Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and, making his first ever Project appearance, MiniSpoo! (And, at six years old, MiniSpoo is the only one of us anywhere near the original target age for the show!) As with other episodes of this story, this was a weird one. Let's get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 27 February 1965. A hollow tube lowers from the ceiling and settles over the Doctor's head. "Why do you come now?" a voice intones. Vicki and Ian look on, but are unable to hear the Doctor's conversation with the strange voice. It does not believe that the TARDIS crew comes in peace, believing they are part of the Menoptra invasion fleet. It threatens to show the Doctor what the fate of all "their ships" will be. The tube retreats back into the ceiling and the Zarbi mass close to the TARDIS. A gun appears from within the room's wall and fires at the ship...which deflects the bolt! Vicki, it seems, hit exactly the right combination of instruments when she fell against the panel--the TARDIS power has been restored! If only Barbara were there, the travellers would be able to escape...
Outside, the Menoptra Vrestin has arrived at the cliff overlooking the organic structure. Hearing Zarbi moving up behind it, the moth-like creature takes off, flying away.
Back inside, the Voice reminds the Doctor that even if his ship is impervious to its weapons, he is not. It now believes he and his friends are not of the Menoptra. The Doctor asks where Barbara is and the Voice says she has been taken to the Crater of Needles, "beyond my great web." The Doctor, playing for time, agrees to use the astral map aboard the TARDIS to help locate the Menoptra fleet. He and Ian move to enter the TARDIS to retrieve it, but the Zarbi hold Vicki back as a hostage.
As a Zarbi enters the organic structure, Vrestin moves out of hiding. It has found the entrance.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor and Ian get used to a normal atmosphere again and the Doctor gives Ian a salve for the stings on his face. He also gives Ian some pills to help with breathing in Vortis' atmosphere, telling Ian to give them to Barbara when he finds her. The Doctor plans to trick the Voice, giving Ian a chance to get away to this "Crater of Needles" to find their friend. The two begin to wheel the astral map device out of the TARDIS; before Ian can unplug it, the Doctor stops him. It must never be unplugged or it would break the Time Dimensional Link!
The Doctor pretends to activate the device and, when it "fails," demands to speak to the Voice. He tells it that its force is blocking his instruments. It must stop all emanations in this area or his equipment will not function. Reluctantly, it agrees. The Zarbi appear to go to sleep and Ian takes the opportunity to make a break for it! The Doctor attempts to cheer Vicki up, assuring her that Ian will be back, but his face shows that he has his own doubts.
Ian makes his way through the structure, narrowly avoiding Zarbi.
The Doctor, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the lack of surveillance and actually activates the map. He locates the Menoptra fleet and manages to work out that at least part of it will be landing near the Crater of Needles.
Ian is still trying to find a way out. He tries to sneak past a Zarbi, but fails and the two grapple! Ian manages to knock the Zarbi down, but his cover is blown and an alarm sounds! He runs into a corridor, only to discover a dead end as a door slams shut in front of him! Meanwhile, the Doctor and Vicki hear the alarm and fear the worst. And, indeed, the wall behind Ian has shut as well! Outside, Zarbi and a larvae gun gather. The larvae gun fires--and destroys both walls as Ian manages to duck aside somehow. The way outside is now clear and Ian runs for it, followed by the Zarbi and the larvae gun. As he runs, Vrestin lands behind them and the two run off together.
Inside, the Voice confronts the Doctor about Ian's escape. He sidesteps its questions as well as its threats to kill him. After all, if the Doctor dies, so does the information he could gather that the Voice wants...outside, Vicki has had one of the gold collars put around her neck, but the Doctor makes a Zarbi remove it. She comes out of it and the Doctor suggests they try to look busy around the map, although he's not so sure about how much information he actually wants to tell the voice. He sends Vicki into the TARDIS to retrieve a red box...but when she returns, he angrily tells her he said white box, not red. Inside the red box is a specimen the Doctor had previously collected, a spider. Vicki discovers that the Zarbi seem to be afraid of it!
