Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
All sides converge on the planet Mechanus and must avoid the hostile fungal forest, while The Doctor must confront his robot duplicate.
“Hmmm. I must get a doctor.”
I’ll start by talking about the music. For the most part, the music in this story has felt quite inappropriate, too lighthearted and not at all suspenseful. Although, I guess the story has the same tone. However, this was the first episode where I felt the pieces of it really worked. There were even a few sections where I thought I heard the unmistakable marks of Dudley Simpson. And I was right. I think I read somewhere that he was brought on to this story to replace someone else. Regardless, I was thrilled that I recognized the music. He provided the sounds that I grew up with while watching the show.
This episode is an improvement over the previous two. Granted, it still isn’t great, but it is a step in the right direction. We have a new planet with enough time to get a good look around and establish some threats (the fungus creatures) and some mysteries. The primary mystery is the corridor of light that runs through the otherwise dark jungle, and the occasional bursts of light whenever the fungus creatures attack. The characters follow the light path to a cave, and hide there, waiting for The Daleks. The Doctor claims they can’t use the weapon he has developed due to the confined space.
Meanwhile, both Vicki and the robot are making their own ways through the jungle. Vicki has difficulty avoiding the fungus creatures, and Ian and The Doctor hear her screams and come to her rescue. The Robot Doctor takes advantage of this to find Barbara and trick her back into the jungle so he can kill her. We have the typical scene of our heroes trying to figure out which is The Doctor and which is the robot, the identity being solidified when the robot calls Vicki “Susan”. Good thing this wasn’t an instance where Hartnell fluffed his lines. We would have had a very different ending.
Many people seem to criticize the robot, which is played by Edmund Warwick. I don’t mind this so much. I think it is handled well enough, and I find myself able to suspend enough disbelief. What I struggle with is the voice-over that William Hartnell has prerecorded, which is played over the studio speakers, requiring Warwick to mime speaking and gesturing in a Doctor-sh fashion. It is a bit clumsy and doesn’t quite work. So, it isn’t so much the look that bothers me, but the sound. I think I would have preferred it if they didn’t use the voice-over in the wide shots and used close-ups of Hartnell delivering the dialogue. There may have been practical reasons for doing it the way they did, but I think it would have worked better.
Finally, we have The Mechanoids, the creatures we will see quite a bit of in the next episode. They look rather good, unlike anything we’ve seen before. They sound atrocious. When I first saw this story, I didn’t have the luxury of subtitles. As a result, I missed the vast majority of the Mechanoid dialogue. This time, I plan on watching the episode with subtitles.
Oh, and when did The Doctor start referring to Barbara as “Barb”? And is it just me, or is Jacqueline Hill having a bit of fun with the props now that she is wrapping up her next-to-last story?