DVD Review: Quatermass & the Pit, Pt. 5

Episode 5: The Wild Hunt

The story picks up shortly after the end of Part 4. Captain Potter and his men find Barbara Judd halfway down the ramp, with an injury on her head from some flying object. She tells them that what she saw hopping past her was one of those giant grasshopper creatures, when in fact the soldiers and the viewer know it was the drillman. Potter goes out to find the drillman, and Barbara goes back to the Nicklin Institute, where she tells Dr. Roney and Professor Quatermass everything that happened.

A gargoyle at the church--does not look like a grasshopper to me. The phone in Roney’s office rings. It’s Captain Potter; he’s located the drillman at the church where he collapsed after his mad, possessed, bunny-hop dash from the construction pit. When Quatermass goes to speak to him, Miss Judd goes along. She wants to see what the drillman looks like now.

Inside the church, the drillman (whose name, by the way is Sladden) is in the care of the vicar who found him in the churchyard. The vicar gives him a huge mug containing just a little cocoa and heaping spoonfuls of sugar.
Sladden drinks his hot cocoa.
The man is no longer possessed by the time Quatermass comes to see him, but asking questions about what happened to him only agitates him again. “They was coming!” he cries out, and some more telekinetic events occur in the vestry.

The vicar is inclined to think that these are signs of a great evil; he’s surprised when Quatermass, a Man of Science, agrees with him.

Sladden says that he couldn’t see anything but those grasshopper-creatures, hundreds and hundreds of them alive and leaping around an alien landscape with a purple sky. He was one of them.

From this, Quatermass concludes that Sladden has seen a vision of life on Mars as it was 5 million years ago. More than that, he has a new idea about the kind of genetic tinkering the Martians did to their ape-men at that time.

To test his hypothesis, he wants the drillman to recreate what he was doing when things started going weird at the pit site. The vicar protectively objects, but Sladden consents. The reporter Fullalove has once again followed Quatermass and is lurking behind the vestry door, eavesdropping on the whole scene.

At Dr. Roney’s office the next morning, Quatermass gives that experimental optic encephalograph the doctor was working on fresh consideration. He explains his new theory: Telekinesis and other psychic phenomena, magic and witchcraft are all vestiges of the alterations the Martians made to the hominids they captured. Hence the “pentacle” on the bulkhead. These powers, along with the implanted memories of Mars that the ship triggered in Sladden, were their legacy to humanity and their way of carrying on their way of life. It’s not just Sladden; everyone on Earth has this in them. Barbara Judd also “felt something in her head” when things were flying around the night before.

“As far as anybody is,” says Fullalove, “we are the Martians now.”

They try the optic encephalograph on Fullalove and all that shows up on the monitor is the object he’s actually looking at–a lamp. Dr. Roney needs to fiddle with the thing a bit more.

A short while later at the construction site, we see that Dr. Roney’s adjustments to his optic encephalograph must have been successful: Quatermass is now wearing the thing on his head. Sladden and the vicar, who is still looking after him, are also there. The drillman is asked to re-enact everything he did the night before. This he does, except for going back inside the spaceship. There, he refuses and it’s up to Quatermass to go inside.

Just as before, the shutting off of the powerful generator for the drill–cutting off that energy supply–triggers something in the ship. It responds just as it did the previous night. Things start moving around. The drillman seems to be under the influence again, but the vicar restrains him.

Barbara has her vision of Mars. Quatermass, inside the ship, receives no impressions. But as he comes to the open hatch, he notices that Barbara Judd, just outside, is affected in the same way Sladden is. She does some insect-like motions with her hands, but doesn’t hop around. Quatermass quickly claps the optic encephalograph gear on her head and the images she’s seeing begin to appear on Roney’s monitor.

Sladden is seeing the same memories of Mars, but he says that it’s different this time from his vision of last night. “All that killing!”

Quatermass, Roney, and Judd take the tape recorded from her visions to the War Office as a last attempt to convince them not to hold a press conference at the site. Quatermass tells them that what they’re about to see is a racial memory projected by the ship and received by sensitive persons. Dr. Roney calls it an example of the Wild Hunt.

It’s here we see what Barbara Judd and the drillman Sladden saw. Though the images are disjointed and confused, overlapping, occasionally blurred, we can see figures of numerous arthropods hopping frantically around, killing each other. Heads get bashed in–surprisingly graphic for 1950s television. Injured individuals crawl helplessly on the ground. A crawling, injured Martian grasshopper

Now, about the “fascist” part of that “Giant Fascist Grasshoppers from Mars” name I used for the 1960s film version of this story back at the beginning of my first review. At this point in the film, when Quatermass describes what we’re seeing, he describes the Martians way of life and this purge of the weak and others considered unfit in sociopolitical terms. In this earlier TV version, he describes the “cleansing of the hive” as something that occurs naturally among colony insects such as bees, ants, termites.

Political ideology or colony instinct, the men at the War Office are unimpressed by what they’ve seen and dismiss it insultingly as the hallucinations of an “imaginative” and “overwrought” girl. That Sladden saw the same thing isn’t brought up, but I suspect the gentlemen would have no higher opinion of the visions seen by a working-class bloke and probably suggest he’d been drinking.

In spite of Quatermass’s fears what will happen, the press conference that evening goes ahead as scheduled. The press and the public crowd Hobbs Lane, the former bringing all kinds of TV and radio equipment, cameras, lights, and the cables to supply the energy to power them. One cable is actually installed inside the ship for lighting so everyone can get a good look.

Just as the live broadcast is getting started, something shorts out the lights inside the ship. Breen orders the power cut, but one man has already been electrocuted. The spaceship glows!

Most of the attention focuses on this unfortunate person, and for the moment no one notices that the inner hull of the ship is beginning to pulse and glow.

To be continued…


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.