005 – The Dead Planet

In which the travelers arrive in a petrified forest, Susan fails at gardening, and The Doctor proves to be a conniving git.

I'm still not sure I buy that magnetic field stuff.

Despite escaping Za and his tribe, The Doctor and his companions are no closer to 1960s Earth.  They have arrived in a petrified forest.  This fact even intrigues Ian enough for him to forget that he has been abducted.  The fascination soon turns to horror as Barbara discovers a metallic creature.  It is dead, presumably killed by whatever killed the trees in the forest.  But with the realization that the creature is naturally made from metal comes the discovery that they are not on Earth.  Ian and Barbara are now far from home with no apparent hope to return.  They are forced to acknowledge that they need The Doctor because he is the only one who can operate The TARDIS.  Thus, when Ian sees a city in the distance and The Doctor wants to investigate, Barbara protests.  We can see that Ian is conflicted, being of a scientific mind like The Doctor, he too wants to investigate the city, but I believe he is much more eager to get Barbara home.  The Doctor is a bit irritated at being told he cannot have his way.

The Doctor had assumed the planet was dead, killed by whatever force killed the forest, but Susan comes to disagree.  She stopped to pick a petrified flower and felt a hand on her shoulder.  This gives her ample opportunity to panic and scream.  And she crushes the flower.

In the end, The Doctor gets his wishes and the party is forced to explore the city.  After an aborted attempt to leave the planet, The TARDIS malfunctions and The Doctor discovers the fluid link is dry and the must, regrettably, go to the city in search of mercury to refill it.  The TARDIS is conveniently out of mercury.  William Hartnell plays this wonderfully, as there is no doubt that The Doctor is manipulating the situation, and it would seem that Ian suspects this, but goes along with the charade out of necessity.

As we approach the episode cliffhanger, our heroes split-up, ensuring that Barbara can be amply separated from the rest of the group and thus be menaced by a plunger-bearing creature just off camera.

There are some great moments between Ian and Barbara in this episode as they discuss their predicament.  Barbara even confesses that she sometimes wishes The Doctor would get some sort of come-uppance to temper his arrogance.  Ian particularly enjoys goading The Doctor by down-playing the wonders of The TARDIS.  This is a crew that is still not comfortable with one another and still doesn’t trust one another.  Susan is really the glue that holds this team together, which is a shame that her character is still a bit weak.

This episodes builds some great tension as we see Barbara explore the city.  All the corridors look the same, so when doors begin to slide shut behind her, we know she is in danger.  She is herded toward an elevator, which takes her deeper into the city.  This isn’t automated.  There is an intelligence behind this.  To what end is it capturing Barbara?


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