Episode 6: “Hob”
After the power was shut off during the press conference at the end of Part 5, Barbara Judd is the only one who sees the glow inside the spaceship in the darkness before the lights come on again.
Professor Quatermass tries to get the crowd of reporters and technical staff to leave, but Colonel Breen and the War Office guy want them to stay… and stay they do until the outer hull of the ship begins to pulse and glow so brightly that everybody can’t help but notice. By then, it’s too late.
Sounds of vibration are heard. Debris starts flying around and all hell breaks loose. People scream and push to get out of the pit. But not everyone is eager to escape. Breen remains, staring at the glowing ship hypnotically. He and a couple of other men just sit down on the ground in front of it, watching it. The reporter Fullalove also remains, snapping photos.
The crowd rushes out into the street, but something more than panic drives them. They seem to be influenced by the ship in the same way that Barbara Judd and the drillman were earlier and they run, guided by some reawakened instinct. They see the world around them as Martian grasshoppers, like themselves. The telekinetic debris accompanies them. Walls of the nearby buildings begin to shake and tumble down. Not just the people who were at the construction site and near the glowing spaceship are affected; it’s spreading around London.
Since they met in the first episode, there’s been just the faintest whiff of romance developing between Captain Potter and Miss Judd, but the closest it gets to culmination is here when he grabs her out of the rampaging crowd as they emerge from the pit and takes her into the relative safety of the abandoned, “haunted” house next door.
Dr. Roney, who wasn’t at the press conference, sees Quatermass among the growing crowd and pulls him into a pub a couple of blocks from Hobbs Lane–there’s no one else there except for one injured man on the floor. Quatermass seems to be in the same trance as everybody else, but Roney shakes him out of it, makes him remember who he is, and gives him a shot of whiskey.
Out in the streets, they can hear the wails of dogs and cats being killed. The Wild Hunt is happening again. Anything, or anyone, who doesn’t count as “One of Us” is destroyed by the crowd, usually telekinetically by flinging bricks and rubble at them. Animals. A hapless blind man. And those people who aren’t under the influence of the Martians’ five-million-year-old directive to purge the city and create a new proxy Martian colony right here.
You’d think that Quatermass, being our hero, would be among this last group, but as we’ve already seen, he has to fight against the instinct to kill outsiders. Dr. Roney, however, isn’t affected. Neither are Captain Potter and Fullalove. Only one of these three men will see the end of the episode.
As Dr. Roney struggles to help Quatermass hold on to his identity, so Potter finds himself struggling with Barbara Judd; he has to knock her unconscious before she can throw enough bricks to kill him. Then he knocks through a wall of the kitchen–which you may remember is directly over the pit–so that he can see what’s going on below.
Below, the ship is beginning to glow even brighter and melt slowly down like wax. A huge cloud of smoke rises from it. The intense heat isn’t doing the people who remained near it any good.
Elsewhere in the city, the editor of the Gazette is looking down from his office windows at the chaos going on below and is on the phone, trying to get information about what’s going on. He’s lost contact with Fullalove and the other press people at the site; all the news cameras and broadcasting equipment went down when the ship began glowing. Then he looks up and sees something that horrifies him.
Back at the melting ship, the smoke above it is forming into a shape. Let’s call it the Spirit of the Martians–the head of an absolutely enormous grasshopper.
Abruptly, we go to the news in New York: a television reporter reads a bulletin just handed to him that London has blacked out and all contact with the city is broken. The reporter says that they have an eyewitness account by radio from an airline pilot who is currently flying over London.
Instead of hearing this report as a voiceover, we join the pilot in his airplane. The city below him is indeed black except for a number of fires that have broken out, and the London suburbs are also going dark. He says he hasn’t seen anything like it since the Blitz and goes a bit lower to have a better look. This turns out to be a bad idea. His co-pilot passes out, the plane’s controls do not respond, and the cockpit is bathed in the bright light rising from the pit. As the plane crashes, we see the city ablaze and in ruins (presumably BBC footage from the actual Blitz).
Quatermass and Roney somehow make it through the streets to join Potter and the still unconscious Barbara Judd at the abandoned house. They try to come up with some way to defeat the Spirit of the Martians before its influence can spread any farther. It’s Dr. Roney who has the best idea, when he recalls that the traditional enemies of the Devil are iron and water. He has a plan to perform an exorcism, if only they can get down into the pit…
After this night of so much death and destruction, the next day begins with a note of optimism–and caution. Professor Quatermass and the other survivors have gathered for a public broadcast; Quatermass is giving a speech in which he says that humanity’s hope lies in people like Dr. Roney, who have outgrown that ancient Martian influence. We are now forewarned about the ugly, violent, xenophobic instincts implanted within us all. Unless we learn to overcome them, Earth like Mars will end up as a dead world.
Next up: Comparing the film & TV versions.