Hello everyone. The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, and Schmallturm, bringing you this week's episode. On to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 11 July, 1964. The Sensorites close the door and begin to escort Susan away. Angered, Barbara and Ian race in to confront them. Susan tells her friends not to worry, to let her go, but the two, joined by the Doctor, demand the aliens let Susan go. She and the Doctor have an angry exchange, Susan saying she knows what she's doing. Finally, the crew tests the Doctor's theory and turn out the lights. The Sensorites react exactly as predicted, dropping their energy wands and calling out in fear. The lights are switched on, and the TARDIS crew has the upper hand. Meanwhile, John wakes from his deep sleep as Carol looks on. He continues to complain about voices and exhibit signs of madness. Carol is devastated. The Sensorites confer with their First Elder, who asks them to bring some of the humans to the Sense-Sphere. They agree to cure John of his affliction as well. The Sensorites explain that five humans had come to their planet in the past; they fought among themselves and two of them took off in their ship, which exploded in the high atmosphere. It is assumed that the other three stowed aboard the ship as well, as nothing had been heard of them. Ever since, though, a disease has swept among the Sensorites, killing many each year. Barbara and Maitland will remain on the rocket, but the others travel down to the surface. The First Elder confers with his Second while the City Administrator looks on, silently. First has determined to receive the humans in the hope that they can help with the disease. Second is not so sure, but sees the First has made a wise decision. The City Administrator, after the others have left, decides that humans cannot be trusted and determines he will take matters into his own hands. With the help of an engineer, he sets up a disintegrator weapon and points it at the very spots where three of the humans will be sitting. Meanwhile, the First has received his guests and directs John (with Carol) to be taken to a rest room and cured, though it will take time. Meanwhile, he directs Ian, Susan and the Doctor to seats and invites them to dine with him. Just as the engineer is about to fire the disintegrator, Second walks in and stops them. He warns the Administrator to watch himself! The Doctor and First meanwhile strike a deal: if the Doctor cures the disease, he'll get the TARDIS lock back. Everyone is served water and fruit. The Administrator and the engineer confer, Administrator openly questioning the First's ability, and the engineer declaring his loyalty to the Administrator over all others! First demands the water given to the humans (by order of the Administrator) be changed for the fine crystal water only the Elders drink. He says that giving the visitors the recycled water given to other castes is an insult! Ian, saying he's thirsty, takes a quick drink of the regular water while waiting for the crystal clear water. The Doctor asks First whether all castes get sick, but no Elders have become ill with the disease. Ian begins to cough and falls to the floor unconscious--he has the disease! Susan tries to lift his head, but the First says it is too late, Ian is already dying....
Well, we're finally off that space ship! And Barbara is off stage for a bit (as Ian said goodbye to her, I added, "Have a good vacation, Jackie!"), so we're down to a three person regular cast for half the episode. (Whether it'll be down to two regulars next week or not, we'll have to see!) As a general assessment, the Project team had a positive reaction to this episode. Schmallturm, in particular, expressed how much he was enjoying this story, which feels like a change of pace from earlier serials. (Not that any of them yet have felt like repeats!) He also expressed how little these stories feel like clichéd Doctor Who of the late 1970s and 1980s to him; the Doctor is much less in control of everything, much more born on by events than sweeping them before him.
The Sensorites continue to be impressively alien in appearance, though not in thought. Which isn't a bad thing; it's good to have characters that, while Other, are still understandable to the viewer. I just think they look good. Ronelyn made the point that their hair looked more like whiskers, almost like sensory apparatus. Something not mentioned in the summary above (it was long enough!) was the First's explanation of his straps, that each member of the upper caste had some adornment, but lower castes are "content in their sameness," or somesuch. I like the TARDIS crew's (specifically Ian's) discomfort with the idea of castes or firmly set classes; Britain was just about at the beginning of questioning the class system by the mid-60s, so the reaction makes sense. It is odd that the Sensorites might look similar even to each other, though!
As does Susan's argument with the Doctor. Schmallturm made a joke about it being "the beginning of the revolt of the Baby Boomers," but he's not far wrong. Susan is becoming an adult and feeling a bit trapped by her grandfather's treating her like a child, not unlike the very beginnings of the teen movement in the late 1950s-early 1960s. Leaving all of that gobbledygook aside, though, She's simply growing up; at the equivalent of sixteen-seventeen years old (about that, anyway!), she's ready to start being treated as more than a child. The Doctor, like many parents or guardians, has trouble understanding that his little girl has grown up. Wonder if this plot will lead anywhere? And, speaking of Susan, this episode reiterates the fact that she can communicate telepathically with the Sensorites, while it seems the Doctor cannot. Is her ability stronger or does he simply choose not to communicate by means other than verbal?
And yes, the cause of the disease is pretty well telegraphed. Ian drinks the normal water, starts to cough, the Doctor finds out no Elder gets sick...there's got to be more to it than that, though. Right?
Not a lot more for me to say. The sets and costumes continue to work well for the story. The writing is a bit slower paced than, say, "The Aztecs," but it also seems to be paced very deliberately; Schmallturm referred to it as "radio writing," with lots of talking between characters and less direct action. (I'm not so sure I agree with him, mind you!) I will agree that the "setting of the disintegrator" scene went on...let's charitably say a bit long, but I can also see how it could be seen as a tension builder. It is, after all, the big "physical threat to the regulars" of the episode (before the cliffhanger, that is), so building it up before the threat is removed makes sense. Still, deliberate pace or no, it works for this story, which is a bit cerebral--it is, after all, about the Sensorites!
Until next week, I remain
Okay then... the Good: We got to see more examples of the Sensorites this week, and I really liked the masks. They looked cool, like someone took hair from the top of the head and moved it to their chins. Not like beard hair, but more like head hair in shape. Add their freaky little eyes and flat noses and they're pretty creepy looking.
The sets were also interesting. I thought the chairs and tables looked like futuristic school desks made of clear plastic. I mentioned that if that's their nicest furniture, given this is the leaders, then everyone else must be sitting on rocks. Although likely clear plastic rocks.
The Bad: Slow plot still. More interesting than last week, but plodding. And long drawn out dialog scenes. Did they really need to explain every step in configuring the death ray controls. "Push two, and seven, and nine." "Okay, I will push two, and seven, and nine." "I am now pushing two, and seven, and nine." "I have just pushed two, and seven, and eight." Just turn the damn thing on! And that wasn't a typo on my part.. they really did change the numbers mid-way.
The Silly: John, the crazy human from the ship, got a bit more goofy this week. There was one scene where he is observing the Sensorite leader, and then says directly to the camera "He is good." For the benefit of the kiddies in the audience?
We also thought the second elder's scene, as he warns the city administrator to watch himself, does a great double take like he's about to call him a jerk on his way out of the room.
But I must say that the goofiest part was the total telegraphing of the water from the aqueduct causing the deaths. Why the water specifically we don't know yet, but that it was the water was sooo obvious. I knew as soon as the first elder told the group not to drink it, that there was something wrong. Then, when Ian actually drinks some of it, the rest of the plot became so obvious I could predict the dialog.
Well, we'll see if things pick up next episode.
NEXT WEEK: "A RACE AGAINST DEATH"