Okay, coming back to this project after a time away. I actually watched this and the next two episodes shortly after the last couple, but haven't got round to blogging about them yet.
So, The Forest of Fear. I was going to give this one a bit of a slating at first, but I'm glad I gave it another chance. Even so, its fundamental flaw is that it's basically an episode of running around in which, in plot terms, nothing much happens - the time travellers start the episode imprisoned, and they end the episode re-captured and about to be imprisoned again.
What the episode has in its favour, though, is some really nice character moments, particularly - just as we've decided that the Doctor doesn't want to get on well with Ian and Barbara, there's that wonderful moment when they're imprisoned in the cave of skulls and the Doctor seems almost avuncular to Barbara (the classic line, "fear makes companions of all of us" comes in here). Then, when they're on the run through the forest, the Doctor's antipathy to Ian becomes obvious as they have a fierce argument about where they should go and - even this early in the show - who should lead them.
There are also some nice touches as Kal and Hur catch up with the time travellers and are left in confusion about their behaviour as they do their best to save Kal's life after he'e been attacked by an unseen animal.
Incidentally, that attack is, in its own small way, a masterpiece of direction, for which all kudos to Waris Hussein. Obviously, getting a real creature (I think we're meant to assume it's a sabre-toothed tiger, but it's never explicit) was out of the question, and rather than use some stock footage, the attack is played out in a series of cutaways and reaction shots, and is really well done; presumably it was recorded as live, so there's also a cutaway whilst the make-up artists smear fake blood on Kal (although there could have been a recording break at that stage, admittedly).
On the other hand, the very beginning of the episode (and this is one of the reasons that I was all set to dislike it) is almost horrendously stagey, as Old Mother awakes in the night and reaches out to take Kal's knife...and holds in position just long enough for the episode title and author credits to be superimposed over her hand. It goes with the territory of the way in which these early episodes were made, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of taking one out of the drama.
The only other problem I have with the episode is...in one scene, the time travellers, along with Kal and Hur, who are already some way into the forest, decide to press on to the safety of the TARDIS. We then cut back to the Tribe of Gum, who, at Za's instruction, make to cross the forest to catch up with the time travellers' party. The time travellers, in the next scene, arrive at the TARDIS, but the tribespeople have already overtaken them, despite the massive head start. I'm sorry? Does not compute!
Oh well. That aside, it's an entertaining enough episode, with (as I said) some nice character touches.
Next up - The Firemaker.