Doctor Who: The Firemaker

Major spoilers for the episode.

The Story:

They get recaptured and sent back to the cave of skulls but not before the Doctor manages to manipulate the tribe into driving Cal out so Za is in charge. Which turns out not to be much of a better option.

Thoughts:

The first doctor is still using violence to get what he wants. At least this time it’s only getting the tribe to drive Cal from the tribe and not actually killing someone like he tried to do in the forest of fear.

I like the Doctor talking like the cavemen to get them to understand who killed the old woman. That it’s something as basic as who’s got blood on their knife and why that makes them the murderer is funny to me. It’s a long way from complex sci-fi technical talk that the new doctor spouts to save the day.

It’s all a bit useless though because Za decides to imprison them in the cave of skulls anyway until they produce fire for him. Then when they do make fire with him watching he refuses to let them go anyway. He wants their tribes to join together.

Ian says that the whole tribe should learn to make fire but Za thinks that knowledge is only for the leader. They point out that it’s the least important person in their tribe that makes the fire but Za won’t listen.

I suppose that’s the message of this episode that it takes more than knowledge to be the leader because this scene is where Ian denies being the leader of their tribe and says the Doctor is.

If they were going on a who knows the most basis then it would be the Doctor without question but knowledge on its own doesn’t make a good leader. The Doctor had to prove himself to Ian before he’d acknowledge him as the leader.

It’s also only Ian’s opinion that seems to matter because no one asks Barbara or Susan during this exchange. It’s funny when you’re trying to show how advanced you are compared to the cavemen and yet you’re sexist views are still the same. You’d think they’d be more aware of that.

And Susan gets to have an idea that gets them out of the cave. The fact that skulls and fire outsmart the cavemen doesn’t really make it much of a victory but at least she’s not there to solely be melodramatic.

The writers haven’t figured out the TARDIS yet. It’s obviously not as secure as it is in the later series because they are worried until the TARDIS dematerializes as if the spears will damage it. Like it really is made of wood.

This episode moves slowly but I suppose that’s what TV was like back then. There’s a very slow fight scene and while it was no where near up to modern standards there was a more interesting aspect to it.

The violence is depicted as awful instead of glorifying it. There’s no fancy moves and it’s pretty much just frantic wrestling.

You see the doctor and his companions react to the violence. It horrifies them. You don’t realise how desensitised to violence you are until you realise this is the appropriate response to violence and not an old fashioned response.

The problem is the way the camera cuts from the fight to a close up of each individual face. It’s jarring and kind of funny.

The only other problem with the fight scene is that I couldn’t tell which caveman I was meant to be rooting for. They’re both wearing furs and there aren’t any other ways to tell them apart that I could see.

The end chase scene through the forest to the TARDIS is funny. They probably didn’t have a big enough forest set to have the actors run around it so the camera takes close up shots of their faces as they pretend to run inter cut with the cavemen getting angry and using fire to “make night day” so they can pursue them.

Every time they show a close up of their faces with branches getting in the way all I can think about is that there’s someone off camera that’s getting to hit them in the face with branches.

By the end of the episode the doctor and his companions are still at odds and the only progress made is that they know they can work together. And Ian and Barbara now believe the TARDIS can move in time.

There’s still a lot of conflict between the characters. This combined with an unknown planet outside and the radiation meter flashing danger is a great way to end the episode. It makes you want to watch more.

Although you do wonder when they sleep because the doctor only suggests they get cleaned up before exploring the planet.

 

Previous Doctor Who: The Forest of Fear                                          Next Doctor Who: The Dead Planet

Doctor Who: The Forest of Fear

Major spoilers for the episode

The Story:

The Doctor and his companions escape the cave only to be pursued by a caveman who they then have to help when he gets injured but the Doctor thinks the better solution is to murder him so they can leave.

Thoughts:

I like that the titles of the episodes are so straight forward and descriptive of the episodes. The forest is scary because it’s dark and there’s lots of animals. The cavemen fear the dark which is why the guy who can create fire gets to be in charge.

There’s not a complex plot here with lots of twists that are meant to be clever but really you’ve figured them out half way through the episode. Nobody’s trying to trick you and feel clever in process. You’re just meant to enjoy the episode.

