On the 23rd November 1963, the first ever episode of cult science fiction television show Doctor Who was broadcast by the BBC. Called An Unearthly Child, the episode was the first of a four-part serial that saw actor William Hartnell take the role of the time-travelling Doctor – a character he played for three years. The show was greeted with a generally positive reception, even though its launch was affected by a power cut in parts of the country as well as being significantly overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous day.
Doctor Who was originally conceived to bridge the gap in the Saturday evening television schedule between the adult-oriented sports program Grandstand and the more teenage-focused music quiz Jukebox Jury. The idea of a time-traveling science fiction series appealed to Sydney Newman, the BBC’s new Head of Drama, who came up with the idea of a time machine that was bigger on the inside along with creating the mysterious character of “the Doctor”.
Produced by Verity Lambert and directed by Waris Hussein, An Unearthly Child was taped ‘as live’ on the 27th September. However Newman was unhappy with many elements such as technical problems and performance errors including fluffed lines, so a second version was taped on the 18th October.
The overshadowing of the episode’s first broadcast by the Kennedy assassination led to it being repeated directly before the second episode the following week which saw increased viewing figures. Popularity skyrocketed with the second serial – The Daleks – a storyline that was initially rejected due to it featuring so-called “bug-eyed monsters”.