Friday, March 26, 2010

"The Centre"

Hello everyone, the Historian here with our regular crew of Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo, about to take our leave of the planet Vortis. But before we go, there's the exciting (?) climax to get to! So, let's get to the summary!

Episode Summary: First aired 20 March 1965. A gun in the wall fires and covers the Doctor and Vicki with thick, sticky webs....

Outside, Barbara and the Menoptra have laid an ambush. They are hidden behind some rocks while Zombo the Zarbi waits out in the open.

Back in the Carsenome, the web is beginning to dissolve. Vicki falls over while the Doctor, apparently only semi-conscious stays in place as the cylinder descends towards him. The voice of the Animus accuses the Doctor of trying to escape, but he replies that they merely had gone on a little trip of "explortation." After all, they have returned of their own free will, haven't they? The Animus replies that the Doctor's only remaining use is the information contained in his mind and orders that the Doctor and Vicki be brought to it. As the cylinder raises, the Doctor sees Vicki next to the astral map, guarded by Zarbi. He tells her they are to be taken to the centre and to try not to be afraid.

Outside, Barbara has decided that enough time has passed for the Doctor to have gotten into the control area of the Carsenome. Prapillus raises the Doctor's ring and begins to control Zombo.

As they are taken down the corridor, the Doctor asks Vicki for the destructor, but she confesses that she hasn't got it! To keep the Zarbi from finding it, she hid the destructor in the astral map. But there is no going back now.

A Zarbi scuttles towards the ambush and begins to fight with Zombo. Fearing that their "pet" will throw off its control collar, Barbara and the Menoptra race around and taunt the Zarbi, confusing it and sending it running back, chasing Hlynia into the Carsenome. She emerges, having avoided it. The entrance is now unguarded. They move into the corridors, Hrostar declaring that he (and not Hilio) will "take" the first larvae gun. Inside, meanwhile, two Zarbi and a larvae gun advance to deal with the invaders.

Underground, Ian, Vretin and the Optera have reached a wall apparently made entirely of roots or vines. They have reach the point below what the Optera refer to as "Poidarac," meaning the Animus. Suddenly, a stream of liquid spouts from the wall! Ian is worried that it is acid, but Vrestin, after checking it out, tells him it is water. It seems that when the Animus dried out the surface, Vortis' water sank underground. So, Ian reasons, all they have to do is bring it to the surface and they can start to grow plants again. Hetra, meanwhile, is frightened to go any further. Vrestin reassures him that, although the Animus is evil, the Menoptra are stronger. "The World Above is good," she says. Ian wonders if they should leave the Optera behind, but Vrestin says that they are descendants and can live in light. Hetra returns, telling the two that he will go with them to see whether it is safe; the others may follow later. They begin to climb the roots.

In the Carsenome, the Menoptra and Barbara ready themselves. The Zarbi and the larvae gun advance. While the others hang back, Hrostar and Zombo advance. Hrostar takes the collar off of Zombo, who is confused and advances. Hrostar twists the collar so that it can fit around a smaller area and advances on the oncoming larvae gun. The first time he comes at it, it shrugs him off, but he advances again and gets the collar around its "nose gun" just as it manages to get off a shot, hitting Hrostar. The Menoptra collapses on the larvae gun, killing it as he dies. The Zarbi retreat down the corridor as the rest of the Menoptra and Barbara move up. Hylnia is devastated by Hrostar's death, but Prapillus reminds them that they must make his sacrifice worth it. Hilio removes the collar from the dead larvae and announces that the next gun is his. They advance cautiously.

The Doctor and Vicki, further into the Carsenome, are pushed through a door into a blinding light. They have reached the centre--the lair of the Animus! The room is covered with tendrils, all originating at the creature at its centre, a giant, spider-like thing above the source of the blinding light; it is the Animus itself! "What Vortis is, I am. What you are, I will become," it says, as the Doctor and Vicki are both blinded. The Doctor collapses from the obvious effort it is taking him to fight off the creature's mental attacks. Vicki calls it a parasite, but it responds that it is a power, absorbing all, and calls to Vicki to come to it. She refuses, but the light begins to draw her, even as she fights...

