Friday, October 15, 2010

"Trap of Steel"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and Photobug. This week, we have another reconstructed episode thanks to the fine folks at Loose Cannon Productions. Let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 18 September 1965. The Doctor says that it is imperative that they leave at once--the Rills were right about the planet exploding, but were wrong about how long they have. Not fourteen dawns, but two! Tomorrow is the last dawn this planet will see...

Steven says that they have to get Vicki back--but they see a Chumbly on the scanner. It has some kind of small black device, which it drops in front of the TARDIS door. As the Doctor and Steven watch, the Chumbly takes two wires in its claws and touches them together. There is an EXPLOSION and the TARDIS rocks, throwing the Doctor and Steven to the floor. As they begin to get up, there is another explosion which throws them down again. After a moment, all is still and the two manage to get to their feet. They see on the scanner that the Chumbly has moved forward to investigate the possible damage. The Doctor assures Steven that it would take much more than those explosions to do any damage to the ship. After seeing that its explosions did nothing, the Chumbly moves off. Reflecting that they only have two dawns, the Doctor and Steven leave the ship.

On the Drahvin ship, Maaga offers Vicki food, which appears to be a plate of leaves. Vicki declines. She is worried about her friends; they have been gone nearly two hours. Maaga tells her they will be back, if only out of concern for her. Vicki says that's obviously why she's being kept there and Maaga replies that Vicki is safe in the ship. Vicki laughs bitterly at this. Maaga tells her that if the Doctor and Steven don't come back soon, they will go look. She cannot let Vicki out alone to search in case Vicki meets her friends and they leave in their ship, abandoning the Drahvin.

The Doctor and Steven arrive at the Drahvin spaceship. Before they go inside, they discuss how antiquated and low-tech the ship looks. The Doctor takes a screwdriver out of his pocket and scratches the hull, discovering that the metal is of very inferior quality. The two enter the ship.

Inside, the two have a joyful reunion with Vicki. Steven tells Vicki they were held up by a Chumbly who (the Doctor adds) tried to blow up the TARDIS. When Maaga asks if they succeeded, the Doctor laughs and says his ship is superior to the shoddy ship they are now in! "It served its purpose," Maaga says. At prompting from Maaga, the Doctor confirms that the Rills are correct: the planet will explode. He confirms that it will destroy itself in fourteen dawns--and stops Steven from saying anything. Maaga asks the Doctor to help the Drahvins capture the Rill ship. The Doctor, Steven and Vicki quite rationally ask why the Drahvins and the Rills cannot escape together, but Maaga reacts with disgust. The Rills are murderers, she says, and evil! You only have to look at them to know that they are evil! The Doctor responds that he has only Maaga's word for all of that and that neither he nor his companions will kill. He again suggests that the two species leave together, but Maaga says it is impossible. Steven asks if the Drahvins had tried to be friendly, Vicki suggests that Maaga wants the Rills to be enemies. The situation, Maaga says, was forced on them, and denies that it could have been caused by a mistake or misunderstanding. The Doctor again declares he will not help the Drahvins. Maaga draws her gun and threatens the Doctor. Steven leaps for the gun and begins to struggle with her! Just then, the three Drahvin soldiers return from patrol, allowing Maaga to regain the upper hand. The Doctor concedes that, given the Drahvin's superior numbers and firepower, he has no choice but to help them. Thanks to a slip by the Doctor and Steven, Maaga becomes suspicious about how much time they have. After she threatens to kill Vicki, the Doctor admits that they have only two dawns, not fourteen. Maaga is shocked. She points out the window towards where the Rill spaceship is located and tells the Doctor he must capture it. Steven says that it might not be ready; if it were, wouldn't the Rills have left already? Maaga replies that if it is not ready, the Doctor can cope with that. She also says they will keep Vicki as a hostage, but Steven demands they hold him instead. As the Doctor and Vicki leave, Maaga tells Steven that either they will succeed or everyone will die together...

Outside the ship, the Doctor starts to muse about the idea of night on a planet with three suns. He guesses that nights would last about two hours. Then he looks at the Drahvin ship and wonders why, if the Chumblies have such a powerful ray--remembering the destruction of the rose bush--they do not simply destroy the Drahvin spaceship. They could easily; its metal couldn't withstand any real firepower. Vicki suggests they must not even have tried to fire on the ship. Then she points out that they don't have much time and the two leave.

On the Drahvin ship, Steven discovers that the weapons of the Drahvin soldiers are non-functional, just for show. After rejecting more leaves for food--and being told that Maaga gets special "leader" food--he almost manages to talk one of the Drahvin soldiers into taking Maaga's gun (which is functional) to go out and hunt the Chumblies. In reality, of course, he simply wants to get it away from Maaga. Before the soldier can act--or fully grasp what Steven is saying--Maaga interrupts them. She realizes exactly what Steven has been trying to do and dismisses the soldier. When they are alone, she suggests that Steven could take the Drahvin to the TARDIS and they could all escape together. Once they leave the planet, Steven could be free! He laughs at the offer. Even if he believed that Maaga wouldn't kill him once they'd left the planet, he can't operate the ship. Only the Doctor can, he says, and asks why Maaga didn't try to bargain with the old man. Perhaps she thought Steven was less clever? Maaga threatens to make Steven help, but he replied that he can't be threatened into doing the impossible. He goes over to a bench and lies down, appearing to go to sleep. One of the soldiers goes up to Maaga and asks why they do not simply kill him now and the leader responds that she will let the soldier kill him when she is "good and ready."

