Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Three - The Forest of Fear (Episode Three)
A lot gets made in this episode about the moment that the Doctor prepares to kill a caveman to make his escape. So much is made of it, in fact, that in my head it's this big moment where he picks up a large rock and holds it above the man's skull.
Of course, in actual fact, it's little more than the Doctor picking up the stone and turning it in his hand. His intention is clear, and when Ian asks the Doctor what he's doing, neither one of them says it aloud, but they're both aware of what could have happened. It's better this way, than the version in my head. Far more subtle. The entire interaction is sold on the skills of Hartnell and Russell, their interaction and the direction of the brief scene.
This is a stronger episode than the last - far more enjoyable. Even the scenes with the cave people were more to my taste, and I wonder if it's simply because I'm getting into the story more? It's certainly not got the problems that many later Doctor Who stories develop in Episode Three, where it becomes little more than a sequence of capture-and-escape.
Here, we're presented with an episode mostly involving our heroes running away from their enemies, and then coming around to help them. It may not sound all that far removed from a traditional Episode Three, but here we're treated to a hefty dose of character development.
It's often held up as something that the modern incarnation of Doctor Who does very well, but here it's in evidence just three weeks in. The Doctor and Ian are still suspicious of each other, but they've softened. The Doctor is being stubborn for the sake of it, and Ian simply refuses to let him get away with it.
But the Doctor is already warming to his new companions. He tells Barbara that 'fear makes companions of us all', and that's certainly in evidence here. He agrees with Ian that they must remain hopeful of an escape, and he tries to comfort his fellow travellers before they're set free from the cave.
He reverts somewhat to being less helpful when faced with the prospect of helping the cavemen. Having watched as his would-be-captor is mauled by a wild animal, he's very willing to use the opportunity to escape for freedom. Ian is of the same opinion - it's Barbara and then Susan who convince them otherwise.
Like the sequence with the stone, much gets written about how the Doctor at this stage in the series is so very far removed from the hero figure we know and love from much of the show's history. This is the first example of why it's Ian and Barbara that turn him around, teach him to be more forgiving of others and more willing to help.
We'll see this theme coming up more and more over the next few weeks, but it's nice to see that it's already begun as early as this.
Next Episode: The Firemaker