Ian, Vrestin and Hetra continue to climb. Although the insect people tire, Ian demands that they keep on without resting.

Barbara and the Menoptra have found the control area where the TARDIS rests. After a short altercation with a Zarbi (who is subdued, thanks to the control collar), they notice that the wall seems to be lighting up, sending signals. Is this how the Animus controls the Zarbi?

Inside the centre, Vicki has almost reached the end of her strength. The Animus gloats that it will take enough from their minds to lead it to Earth so it can absorb all the work, knowledge and power of mankind, especially his mastery of space!

At control, several guns emerge from walls and attempt to web Barbara and the Menoptra, but they manage to fight and disable the guns. Hlynia is slightly wounded in the scuffle.

In the centre, the Animus reacts badly to the damage to the Carsenome control. An alarm sounds and it seems as if the Doctor might be able to rouse himself, but he again falls unconscious, although the Animus' distraction helps Vicki to continue resistance.

In the control area, Barbara finds the Doctor's astral map. She attempts to use it to help Prapillus contact the Menoptra fleet, but there is no answer. Does that mean they did not hear? Could not respond? Or was the machine not working properly? In examining it, though, Barbara finds the hidden Isop-tope destructor. She realizes that it must have been hidden because the Doctor had been captured. Hilio takes the device and says they must take it to the centre themselves and there is no time to lose.

Underneath, Ian has come to the "ceiling" of the area, a spongy substance. He begins to use Hetra's knife to try and cut a hole in the substance.

The Menoptra and Barbara rush through the corridors, avoiding Zarbi and passing the destructor off between them. They finally come to an area the Zarbi seem to avoid. Realizing it must be just outside the centre, Hilio takes the Isop-tope from Hlynia. They enter the centre.

Inside, the light blinds them. Barbara momentarily collapses and Prapillus has to physically restrain Hlynia from being drawn into the Animus' evil light. Hilio, realizing that the Menoptra are powerless, tosses the destructor to Barbara. She attempts to activate it and release the Isop-tope, but nothing happens! The Animus crows in triumps as Ian emerges from a newly dug hole in the far corner. The Animus is distracted as Barbara tries again to activate the destructor, falling towards the Animus and pointing it up towards the creature's bottom, away from the light. A smoke emerges from the destructor--the Isop-tope! The light begins to fade as the smoke overtakes the Animus, its body shrinking and collapsing to the floor of the room. Its evil is ended.

Later, the Carsenome is gone and the once again cattle-like Zarbi have begun to scratch at the surface of the planet, bringing up water. Hilio and Hlynia observe this and the younger Menoptra tastes the water in delight. She runs to get Vicki, showing her new friend this wonder. Now that the Animus is gone, water will return and plants will grow again. Vicki calls to Barbara, who is playing with a now-docile Zarbi larvae. Vrestin stands with Hetra and his clearly terrified Optera friends, who cover their eyes against the light. She coaxes them to look, telling them the light is good. Hetra asks if they will fly like their relatives; Vrestin says no, but perhaps their children will. Hetra tries anyway. Prapillus, overcome with joy, thanks the Doctor. The Doctor replies that Prapillus owes him only one thing--the return of his ring! The travellers make their goodbyes, Vrestin asking Ian if he will ever return to Vortis. Ian says he doubts it; who knows where they will go next? The Doctor remarks that the four of them have managed to get out of this unscathed--except for Ian's Coal Hill School tie, as Ian is quick to remind him. The four travellers enter the TARDIS and it fades away from Vortis. Vrestin, having repaired the communicator, contacts the Menoptra fleet, telling them that the danger is past. The Animus is dead--Vortis is free! The main fleet should land, Vrestin and her friends are waiting with open arms.


