Friday, March 27, 2009

A4 - The Firemaker

And so we enter the final episode of the initial story, in which our heroes are captured (again), Ian manages to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together (even though it looks like he's holding them about a foot apart from one another), a (smashed) skull joins the ranks in the Cave of Skulls, caveman are fooled by some skulls on sticks, and the TARDIS makes an ill advised journey to another planet.

After the thrills of the previous episode, this one has sort of an anticlimactic feel about it. The highlight is a thoroughly graphic and gruesome fight scene (that is exactly quite well shot and acted) that the whole story has been leading towards, which ends with some fairly bold shots of Kal screaming and Za bringing down a boulder on his head. Again, not for the kiddies. I think these scenes would have all ended up on an Australian censor's cutting room floor back in the day.

Overall, I think the story is a lot better than its reputation lends it. The very last shot of the episode (of the TARDIS's radiation meter going haywire) still gives me chills - does the TARDIS crew know what they're getting themselves into? Do they realize that their lives (and, indeed, the life of the show) are about to change forever?


Anonymous said...

I agree--much better than its reputation suggests. Still a major fall-off after "An Unearthly Child," but almost anything would be.

Anonymous said...

I really, really like The Tribe of Gum, and am saddened that it has ended up with the reputation of "the three episodes we have to sit through while we're waiting for the Daleks to show up". I think the writing for the cavemen is really clever, in the sense that a genuine effort is made to show their halting, illogical, primitive thought processes in action. I'm pretty sure that in most future eras of Who the cavemen would just have 21st century motivations dressed up in axes and animal skins, but here they come across as more alien than many of the aliens we'll see later this season!

James said...

Following on with the theme from the last episode I think we have a remarkably telling scene with the Doctor and the cavemen in which he talks them into driving out Kal from the Tribe. The way he speaks and the language he uses are clearly aimed at those he is addressing and he fits in. Is the way he speaks to the cavemen at their level any different than the way he speaks to the School Teachers toning things down so that they understand? I have actually quite enjoyed rewatching this first story. I think that the last three episodes may have worked better as a two parter but that aside it is well put together and well acted by all involved. The fight scene in particular from this episode is much better acted than some of those which are to come. I know that many people feel that the story would have been better if after leaving 1963 the TARDIS had landed on Skaro and while I may agree to a certain extent this does act as a good introduction to our characters. Depsite knowing how it was going to end it still feels a little strange ending a story on a cliffhanger but I suppose this is the pattern for the begining of the show at least

Anonymous said...

I felt quite sad for the Tribe, actually. I am not at all certain they are better off after the Doctor and company's visit than they were before. I don't get the sense that Za learned Ian's lesson about the whole tribe being stronger than any individual. As long as fire remains in the leader’s hands alone … unless and until Za learns to share the gift given to him … the tribes of that world will be doomed to mistrusting, betraying, fighting, and murdering each other. A very grim ending for the first story, especially for a series that, overall, would come to be known for optimism and hope ("that sensation that lives alongside fear," as the Doctor said last episode -- fantastic line!)

Stephen said...

Well, this is a satisfying conclusion to the story. At last we see the Doctor and the schoolteachers forming a working relationship in trying to escape, and succeeding, instead of another bitter argument. The Doctor becomes instantly more likable when he starts to play the detective/law-enforcer, deciphering who really killed the name-less old woman, by examining blood on a knife (not the best pathological test, but it works for the Tribe I suppose). He then manages to get Zs to realise the potential of the whole tribe, not just himself as potential leader. Of course, this culminates in the first dramatic fight scene of the series, which, despite being graphic, was toned down for the actual broadcast. The eventual get-away is fast-paced and when they get back to the TARDIS you know they'll be safe, that is until a short while later when it looks as if they are in for some radiation danger, when they land somewhere new...To be continued.

As the first story, these 4 episodes hold out, and manage to keep the interest up for the next episode, which is a good thing as the arrival of the Daleks in the next story boosted the show's ratings, and ensured its survival for years to come.

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