So in much the same way as Terry Nation I left you yesterday with Ian and Barbara in mortal peril of freezing to death in a tundra. A tundra which has suddenly become even more snow cover and blowy between episodes but our heroes are saved (or are they?) by a bear of a man called Vasor, played admirably be Frances Wolf. At first Vasor seems like a kindly man who makes a simple living selling furs, but soon takes on a more sinister edge before becoming a comedy cowardly stooge. The biggest problem with this approach is what Vasor intends to do with Barbara once he sends Ian on a fools errand to find Altos. There is no other way of interpreting the scene, Vasor quite clearly attempts to rape Barbara and is only stopped by the timely intervention of Ian and Alto, who despite nearly freezing to death still hasn’t decided to put on any trousers. Oddly enough no one through out the story seems to mention that he should probably put a pair of trousers on and as a consequence it is hard to take this episode seriously. The plot is wafer thin and far too much time is spent with Ian reminding us that William Hartnell is still on holiday and we are still Doctorless, the ice cave sequences are badly designed with a very obvious painted polystyrene stalagmite used to fix a broken rope bridge which looked even ropeier then the cave background, in short episode 4 is dull and wildly derivative. Things pick up a little in episode 5 with Ian accused of murder and the Doctor going all Sherlock Holmes to solve the crime. But by now the budget has run out,with very bland plain sets and judges dressed as if they are orthodox Rabbis. The murder plot is pathetic with villians making mistakes to give themselves away thst they just wouldn’t do and the mysogony of the previous episode continued with (off screen) domestic violence. Throw in a kidnap plan which is purely there to give episode 5 a cliffhanger and a rushed resolution and you get an unsatisfactory mini tale before we get the coda where Yartek and his Voords are easily defeated. The writing is so dodgy here that Ian decides after meeting Yartek dressed as Arbitan something was up and then announcing he gave him a false key anyway, surely it would be better for Susan and Barbara to raise the concerns and Ian tell them he suspected it wasn’t Arbitan and gave him the wrong key.
The redeeming feature of this whole sorry story is the Doctor’s speech about machine law. “Man was not made to be ruled by machine. Machines can make laws but they cannot preserve justice only human beings can do this.”, it does beg the question that was Arbitan such a wise old man? He was a dictator, a benevolent one but still a dictator.
- The Story was written in a rush following the collapse of two scripts: The Masters of Luxor (aka Dr Who and the Robots) by Anthony Coburn and a different Terry Nation script called the Red Fort which was a historical story based around the Indian Mutiny
- Episode 3 “The Screaming Jungle” was the first episode to be broadcast on BBC One as opposed to BBC TV
- The Doctor does not appear in episodes 3 and 4 as William Hartnell was on holiday. However he still receives his credit in the end titles due to his contract.
- “The Screaming Jungle” was used as the title for the letters page in the DWAS newsletter Celestial Toyroom.
- Arbitan is played by George Coularius who at one point was a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury theatre group and appears alongside Welles in Citizen Kane.