Friday, March 12, 2010

"Crater of Needles"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo, for more adventures on the planet Vortis. Let's skip the preliminaries and get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 6 March 1965. As the floor of the alcove collapses beneath them, Vrestin and Ian are pulled down! They land, basically unhurt, having fallen a long way. Ian turns and notices some primitive looking wall paintings, but before they can investigate, the two are surrounded by small beings carrying sharp spears!

In the Crater of Needles, an area on Vortis filled with thin rock formations and surrounded by high cliff walls, captive Menoptra (with their wings torn off) are at work collecting vegetation and feeding it into an acid stream. Among them are the Menoptra Hrostar and Barbara. Barbara is starting to have problems seeing and breathing and sits down to rest while Hrostar watches for Zarbi. She asks if its wings are healed and it sadly replies that it will never fly again. It explains to Barbara that the vegetation is broken down by the acid into material that will be added to the Carsenome, at the center of which dwells the Animus. It tells her that the Zarbi are essentially mindless, controlled by the Animus, and one of its people's missions was to free them from domination. But their advanced party, led by Vrestin, was destroyed or captured. Still, the invasion must proceed. All hope rests on a new invention of the Menoptra scientists--the Isop-tope.

Back inside the Carsenome, the Doctor and Vicki continue to play for time. The Doctor tells the girl that they should save the spider (a dead specimen he'd collected on some previous journey that seems to scare the Zarbi) for a better time. Just then, a Zarbi puts a control collar on Vicki and the Animus demands results from the Doctor. He dissembles, giving the voice a small part of the knowledge he has gleaned, but telling it he still does not know where the first force will land. The Animus believes him--just. He demands Vicki be released before he will do any more and, reluctantly, the Animus agrees. As the Doctor helps Vicki to recover, alarms sound and the Zarbi begin to mass for the projected invasion. The Doctor takes advantage of the confusion to send Vicki into the TARDIS to fetch his walking stick.

In the Crater, the Zarbi guarding the prisoners are also massing. Barbara is knocked down as Hrostar and Prapillus, an old Menoptra slave, wonder what it all means.

Underground, the small, beetle-like creatures push Ian and Vrestin forward, making them thrust their hands into a liquid substance that binds them together. One of the creatures declares, in a halting manner, that they are the Opetra and all that arrives from above is death. They will consult with the "chasm of light" about the strangers. If they are from above--they will die!

In the Crater, Barbara, Hrostar, Prapillus and another Menoptra called Hlynia are trapped in a stone cage by a Zarbi and a larvae gun. Hrostar confirms that the activity must be related to the coming spearhead of the invasion force, but the captives must do nothing. One false move and all is lost. But how did the Zarbi know of the spearhead? It asks Barbara--could the Doctor, the man of science she has told them of, have been involved? Barbara is adamant that her friend would never have helped the Animus. But Hrostar is scared--the plan had been to arrive in secret and overwhelm the Animus through sheer numbers before it could alert the Zarbi. Now all surprise has been lost, and the Menoptra do not know that their weapons are useless against their foes! They must be warned, somehow. Hlynia mentions that it seems most of the Zarbi have left, leaving only one and the larvae to guard...and Prapillus has a plan. It goes to the back of the cage and smashes its way out...

In the Carsenome, the Doctor uses his stick to grab one of the control collars. It is was Ian's pen! Perhaps if they can find some way to realign the force that seems to have control over gold...

Back in the cage, the three wait impatiently for Prapillus to make its move. Finally, it does, throwing a rock and distracting the Zarbi, which leaves the larvae gun to investigate. Without the Zarbi to control it, the larvae is useless. The Menoptra and Barbara rush out and destroy the larvae and kill the Zarbi! Hlynia begins to lead them up to the plateau, where they can intercept and warn the spearhead.

In the Carsenome, the Doctor has managed to attach the control collar to the astral map, using the TARDIS force to counteract the force controlling the gold. But when he turns it on, there is a small explosion in the map! The tube descends and the Animus tells the Doctor his time is up. As he continues to delay, he takes the recorder he'd earlier used to record the Menoptra broadcast out of his pocket and fiddles with it. When the Animus demands to know what it is, the Doctor tries to pass it off as a broken circuit from the map...but suddenly the recording begins to play! The Animus now knows both where the spearhead will land and that the Doctor had been lying to it for some time. The tube raises and a Zarbi pushes the Doctor next to Vicki, who has a control collar around her neck. The creature puts one around the Doctor's neck too...

The Menoptra and Barbara are climbing the plateau when Prapillus tells them the Zarbi have the whole area surrounded! Hrostar rounds on Barbara--the Doctor must have betrayed them!

Underground, the Optra, led by Hetra and Nemini, declare Vrestin and Ian guilty of invading their domain and sentence them to death! Ian argues that they will be killing one of their own, but Hetra calls the "above ground" a place of evil and death. Vrestin now speaks up, trying to remind the Optra of what they are--Menoptra who have become stunted and deformed due to their time underground. The world above belongs to them and Vrestin and its kind have come to set them free! The Optra react with shock--the Menoptra are their gods! Gods? says Vrestin. No, kinsman! And it unfurls its wings as the Optra look on in awe.

