Written by Bill Strutton
Directed by Richard Martin
The Zarbi capture The TARDIS, Ian, Vicki, and The Doctor. Barbara meets a vanguard of a Menoptera invasion force.
“Apart from rubbing our legs together like some type of grasshopper, I doubt we can get on speaking terms with them.”
So far, watching this episodically makes the story much more digestible. In fact, it is quite intriguing at this point. Yes, Martin seems to be pacing this story slower than it really needs, but that may not have been his choice. Perhaps whatever story fell in this slot needed to be six part. Regardless, this is just slow enough to make me want to take a nap. I didn’t sleep much last night, and it would be nice to have something exciting.
But the story is interesting. At this point, the details are still a bit vague, but there is a lot of slow world-building. The ant creatures are called Zarbi, and we are introduced to a moth-like race called The Menoptera. The costumes in this story are interesting, being at once intensely creative and detailed, and just a bit camp. If you are in the right mood for it, I think it works quite well. It is implied that the chirping from The Zarbi is communication caused by rubbing legs together, something The Doctor and companions are unable to do. The Doctor tries to communicate with hand gestures, which makes him look like he is either coaching a baseball pitcher or commanding a military squad. You have to give William Hartnell credit here. It looks incredibly stupid and no one would blame him if he played it with an incredible amount of cheese. He doesn’t, though. He plays it straight with the utmost look of conviction and frustration on his face. I know it is the fad at the moment to make fun of Hartnell, but the man took this role seriously and was quite effective in it.
The Menoptera are odd. I can’t express how happy I am that this story is in black and white. I believe the lack of color makes these costumes work. The mannerisms, choreographed by Rosalyn De Winter (who also plays Menoptera Vrestin) does convey a type of airy, light people. They are soft spoken and, quite frankly, ineffective warriors.
The Menoptera Barbara meets are a gathering information about The Zarbi, and they aren’t very good at it. They are quickly captured. But we do get a bit of exposition here. It seems they are here to fight The Zarbi, who outnumber them. There is also something called The Animus, which is revealed to be quite powerful. Connecting other clues in this story, the planet (Vortis) has moons, which The Doctor says it never had in the past. These are new. Ian asks if it is possible for a planet to attract satellites, and The Doctor concedes that it is possible if there is a nearby explosion or a very strong force involved. This is The Animus. The Zarbi lair is fascinating, well-realized in the black and white of the episode. There is a really cool effect when The Doctor and Ian first arrive at the lair and we see that part of the wall pulses. This place is alive. Presumably, The Animus is in the core, since that is often how these things work.
The other danger of The Zarbi is that they are able to control gold. Anyone wearing gold can be guided by The Zarbi. They have a type of harness, which Barbara gets to wear for a bit in this episode before she is freed from it by Hrostar. This freedom is short-lived, however, as she was merely being used to help capture the vanguard force, and she is now being taken to The Crater of Needles for some sort of enslaved labor.
With the name chosen for the mysterious force in this story (Animus), I can’t help but wonder if Strutton chose this name because he liked the sound, or if it was a direct reference to Jungian psychology. According to Jung, animus is the unconscious inner expression of masculinity in women. While this is not necessarily an image that works with this story, we can move from a literal interpretation of animus to a more symbolic one. It is a hidden expression of the subconscious that can either bring life or petrification and death. It can even invade the conscious mind. In truth, there is imagery related to the Jungian animus that sparks the imagination, but the symbols and meanings behind the concepts don’t really seem to apply. Not at this point anyway. And not based on my limited study of Jung. However, the invasion of concepts into the conscious, living world could become very relevant as more details of the story become available. More on that later.
The story is still interesting. My biggest complaint at this point is the pace and the weak resolution to last week’s cliffhanger. Barbara merely side-stepped the acid and Ian was found unconscious with no sign of the web-material that captured him. The TARDIS is now held by The Zarbi, which doesn’t do them much good since they cannot enter it. Let’s see if we continue to hold up in part three.