The Doctor and Vicki crouch behind a ridge, seeing Chumblies patrolling beneath them. While the Doctor wonders what powers them, Vicki wonders how they'll get past them. The Doctor suggests that they must "observe, note, collate, and then conclude. After that, perhaps we can act, hmm!" Vicki replies that they don't have much time to do all that! A Chumbly moves past, fairly close to them...and Vicki gets an idea. As it moves past, she picks up a rock and throws it right behind the moving machine, which does not react at all. The Doctor is agahst, but Vicki responds that she took no risk, she "I noted, observed, collated, concluded... and then I threw the rock!" And, by doing so, she proved that the Chumblies can't hear/sense anything directly behind them. Taking advantage of this, the Doctor and Vicki follow closely behind the Chumbly towards the Rill ship.

Back on the ship, Steven still appears to be asleep on the bench under a blanket. Maaga has her soldiers charge their weapons to full. Soon, Maaga says, they will break into the Rills' ship and destroy them...

The Doctor and Vicki arrive outside what seems to be a complex. There is a building made of triangular-shaped panels connected to some kind of black sphere. Beside them is what seems to be some kind of drill rig. What could they be drilling for? The two go on to try to find out! Avoiding the Chumblies, they come across some machinery that Vicki things could be an air purifier. The Doctor wonders if it could be used to convert air into something else. He is delighted; the Rills appear to be even more advanced technologically than he had thought. Seeing no Chumblies, the two enter the building. Seeing a small side-corridor, they speculate that it must have been made for the Chumblies. Vicki, logically, suggests that the larger corridor they are in must have been made for Rills. The Doctor, sniffing, asks if she can smell something in the air. Vicki can, but can't identify it. They continue on, the Doctor delighted with everything he sees. Vicki notes that the smell is growing stronger...and the two hide from some Chumblies. They come to a black wall with a small window in it, which the Doctor realizes is the side of the actual Rill ship. The Doctor uses his screwdriver and tests the metal, which does not scratch. Vicki has also identified what the smell is--ammonia. They look around and decide they must be in some kind of repair shop for Chumblies. They find a deactivated one and the Doctor taps it with his cane. It reactivates for a moment, then shuts down again. The Doctor laughs. Suddenly, something appears at the spaceship window--a hideous creature with huge eyes and no other features stares at them! Vicki screams....


Ketina's Transcripts/Paraphrases (with some editing by the Historian)

