Quatermass and The Pit part 5

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    Craig @craig

    Quatermass is frustrated with the Minister and Breen for not believing that we might owe our evolution to the insect-like creatures.

    He questions the terrified Sladden and learns he had a vision of the planet where the creatures came from.

    Quatermass wonders if the energy experienced by Sladden is part of all of us, explaining supernatural phenomenon. He decides to try and recreate and record, using Roney’s optic encephalograph machine, what happened to Sladden.

    Once again, this is ground-breaking TV. The ‘science versus religion’ debate is introduced and straight away is not treated as black and white. A bit of sexism does step in. Quatermass calls Barbara Judd a “girl” at one point, and later her experiences are dismissed because she is “over-wrought” (although that’s by a Government Minister and they probably still do that today).

    Part 1: http://www.thedoctorwhoforum.com/forums/topic/quatermass-and-the-pit-part-1/

    Part 2: http://www.thedoctorwhoforum.com/forums/topic/quatermass-and-the-pit-part-2/

    Part 3: http://www.thedoctorwhoforum.com/forums/topic/quatermass-and-the-pit-part-3/

    Part 4: http://www.thedoctorwhoforum.com/forums/topic/quatermass-and-the-pit-part-4/

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    They’ve switched the spacecraft camera around again (we can officially call it a spacecraft now). With the creatures all in the museum, the camera for the interior has been moved back to facing the front of the craft, allowing the actors to look and act down the whole length.

    I love Barbara Judd. She’s just been terrified out of her wits, saw psychokinetic phenomena which must have been even more worldview-destroying to a scientist – and she’s still going to get those bloody notes. They’re important and they’re what she came for. 🙂

    “Now I know the sort of thing that Darwin faced” – great line, as Quatermass explains that his idea that human evolution was partly artificial offended the Minister’s dignity. It is a direct comparison; Darwin posited that we were descended from apes. Quatermass is suggesting we were bred, by insects.

    Roney the paleontologist knows an alien when he sees one. Unfortunately, the Minister doesn’t. And having investigated the historical outbreaks, Miss Judd comes in with news of the more current one. Notice how everyone seems doubtful that it was Sladden; as if they couldn’t quite see him as human any more.

    The ‘science vs religion’ debate is definitely not treated as black and white. Doctor Who comes in the 1960’s, when the ‘Christian country’ idea was starting to break apart and be replaced by a secular culture. In BG Doctor Who the story often tends to be ‘powerful aliens are mistaken for gods’ – supporting and encouraging a more secular, questioning outlook.

    In Quatermass, the powerful aliens are remembered in our race memory as demons. Quatermass, the scientist, is thinking of recording an experiment. Gilpin, the religious, has to remind him that doing that will put a man in peril. Religion, in fact, is played throughout as one of the weapons used by humans against the Martians.

    Ah, the days before mobile phones, when someone had to physically wait by a land-line.

    Yup, Church of England. Someone has problems – offer them a cup of tea or cocoa. Demonic possession? Better make it a pot. With lots of sugar.

    Nice performance by Noel Howlett (Rev. Gilpin) and another lovely performance by Richard Shaw. I honestly think Sladden was one of the best performances he ever gave. Noel Howlett was one of the few actors to transfer over to the film version: he played the Abbey Librarian.

    It is not possible to get rid of Fullalove. 🙂

    Remember that funny machine of Roney’s? Several episodes ago? It was a Chekhov’s gun. Any funny machine shown in Episode one must be used by Episode Six…

    This is Quatermass – so we get a scientific explanation of telekinesis. It’s an ability of the Martians. As is clairvoyance (another Chekhov’s gun). We inherited it.

    Back at the spacecraft, Rev. Gilpin is joining the list of people who do their jobs, no matter what. I have to point out that Church of England rules strictly state that priests should never attempt an exorcism by themselves, but I think that’s along the same lines as a national newspaper apparently being run by an editor and three staff. 🙂

    Quatermass also seems to have taken Gilpin’s hint in the previous scene; he’s going to do the reconstruction, with Sladden only playing an advisory role. Nice acting by Andre Morell – that silent pause and those pressed lips before he says ‘Right, let’s begin’ show us all how scared Quatermass really is.

    And once the generator is cut, the hull reacts, just as Quatermass theorised. Sladden also reacts; but Gilpin grabs him.

    And we get the pay-off to last week’s set-up. There were two people in the ‘Pit’ when the last outbreak happened; Sladden and Miss Judd. And now we find out why that outbreak was so strong; Barbara Judd is also a conduit. She’s not as ‘taken over’ as Sladden, she can still concentrate on her job. But she can see the Martians.

    So the funny machine works, and they get a recording from Barbara – which they show at the War Office. And the Minister refuses to believe it.

