The Doctor’s being rather dense at the start of The Zarbi. He spends several minutes totally perplexed at the disappearance of the TARDIS before Ian points out the rather obvious marks on the planet’s surface, which indicate that it’s been dragged away. Let’s be kind and surmise that the lack of atmosphere has slightly affected his usually sharp intellect.
The model shot of the TARDIS moving over the surface of Vortis is rather sweet whilst inside the ship Maureen O’Brien does some sterling staggering-about acting.
The appearance of a Zarbi on the TARDIS’ monitor is an unsettling one. Vicki’s expression conveys a nice air of silent dread (although it was scripted that she should scream). If I’d been Richard Martin I would have chosen this as the moment to reveal the Zarbi for the first time. This brief close-up would have been an intriguing moment – what does the rest of the creature look like? – before the full reveal of several of the creatures surrounding the Doctor and Ian a little later.
Barbara is rescued by the Menoptra. Unlike the Zarbi they can speak and have personalities, although their strange hand movements and voices do get a little wearing after a while. Roslyn De Winter, who played Vrestin, was responsible for their choreography, earning her the oddest credit on any Doctor Who episode (“Insect movement by Roslyn De Winter”).
When Ian and the Doctor are surrounded by the Zarbi, there’s a high shot which give a decent sense of scale to proceedings. Such camerawork wasn’t often seen in the series at the time, no doubt because it would take too long to set up, so it’s welcome to see it here. A small recompense for many of the other, more clumsy, moments.
Hartnell’s been more settled in this episode, although his bizarre hand gestures when he attempts to communicate with the Zarbi is yet another oddity in this most odd of stories.
One of the obvious problems with the Menoptra all looking so similar is that when there’s several of them in a scene it’s hard to tell who’s who. This was certainly the case earlier on when Barbara was surrounded by Hrhoonda, Hrostar and Vrestin.
But towards the end of this installment Barbara and Hrostar are captured by the Zarbi and although they don’t appear in episode three, they do share some decent two-handed scenes in episode four which allows time for Arne Gordon to give Hrostar a very definite personality.
There’s another strong cliffhanger as the Doctor, Ian and Vicki find themselves at Zarbi HQ. A tube descends over the Doctor’s head and the voice of what we later learn to be the Animus (Catherine Fleming) asks “why do you come now?”
Two episodes down and I’m hanging on in there.