H: Historian
K: Ketina
R: Ronelyn
Sc: Schmallturm
S: Spoo
P: Photobug

K: The yurt vs. the green house.
Sc: They fly threw space in a yurt living on fine herbs. [Note: The "yurt" comparison is kind of an inside joke. Apologies!--H]
S: I swear I saw Bea Arthur in the background on one of the stills.
H: A lot of the stills and the sets the recon people had to make from composites. I like the bits where they had to film stuff, like the hand throwing the rock and the scratching screwdriver. There was a still a lot of static shots, but they couldn't really do much about that.
S: Hemmed in by Chumblies... it's hard to get any sense of menace from them.
H: I think that's intentional.
P: Those that appear not smart and not necessarily not smart.
H: Explain?
P: Those acting dumb not necessarily are. The Chumblies seem dumb at first, and then we learn they're pretty smart.
H: Unlike the Drahvins.
P: No, they really are stupid.
Sc: This episode was really silly. This story has a Roger Corman feel too it, and it's just getting goofier.
S: And the reconstruction doesn't help. When you get to just describing things, it's...
H: If there were actual telesnaps, instead of the recon pictures they had to make, it probably would have looked better than we think it did. Maybe. Possibly. [I think I was saying it probably would have worked better if we could actually see the original episode or if we had the actual pictures rather than composites or redrawn sets, but I'm not sure....--H]
S: But it was still pretty good.
H: You could still tell from this episode that it was supposed to be the Doctor, Vicki, and Barbara. They knew William Russell was leaving, but they thought, at first, that Jackie Hill was going to stay. And you could really tell many of the lines said by Steven were meant for Barbara.
K: Like what line?
H: For example, when Steven is trying to manipulate the Drahvin sentry, it's clearly something Barbara would have done. When Maaga was willing to negotiate with Steven instead of the Doctor, because Barbara, as a senior female figure would have made more sense for the Drahvins to negotiate with. We saw last week how they feel about men.
P: In that particular scene, Steven volunteers to be a prisoner, and I'm thinking why?
H: Because he didn't want Vicki to be alone again.
K: But he's putting Vicki in danger by sending her.
H: Or he's putting her with the Doctor, because neither trust the Drahvin. Or he thinks he's good enough to overpower the Drahvin.
S: Definitely something Barbara would do.
H: And it led to one of my favorite scenes between Vicki and Doctor.
P: With the rock?
H: Yes. Not as clear in the recon. She uses the Doctor's own words against him. "And then I throw the rock!"
S: And then, epic "Billy Fluff" that went on for a solid 4 seconds.
P: So, the doctor left it at 14 dawns. He was setting them up.
H: He was trying to, and then Maaga saw through it. The Doctor was trying to use the only thing he had against the Drahvin. But the fact that Maaga was able to see through it, and threatened Vicki with that, it was clear that Maaga was a little smart.
P: The Doctor says "we don't owe you anything." That's the first case I've seen how the Doctor's been willfully not helpful.
H: I liked how the Drahvin were technologically backwards, and the Rill were technologically advanced.
P: That might have been like when the Romans were unable to invent steam power, because he had all the slaves. The Drahvin might not have to make advanced machinery because she had all the clones. [As a historical note, I've seen this theory, but I'm not sure I buy it, as the Romans did have technical advancements...but I digress...--H]
H: They have small elite, and then all these dumb clones.
Sc: They have fine fine space herbs on their space yurt.
K: So, the Rill "space ship" didn't look like a space ship at all to me.
R: Yeah, it looked kind of like a green house.
P: They said that they were drilling and smelled methane. [Note: ammonia. Photobug corrected himself after saying this. --H] Were they gathering fuel?
H: But we only see the Chumblies moving around outside the ship. In the ship we see the aliens. Maybe it's atmosphere.
P: Like terraforming?
H: It explains why they need the Chumblies.
Sc: Because the Rill can't breathe air.
S: The Chumblies have all sorts of specialities.
R: "This one lets me breathe under water."
P: The baby Chumbly was nice. Was it actually smaller?
H: I'm not sure, but I think it was meant to be.
P: Maybe it has a unique purpose.
K: Maybe it was there to sell toys because it was cute. Doctor Who's just starting the merchandising?
H: Dalek Mania was happening, so maybe.
P: So, how about the Chumbly trying to blow up the TARDIS?
H: Yeah, holding the two detonating wires!
R: in Crazy Harry the Muppet's voice "Did somebody say Time and Relative Dimension in Space?" boom!
S: Boombas!
H: And the Doctor says it would take a lot more to damage the TARDIS.
P: So, it's implied that neither the Drahvin or Rill are suppose to be here. The Drahvin's goal is to take the Rill ship rather than to repair their own. And the second thing is that she's been blinded to some things... the Rill clearly could have blown up the Drahvin ship. From our perspective, it appears that the Rill are trying to warn and help the Drahvin. THis seems to be a story about pride. Pride killing you in the literal sense.
H: I don't think it's just pride. We finally see a Rill, so we can understand why the Drahvin are repulsed by them. But it's true that we only have the Drahvin's word as to what the Rill did.
S: They're marooned on the same planet and their supposed to be relying on each other. It's "Chumbly Mine" [A joking reference to the movie/story "Enemy Mine."--Ketina]
K: Okay, you guys are suggesting that the Rill are trying to help the Drahvin, right?
P: Yep.
H: That certainly seems to be where things are leading. But it's possible the Drahvin are right and it is a trap. We just don't know.
K: Because if the Rill are trying to help, why would the Chumblies try blowing up the TARDIS.
H: THe Doctor thought they were trying to get in and they were investigating.
K: By blowing it up?
R: They've been ramping up what they've been using to get it.
H: By experimenting. We'll likely learn more next week now that we've seen a Rill.
R: "We figured you couldn't hear us, so we knocked a LOT harder."
P: So, what year is this?
H: It aired September, 1965.
P: What's happening in the world at the time to relate to this?
H: I don't think anything particularly does. Doctor Who, this early anyway, didn't tend to reflect specific world events. Not like, say, in the.... digression about seventies Doctor Who, cut to save you all
P: There was some bickering between Steven and the Doctor when deciding about Steven becoming a prisoner.
K: Remember, Steven is saying what would have been Barbara's lines.
H: And Steven seems to have a prickly relationship with the Doctor.
P: Let's supposed the Rill breath ammonia. Could the ship carry oxygen breathing people to rescue them?
H: The Rill are advanced enough that they could build some kind of oxygen based chamber for them to be in.
P: Did they ever discuss how the planet is being destroyed?
H: Nope, It's breaking up. That's all we know.
P: How did the Doctor figure it out?
H: He used his astral map. Technobabble.
K: Ah, the dawn of technobabble.


And that seems to be where we kind of lost steam, discussion-wise. Before we go this week, I wanted to link to a wonderful bit of animation (by Garrett Gilchrist, using his WhoSprites) of my favorite scene in this episode. Check it out!

Until next week, I remain




Spoo said...

If we did an audio podcast, I could have regaled everyone with my great Christopher Lee 'Saruman' impression: "their love of the halfling's leaf has clouded their minds..."

The Historian said...

If we did an audio podcast, we'd have to be a lot more careful about what we said...and you and Schmallturm couldn't sneak out to play Halo before we'd finished.... ;-)