Yes, no cliffhanger at the end of this story! I'll now turn this over to Ketina's transcript of our discussion. As always, she typed her hands off, but I must emphasize that, although this is a lot closer than Spoo's attempt from last week, some things said are necessarily paraphrased. After all, Ketina can only type so fast and sometimes the discussion got a bit away from us....

This week's discussion:

H: A lot of stuff happened this week, I thought.

Sc: And now the larvae will fertilize the group, by pooping and stuff.

S: And now the larva are no longer being controlled, are they ungunned?

H: No, they were always guns. They're just not being controlled anymore. The gun thing must be natural; maybe it has something to do with the fertilization?

R: I liked that Barbara was playing with the gun and I was thinking "not with that end."

H: I liked the way it looked kinda playful.

S: It's my turn to go "reach... grasp". The Animus was not well done. After being the main baddie with just voice to be styrofoam spaghetti... even if it was just time and money... it just didn't look... after guys in ant suits and guys in bee suits, I just wasn't seeing an analogy for the animus.

H: But the animus was something that was supposed to have crashed and then built roots.

S: But it didn't look like a spider. That was a let down after my mental image of a big spider. My imagination did better imagining it when it was heard but not seen.

H: I thought the light and voice worked however. You could still feel the malevolent spirit and that it would suck your brains and stuff.

S: Reach... grasp

H: And I loved that drawing the people in is what killed it. Barbara didn't even consciously do it.

Sc: I was unclear on that. Was it that Ian had showed up and distracted the Animus so Barbara saw a dark spot? Did he help? And suddenly it falls over.

H: It wasn't a dark spot, she just got close enough.

S & Sc: it wasn't clear.

S: It was a bomb... then a grenade... and then she was trying to use it like some kind of gun.

H: To be fair, that was actually covered in the story. They refered to it as a "destructor" containing the isop-tope. [Which reminds me; one of the things is that the author named things like "Isop-tope" and "Carsenome" to refer to or bring to mind stuff. Like the Menoptra and Optera were a reference to lepidoptera, the Latin for butterflies.]

S: From a staging point of view it [the destructor] was confusing.

H: They made something that looked like a grenade. Maybe it would have been better if it looked like a capsule.

S: The herding of the Zarbi was really silly.

Sc: Yeah, it was kind of silly.

H: It worked for me because...

Sc: Historian, it always works for you.

R: I can't remember a time where you didn't like something.

H: I agree that it was silly, but I got the thought behind why they did it. [I talked about the cattle thing here, but it got lost in the general discussion.]

S: Like the spider, I got the idea, but the execution fell short.

H: I think anything for the Animus would have felt short of what was in our heads.

S: Keeping it largely off camera would have worked better.

H: But would people have been disappointed because they never saw the monster?

S: I feel like so much was packed into 5 episodes and the climax was anti-climatic. In the end the Doctor isn't the one that solved it.

Sc: I thought it was cool that the companions save the day. I like that with this Doctor really gets saved by the companions a lot of the time.

H: The Doctor as "the hero" hasn't emerged yet.

S: It still feels accidental. The Doctor and one companion are "tendriled" out. Another companion has the thing, but doesn't know what to do with it. Fourth companion shows up, maybe distracts things but it's unclear. And then Barbara basically kills it accidentally.

Sc: It sucked when Hrostar bought it.

H: It's another secondary character they build up and then kill him.

Sc: I was wondering who would be next. I though Prapillus guy would die next.

H: I thought it was cool that no one was safe.

R: Funny line - "I will take the first larvae gun! Oh no, they have no necks!"

H: What the heck was their plan?

S: Now, we're going to take the collar and now... we'll... okay, make a ring out of it... and put it on their snout?

H: Use Zombo to go in and draw them out.. and then let Zombo go? And what now? Their plan didn't make sense.

R: It plays like a D&D game... would you guys just get to the end? There's nothing in the underground caverns. If you keep digging there will be acid everywhere!

S: I don't like the way they tested for acid or water.

H: Send the little girl first!

H: Hilio tells Hlynia to drink the stuff that the zarbi are drinking.. maybe it's water.

