Friday, May 8, 2009

"The Snows of Terror"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, welcoming you back to Marinus. So let's get on with it!

Episode summary: First aired 2 May, 1964. Barbara and Ian collapse in a freezing, snowy landscape. Barbara wakes momentarily to see a fur-clothed man leaning over her and taking the Key they'd gotten in the jungle...and then awakes in a hut where the man, a fur trapper named Vasor, helps rub the frostbite out of her hands. He rescued the two from the mountain, he says, and warns her that the cold wouldn't have gotten them--the wolves would have. Ian wakes and Vasor tells them that "a mad stranger" helped him carry the two of them before going out again to look for two girls. The stranger must have been Altos, Ian surmises, and the girls Susan and Sabetha! Ian wants to go out after them, but Vasor will not give him a fur for nothing, so he is forced to part with his travel dial. Taking a fur, a lantern and a bag Vasor gives him, Ian goes out into the darkness, aware of the cold and the wolves. Vasor and Barbara finish their meal and, helping to clean up, Barbara discovers a drawer containing three travel dials and Sabetha's necklace containing the Keys! Vasor says he traded it to the girls, who he'd found in a cave, for flint and food. And now that Ian is out of the way...he won't be coming back, Vasor says, as the bag he carries contains something to draw the wolves...Ian, meanwhile, has found Altos, who is lying in the snow with his hands tied. While Ian revives him (and rubs feeling back into Altos' bare legs), they discover what is in the bag: raw meat! Ian flings it away and the two make their way back to Vasor's hut, where, inside, Barbara is fending off his violent advances. Ian and Altos arrive, Barbara breaks away from Vasor to open the door, and the three force the trapper to take them to the cave where Susan and Sabetha wait. Those two, meanwhile, are looking at the remains of their fire in the ice cave. They decide to explore the cave, if only to keep warm, but get totally lost and wander further into the mountain. Discovering a precarious-looking rope bridge, the two cross and enter a chamber where they see strange figures! Meanwhile, the others arrive in the cave, Vasor protesting all the while that there are "demons" lurking there. They force him to lead them further in where they discover the girls, who had fled to the rope bridge. Everyone but Vasor crosses, and the trapper frees the bridge and casts his side into the chasm! He leaves, believing the others to be trapped. With no other choice, the group goes on and finds the figures, which turn out to be four frozen knights guarding this area's Key, trapped in a block of ice. There is a pipe system meant to melt it out. They begin the melting process, then return to the chasm to figure out a way across. Ian and Altos get the idea of taking huge icicles (we think), freezing them together and laying them across. One person will cross, be thrown the rope bridge (which they've pulled up on their side), secure it and help everyone cross. Meanwhile, the women have gone back to get the now thawed Key...but that's not the only thing to have thawed, as the knights come to life and come after them! Ian fends them off and Susan, risking her life as the "bridge" isn't fully frozen yet, crawls across and secures the bridge. Everyone crosses and Ian throws the bridge down again just in time to send a knight plunging to his death. Vasor, back in his hut, is looking at his ill-gotten gains, the keys and travel dials, as our friends burst in. He tries to take Susan hostage, but the knights are battering down his door and a sword gets him in the back. Everyone turns their dials and--a museum. Ian moves forward and sees a man lying on the floor, just as someone hits him from behind and knocks him out! The strange, gloved figure puts the weapon in Ian's hand, then reaches into a display case, steals the Key that is there and leaves as an alarm sounds...

Ok. I'm going to start off by saying I think we all enjoyed this a bit more than last week's episode (except for Schmallturm, who wasn't here last week). There was more actual story here, more things happened. That being said...we still had quite a bit of fun, but there are some huge flaws, from the gratuitous stock footage wolves (or wolf, I should say, since there was only one) to the use of cellophane technology to stand in for ice to the workboots painted silver that the knights wore... (Ronelyn caught that one, I completely missed it.) And yes, the key guards were immediately referred to, anachronistically, as "the Knights who say 'Ni!'" by pretty much all of us. To be fair, there were a bunch of good things too--which I'll mention below--but they are let down a bit by the sets and general "we're a bit low on money" vibe this episode gives off. Though I quite liked Vasor's hut; it was really the second half of the episode that had apparent budget issues.