On the plateau, the spearhead arrives, just in time for Hrostar to warn them. But their leader, Hilio, tells Hrostar that they are committed, they cannot retreat. Just then, the Zarbi attack and there is a ferocious battle! The Zarbi clearly have the upper hand as Barbara and her wingless friends run for the Crater's edge. They fight off a lone Zarbi as Hilio lands next to them. There is nowhere to run--the Zarbi have their position surrounded....


Ketina here,

I think reviews for episodes like this one tend to work better when the others just dictate the discussion to me. So much is lost as I (and likely the Historian) try to remember what was said. Tonight the gang had very strong opinions about the episode during our initial discussion.

Spoo enjoyed the fights and costumes, and thought things worked really well, considering the actors limited mobility. Ronelyn thought they continued to reach too far with the story. Schmallturm seemed to enjoy all it very much. As for me... Well, let's just say I found more silly than anything else. Actually, let's hand just this to back peanut gallery for a bit... hey guys?

Everyone: Menoptra.. doo doo doodoodoo!

Historian: I think it's awesome. Full stop, this story is awesome.

Ronelyn: Samurai butterflies

Spoo: Moths

Everyone: Whatever...

H: Would you care to expand on that?

R: Their helmets looked like Samurai armor. And yeah, I kinda felt like the whole episode sort of seemed like a German 1960's black and white version of the Teletubbies.

H: Why German?

R: East European? It got weird. With the killer Nunu (referring to the vacuum cleaner thing from the Teletubbies) zooming across the landscape going peetewee peetewee. (i.e. ray gun noises) I didn't hate the show, I'm still watching it quite happily. It just felt odd.

H: What did you think, Spoo?


H: Care to elaborate?

S: The flying effects were, once again, excellent. Each race had their own distinct movement and speech that was consistent. When the Zarbi were described as cattle something clicked and it made the costumes totally work. It makes their movements no longer awkward but appropriate. The fights worked really well.

H: They were ferocious.

S: Bug squashing...

H: The killing of the larva gun was really good.

Sc: the nunu...

S: The speech pattern for the Optra seemed borderline offensive, like Japanese in 1950's war movie, but once we settled into it, I saw where they were going with it and it totally worked.

H: I saw it less offensive and more like "Me Tarzan, you Jane" primitive. They were trying to do some weird stuff with the voice.

S: But there wasn't a JarJar Binks offensiveness from it.

Schmallturm: My take on it was that the costumes grew on me. I stopped seeing them as guys in costumes and more like aliens who looked like guys in costumes. The Zarbi I saw more like alien ant costumes than guys in ant costumes, if you see what I mean.

H: I was really impressed with the model work. I thought the models worked well with the sets.

S: And they worked well with the flying scenes this week.

Sc: Yeah, I liked the flying scenes.

H: I thought all around this was an impressive production, given their overall limits.

S: And, 25 minutes of that feels relentless and breathless because it was such a really big fight scene.

H: Whereas after 2 full hours (the length of an "omnibus" version of the story) you'd be all ahhhh, I can't take any more of this.

S: You mentioned before that the Doctor was also pushed to the limits.

Sc: Hoisted by his own petard

H: Or maybe he's up to something?

R: "It's fine, none of them know I can't play the lute."

H: He pulled that off! The transcript implies that the Doctor did not accidentally turn the recorder on but possibly that the Animus turned it on instead. But it's not at all clear.

K: The Doctor certainly appeared surprised by it turning on.

H: And didn't seem to be able to turn it off. The jig is up! Ian was good, Barbara was good, the Doctor was good, Vicki was there.

R: I think she was operating under the acting school of the famous German director of Werner Hertzog, who believed in hypnotizing his actors to get the best performance out of them.

Sc: That's just that one movie. His other movies were quite good.

H: Or it could be that she just didn't have much to do this week, and didn't do much with it.

Ronelyn: While mostly joking, all of that is true, see IMDB "Heart of Glass"

Ketina: Okay... And now they all head off back to their Halo game. Thanks for the feedback guys!

As for me... add a lot of Silly:
- Vicki's glazed look while she's trapped by the control collar.
- Hopping Optra (the Historian liked this. Me, not so much)
- The Crater of Noodles (okay, I will explain this. Said crator was filled with this seaweed like plant that Barbara and the de-winged Minoptra were dragging into this dark acid stream thing. Like black noodles thrown into dirty soup. So Ronelyn came up with the Crater of Noodles.)

And some good:
- In addition what's already been stated above, I really liked the destruction of the bug gun thing. The wingless Menoptras pick it up, and while it's clear they just snatch the costume off the actor and squash it against a wall, it's done quite well. You can't see the actor, the costume convincingly wiggles as it's carried, and the squashing was so much like what you'd do to a big huge bug, should you come across one and be strong and brave enough to lift it up and squash it against a wall. It was cool, and hey, the Historian agrees with me, and we know how often that happens. :)

1 scream! Barbara's justified scream, as she's knocked down by a Zarbi during the mega battle on the plateau.

And... until next week!


And, as Ketina's hands throb from too much typing and the others play their "Halo" game, I will bid you adieu. One note before I go: for ease of both discussion and memory, we are considering going to a discussion-only mode for reviews, rather than our old "Ketina and I write paragraphs of text that covered what people said" format. Any thoughts? Concerns? Will we lose readers because of possible silliness? Let us know!

Until next week, I remain



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