Saturday, December 13, 2008

"The Firemaker"

And here we are at the last episode of "100,000 BC," the first Doctor Who serial. Tonight, Ketina and I were joined by the ever-present Ronelyn, Kroroboros, Spoo and SumGuy. Full house!

Summary: First aired 13 December, 1963. The TARDIS crew are taken back to the Tribe's cave where the Doctor cleverly managed to get Kal to admit to killing the old woman. The Tribe, led by the Doctor, then drives Kal out. Za, however, sends the crew back to the Cave of Skulls. Inside the cave, Ian makes fire! Za discovers them and demands they give him fire, which they do, expecting he will then let them return to the TARDIS. [Edit: I neglected to mention Kal killing the guard and entering the cave, leading to a brutal fight which Za wins.] In this they are mistaken, but Susan and Ian come up with a plan. Using skulls from the cave and torches, they scare the Tribe and, essentially, run away, making it back to the TARDIS just in time. Taking off, the Doctor explains that he hadn't been able to get any samples to figure out where and when they were, so he doesn't know where they're going. The crew lands and goes to clean up, not noticing the radiation monitor slowly moving into the red danger zone....

A strong finish to what I thought was a strong opening story, firmly establishing both the premise and the central characters. Opinions were somewhat divided, however, with Spoo feeling this was less of a real "story" and more of a "moment in time." (Spoo, please expand in a comment, if you want to!) The episode began with a fine showcase for the Doctor's cleverness; he plays Kal like a fiddle. Ian also shows his worth (Ronelyn remaked on Ian's fine Boy Scout skills!), both in his firemaking and his comment to Za about the Tribe being stronger that a single member--a lesson Za remembers, but seems to misunderstand, as he goes out to hunt alone. Susan had her moment, helping Ian come up with the plan to free the crew; this week it was Barbara's turn to be underused.

Which brings me to one of Kroroboros' excellent points. Being familiar with later Doctors, he was surprised that the Doctor was not the center of the action. And it's true, the series, in its first few seasons, was very much an ensemble piece, with the Doctor being only a part of the crew. (Though he will shortly become the linchpin around which the various companions operate.) At this point, though, Ian is far more of a dynamic presence, though the Doctor might be more of a clever one!

All in all, the first historical (for all intents and purposes) succeeds quite nicely; the guest cast is excellent, as is the design (both set and costume) and especially the writing. The regulars are strong too, with well-developed characters. It might be a bit of a slow start, but the absolute right turn into science fiction next week will take the show in an unexpected direction!

Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Here's my brief observations of the episode:

Good - Fight choreography was pretty good. Kal and Za beat the crap out of each other very savagely. It was brutal. However, a bit odd as they switched to film instead of video for only that scene, which was very noticable. Also the cave of skulls looked significantly larger than the cave did in any other scene.

Silly - close ups of The Doctor's companions as they ran through the forest. Just faces with occational sticks thrown at them. Very silly.

Curious - the ending bothered me somewhat. The Doctor and companions trick the cavemen and escape and run back to the Tardis. And that was it. It didn't feel to me like there was a solid resolution to the story, While the cavemen finally got their fire, there wasn't any character resolution for the cavemen. Za became leader, but didn't seem to learn anything or establish himself as a stronger or better leader than before. I found it odd that there were no moral lessons for a show that is reportedly a family show. Maybe that's just more common in American family shows?

I'd say more, but I'm currently watching the gang we just watched the show with devolve into comedic mehem involving the central stars of our next story. More later, hopefully.




Anonymous said...

I simply meant that this episode itself didn't feel like it had a very obvious or typical story arc within itself. Rather than telling a complete self-contained story about any one character or about any one theme, it felt like we were opening up a window, looking in on the characters. Much more an old time serial, join the story in media res andgo with the flow of it sort of thing. - spoo

The Tardis Project said...

Excellent! Thank you for expanding on your thoughts, Spoo! It is sometimes difficult to properly convey everything folks say in our discussions when I'm typing furiously (and quickly) afterwards!


Alzarian said...

I just love the fight scene. One of the very best in the entire series. The use of fire was cool too. I must also share that I love how even though we are at the end of this first story, it leads right into the next one, so it feels as though we are on one long adventure.