Written by Bill Strutton
Directed by Richard Martin
The Doctor begins intense negotiations with The Animus to free himself and his friends. Ian escapes The Zarbi and tries to find Barbara.
“Drop this hair dryer or whatever it is”
Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the extra review yesterday. You have my inability to remember what day it was. I scheduled both for the same day. We’ll just get finished one day sooner.
The Doctor spends most of this episode negotiating with and scheming against The Animus. This involves speaking with a whispery female voice through some sort of plastic tube. It reminds me of the cone of silence from Get Smart Again. The Doctor is also not impressed with it. Maybe he saw the same movie.
This episode finally explains the conflict. On the planet Vortis, The Menoptera and The Zarbi once co-existed. That was before The Animus came. The Animus caused the land to die, which formed into a structure called The Carcinome. This is now the web-like lair The Zarbi are stationed in. The Animus began controlling The Zarbi, making them militant. They started attacking The Zarbi, so the Zarbi retreated to one of the moons that had appeared in orbit around Vortis. The Carcinome grew and now The Zarbi wish to retake the planet before it is too late. This is all fairly straight-forward. Let’s go deeper.
According to the interview with Bill Strutton on the DVD, thus cited so I cannot take credit for the analysis, this story is an allegory for cancer. Vortis is the body and The Menoptera and The Zarbi are the cells. The Animus is cancer, hence the carcinome forming around it. The Animus infects The Zarbi and turns them against The Menoptera, much like cancer infects cells and turns them against other cells. This is why, despite the flawed direction of the story, I think it is brilliant. No, I don’t always want to watch it. Yes, it can put me to sleep. But the sheer imagination and creativity of this story is amazing. Bill Strutton turned a medical phenomenon into an epic story. It may seem a bit obscure at times, but it is extremely well thought-out and meaningful.
So, it is fitting that in this episode, where the plot is outlined and we can begin working out the symbolism, we have the most infamous shot in this story: A Zarbi runs across the stage and bumps a camera. Ah. Quite. This illustrates the disconnect between the story and the direction. Although, in Richard Martin’s defense, the time constraints on the shoot were strict. Early Doctor Who didn’t have much time to put together an episode, and re-shoots were expensive and frowned upon. I learned a lot about the filming of an episode from the documentaries and commentary on this DVD, and it only helped me to appreciate this era of Doctor Who more.
But it still looks bad.
While the camera bump is my favorite part of the episode, my second favorite scene has The Doctor attempt to calm Vicki by giving her some chocolate. “Here, have some chocolate, child,” he says. I wonder if this worked on Susan.