"Then by showing an enormous building on your television screen, you can do what seemed impossible, couldn't you?"
1) You know what really impressed me about this viewing? How truly scary and vicious the Doctor comes off as in the first half. I could easily see, with some tweaking, director Waris Hussien approaching the first episode of this story as a horror film. William Hartnell clicks on all cylinders in this portion, being absolutely dismissive of Barbara and Ian and being borderline gleeful when telling Susan he can't let them leave.
2) I know Barbara and Ian are just supposed to be friends, but the combination of the script and the chemistry between William Russell and Jacqueline Wright makes it seem like they're at the very least dating.
3) I know Verity Lambert has said she would never have commissioned this story, but I think the general simplistic storyline of the cave people portion of the serial works. Its simple narrative allows Anthony Cobrurn's script to better establish the dynamic between the four leads. The tension between Ian and the Doctor, in particular, comes off excellently...which furthermore makes the moment where The Doctor cedes control to Ian briefly all the more impactful.
|"We can use this flaming skull to scare the cavemen....or my|
4) Of course, you can tell how the producers don't quite know what to do with the female half of the team. You've got Barbara being the social skills with Ian being the science skills, and there are moments where she does convey this (like when she negotiates with Hurr to let Ian tend to Za)...but she also starts fretting and panicking like the Girl School Screamer so many of the New Who fans mock. And Susan is just...there until she comes up with a way for the group to escape.
5) Up to a point, I rather like the fact that there are no villains in the cave tribe storyline. We never get the sense that there is malice in either Za or Kal, the conflict between them being more a case of 'two men, one woman...trouble'). Hell, even the Old Mother's solution to these strangers she fears is in aiding them to escape. When Kal suddenly becomes a murdering schemer in Episode Three, the story loses a little something.
6) And speaking of the murder of Old Mother...that whole subplot is sort of confusingly handled. I didn't even realize that Kal stabbed her until the Doctor brings it up in Episode Three. Up until this point, it looks as if she accidentally falls and dies during her struggle with Za.
7) It makes me smile to realize that Za's decision to not let the group go can be interpreted as altruistic as well as selfish, that he may think he's protecting these newcomers from the terrible dangers outside by insisting they join his tribe.
|"I'm better than you because I have a hat. Hats are cool."|
8) Given that the original remit of the show was to be education, I found it somewhat amusing that this story taught those young British children that cavemen had apparently perfected fabric making, judging by the rather obvious underpants Za and Kal wear when they're fighting each other to the death.
9) It needs to be said--Carol Anne Ford certainly does look like a space alien. It's her strange, not quite right features that sells the idea that she and The Doctor are Not From Around Here.
10) I like the fact that, at least at this point, the series is serialized across the season--we literally see the next story set up right after this story wraps up.
Overall...an intriguing beginning that holds up for most of the story's four chapters. And needless to say that it's essential viewing for any Whovian.