Friday, October 16, 2009

"Dangerous Journey"

Hello, the Historian here, back with our full complement of Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you the second part in our miniature adventure. Without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 7 November 1964. The seemingly giant cat looks down in interest at the TARDIS crew, as the Doctor urges everyone to keep perfectly still and especially not to look into its eyes. After a few moments, the cat gets bored and leaves, though they know it could be back any moment. Susan asks whether they couldn't make contact with the people who live in the house and ask for help. Ian explains that, even if they could get anyone's attention, no one of normal size would be able to hear them. Their voices would be tiny squeaks to a normal person, and a normal person's would sound like a deep rumble to them. Barbara adds that four tiny humans would likely be captured and exhibited as freaks. The Doctor, however, gives the final reason that they cannot appeal to the residents of the house--one of them is a murderer! Barbara wonders if they shouldn't do something about the murder, but there's nothing they can do at one inch high. The crew elect to return to the TARDIS, but before they can move a huge shadow falls over them and giant footfalls are heard. The Doctor and Susan run, but Barbara stumbles and twists her ankle, so Ian helps her off the other way towards a giant briefcase. They hide inside, while the Doctor and Susan head off towards a drainpipe. In the larger world, it is Forester, returning to the body. He has brought Smithers, the scientist who has developed DN6, to show him what happened. He tries to feed Smithers a story about Farrow pulling a gun and a struggle, but the scientist can see that Farrow had been shot through the heart from a distance. Forester is surprised at Smithers' calmness, but the scientist replies that he has seen death in famines and people starving all over the world. He is surprised at Forester's coldness, but the businessman simply says he is trying to work out what to do next. Smithers, angry, blames Forester for destroying his experiment; with Farrow's death, he assumes his researches will be stopped for good. Forester, however, has come up with a plan: He will take the body to Farrow's boat (waiting for a trip to France), tow it offshore and capsize it. Then, if the police find a body...Smithers does not wish to hear the details. All he wants is to complete his experiments developing DN6 to destroy pests and help stop hunger all over the world. He is willing to turn a blind eye so long as he can achieve that goal. They prepare to move the body to a storeroom, but first Forester takes Farrow's briefcase inside to Smithers' laboratory. Ian and Barbara emerge from the briefcase, badly shaken up, and realize that they are no longer outside. Barbara massages her ankle and complains of a bruise on her knee--caused by a paperclip!--and Ian goes to look for water. Forester and Smithers, meanwhile, drag the body past the drainpipe, taking no notice of the tiny figures of the Doctor and Susan. They have come out of hiding. Susan is sure she saw one of the giants take the briefcase--and their friends--inside. The Doctor decides to check the drainpipe, but immediately returns and complains that it stinks of chemicals. Still, he proposes climbing it to get into the house. The pipe is corroded enough to supply plenty of hand and footholds, but Susan is worried the climb will be too much for her grandfather. But, he observes, what choice have they? Better to try--Ian and Barbara are counting on them, after all. Ian returns, having found no water, but Barbara thinks she'll be able to walk all right. They head off. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Susan continue their climb. Susan is worried, but the Doctor urges her on. Ian and Barbara see a set of giant test tubes and come across a pile of gigantic wheat seeds. As Ian wanders away to look at something, Barbara examines the seeds. She picks one up and sees that they are covered with a sticky substance. Going back over to Ian, she asks to borrow his handkerchief and, without asking why, he gives it to her. She begins to wipe her hands. Ian is seated on a box of litmus papers. He reflects on how many times he'd held a tiny piece of litmus between his fingers--they are that small! He tells Barbara that this is obviously a lab, and it must be connected with that chemical that seemed to have killed everything out in the garden. He tells Barbara that she must not touch anything, and she realizes what she must have done. She decides not to tell Ian, instead thinking if they can get back to the TARDIS quickly it won't matter. Ian, having no idea, tries to think of a way for them to get off the table. He suggests going back to the briefcase to try to find enough paperclips to form a ladder. Barbara also suggests they might find something in it that would tell them more about the insecticide. Ian, not knowing why she is so interested, shrugs this off. Susan and the Doctor keep climbing, but the Doctor is tiring...Ian is struggling with the clasp of the briefcase, but finally gets it open. He calls to Barbara, but gets no response. Climbing down, he finds her transfixed in fear, face to face with a giant fly! She faints and, as Ian catches her, the insect flies away. It has been startled by someone coming into the room. Ian carries Barbara off to hide. Smithers enters the lab, followed by Forester, who asks sharply what they're doing inside. Smithers says he was coming in to get a cloth to clean the blood off the flagstones. As they converse, a few things become clear. Smithers doesn't care about the money, he only cares about DN6 as a force to eradicate crop failures and hunger. He is also unaware of the true cause of Farrow's opposition, as he thinks DN6 is a complete success. Forester has convinced him that Farrow's report is full of lies simply to stop the project. Forester confronts him with the fact that both men will do anything to see the project through to completion, if for different reasons. The men leave. Susan and the Doctor have come up into the lab sink. The Doctor needs to rest, being exhausted and almost overcome with the chemical fumes. Susan suggests getting out of the sink to look for their friends, but the Doctor has noticed their voices echo and has a better idea. Barbara wakes up and Ian tells her the fly is dead. Sure enough, it landed on the coated pile of wheat and died right away! Realizing the full extent of her predicament, Barbara is about to tell Ian what she has done, when they hear a voice calling for them--Susan's voice! They realize she cannot hear them respond and resolve to follow the sound. Ian asks Barbara what she was going to tell him, but she tells him it's nothing. Shortly, the friends are reunited, the Doctor and Susan at the bottom of the sink, the others at the top. Ian and Barbara begin to climb down the plug chain. Outside, the two men finish cleaning up the bloodstain. Their hands dirty, Smithers suggests they go to the sink in his lab to wash up. Hearing the giants approach, Ian and Barbara scramble back up the chain to hide and the Doctor and Susan crawl a little way down the drain. Smithers notices the dead fly and is delighted. Obviously DN6 is effective--he does not understand how Farrow could have lied about that. Forester says he will "amend the report" before sending it on, but, again, Smithers does not wish to know about any of that. He turns away, puts the plug in the sink and turns on the tap. Ian and Barbara emerge, watching with horror as the sink begins to fill, realizing they can do nothing. Inside the drain, the Doctor and Susan hug each other, hearing the water fill the sink above them. Smithers finishes washing and pulls the plug, sending the torrent of water down the drain, right at the Doctor and Susan....

