Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The Cave of Skulls"

The Historian here. I'll note that if we were being absolutely accurate, we would be skipping a week as the BBC reran the initial episode the week after it aired. (For some reason, people weren't tuning in the day after JFK's assassination...) But, getting down to it...

Synopsis: Originally shown on 30 November, 1963. The TARDIS lands in Ice Age era Europe, where a tribe is having a disagreement over leadership. Za's father made fire, but he cannot. Kal, an interloper, claims to be able to make fire. Kal discovers the Doctor (who's left the ship to explore) smoking and kidnaps him. Ian (who's gobsmacked about not being in a London junkyard anymore), Barbara and Susan attempt to rescue him, but they're all captured and thrown into the titular Cave of Skulls--and Za declares they will be executed at the next sunrise!

Ketina, Ronelyn, Blueraccoon and I watched the episode together. I enjoyed it a lot, especially the performance by the regulars. William Russell (as Ian) was particularly good at conveying his absolute disbelief, even when confronted by the evidence of his own eyes. William Hartnell continues to amaze; he's just so darn good at both the mischievious mystery and the honesty he shows towards the end of the episode. All of the actors show a depth, with the possible exception of Jacqueline Hill, who isn't given very much to do (although her belief in spite of everything is excellent). Susan's absolute desperation at losing her only link with her home in the Doctor is really effectively played by Carole Ann Ford. The writing is just top notch, although Ketina has some issues that I suppose she'll talk about in her post.

Something I missed in last week's chaos, but that I'd very much like to keep track of, is how the show developed elements that we'll see more of later. Last week, for example, we had the introduction of the TARDIS (which Susan claims to have named from the description "Time and Relative Dimension in Space"--note the singular for Dimension) as well as our first description of the Doctor and Susan's homeworld. Susan was "born in another place, another time," and the Doctor asks Ian and Barbara if they know what it's like to be exiles. Interestingly, the implication seems to be that they can't get home for some reason (there was an early idea that their home planet had been destroyed, but it wound up not being taken up), rather than the Doctor being on the run for stealing a time machine.

This week, in addition to our first travel in time, we're shown that the TARDIS might not be entirely functional. Some gagues don't seem to work properly and the outer shell, which has apparently changed to blend in in the past (Susan's descriptions imply some interesting trips) is no longer functioning--it's stuck as a 1963 era police box!

In all, this was an good episode, keeping the interest generated by the first one up nicely. Although there are a few parts that might not work completely to modern eyes (see Ketina's post for her thoughts), for a 1963 audience I can see it as, well, perhaps not riveting, but certainly diverting for the family at tea time. We're still a few weeks away from The Moment Doctor Who Became a National Phenomenon, but the ratings were decent, and this serial certainly shows us the original educational plan for the series--back in time, then science fiction, alternating. I suppose one can wonder though if the second story (to come in a few weeks!) hadn't changed everything and become the blueprint for much of the series, how things would have gone.... But now, I shall turn things over to my companion, Ketina. Until next time, I remain



Just finished watching the second episode of Doctor Who with The Historian, The Cave of Skulls (part two of the eventually titled 100,000 Years B.C.). Please read the Historian's summary first.

My reactions:
Silly bits -- the gob smacked cave man Kal, as he stared at the Tardis shortly after it landed.

Boring bits (in my opinion) -- The lengthy debate between Za and Kal regarding what to do with the strange old man who could make fire from his fingers. They each made their point, which seemed long enough to me, and then proceeded to make pretty much the exact same points again two more times. If I had to watch Kal wiggle his fingers again "he made smoke come out of his fingers" I was going to hit the fast forward button. But then, we would have missed the ENTIRE episode. They didn't even get to the proverbial Cave of Skulls until the very end of the episode.

Irritating bits - Susan is quite the screamer, isn't she? Quite feisty however!

Weird bits - the fight scenes seemed very disjointed to me. Lots of close ups, hands and feet and bits, making it very difficult to see what was going on. While Susan joining the fight was evident, both by her screams and when we see her jump onto a caveman's back, it wasn't clear to me that Ian and Barbara were in the fight until the end when we see they have been captured. It reminded me a lot of the type of confusing and frustrating fight choreography found in current films.

Good bits -- as long as the scenes went, the acting was quite good. I also loved the characters of the cave lady who wanted to be given to Kal, and the old woman who thought fire was a bad idea. They were fun characters.
I also loved the continued banter between Ian and Barbara, continuing to establish their reaction to the amazing things happening around them. Ian continues to doubt while Barbara is more open minded about events.

Overall I did enjoy the episode, but believe that the pace could be tightened up significantly.

Ketina, the Impatient Companion


1 comment:

Alzarian said...

A lot of fans have a tendency to praise the first episode, and then write off the next three as not being worth the time. I heartily disagree with this attitude. This second episode continues to introduce new ideas to us - specifically the idea that the TARDIS seems to be stuck in the shape of a 1960's police box. It is easy for those of us sitting in a time when the police box has become so entrenched as a space and time machine to forget just how bizarre an idea this was. I happen to think that the decision to not change the shape of the TARDIS from episode to episode, even if done for reasons of budget, turned out to be a brilliant one. I really like this episode, and I appreciate the thought that went into the cavepeople language. Just because they seem primitive to our eyes, doesn't mean that they don't have a logic and philosophy of their own. In fact, by having our travellers journey to a civilization far in the past, it almost seems to be exploring how Ian and Barbara view Kal, Hur and Za as a parallel to how the Doctor and Susan may view Ian and Barbara. Quite good stuff here.