R: For that part the Zarbi cattle thing worked well.

S: I meant the first time, underground. When Ian saw the spout, I thought there was going to be another dead guy. I thought Vrestin was going to block it and die. I don't approve of the "stick my hand in and test it" method.

H: I don't approve, but I thought was dramatic.

S: Bad camera stuff this week. At one point the back "wall" rippled, clearly a curtain.

H: You can definitely tell that they had very little time to film the episode. It definitely felt like "we have only 40 minutes to record a 25 minute episode--nobody stop!"

S: So, Barabara can read a star map?

H: Apparently. She's been traveling with the Doctor for a while.

Sc: That was kind of a surprise.

H: She's been shown to be intelligent, I guess.

Sc: Set the controls!

S: Set the controls to the fleet. Attention, fleet, here is all of our plans. Reply? They should have confirmed they were talking to the right guys before telling them all the plans.

All: Z-ah-bi! Z-ah-bi!

H: Another thing, the Optera.

S & Sc: grub grub

H: You liked the idea of them trying to fly, right, Schmallturm? I liked the line, "you won't be able to fly , but perhaps your children will."

Sc: Your stunted and deformed children.

H: Taken as a whole, despite the obvious technical limitations, I thought the writing was very strong.

S: Good plot and story.

H: Good dialog.

S: Taken as a whole, the insect movement, and the distinct movement for each race, worked really well.

H: Definitely felt very alien. Especially compared to other aliens we've seen on the show, like the Sensorties, for example.

S: Fan preference - there's a certain level of suspension of disbelief that I had to do to buy the costumes on first site. Once you're used to them there's a "magic moment" that I can look past the costumes, like the 3rd time I saw them.

H: Think about who the show is original for. Like MiniSpoo (6 years old). He might not have minded the cheapness of the Animus.

S: He definitely wouldn't have.

H: How about Vicki hiding the thing in the astral map?

K: That made sense to me. Vicki and the Doctor had just been covered in spider goo. She managed to get out of it, and while the Animus was interrogating the doctor she had a chance to herself before they were poked at and potentially searched by the Zarbi. Given the brief opportunity, I thought it made sense for her to hide it before the Zarbi snagged it from her.

H: Anything else? Any final thoughts?

S: Something final.

K: Hum... Zarbi! Zarbi!

H: All right, on that note, I think that's good for this week. Next week, back to historical!


Ketina here,

I'll just a few after discussion notes from me here, as I was too busy typing to talk during the discussion.

Super silly moment: As Barbara and the Menoptra prepare to attack the Carsenome, we see a shot of rocks and then one at a time the Menoptra and finally Barbara pop up from behind the rock. That started quite the giggle fit for me. :)

Once more, accidentally Barbara saves the day. She seems really good at either starting trouble or solving it. I was disappointed by Ian's plot conclusion. He spends all this time underground with Vrestin and the Optera, only to pop up and the end and just be present for the destruction of the Animus. What was the point of his nick of time arrival if it didn't have any impact on the resolution?

I think we already covered most of my other criticisms in the discussion above. Criticisms aside, however, I did enjoy this story, and recommend it to Doctor Who fans. Maybe not new viewers so much, however.



Hello everyone, the Historian again. As usual, I'll try to provide a wrapup post for this story sometime in the coming week. Next we return to a historical and our only (partially) reconstructed story this season. I'm looking forward to it and I hope you are too! Until next time, I remain




Spoo said...

"although this is a lot closer than Spoo's attempt from last week,"

Well, pppbbbt. See if I ever help when Ketina's hands are wonky again. ;) ;)

And actually, I'd said the camera work *was* good this week, the wall ripple was the only minor hiccup. No knocks-into-cameras on this one.

The Historian said...

No offense intended! Ketina was just adamant that she'd tried to get closer to what was actually said. (It might be debated that you actually more successfully captured the gist of what was said by not trying to keep up with the conversation exactly....)

Ah, metacommentary. ;-)