Day Two — January 2nd 2021

The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker

I think I was perhaps unfair to The Cave of Skulls yesterday. Mostly because two friends messaged me separately to say they felt sorry for the episode. And I suppose it has a tough job, following that pretty perfect opening instalment. I’m pleased to say that I’ve felt far more charitable towards the two episodes today, and I’ve even found myself enjoying the cavemen material.

The last time I watched these episodes, I know I was annoyed by ‘Her’, the girlfriend of Za. That’s not happened this time around, and I’ve actually enjoyed them as a pairing, especially in this episode where they’re given time to interact with the regulars away from the rest of the tribe.

It’s great to see Ian and Barbara getting stuck in to the past and Barbara’s reaction to Za’s injuries — that she can’t just leave him because he’s a human being and he needs help — feels so right to the character. I love Barbara so much, and I’m pleased to see it’s happening right from the beginning of the series.

The forest set looks pretty good, too. We hear so much about how Lime Grove Studio D was an impractical space for making a series like Doctor Who, how the shape was all wrong, the TARDIS set had to be designed around an awkward right-angle in the corner, and how the sprinklers would come on when the place got too warm. But we tend to forget just how brilliantly the production team adapted to the space, and just how much they managed to squeeze from it.

And I’ll tell you what — the travellers making it back to the TARDIS only to find it surrounded by the cavemen is a great way to end the episode. I’m giving this one a solid 7/10.

Something I really love about this first story, and I’m sure I’ve said so before, is just how battered the main cast get across the four episodes. Hair, clothes, make-up, the cast are really roughed up by the time they make it back to the TARDIS. It doesn’t happen very often in Doctor Who — the regulars are usually kept pristine throughout. This feels a far cry from the early 1980s, when the cast wear the same clothes, unsullied, for an entire season!

I’ve never noticed it before, but it’s implied here that the only reason Doctor Who is unable to steer the ship properly is because they left 100,000BC in such a hurry. He says;

‘When you put the right data, precise information to a second of the beginning of a journey, then we can fix a destination, but I had no data at my disposal.’

Now, in fairness, he also says that the ship isn’t ‘operating properly’, and we know the Chameleon Circuit broke right back at the end of the first episode, but I quite like the idea that they get stranded in time and space for so long is all because they left in this adventure without calibrating things properly. It’d also explain why the ship is so much more reliable by the time we reach later Doctors — presumably they’ve managed to fix things so this one hasty departure doesn’t cause trouble any more.

Although, now I think about it, why didn’t Doctor Who just hit the Fast Return switch? That would have been so much quicker and far less trouble.

I’ll be going 6/10 for The Firemaker.

< Day One | Day Three>



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Will Brooks

English Boy in Wales. Freelance Writer and Designer. Doctor Who Art for Big Finish, Titan Comics, Cubicle 7. TARDIS Fan. Pinstripe Counter.