One of the cavemen chase the doctor and his companions into the forest and he gets mauled by an animal. Then Barbara has a little break down. I’ll accept that it’s the woman having the panic attack because they are from the 1960’s. Ian probably wouldn’t show his fear but women are seen as weak so that’s the way the writers are going to write her.

And really if you’ve just been captured and put in a cave full of the evidence of past victims and are now fleeing through a forest in the dark then you’re going to be scared.

I like that they aren’t enjoying themselves. Unlike modern companions who travel with the doctor for the fun and the wonder of seeing the universe (at least until Steven Moffatt took over and the companions became plot devices.). These companions are terrified.

They don’t want to be there and being in danger is not fun to them. Later companions acknowledge the danger but also ignore it. Rose ends up stranded in a parallel universe, Martha and her family are tortured and Donna forgets everything.

The doctor at this point is completely opposite to what the later doctor is. Here he doesn’t care about someone suffering and even wants to bash the guy’s head in with a rock. All he wants to do is run. Which is I suppose is a very doctorish thing to do. After all his instinct for flight is what gets them into this situation.

It’s strange to watch the doctor be made a better person by his companions. In the newer series they do stop him from doing some horrible stuff. For example Donna and the Racknoss, that’s the only one I can think of at the moment. But those sort of acts are all against creatures that are a threat, have murdered a lot of people or have the potential to do a lot of damage.

Here the doctor just wants this man dead so he can escape more quickly. If he kills this man then there will be no argument with the others about staying to help because there will be no one for them to help.

The doctor wants to kill out of convenience. Nothing more than that. I love it. It’s such a different doctor than I’m used to and it gives the character somewhere to go.

And really leaving is the logical decision. He’s got his granddaughter to think about and as he later describes them, these people are very unpredictable.

They’re not quite human yet, still only animals with only base level reasoning skills. This danger is proved later when the man they save refuses to let them go even after they save his life.

I like that the doctor is this selfish and only cares about results. He doesn’t care what his companions will think of him if kills the cave man.

It gives him room to change. I don’t know how soon this change happens. If it happens with William Hartnell’s doctor or if we have to wait for the second doctor to see more compassion or even less of a willingness to kill. Either way I’ll enjoy watching a doctor that is so different from the one I know.

 

Previous Doctor Who: The Cave of Skulls                                                 Next Doctor Who: The Firemaker

Doctor Who: The Cave of Skulls

Spoilers for the episode

Story:

The Doctor gets captured by cavemen and then so does everyone else but it turns out his biggest problem is he’s lost his matches.

Thoughts:

The cavemen are trying to decide who should be the new leader and it looks like the one who can make fire has an edge on the other candidates. In this case there’s just two Za and Kal.

Za’s father was the leader and he could make fire but he never showed his son. Kal is a stranger to the tribe but he’s actually being useful and getting them food instead of sitting around and trying to make fire.

Apparently cavemen think making fire involves screaming at ashes and asking twigs where the fire has gone. Maybe that’s what he saw his father do but I understand why they’d prefer a stranger to lead them.

Back in the TARDIS we get a bit of a pointless conversation about if the Doctor can travel in time or not when they could just open the door and show them. It only serves to set up that Ian and the Doctor don’t like each other very much and are going to have lots arguments from this point forward.

Even though I don’t think anyone would act like Barbara in the face of time travel her reaction is less annoying than Ian’s assertions that it’s impossible. If he’s so sure he’s right all he has to do is be a bit patient and he’ll be proved right. And what do you know seconds later the door opens and there’s the proof.

The Doctor goes out to collect soil samples so he can say what year they’re in because his year-o-meter isn’t calculating properly. It’s currently at 0 and I just love that it’s called a year-o-meter.

So then the Doctor gets kidnapped and wakes up to cavemen arguing over his ability to make fire. He tells them he’ll do what they want as long as he’s aloud to go back to his ship but it turns out he’s lost his matches and he has a little panic. I like that it’s such a simple premise of the cavemen want fire and the doctor’s problem is he’s lost his matches.

Then as his companions try to save him they get captured as well. Susan rushes in like she’s some sort of warrior screaming all the way and jumping on the back of a caveman. She’s willing to fight to get her grandfather back and it doesn’t end well but she puts lots of effort in.

