Thursday, March 26, 2009

A3 - The Forest of Fear

Now things are getting going. The nameless Old Woman frees the TARDIS crew so they can flee, and thus not bring fire to the village. Here's my hypothesis - she's a minion of the Master (most probably The Rani herself), sent there to try and stop man's development in a tie-in ploy with the Master's equally low key plot from the The King's Demons. Yup. That's it.

Anyway, the flight through the forest gives us two truly unforgettable scenes. The first is Barbara completely flipping out when she realizes that they're lost in the forest. It's an intense performance from Jacqueline Hill, and Ian's reaction towards Barbara is equally dramatic, forging an instant closer bond between the two characters. That scene also happens away from The Doctor and Susan, further hammering the point home that this is still a crew divided.

The second memorable scene is the now famous knife scene where Ian stops The Doctor from killing an injured Za. Why does The Doctor want Za dead? Because Za's injuries are preventing the TARDIS crew (or, more specifically, Susan) from leaving the scene and escaping via the TARDIS. It's staggering, and it's a testament to how far this new series would go to portray its titular character as an anti-hero. Never again in the history of the show would The Doctor be portrayed so coldly. Even during the eras of the Seventh Doctor, or in the Ninth and Tenth Doctor's eras, when those in charge of the program were trying to show that the Doctor had a darker past did they ever show The Doctor trying to murder someone in cold blood (although I suppose Eccleston came close in Dalek).

This episode shows that Doctor Who was, even as early as its' third episode, a children's program in name and time slot only.


James said...

At first glance the episode appears a fairly straightforward escape captivity, run through the forest, get recaptured story however I think the themes present go much deeper than that. There is clearly an issue here of differing moralities. The cavemens world view compared to that of Ian and Barbara and Ian and Barbaras world view to that of the Doctor. This is highlighted by the Doctors speech to Barbara about the reasonableness of their actions along with the terrific scene in which the Doctor appears to be on the verge of killing Za to allow him to escape. I think it demonstrates that the difference between the Doctor and the school teachers is as great if not greater than that between the school teachers and the cavemen (who are seperated if the title is to be believed by 100,000 years). Watching from the early 21st Century if anything gives yet another perspective that of a viewer from a time different again from the 3 parties, relating most to the school teachers but being set apart from them as well.

While this may have been a show for children at the time it was certainly raising a number of issues about morality and cultural differences which could allow the story to be seen on different levels by the whole family.

Anonymous said...

Hm. I didn't find Ms. Hill's performance as impressive as you did -- I liked her better in the first two episodes, when she was a calm and capable adult just like Ian, and was (relatively) more open than he was to new possibilities. From this point forward, she seems to spend most of her time screaming (something I gather lots of women in Classic Who do).

Stephen said...

This is more like it; before we had any running through corridors, we get a tremendous chase through a very realistic forest (with real life lizards in it.) This episode is undoubtedly a question of morality, something bold for a children's television show in the sixties. The crux of the plot relies on whether the crew of the Ship (as it was called back then) should help the person who had been tracking them down, because he has been injured by a wild animal. The notable difference is that it is the Doctor who seems to want to strike out and kill Za to allow himself (mainly) to return to his Ship, despite him claiming in the first episode that he and Susan come from a more civilized time than that of the 20th Century, let alone 100,000 BC. This marks the Doctor out as an anti-hero more than ever, but luckily for Za, and the Doctor, Ian saves the day. Unfortunately the delay in their escape, although the right thing to do, means they are surrounded once more by the Tribe before they can get to the Ship...To be continued.

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