Thursday, August 20, 2009
Despite the renown that Doctor Who has in the UK for forcing many a scared child to watch the show from the relative safety of behind the sofa, I never felt such trepidation while watching the show. It may have had something to do with the relative late age when I started watching the show religiously (I was twelve at the time). I was fifteen when I first saw Inferno. Despite this, Episode Six of Inferno was, and remains to be, one of the very few times I have felt genuinely frightened while watching Doctor Who.
This episode possibly represents the most harrowing and intense twenty-four and a half minutes in Doctor Who history. The explosions become louder in this episode, implying that the destruction is getting closer and closer to our heroes. Earthquakes throw another element into the mix. Outdoor scenes are shot with a reddish tinge to them to show both the intense heat and the destructive matter from the Earth's core that is now spewing forth out of the ground.
The Doctor has managed to convince Greg and Liz of his situation, and that he can get himself back to the real world to help prevent the death and destruction that's occurring in the parallel world. Petra believes Greg, while Liz's position in the army and the respect that the Brigade Leader has for her prevents him from wavering too far. The Brigade Leader is the most conflicted of all the characters left. A soldier all his life, he has maintained order all his life, and is determined to do so even when faced with a new, and quickly expiring world, of no order. This side of the man's character is evident in the Brigadier, as well, notably in the scene where he dresses down Sgt. Benton for his failure to secure a meeting with Professor Stahlman. The other side of the Brigade Leader is one of sheer panic - not only panic brought on by the end of the world, but panic in the fact that he is now out of his element. He's not a leader, he's an enforcer of leaders.
Liz's transformation is almost heartwarming. Her patronizing of the Brigade Leader during an earthquake convinces any doubters in the audience that she is completely on The Doctor's side now. So, too, is Greg. It was Greg who knocked over Stahlman to prevent him from shooting The Doctor at the start of Episode Five, and he has been the most keen to help The Doctor get back to "his other world". The final fight between Greg and the Brigade Leader is epic, made so by The Doctor's line of "Listen to that! Do you want to end your lives fighting like animals?". The similarity of The Doctor's previous line as the drilling was about to reach Penetration Zero ("Listen to that! It's the sound of the planet screaming out in rage!") is not an accident. The planet was expelling contents not seen since the dawn of time; now, the planet's inhabitants (both Primord and human) were regressing to the same time.
When the main shaft finally explodes, all hell breaks loose (literally). As if things weren't devastating enough, the pictures and sound become even more difficult to watch. Scenes set outside are accompanied by an almost human wail of anguish. Is it the cry of the few remaining humans? Or that of the planet itself? The best scenes (and there are a ton to choose from in this episode) are the last ones set in the hut. The first is when the Brigade Leader, watched over by a picture of his revered Leader of the Republic, makes his ultimatum to The Doctor to try and force him to rescue everyone. Liz's last act of humanity saves the day, allowing The Doctor his chance to escape, and just in time before a massive flow of lava swarms towards the hut. Petra's screaming and crying, running into Greg's arms, says it all - the world has ended.
Cue end credits. Best cliffhanger ever. Best episode ever.
Posted by Steven at 1:44 PM