In 1963 The BBC commissioned a Pilot Episode for a new science fiction series entitled Doctor Who.  Originally recorded a month before full recording on the series began, the initial recording was flawed with technical problems and errors.  A particular problem occurred with the doors leading into the TARDIS control room that would not close properly, instead opening and closing at random through the early part of the scene. Two versions of the scene set in the TARDIS were recorded, along with an aborted first attempt to start the second version.

During the month between the  taping of the Pilot and the version that was to appear on screen, changes were made to costumes, effects, performances, and the script (that originally featured a more callous and threatening Doctor, and Susan doing strange things like flicking ink blots onto paper).

Changes made before the final version were filmed include a thunderclap sound effect being deleted from the opening theme music; Susan’s dress being changed to make her look more like a schoolgirl than the original costume which made her appear more alien and sensual; the Doctor’s costume being changed from a contemporary suit and tie to what became his familiar, costume that featured throughout William Hartnell’s tenure.  Reference to the Doctor and Susan being from the 49th Century was replaced by them being from “another time, another world”; the TARDIS door being repaired so that it closed properly; and a refinement of the TARDIS sound effect.  The story remained the same.



Doctor Who – William Hartnell
Susan Foreman – Carole Ann Ford
Ian Chesterton – William Russell
Barbera Wright – Jacqueline Hill

All production and writing credits are the same as An Unearthly Child


The Pilot Episode finally got an airing at 2.15pm 26 August 1991.  This version  aired on BBC2, edited together the first half of the taping with one of the two completed second halves. As it happened, the version chosen was the one in which the TARDIS doors would not close; other errors included actress Carole Ann Ford flubbing a line of dialogue, Jacqueline Hill getting caught in a doorway, a camera banging into a piece of scenery during one of the scrapyard sequences, and William Russell accidentally knocking over a mannequin in the scrapyard.


By far the best way to enjoy the Pilot Episode is on the BBC DVD compilation The Beginning, this contains two versions of the episode: an unedited studio recording including all takes of the second part of the show, and a newly created version of the pilot that uses the best footage from the original recording, with additional editing and digital adjustments to remove blown lines, technical problems, and reduce studio noise.

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