Join me here on Tuesdays and Thursdays as I explore the earliest seasons of “Doctor Who” — as a complete newbie to the series. A full explanation can be found here. Today’s episodes — “The Forest of Fear” and “The Firemaker.”
The Forest of Fear
The four strangers are set free from the cave by the old woman, who is afraid of what will happen to the cave people if the strangers teach them how to make fire. To get back to the TARDIS, however, the Whovians must pass through a dark forest full of odd sounds and wild animals.
Along the way, caveman Za is injured by a beast and Susan and Barbara insist on helping him, making the party take him back to the TARDIS for medical attention. But once there, the other cave people surround them and take them back to the caves, where the old woman who set them free has been killed — Kal killed her when she released the strangers.
The cave people are ready to blame Za for killing the old woman, but the Doctor makes them see that it was actually Kal, the outsider Alpha male who is trying to take over the tribe, by tricking Kal into producing his knife with the old woman’s blood on it.
Kal is cast out, but he comes back to exact revenge on Za and they fight to the death, with Za emerging victorious. The travelers think he will set the free, but he won’t. He wants them to merge with his tribe and teach him how to make fire. The Firemaker is always the most important person, you see — but the Doctor and his companions at least plant the seed in Za’s mind that perhaps everyone should know how to make fire and then finding someone to do it all the time won’t be such a problem. That the tribe is greater as a whole than the sum of its parts.
In the end, Ian has the idea to make the cave people think they’re dead by lighting torches and place them inside four skulls. The four make a break back for the TARDIS and all the cave people can do is helplessly throw spears at its fading form.
When the four land again, it is on another planet — and they think the radiation levels are fine, but it is revealed after they’ve left the ship that the radiation levels are actually quite dangerous.
Thoughts & Tidbits
It’s an interesting four-part serial to kick things off — frankly, it’s a little boring at times. But it does establish the relationships between the four main characters and also offers a couple solid lessons:
First, the old woman is certainly representative of older people and their general fear of advancement. It’s a shame that she was killed for it, though.
Secondly, it ends with some nice commentary about the “firemaker” and how it’s better to share some of the power for the well-being of the group rather than keep it all encompassed within one person. Again, tribe > individual.
Doctor: “Fear makes companions of all of us, Ms. Wright. Fear is with all of us and always will be, just like that other sensation that lives with it — your companion referred to it — hope, Ms. Wright.”
Za: “They are a new tribe, not like us. Not like Kal. The young one whose name is friend spoke to me. … He said, ‘Kal is not stronger than the whole tribe.’ … The whole tribe drove Kal away with the stones. The whole tribe can collect more fruit than one. The whole tribe can kill a beast where one of the tribe will die.”
What did you think of “Forest of Fear” and “The Firemaker”?
Next week: “The Dead Planet” and “The Survivors” on Tuesday, Nov. 26 and “The Escape” and “The Ambush” on Thursday, Nov. 28.