episode as the Doctor before he retired from the show.
Which explains why he doesn’t want to come out and finish up his last day on a job he’s loved.
When he does finally emerge, costumed and ready to do his scene on the interior Tardis set, the Tardis starts up and the camera zooms in close on the “Year-Ometer,” showing us that it’s 1966. The numbers flip backwards–65… 64… until it’s 1963.