I like Susan. The hysterical fit when she realises her grandfather is missing is a bit much but I get she’s excitable and in the 1960’s women aren’t seen as very capable. Especially teenage girls (they aren’t given much credit now either).

Although it makes me wonder what happened when it was just the two of them and something happened. How did she cope then? Or was it all smooth sailing up to this point.

I also like that the Doctor gets kidnapped. The first kidnapping of the show (well it’s the second if you count Ian and Barbara) and it’s the Doctor who it happens to. Not one of the humans or one of the female leads who in auditions had to show that they could scream. But a man who knows more than any of them and has the most experience with travelling in time.

Really this is the best choice because they can’t leave without him. Where as he could leave without them and he’d probably try to.

I love how bad tempered and awful the doctor is to his companions. It’s such a change from the doctor I know and it’s brilliant.

Someone thought it through that if your spaceship traveled through time you’d want it to blend in so it should be able to change shape. This is the trip where the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit breaks and what a good idea that was. Can you imagine this show without the TARDIS looking like it does? I know we wouldn’t know any different but it’s such a big thing now.

This decision was more to do with money than anything else but deciding on a police box out of any other object. Without it we wouldn’t have eleven being a mad man in a box.

I just love that the writers didn’t know anything about the doctor or have an explanation for the TARDIS being bigger on the inside, just one line to try and make it make sense, but they knew they wanted the TARDIS to always look like a police box.

It does takes Susan quite a while to realise the TARDIS hasn’t changed forms to disguise itself and only after one of her teachers points out that it looks out of place.

The arguing between Za and Kal is funny. It’s like modern politics in that the truth doesn’t matter only making your opponent look bad matters and that people will forget what happened if you spin it in the right way. Za and Kal focus on the fear of the people and twisting the situation to suit themselves. But it’s done with caveman logic and fears.

Za makes promises to his tribe that he’ll go out and kill lots of bears tomorrow but even cavemen have learned that politicians lie and he gets called out on his laziness. He wins later though when he gives a speech about how he’s the best provider but Kal will leave you cold, hungry and alone against the predators. The tribe has already forgotten who’s been doing what.

So Za gets everyone thrown in a cave where lots of other people have been murdered before with human skeletons everywhere and the promise that it’s their turn when the sun rises.

The skulls are gross. I don’t like skulls or brains and seeing a close up image of a caved in skull created the right atmosphere. This is what could happen to them if they’re not really careful around these people.

 

Previous Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child                                            Next Doctor Who: The Forest of Fear

Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

Spoilers for the episode.

I wasn’t expecting to like An Unearthly Child because I don’t tend to like old TV but  I was hoping to like it.

Doctor Who is one of my many obsessions and liking the classic series gives me loads more episodes to obsess over. Even though I watch enough TV already.

I really liked this episode and it might just be because it’s Doctor Who and I’m finally watching the first episode where it all started. But this first episode has so many qualities that the later series retained even though so many things about the doctor haven’t been figured out yet by the writers. Including his species and his planet. I think at this point the writers had him as a human from the future with advanced technology.

You’ve got a lot of what I think doctor who does well. Finding the strange in the ordinary world everyone’s familiar with. The image of a policeman and a junkyard with the sound of the otherworldly music.

This is why Russel T Davies chose the Autons when he revived the series. He wanted a monster that children see a lot (shop window dummies) and would be frightened of.

In this case police boxes would have been more common back then. So people would be familiar with them and when little kids walked past them they could pretend the Doctor was in there.

So then you’ve got Susan Foreman who looks like an ordinary 15 year old girl. She was originally going to be dressed in sparkly alien clothes but I think her looking like a normal teenage girl is better. (I love listening to the commentaries.)

Having her dress like a human is more interesting. She looks ordinary but she’s not. It shows appearances can be deceiving and all that.

She looks normal but she says strange things and has knowledge her teachers don’t which makes them curious and gets them into trouble. This is another aspect of Doctor Who. Curiosity getting people into trouble.

The Doctor is a big mystery and that’s what draws people in. I like that the first episode is all about the mystery of this old time traveler but nothing gets answered. It feels very doctor who.

 

Next Doctor Who: The Cave of Skulls