Outside, Ian and his new friend Vrestin (who refers to him as "Heron," apparently the only way it can render Ian's name) rest. Vrestin asks Ian if he still plans to go to the Crater of Needles to rescue "friend Harbara" and tells him that many of its comrades are slaves there, having had their wings torn off so that cannot escape. Vrestin tells Ian that the Menoptra once lived on Vortis in harmony with the then non-sentient Zarbi. But a dark power, the Animus, arrived and began to control the ant-like creatures. It began to grow a structure, the Carcenome, which began to spread everywhere. the Menoptra, having no weapons to protect themselves against the now hostile Zarbi, fled to one of the new moons that had appeared in the sky at the same time the Animus arrived. They are now returning, trying to retake their planet before the Carsenome can grow and encircle it. They may not have the strength, but they must try. Vrestin tells Ian that, of the three who came to prepare the way for the invasion, one was killed and the other has been taken to the Crater. Ian asks Vrestin to come with him; it knows the country and together they might be able to free both Barbara and the Menoptra captive there. His new friend agrees and they begin to make their way. They reach a cliff and Ian asks how long it will take them to get there. Vrestin, after ascertaining that its new friend cannot fly says two hours. Just then, a party of Zarbi arrive! The two friends run. Ian finds a crack in the cliff and tells Vrestin to get inside. It does, but the ground beneath begins to give way! Ian reaches in to try and pull Vrestin out, but is pulled in instead and the roof and floor of the cleft collapse! As the Zarbi arrive, there is no sign of either Vrestin or Ian....
The weirdness continues...but it works, continuing to evoke an essentially alien atmosphere and situation. We enjoyed it quite a lot, which is pretty gratifying to me, as I worried that this story would be a bit too much for some members of the Project. But even Schmallturm, who missed last week's episode, really got into the story this week. And as for our six year old viewer, MiniSpoo, well...he sat, eyes wide, absolutely riveted, although the Zarbi noise did bother him a little. He put his fingers in his ears, but he definitely couldn't look away! It was really wonderful for this old, slightly jaded Doctor Who fan to see, honestly. Hopefully, Spoo will be able to bring him again next week!
To a certain extent, this was a "from here to there" episode. A lot happened, but not all that much...actually happened. Essentially, we got a bit of back story and Ian escaped. So why did we enjoy it so much? Well, there were a lot of little bits that made it fun: the Doctor's amazing competence at manipulating the Animus was just fun to watch. Vrestin in flight was amazingly good looking. The Carsenome sets were fantastic, as well as simple. Move a few panels and you get a room. Move them again and you get a corridor and it still looks good.
Of course, there were a few flubs as well, mainly stemming from the completely inflexible Zarbi costumes. Apparently, they were not exactly as ordered and created problems that cost a lot of studio time--thus, the need to keep the shot that includes a Zarbi running into the camera in the final edit.
All in all, though, a pretty nice middle-of-the-story episode. Jacqueline Hill, who was on vacation, was missed, but it only means we'll enjoy seeing her return next week.
That's all for me, except a reminder to everyone in the Project (and everyone else for that matter) to feel free to add any comments you'd like. Until next week, I remain
This week we had lots of bugs running around, headache inducing chirping, the Doctor generally being too clever for his own good, and NO BARBARA! *despair!*
The Good: The sets were very fun, and while it was apparent the characters likely reran down the same hallway over and over (as so often happens in early Doctor Who episodes), they did a very good job at making it look like different hallways. Much of the sets pieces appeared to be modular. I also loved the flying moth woman - great job on the effect, particularly since it could have easily come across terribly.
I loved Ian's scene with the moth lady while they were resting and Ian was uncovering the plot. The moth lady (Vrestin, apparently) had this really cool way of speaking. "Heron" for Ian and "Harbra" for Barbara, was neat.
The Silly: Ian's fight with the Zarbi. Yeah, it did have some cool bits where Ian just grabs the thing and wrestles it to the ground, but it was still pretty silly seeing him grab giant bug around the abdomen.
And the ultimate silly moment was, of course, when the Zarbi smacked right into the camera. Okay, sure, they were on a short budget, but is it really that difficult to edit stuff?
Lots and lots of huge running bugs. Okay, really the same four huge running bugs over and over again. Giant ants with legs!
The Bad: I was rather confused by Ian's escape. So Ian gets caught in a trap after the fight with Zarbi - that's fine. Then other Zarbi and gun bug show up. Gun bug shoots at the area where Ian is trapped, and the wall explodes behind Ian? If both the wall in front of him and behind him were going to blow up, how come Ian was unharmed?
I also missed the part where Ian makes friends with / gets rescued by moth lady. She runs by as he's escaping, and then they're just together and she seems to know who he is. What happened there, huh?
And now, as Spoo makes Pink Panther jokes in the background, I seem to have run out of things to say. So, until next week!
NEXT WEEK: "CRATER OF NEEDLES"