DVD Review: Quatermass & the Pit, Pt. 4

Episode 4: The Enchanted

Barbara Judd and Dr. Roney in the spaceship. Dr. Roney and Barbara Judd gather up the specimens and rush to get them preserved and sent to the institute for study. Now that the sealed forward section of the spaceship has been breached and filthy modern Earth-air has reached them, they are decaying rapidly. The fishy stink causes more nausea.

Quatermass, examining the forward compartment after the previous occupants have been removed, says that the membranes that make up a network inside resemble magnified nerve endings. These too are rapidly decaying. Apart from the membranes and some remnants of colored liquids, there’s no sign of instrumentation or equipment. Quatermass conjectures that the ship was in some way alive–“The hull itself did the thinking.”

Colonel Breen, incredibly, still believes that the Nazis have something to do with this.

When the colonel finds Fullalove looking around inside the spaceship, he has a hissy fit and has the reporter thrown out. But he doesn’t take away Fullalove’s tiny spy camera. The next morning, the front page of the Gazette has a story about the crashed spaceship with some really cool photos.

Roney has the exoskeleton of one of the creatures in his office. He calls it an arthropod rather than a big grasshopper, and observes that it has 3 hind legs like a tripod. Unlike the ape-men found in and around the vessel, they are definitely not of this Earth.

Professor Quatermass and an old friend from Mars.Quatermass says that it has the face of a gargoyle on a cathedral (not the gargoyles I’ve seen, which tend to be reptilian, but we’ll go along with him for the sake of the story). Both men look at the anthropological mural on the walls of the office, a reproduction of cave paintings that are 30,000 years old; there’s one little figure wearing a horned mask that resembles a gargoyle. Could these images of imps and demons be dim racial memories handed down from humanity’s remote past?

Dr. Roney calls the arthropod creature an “old friend we haven’t seen in awhile.” Considering the creature’s delicate structure and the thinner atmosphere in the sealed-off section of the ship, he and Quatermass eventually come to the conclusion that it must have come from Mars.

When he and Breen are summoned back to the War Office to explain what the hell is going on, Quatermass explains his theory in full:

Mars is a dead planet now, but 5 million years ago, it might’ve supported life. The Martians, seeing that their world was dying, looked to their nearest neighbor–that would be Earth. Earth’s environment was too hostile for them to survive there themselves, so they captured and genetically modified some of the apes they found to carry on as a sort of colony. This spaceship that crashed, with its arthropod crew in the front and modified ape-men passengers in the back, was just one of many that were returning to Earth. Over the millions of years since, the modified apes must have bred back into the normal population and their Martian-implanted traits only re-emerged again after countless generations.

The man in charge at the War Office is disturbed by this idea of how humans developed. “We owe our human condition to the intervention of insects?” he asks Quatermass incredulously. Okay, it does sound a tad bizarre when you put it like that, but Breen will have a more comforting explanation of the things they found in the pit.

According to Colonel Breen, the ship and its contents were an elaborate hoax fired at London near the end of WWII by the Germans to create just the sort of Martian Invasion scare that’s starting up in the newspapers now. The creatures are fakes, odds and ends of biological material put together like carnival mermaids.

Mr. War Office likes this idea much better than Quatermass’s. It appeals to his common sense, he says. And tomorrow, they’re going to hold a press conference on the construction site to show everyone that the spaceship is a fake.

Quatermass thinks this is a really bad idea, but these guys just won’t listen to him.

Meanwhile, back at the Hobbs Lane construction site, the drillman is gathering up his drill and equipment to go home. Barbara Judd left her notes at the shack on site and has to come back to get them. The Bomb Squad is opening up the barricades on the street above, but these two are the only ones down in the pit when things start to happen.

Sladden's Bunny-hopAfter the drillman disconnects his generator, the lights spark. Power cables begin to writhe about like snakes. Objects move around by themselves, flying through the air. But something even more odd happens to the drillman.

He seems to be possessed. With his arms curled close to his chest, he hops in a sidelong, gamboling sort of way up the ramp past the horrified Barbara and out of the pit, as if he were playing the Easter Bunny in a children’s holiday play and forgot to put on his costume. The expression on his face, however, is just as horror-stricken as Barbara’s.

He leaps past the baffled soldiers and other people at the barricade. Captain Potter hears Barbara scream and he and his men go down to find her lying on the ground.

The drillman leaps away down the darkened street, the telekinetic phenomena accompanying him. He tries to stop, but when objects around him start to move by themselves, he’s compelled to move on.

Gravel rippling like waves.At last, he enters a churchyard and collapses on the path. A kindly clergyman comes out to his aid, but the gravel beneath him is still undulating like waves on the water.

To be continued…

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Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.