Saturday, May 2, 2009

"The Screaming Jungle"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Kroroboros and Ronelyn, continuing our journeys on the planet Marinus. This week, a bit of an arborean adventure...

Episode summary: First aired 25 April, 1964. Susan clutches her ears to cut off the sound of the whispering jungle...just as it stops and Ian, Barbara, Altos and Sabetha reach her. She is hysterical, so Barbara helps her to calm down while Ian and the others search the area. There seems to be an alcove, choked with vines (which are all over the area), leading into a building. Ian and the Marinus people decide to search along the building's walls while Barbara helps Susan. Susan tells her about the whispering, saying that it seemed familiar...and evil. Barbara realizes she can make it through the vines into the alcove and does, just as Ian returns. At the end, she discovers an idol with the Key on its forehead! She wrenches it off, but is unable to get away as the idol's hands close and it pivots in the wall. Ian and Altos recover the Key, and the group determines that Susan, Altos and Sabetha will go on to the next area while Ian searches for Barbara. But before she leaves, Sabetha discovers that the Key Barbara found is a fake! Ian climbs the idol and is taken into the wall where he finds a courtyard and barely escapes a death trap, thanks to Barbara's warning. She tells him that the whole place is booby trapped. They attempt to open a locked door, but fail. Ian goes to find something to help, and the door opens while he's gone. Barbara enters and is tangled in a net as the ceiling descends on her, while Ian is trapped behind a barred wall! An old man, Darrius, stops the descending ceiling, and seems on the verge of believing Barbara when she tells him Arbitan has sent them. Ian frees himself and the two discover that Darrius is being strangled by a moving vine! They free him and he gives them a clue to the location of the real Key: a series of letters. He also warns them that the darkness will bring the "whispering"...and then he dies. The two enter his laboratory and discover a safe, which is an obvious blind. They begin to search the lab when Barbara notices darkness has fallen outside. Meanwhile, Ian has found Darrius' notebook and reads that he was trying to find a way to speed up Nature's ability to erode the environment. Suddenly, a whispering fills the room and the two realize it is coming from the plants and vines outside--as Darrius had theorized, the plants' ability to overtake and destroy the building has accelerated! Vines crash through walls as the two suddenly realize what the letters and numbers Darrius gave them as a clue meant: A chemical formula! They find the jar with that label, take the Key inside and turn their travel dial. The two appear in a snow-swept area, where the temperature is sub-zero. Although Ian urges her to move or they'll die, Barbara is so tired and cold and cannot move....

This episode was...far less interesting than the previous one, for us. It's a simple, almost bog-standard SF story, just like the last one, but it feels less interesting for some reason. The idea of acceleration of Nature's fury is a very good one (as Doctor Who would find several more times over its history), but not a lot is done with it here. The booby traps are fun, but, again, there's not a lot of there there. Darrius is another old man scientist, much like Arbitan, but less interesting. Again, we don't really find out much about him. It's nice to see Ian and Barbara alone for a bit, and it's nice to see Barbara's rebellion against Ian treating her like "Dresden China" (though you'll note that the first thing she does when she's in danger is scream for him), but the whole episode just felt slight. Altos and Sabetha continue to be just kind of there and Susan basically only got to be hysterical--although we did get the information that she'd left first because she didn't want to say goodbye to her grandfather, because she doesn't like to say goodbyes, which might come up later. Really, though, there wasn't very much going on here.

The effects were simple, but effective. Yes, the arms of the statue/idol were human arms, and yes, they twitched once or twice, but I was impressed by the attempt, when the trap was sprung, to make their movement look mechanical. The plants were also pretty good, given the limitations of the time.

I feel like there's something more I should say. This wasn't bad, by any means, not at all. It was a fairly fun 25 minutes. But, really, that's all it was; fun, but not engrossing. Thus far, this serial has not really kept up the riveting interest of the previous, though it's been fun. We'll have to see where it goes next, I suppose! I've no doubt, whether we're on the edge of our seats or not, we'll still certainly enjoy it.

That's all for me. Until next week, I remain



Ketina here,

The Historian already covered most of what was interesting about the episode. I generally agree that it was mildly okay, with nothing particularly special happening.

The good: I liked the solution to finding the key was discovering a chemical formula. And the traps were pretty cool.

The silly: Pretty much all of Darrius's death scene. The dying man urging Ian to come closer, and then speaking his final cryptic words in a perfectly loud enough voice, while sitting upright, and then falling over dead. Thud!
The special effects for the plants also bordered on silly, however they're really no worse than similar killer plant effects shown throughout the history of Doctor Who. The first of many killer plants. :)
And we get obligatory screams this week from both Susan and Barbara. Many from Barbara.

I also completely missed the reference to Dresden China. Possibly a generational thing. My immediate thought was that Dresden was in Germany not China, and that Barbara was making some kind of obscure political or historical reference. But The Historian pointed out to me what she meant - fragile. Like plates! Of course. ;)



1 comment:

Alzarian said...

I really like this episode. Then again, I've always been a bit uneasy when it comes to plants. Is there anything as truly alien and unlike us as plantlife? I find this episode to be just a bit creepy...