Sunday 23 January 2022

Episode 3: The Forest of Fear

The time-travellers have been tied up and placed in the Cave of Skulls. They notice that amongst the many bones here there are a lot of skulls which show signs of violence. They decide that they should concentrate on freeing Ian from his bonds, in case he has to defend them. Susan sees movement in the corner of the cave, and the old woman appears. She knows of a secret entrance into the cave. Her movements had been spotted by Hur, and she wakes Za. They go to the great stone which seals the cave and hear the old woman speaking with the strangers. She wants them to leave and go back to where they came from, taking the secret of fire with them. They can leave the cave by her secret entrance. 
After they have left, Za and Hur manage to push the stone aside and enter, finding the old woman alone. She tells them of what she has done, as she fears fire will destroy them. Za decides to follow and recapture them by himself, taking only Hur with him.
Soon after they have gone, Kal enters the cave. He becomes angry with the old woman and kills her, then wakes the rest of the tribe - claiming that it was Za who let the strangers go.
Za and Hur are about to overtake the time-travellers when he is attacked and mauled by a wild animal. Hearing this, Barbara insists that they to go back and help him. The Doctor is furious about this. As everyone tries to help Za, Ian spots the Doctor wielding a stone and suspects he is going to kill the injured man with it. The Doctor denies this, claiming he was going to get Za to draw their route back to the TARDIS, but Ian is not convinced.
A stretcher is made for Za and they continue their trek through the forest. At last they come to the forest edge and see the TARDIS beyond, but Kal and the other men from the tribe have got there first...
Next episode: The Firemaker.

Written by: Anthony Coburn
Recorded: Friday 1st November 1963 - Lime Grove Studio D
First broadcast: 5.15pm, Saturday 7th December 1963
Ratings: 6.9 million / AI 56
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Waris Hussein

The first episode had introduced us to the regulars, whilst the second episode introduced the main plot for this story (deadly rivalry to lead a primitive tribe, and the quest for fire) and its guest characters (primarily Za, Hur and Kal). The Forest of Fear is now free to start telling the adventure, and we get to know the regulars a little better through the situations in which they find themselves. We hardly knew them in the first instalment, and they are split up in the second (with the Doctor going off on his own early on in the proceedings), so this is the first time they have been seen together as a group. As a group, the dynamic is distinctly dysfunctional. 
The Doctor and Ian, especially, do not get on - with Barbara and Susan having to keep the peace between the two of them. Susan naturally takes her grandfather's side, but only to try to find excuses for his behaviour - not necessarily agreeing with what he says or does. Their conflict is such that Barbara immediately notices when the Doctor suggests something helpful. She is surprised that he is trying to help them. He explains that fear makes companions of them all, and it is only logical that Ian should be freed first as - being the youngest and fittest male - he may be required to defend them. The Doctor also acknowledges Ian's belief that they will get free - that they should hold on to hope.
As an adventure series, with a cliffhanger structure, it is obvious that the Doctor and his companions are going to come under threat on a regular basis. Part of this entails capture, which naturally then leads to escape. There will be an awful lot of capture / escape in the decades to come. Here we start with the time-travellers recently captured, then they are set free, and then they are about to be captured again at the conclusion of the episode. Capture, escape, capture.
When it comes to threat of injury or death, it is actually one of the guest characters who experiences this, when Za is attacked by a wild animal.
The most significant aspect of this episode is the scene where the Doctor appears to be on the point of cold-bloodedly murdering an injured man. Unfortunately this is always studied in hindsight - looking back at the incident from the vantage point of knowing the Doctor as the heroic figure he will shortly become. At the time, the Doctor was still an unknown quantity, his only attributes so far being stubbornness, a bad temper, and - as an alien - having little regard for we primitive human beings.
That he might kill a caveman - one who has been hostile towards the travellers - probably didn't bother viewers all that much at the time. Reviews of the time don't make a big deal of it.

  • Some uninvited visitors to the studios included fleas in the animal skin costumes, and a small lizard which came in amongst the hired plants. Carole Ann Ford adopted this - keeping it in the sink in her dressing room before taking it home.
  • The production team received a letter about the skeletons in the Cave of Skulls - pointing out that they would not be fully articulated. The bones would have come apart without the binding tissues.
  • Some of the bones were real, having been brought in from an abattoir.
  • Wary of upsetting the viewers, Waris Hussein elected not to show the old woman's death on screen, and the attack by the wild animal was achieved simply through camera POV (point of view) shots.
  • Barry Newbery borrowed a large tree prop from another production, which was still to broadcast. He was allowed to use it only so long as it didn't feature prominently.
  • Episode titles for this story were rearranged. This episode was going to be The Cave of Skulls, and the previous one The Firemaker, with the fourth instalment called "The Dawn of Knowledge".

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