Twee… but Pertinent
Yep, here’s the best of my Pertwee stuff from Timelash II. Thrill to my confusion as I struggle to get to grips with an era that itself struggled to get to grips with fuel controversies, miners’ strikes, feminism and loads of funny stuff like that. Lots of new material in amongst the stuff I posted at Gallibase.
I remember the first time I saw ‘Inferno’. I was at university. I popped into town and bought the VHS release with pretty much the last scrapings from the bottom of my overdraught. I took it back to my digs and watched it in one sitting, surrounded by half-read Penguin classics, half-written essays and empty beer cans.
I remember, somewhere towards the middle of the story, practically praying to Someone Or Other (the gods of TV probably) that the writer would have the balls to refuse to reveal what the green slime was and/or what the Primords were.
I remember being well pleased when I got to the end without having had some clumsy sci-fi “explanation” foisted on me.
The Primords are just there. They represent the animal in man, unleashed. The are the externalised form of the snarling beast inside the Brigade Leader that makes him enjoy his fascistic work so much, of the apes inside Sutton and Stahlman that make them tear and snap at each other.
Luckily, the story also has some intelligent things to say about the way people are shaped by the societies in which they live. That fine fellow Mr Benton, when raised in a fascist world (or possibly just employed by one), becomes a brutal sadist… so it’s not about our bestial original sin but about our choices within society as we find it and as it shapes us.
UNIT guards make their own lives but not in circumstances of their own choosing.
I know the evil-version-of-regular-character-in-alt-world thing is hardly original… but ‘Inferno’ does it better and smarter than any other take on the same idea that I’ve seen.
Also, as The Discontinuity Guide says, the “so free will is not an illusion after all!” scene elicits a cheer (or should do) from the viewer.
It’s a powerful piece of work because of the ideas, even if they’re not stunningly profound or original, and because of the strength of the direction. The constant background thrumming of machinery, the hazy heat of the outside world, the bleak industrial wasteland in which the project seems to nestle, the use of brilliant ‘stock’ music by Delia Derbyshire, the incrementally jacked-up claustrophobia, the sweating actors, the performances that ratchet up the tension, the nightmarish apocalypse in Episode Six with blistered zombies catatonic as the air fills with hot ash, the well-integrated stock footage of lava explosions, the stunningly tight and tense cliffhanger to Episode Four with the countdown reaching zero as the Doctor and Stahlmann face each other over a gun… it goes on and on.
Also, the open question of whether the alt-world is a fascist or communist tyranny leads to all sorts of interesting (to me anyway) avenues of thought, including the observation that, either way, it’s more similar than it is different to the democratic world of the Brigadier and UNIT.…