Doctor Who: The Scripts – The Tribe of Gum

The first of the short-lived Titan Doctor Who script books was The Tribe of Gum. It’s John McElroy’s rendering of the Anthony Coburn script for the First Doctor‘s first adventure. It has some material on the show’s inception and the production of the first adventure, though most of the book is the script itself. In the end it’s a mixed bag, rather like the first adventure itself. Here’s why…

An Unearthly Child

Reading the script for An Unearthly Child is evocative. I don’t have the benefit of coming to it fresh, instead I’ve decade of familiarity with how the show evolved, as well as numerous watchings of the episode itself. My first reaction on getting to the end of this chapter was too short, yet the page count matches the rest of the series. It’s gripping and sets the show off in a direction of travel, with Ian and Barbara clearly at the centre of things.

The Cave of Skulls / The Forest of Fear / The Firemaker

And then the mood changes. Could there have been a bigger contrast with 1960s London? Yes, they could have gone to space (as they would next adventure) but this is a show about time travel. In terms of the audience, the time of the cavemen is as far back as could be imagined. There’s no dinosaurs, but a tribe of primitives in a world of fear desperate for fire. Despite my best efforts, these three parts are a harder read, and I suspect it’s because a lot of the scenes are entirely visual, and also because I have watched these episodes far fewer times. It’s interesting seeing details that would change such as the Doctor smoking a pipe, Ian taking the lead with the Doctor very much not in control of events, but it just feels too long. It shouldn’t, three part is a typical story pattern, but I do wonder if the pacing could have changed. What do I know? Getting the heroes into the TARDIS at the end of episode 1 is clearly a strong idea and here we are today still writing about it.

Like other books this is easy to get hold and inexpensive, and worth investing in even if you just read An Unearthly Child.

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