Now, some good things: Vasor himself is great. He's essentially a big bully. A lot of bluster when he has the upper hand, but he completely folds if he's truly threatened--not to mention being more than a bit superstitious, which makes one wonder about the rest of the planet (that we've seen) being more in a science fiction/developed mode. No real explanation is given, but I suppose he could be a product of the collapsed civilization, post dispersal of the Keys...or something...Anyway, Barbara is also excellent in this episode. Again, she proves herself to be resourceful and intelligent. Her fight with Vasor shows her spirit and strength. We love Barbara here. Susan also had her moment, the "I'm lightest, I'd better go while they're distracted or we're all dead" bit at the bridge. Ian is...well, he's a man of action. Not much more than that, really. Altos and Sabetha are...there, that's all we can say about them. (Other than could someone please get Altos some trousers, please?? This came up a few times, especially after the "rubbing his legs to get rid of frostbite" scene.)

I am going to try to leave discussion of the rest of "the silly" to Ketina (and I'm sure she'll have more to say about a few of my points above), but I have to mention our big question: why did Altos, Barbara and Ian leave their travel dials and the Keys in Vasor's hut when they forced him to go up the mountain? We came up with a few kind of answers, but they're all extrapolations. No real reason was given onscreen except "an excuse to go back to the hut so we get closure on Vasor." As much as we did enjoy this episode (and, despite our many quibbles, we did enjoy it) we all definitely agreed that the script was not the strongest we've seen this season. Not the weakest, maybe (and it's certainly stronger than last week's), but not as developed as, perhaps, it should have been.

Next week, though, looks interesting: Ian framed? And the Doctor's return! Can't wait! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

This week on Doctor Who, we learned how to cure frost bite, how to avoid advances of lascivious trappers, the importance of pants in a cold environment, and how to build a bridge.

The Historian already covered the good bits. So let's talk some more about the silly, which was pretty much everything arriving at the cave onwards. For one thing, where did the light come from in the caves? They distinctly show that it's night out side, Ian carries a lantern when looking for lack-of-pants boy Altos. Yet, when we switch to Susan and Sabetha in the caves, the fire has just died and they have no torches or other sources of light. Yet the caves are better lit that either the cottage or outside. Glowing ice? No explanation.
Then as the party faced the "great chasm" below the fallen rope bridge, I was reminded of the jumping scene from horrible episode from The Daleks, "The Ordeal". Yet, even though the jump was about half the length as the leap in "The Ordeal" Ian sees it as too short to make. A jump of about four feet too short to make. Yeah.
Also strange was the scene where Ian was fighting the mighty Knights, and the rest of the companions, except for Susan, stood by. Doing nothing. They just stood there, staring down the tunnel. No attempts to help the man, no cries of encouragement, not working on the ice bridge or reconsidering jumping. No, they're just standing there as Ian and Susan both risk life and limb, as it were.
These issues are all in addition to the silliness of wolfie stock footage, leaving the keys and bracelets behind, cellophane ice, the Knights Who Say Ni, and did I mention the lack of pants.

Oh, and screams from both Susan and Barbara this week. Even justifiable they do scream a lot, don't they.

And even after all that, we did enjoy the episode. Hopefully things will get better with The Doctor's return next week.



1 comment:

Alzarian said...

Another good one. I'm quite enojying the shifting enviroments from episode to episode. Maybe there isn't a whole lot of depth to this episode, and the frozen soldiers in the block of ice are rather crude, but the trapper is a suitably menacing character... and the lessons in how to treat frostbite makes it somewhat educational, I suppose. A better lesson might be to dress more appropriately if one is going to be travelling to different climates in an adventure.