Written by Bill Strutton
Directed by Richard Martin
The prisoners in The Crater of Needles stage an escape. Ian and Vrestin meet the Optera, the third race on Vortis.
I realized as I started this episode that I was over halfway through this story. I expected to hate it by this point, but I don’t. This is quite refreshing.
Ian and Vrestin never make it to The Crater of Needles. They are attacked by The Zarbi and found by The Optera, a race of grubs that live underground. The Optera know nothing but hate and death from the surface dwellers, so their first thought is to kill Ian and Vrestin. The two prisoners attempt to reason with The Optera, but eventually discover that The Optera are devolved from The Menoptera. When The Animus first appeared, a group of Menoptera went underground. They adapted to the darkness and became The Optera, but they still have vague memories of before. The Menoptera have become gods to them. Vrestin seizes on this realization and spreads her wings, which silences The Optera to a state of awe.
Things don’t go nearly so well for Barbara and Hrostar. The slaves in the crater are made to feed vegetation into acid streams, which then take the vegetation to The Carcinome, causing it to grow. From this experience, The Menoptera slaves fear that the invasion will be unsuccessful. They fear the vanguard will be destroyed when it lands. Indeed, The Zarbi seem to have knowledge of the vanguard’s plans, which is due in no small part to The Doctor. He has been slowly feeding information to The Animus, but delaying as long as possible to give the fleet time to attack. The Animus learns of his deception when The Doctor accidentally plays a communication between fleet members. The Zarbi move in to action, and the vanguard is defeated.
Like most things in this story, the vanguard attack is well conceived but poorly executed. The Menoptera look good when they are flying (well, some of the actors do), but landing and take-off is a bit iffy. There are a lot of quick cuts, which certainly helps build a frantic pace, but when you consider that the costumes of The Zarbi and the Larvae Guns are not the most maneuverable or effective in melee combat, then the imagination will have quite a few gaps to fill.
The Optera are the new element to the story. I know the costumes and the performances have been panned by fans in the past, but I think they work well enough. The idea of a devolved species really does call in to question how long The Animus has been on Vortis. The amount of time necessary to physically devolve and move memories of the past into mythology would possibly take centuries. The Animus must grow very slow indeed. This makes me wonder, what is its ultimate motivation. To what end has it consumed Vortis?