Yes, we're a bit early this week, but let's look at it as a benefit, shall we? The Historian here, with a review of the third episode of the series. This week, Ketina and I were joined by Ronelyn, Blueraccoon and Krorboros. Let's get to the summary, shall we?
Summary: Originally aired 6 December, 1963. Quite a lot actually happened in this episode. The TARDIS crew is released from the Cave of Skulls by the Old Woman, who tells them they must leave so as not to return the secret of fire to the Tribe. Za and Hur discover this and go after them, but Za is attacked by a creature. Against the Doctor's wishes, the crew attempt to help him, which confuses Hur completely. Meanwhile, Kal has discovered the Old Woman in the Cave and finds out where Za and the TARDIS crew has gone. He then kills the Old Woman. Afterwards, he convinces the Tribe that Za killed the Old Woman and they follow him as the new leader. Arriving at the TARDIS, finally, the crew and Za (on a stretcher) and Hur are ambushed by Kal and the Tribe.
Goodness, there's a lot to say about this episode. We discussed it more than almost any other. Although all Blueraccoon really had to say was, "I wasn't really paying attention. There was a lot of screaming and it got on my nerves." It's true, there was quite a bit, especially from Barbara. On the other hand, think about what kind of day she's had--from 1963 London to 100,000 BC! Ronelyn was, once again, impressed with the atmosphere, comparing it to other British productions of the era. I very much agree; although some may find the pace slow (see Ketina's section), I found that the episode built, ratcheting up the tension as the TARDIS crew attempted to escape, culminating in the ambush with the ship almost within reach. I will say that I was right in that watching this episode-by-episode is a very different experience than seeing it as an hour and a half "movie."
I'd like to take a moment to mention the design, which is quite excellent. The sets, from the jungle to the Cave of Skulls, is just fantastic and, within the obvious limits of the tiny studio confines, quite believable. The costumes are simple, but effective as well.
As far as guest characters, the shining stars are Hur and Kal, the two "smart" cavemen. Kal's scene where he essentially frames Za for murder is especially good, and Hur shows reasoning and actual political savvy!
The regulars are also quite good, though I felt Ian occasionally went a bit over the top. Barbara's hysterics were, as I said above, understandable. This was the first episode where Susan felt mostly underused. And the Doctor...I've read a theory that before Ian and Barbara, the Doctor had held himself aloof from humanity and it was his connection with them that began his evolution into a caring hero. This episode certainly gives that theory a firm basis; although he expresses contrition for kidnapping the teachers and getting them into the situation (a holdover from last week's episode), he is also snappish, mean and uncaring...and, indeed, at least momentarily murderous, before he is stopped by Ian. (Or was he? Was he telling the truth about having Za draw a map to the ship?) It's a very nuanced performance by William Hartnell (still stunning) and, knowing where it's going as I do, I'm going to really enjoy seeing the development of the Doctor's character as the weeks go by.
As usual, I am sure I have all kinds of other things to say, but I think it is time to turn this over to my erstwhile companion. However, I encourage all of you (yes, even you, Ronelyn, if you want to expand on what I said above) to comment with your thoughts, questions, suggestions. I don't think we're writing in a complete vacuum...I hope?
So, until next time, I remain
Good bits - I thought that Hur (the cave lady from last week, who got a name this week) once more showed some savvy. She spends the beginning of the episode observing the old woman and suggesting to Za what to do. One of her best lines "the leader is awake while the other's sleep" as a way of starting to explain why Za should be investigating things while the other cave men are sleeping. Later, while Za is concerned about why Hur didn't stop the old woman, Hur was more interested in knowing what the old woman was up to.
I also thought the sets were fairly good. At one point they show a close up of a dead boar that The Doctor and his companions discover (putting Barbara into those annoying hysterics), And even the first shot of the episode, when they show a nearly full skeleton in the cave of skulls I thought was pretty creapy.
The not so good bits -- Again, I think the pace is rather slow. They spent the bulk of the episode running through the forest, half of which consisted of The Doctor and ian arguing, running around in circles and lots of screaming. Did we mention the annoying screaming yet. And long discussion on how to put together and putting together the makeshift stretcher.
The silly -- the scene showing the cave man tribe all piled up in a heap in the middle of their cave. There were a few snickers among us watching regarding the groping potential of cave men heaps.
Also, the back door out of the cave discovered by the old woman the was obviously just covered up by some branches.
Can't think of anything else interesting at the moment. So that's all from me for now.
(A quick note from the Historian: I didn't think the Tribe sleeping together for warmth against the oncoming cold was silly....)
NEXT WEEK: "THE FIREMAKER"