Doctor Who Weekly #3 – The Forest of Fear

Week three of our One Episode At A Time Once A Week run-through of Hartnell Year One, and we’re back in that cave with all those skulls…

The Forest of Fear

It’s strange how one minute the Doctor is all doom and gloom, the next he’s inspiring the others not to give up hope. Speaking of which, they’re all clearly so traumatised by their ordeal that none of them have spotted the escape route that was there all the time. If Old Mother can push aside a few strategically placed twigs and get in, surely they could have done the same and got out?

I’m not sure that Za should be leader – seems to me that Hur is the one doing all the thinking, maybe they should put her in charge! But then again, she’s as daft as he is trying to move the Great Stone when they both know there’s a back way in! Handy that… and there’s another couple of bloopers as the travellers escape from the cave, which sounds suspiciously like it’s made from polystyrene and not stone at all…

Bloody Barbara gets them into all sorts of trouble doesn’t she! It was her curiosity that got her and Ian into this mess and now she gets a touch of the Susans and her hysteria gives them away to Za and Hur. And then she gets them captured again just because she gets all maternal over a bloody caveman. Honestly!

The most contentious part of the ep, where it looks like the Doctor is going to kill Za so they can get away, isn’t quite as clear cut as you think. The Doctor bends down and picks up Za’s stone knife and maybe thinks about it but as a dramatic action it doesn’t really make sense Can you imagine how the others would react if he had tried it? That stone knife doesn’t come to much of a point so the Doctor has two options, slash open Za’s jugular or hack at his chest, aiming for his heart. Either way it’ll be a messy business and there will be four other people trying to stop him. I can understand why Anthony Coburn put it in – the Doctor is still meant to be the anti-hero, the mysterious untrustworthy time traveller [and his weird, alien sidekick] whose selfishness puts our loveable heroes Ian and Babs in danger every week – but it certainly seems like the Doctor hasn’t fully thought this through.

Personally I think Ian grabs his hand before the Doctor has had time to realise what a daft idea it is and I don’t think for a moment, if Ian hadn’t grabbed him, that he would have gone through with it. I think we can put that one down to fear as its still early days for the Doctor in his travels, and the whole point is the humanising effect Ian & Babs have on him. Interesting that other writers will pick up on Babs being the one that the Doctor takes a shine to, she will undoubtedly be more of an influence on him than any of the others as time goes on…

I’m left with the impression, that for all this is simply padding and a runaround before the resolution of the plot to enable us to learn a bit more about the characters, it’s still quite engaging.I think that’s down to watching them one at a time and a week apart, the way they were meant to be seen. Trying to watch all four eps the minute you get the DVD home isn’t always the best way to enjoy these stories and I’m already coming to the conclusion that recreating the original viewing pattern is a good idea and one I’d recommend you try for yourself.

next episode firemaker

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Filed under An Unearthly Child, Doctor Who Weekly

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