A strong second episode! This story is certainly much stronger than either Ketina or I remembered; we're wondering if it's going to fall apart a bit next episode.

There was actually an awful lot to like about this week, even leaving aside the slight flaw in Forester's plan to dispose of the body, which I know Ketina plans to discuss below. It does bring up a fun point, that of Smithers' steadfast "I don't want to know, I just do the science" reactions to Forester's obviously less than legal activity. At first, you might think of Smithers as simply an amoral scientist, who must see the end of his experiment no matter what it takes. Look a little deeper, though, and you see a bit more of a single-minded idealist. He honestly believes he is out to save the world with his insecticide, to end hunger, and nothing can stand in the way of that goal. On the other hand, the symbolism of Smithers helping to cover up the murder and then literally washing his hands of the business hits one on the head a bit hard. He very obviously knows that Forester is completely without scruple, but he chooses to believe almost every lie the man tells him. It's obvious that Forester cannot, at any cost, allow Smithers to actually see Farrow's report...

What else. The resolution of last week's cliffhanger, I felt, was a little weak. Not unsatisfying, but I think some kind of "escape from the cat" was set up, when we actually got "hold still and hope it goes away." This week's cliffhanger, though, was very strong (if a bit reminiscent of one of the endings from "The Aztecs," where Ian is trapped in a "drain"), even if it was fairly obvious. What is not obvious is how the Doctor and Susan will escape!

An interesting idea that Schmallturm brought up was the possible influence of Mary Norton's "Borrowers" series on this story, especially in the interactions with giant props (which were excellent, once again) and the cat. It's something that hadn't occured to me, but once he mentioned it the influence seemed obvious. Most of the books came out in the early 50s to early 60s, so there is a better than decent chance they were known to people on the production side. The younger Historian loved the Borrowers books, so I have no problem crediting it as a possible influence!

Moving on to the cast, everyone shines in this episode, with no exceptions. The guest cast is quite good; I very much liked Reginald Barratt's Smithers. The regulars are all excellent. The Doctor's moment, where he reveals how important his friends are to him and tells Susan that they can't give up before they try! A wonderful few lines and a great delivery from William Hartnell. Once again, we see the Doctor develop before our eyes, becoming the caring character rather than the merely irritated old man we first met. The others do quite well too, from Ian's determination to Barbara's attempts to hide her despair to Susan's worrying. Just a fine, strong episode of Doctor Who. Not too different from the first season, really, though I believe we shall see some changes in the weeks to come...

There's no doubt that there are other things I thought of to talk about, but I've gone on long enough. I'll turn things over to Ketina now, but I shall see you all next week. As always, if there are things you wish to talk about, feel free to comment and I'll reply. But, until then, or next week, I remain



Ketina here,

This week we got some cool looking sets, freaked out Barbara, oblivious Ian, and a very dirty Susan and Doctor.

Several of the set pieces continue to be impressive. I especially liked the sink that the Doctor and Susan climbed up into. And if I'd been a kid, the giant fly would have scared the crap out of me (gave me the willies as it was). Alas, a few shots, like the test tubes, lacked a bit. They also gave a great impression of the scale of things, and just how weird everything is when you're itty-bitty sized.

Swoon count 1
Scream count +0
Sprained ankle count +1

Yes, Barbara faints rather than screams upon seeing the giant fly. Personally, I think I would have screamed my bloody head off - a scream would actually fit the situation. It's good to change things up a bit, but do they really need to weaken the relatively strong character that Barbara has become? And the sprained ankle, come on, was that really necessary? Yes, my feminist view point continues to show up in my reviews, excuse me.

And there was a bit of an inconsistent plot point with this weeks scientist (are they going to introduce a third scientist next week?). He immediately realizes that scientist #1 could not have gotten shot close range in a scuffle, but had to have been shot from a distance. Yet, when evil investor guy suggests dumping the body on the boat and make it look like a drowning accident, he doesn't argue. I didn't know someone could drown by bullet.

Finally, I loved the cliff hanger. I could tell it was coming when scientist #2 mentioned the sink. It leads into probably one of the silliest visuals for a cliffhanger: pulling the plug and watching the water start to drain, with the words "Next Week: Crisis" showing up in big letters. Yet I'm entirely stumped as to how the Doctor and Susan are going to get out of this one. Very fun. Here's hoping for a good resolution.

Until next time!


No comments: