Friday, January 16, 2009

"The Ambush"

The Historian here with the fourth episode of this second serial, along with Ketina and Ronelyn. Things moved briskly this week, so let's do so as well. On to the synopsis!

Episode summary: First aired 11 January, 1963. The crew (with Ian inside a Dalek casing) continue their escape. Although a real Dalek intercepts them, Ian (with some assistance from a very clever Susan) manages to bluff his way into getting everyone to a lift area. Unfortunately, the Daleks then realize the subterfuge and the crew barely escapes up the lift in time! At the top of the tower they are in, the crew look down and see the Thals approaching the city--walking straight into a trap. The TARDIS crew make their way down to the street level of the city and split up, with the Doctor, Susan and Barbara heading back into the jungle and Ian staying to warn the Thals. Meanwhile, the Thal leader, Temmosus, approaches cautiously with his small band, into a courtyard where food and supplies have been piled. Unbeknownst to him, the Daleks lie in wait. Ian arrives a moment too late as the Daleks appear to attack the Thals. Thanks to his warning, though, only Temmosus and one other are killed. The rest, led by Susan's friend Alydon, escape with Ian into the jungle. Later, the Thals and the crew share information. The Doctor discovers more about the history of the planet, Skaro, and Ian and Barbara are frustrated by the fact that the Thals refuse to fight, even to defend themselves. The Doctor convinces the crew (except for Susan) to leave, letting the Thals and the Daleks deal with each other themselves, when Ian realizes that the fluid link (the very component the Doctor removed from the TARDIS to keep them there in the first place) has been taken from him by the Daleks when they searched him. It's now down the city.....

I thought this was a marvelous episode. Easily the highlight of the story so far, there were no extraneous or slow scenes. Everything worked, from Susan's wink to Ian in the beginning to the fear of the persuing Daleks to the massacre to the very end. Ray Cusick deserves tremendous kudos for his Dalek city designs. I think Ketina wanted to talk about it below, but I'll say that Ronelyn and I spent some time discussing the honestly alien asthetic of the whole city.

This was an episode with a lot of highlights and no "lowlights." Some favorite moments include Ian's run through the city, conveyed very well by slightly askew direction. Lots of little things, like the Thals going back to the city to try and recover their dead (they recovered one body, but not that of their leader) was nice too, as were the Thal's history records. In fact, all of the things that I felt slowed the plot down last week (mainly Thal interactions) worked very well this week. Ian and Barbara's exasperation ("Pacifism only works when everyone agrees to it;" yes, a paraphrase, sorry) is very interesting, especially in the context of post-war Britain. (They both would have been children through the war, yes?)

Obviously, the highest high are the Daleks themselves. I neglected to mention the first ever "Exterminated" last week and this week we got two more. (All referring to the TARDIS crew, the beginning of a proud tradition!) With their silent glide (Temmosus doesn't even hear them enter behind him--they make no sound whatever) the Daleks are truly creepy. And in just a few episodes, they've gone from ambiguous and seeming somewhat paranoid to chilling killers, destroying (as Ian says) anything unlike them. They've turned into very nice baddies indeed, although their exact catchphrase, making them fodder for playground play, hasn't quite solidified yet. I'm left in no doubt as to why the Daleks became the focus of a nationwide phenomenon!

There are many, many other things I can say about this wonderful episode, but I've gone on too long already. I certainly can't wait until next week to see how the crew gets out of their predicament--and hopefully begins to help the Thals as well! Until then, I remain



Ketina here. I liked this episode a lot better than what we've seen of these early stories so far, although there were a few goofier bits.

The silly - The Dalek's leaving food and toilet paper for the Thalls. - Okay, The Historian says it wasn't supposed to be toilet paper, but it sure looked that way to me.
Also silly - The Thal's outfits are pretty over the top.

Confusing - the elevator effect was a bit confusing. First it looked like the elevator was moving closer and then father away during the same trip up going up. The Historan said that's due to first seeing the elevator from above and then later from below, however I found that unnecessarily confusing. It also made it look very peculiar when they showed the shot of throwing the statue down the elevator shaft, showing small bits of debries falling down. And what the heck are souless killing machines doing with abstract statuary anyway?
There was also another strange editing cut between the escape from the city with Ian and the Thals running to suddenly everyone is safe in the jungle. Maybe if there was some type of fade that indicated time had passed would have made this a little more evident.

And the good - I really liked the design of the Dalek city. For example, in this episode we get to see the Daleks interact with the various door switches and wall buttons that the TARDIS crew found so mysterious and confusing. Seeing the Daleks use these various switches smoothly and naturally was really cool. It's also cool when the Daleks magnetize everything to stop doors from opening and Ian's Dalek from moving.
I also liked seeing all the little historical artifacts that the Thals were showing the Doctor. Although at this point I've already figured out that the Thals were warriors that became peaceful and the Daleks were scientists that became killing machines, and I get the feeling that's the mystery that they're trying to get across with the story. But, maybe I'll be surprised.



1 comment:

Alzarian said...

The design of the Dalek city is fantastic. Something as simple as how the doors open and close, is just different enough, to seem truly alien.

I also have to mention how much I love the way this episode ends. The last few minutes of the show really have you believing that the TARDIS crew are on the verge of leaving again, off to a new adventure. And why not? The last story took four episodes, so it feels right that this story would end in its fourth episode as well.

Yes, I know the Daleks haven't been "defeated" yet, but this early in the show's run, the story isn't so much about righting wrongs, as it is the story of four travellers bouncing back and forth through time and space, with the aim being to get Ian and Barbara home - so the idea that the crew would just leave at this point is believable. It is only the lack of the fluid link that tells us that they don't get to leave so easily this time.