    Yes, definitely some unconscious 50’s sexism here from Quatermass. “The susceptible brain of a young woman.” Is it the attitude of the writer? Well, that comment is just about to backfire horribly on Quatermass as the Minister promptly picks it up.

    The ‘Wild Hunt’ sequence is a classic example of ‘leave the audience wanting more’. I always do feel the sequence is too short. The special effects: the jumping creatures were moved by stick puppetry; mounted on black painted sticks, then shot in front of a black backdrop. For the exploding head they cast a creature head in plaster, then filled it with gunk. When they smashed the plaster head, all the gunk came out. The rest of it is string puppetry.

    Quatermass thinks the ‘Wild Hunt’ imagery is stored in the hull. He also thinks the hull awakens the powers bred into us by the Martians. The Minister thinks it’s a hallucination. The fantasies of an overwrought young woman.

    So, since the hull reacts to generators, lets get lots of generators in! Really big generators! For a TV and radio outside broadcast! What could go wrong? Oh, and let’s run a cable into the hull for the cameras…

    If one of the policemen looks faintly uncomfortable, that’s because they were running out of money for extras by this point and using any of the crew who could fit into a costume. He’s probably thinking that he’s supposed to be putting the costumes on the actors, not wearing them himself. 🙂

    Bonus points if you spot the actor who was later to ‘appear’ an awful lot in Doctor Who. Extra bonus points if you can now spot the people in our cast who aren’t affected by the Martians.

    Just as the row is hotting up nicely, the technicians inside the hull are electrocuted. Leaving an electric cable inside the hull – which starts to pulse.

    We’re the Martians now.

    Anonymous @

    Great episode. The Wild Hunt was such a good idea and despite its limitations the footage is really unsettling. It would be interesting how that would be done today with CGI. A quick word on the writing which is top-notch. Interesting that the closest thing you get to a physical villain is Breen and he’s more misguided and scared rather than out and out evil. A definite template for Gen Carrington in Ambassadors of Death.

    And bless Andre Morrell in his mind-reading apparatus. Has an actor ever looked more uncomfortable with a prop ever?

    And again, as in Episode One, it’s just a real joy to catch a glimpse a Britain that is now gone.

    Not much more to add except to say that @bluesqueakpip has totally rocked these Quatermass threads. Her contributions have been uniformly excellent.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    Once again, I’m really enjoying this! I loved how when they showed the footage of the Wild Hunt, there was a complete lack of accompanying music or dialogue. I’m still very taken with the minimal use of music in these episodes.

    I also like how the story was meant to portray actual, futuristic science. The mind-reading gizmo did look hilarious, but it was a technological gadget, rather than someone with second sight or psychic powers. And I like the biological and anthropological pieces of the puzzle as well. This is old school science fiction, speculative, but rooted in scientific and technological concepts.


    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Loads of good stuff in this penultimate episode. I’m not sure if the “Wild Hunt” scenes would have been more effective if longer @bluesqueakpip. I think at this point they make a virtue out of the technical limitations they had. The images are disjointed, somewhat confused and for that reason, quite unsettling as @jimthefish said.

    Quatermass notes that this purging based on genetics is observed on earth in termites and other insects. Kneale doesn’t say “remember the Nazis” but enabling the rather thin cover story to play out with Breen, we’re reminded how dastardly they were. In conjunction with mentions of the race riots in episode 1, is this an inherited trait?

    A fantastic cliff hanger here with the hull seeming to become translucent to reveal something waking up, pulsing with the drum in the soundtrack becoming a rhythmic beating. As Victor once said – “It’s Alive!”.

    Now I’m really looking forward to the final episode tomorrow. And I’ve seen this too many times to mention.


    I think the actor you’re referring to may be Edward Burnham, who played scientists in Invasion (Watkins) and Robot (Kettlewell). Weirdly, I had two “isn’t that….” moments about him over Christmas watching The Abominable Dr. Phibes and an episode of Black Books (the one where Tamsin Grieg is learning to play the piano).

    Anonymous @

    @phaseshift — I took @bluesqueakpip to mean John Scott Martin, erstwhile Dalek operator over the years. But yeah I did also think of Burnham too.

    And Dr Phibes. Top film that.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @phaseshift and @jimthefish

    Jim The Fish gets the bonus – the inverted comma’s around ‘appear’ was meant to hint at John Scott Martin. Edward Burnham is too easy – he’s got such a recognisable face. 🙂

    I think the fact that I always feel the Wild Hunt scene is too short is a huge compliment. I want to see more. And yet, it gives us all the information we need; a very frightening impression of chaos and murder and destruction. It certainly starts to connect that tiny one line reference to race riots in Episode 1 with our Martian spacecraft.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Congratulations on the spot @jimthefish. I must admit I didn’t even notice he was the TV cameraman. Foiled again by @bluesqueakpip.

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