Friday, July 17, 2009

"The Unwilling Warriors"

Hello everyone, whoever you are. The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you another post for the TARDIS Project. The response to last week's plea for comments from our readers yielded nary a one, so I'm currently of the opinion that we're writing this solely for ourselves. Please let me know if I'm in error! Anyway, on to the summary.

Episode summary: First aired 27 June, 1964. The rocket crew freezes as a Sensorite appears at the ship's window! The creature disappears, and Ian and the Doctor rouse Maitland, reminding him that they must free Susan and Barbara from their presumed danger. Meanwhile, the women comfort a now agitated John, who is being contacted by the Sensorites who have entered the ship and are telling him to frighten the two. (Fearful minds are easier to control.) Carol tells the Doctor and Ian that she can feel the Sensorites on the ship, leading to greater efforts to break open the door the others are trapped behind. Susan, having had experience with "thought transference" on another planet, gets Barbara to join with her in projecting the thought "We defy you!" at the aliens. It seems to be successful, as John collapses...but so does Susan, just as the others get the door open! John is put to bed, Susan is revived, and the crews of both ships discuss what is to be done. The Doctor believes that some communication should happen and wonders what reason lies behind the Sensorites' actions. Ian has heard John mumble the words, "dreams of avarice," which leads him to believe that the mineralogist had found something. Examining a spectrograph, the Doctor discovers the answer: the Sense Sphere is full of molybdenum, an element that, when added to steel, raises its melting point to a very high temperature, and thus a very valuable commodity. Just as they discover this, Maitland and Carol are again attacked mentally, and Ian and Barbara decide they've had enough--they go to find the Sensorites on board. They advance until they come face to face with the aliens; Ian grabs a small piece of equipment and threatens the creatures with it and the two travellers retreat as the aliens follow. Ian sends Barbara along to wake John and ask him to lock doors behind Ian, supposedly trapping the Sensorites outside. They can, however, simply unlock any door using their wand device. As the crews sit on the bridge, Susan receives a message requesting a parley, to which the Doctor agrees on the condition that no one will be harmed. The Sensorites walk through the door and converse with (mainly) the Doctor. They inform the "humans" that their deduction about the molybdenum is correct; apparently, the Sensorites have been fooled by Earthmen before. The Sensorites tell the crews that they will be taken down to the Sense-Sphere where a special area has been put aside for them to live out their lives. Unsurprisingly, the Doctor is highly agitated by this idea and demands the lock core of the TARDIS back, or he will "make trouble" for the aliens. As he raises his voice, the aliens appear to clutch their ears in either fear or pain. The Sensorites request time to consider and retreat back into the corridor. The others talk amongst themselves (the Doctor noting a theory that, due to their pupil dilation, perhaps the Sensorites cannot see in darkness or low light), not noticing that Susan appears to have been contacted again. She walks towards the Sensorites, who stand on either side of her, and explains that she's been told she must go down to the Sense-Sphere or the others will all be killed. The Doctor can do nothing as the door closes in front of Susan and the Sensorites....

This is a difficult episode to blog about, if only because we had so little real reaction to it--beyond Schmallturm becoming seemingly obsessed with comparing the Sensorites to Oompa Loompas. (No, it made no sense to the rest of us either; he said it had something to do with their height.) Myself, I thought the Sensorites looked marvelous, leaps and bounds above the Voords as far as really "alien-looking" goes. It's actually a very nice mask; I know Ketina found the round feet kind of silly, which they were, but it was still an interesting attempt to show something truly alien. Remember, the Voords were unknown creatures in suits, the rest of the Marinusians (?) were human looking, and the Daleks were mutated humanoids, so these are the first really alien aliens. The telepathy just makes them less like us, Susan aside.

Which does bring up another "Doctor development": at one point, the Doctor specifically refers to himself and the others as "we humans." At this point, it's been established that the Doctor and Susan are from "another world, another time" (from back in "An Unearthly Child"), but that's no real indication they might not be human. Of course, the Doctor might be referring to a more general definition, what I've been calling "humanoid," which would include the Thals, the peoples of Marinus and the original form of the Daleks, so there's nothing conclusive about the Doctor's statement. All we really know is he's not an Earthman, but we've had no indication thus far that he isn't from a far future, highly developed human race. Additionally, we see in this story that both the Doctor and Susan have at least some level of natural telepathy; it's apparently stronger for Susan than her grandfather.

Getting back to the episode in general, it's very similar to the last one in that it seems to be more about ratcheting up tension than (until the very end) advancing the story. The problem is once we've actually seen the Sensorites in full, the tension is dissapated which makes the 25 minutes feel a bit more drawn out than necessary. Ian and Barbara's very slllloooowwww creeping down a corridor had, for us, the opposite effect than was apparently intended; instead of being tense about them meeting the Sensorites, there was a feeling of "Get on with it!" from the Project team. The scenery itself was an interesting look, but it kind of fell down a bit when one of the walls flapped out for a moment, revealing itself to be a cloth sheet!

The acting, in spite of all of the above, was quite good, especially from the regulars and John. Susan is a surprising stand-out; we've been a bit less than impressed with Carole Ann Ford at times, but she did quite well next week. A good sign as it appears the story will have a lot of her in it! William Hartnell was also wonderful--his discussions with the crew are delightful and his bluster when parleying with the aliens was just a joy to watch. William Russell was solid and had one excellent moment right at the beginning of the episode where, as the Sensorite appeared, his face changed emotions so perfectly and believably. Jacqueline Hill was also solid, especially in her scenes with Stephen Dartnell's John. As for the Sensorites, I could buy them as suitably alien in their action and interaction. (I loved the "What have you done? You have locked doors, and we have unlocked them," which is an unfortunate paraphrase as I've not the script in front of me.)

All in all, this felt like a bit of a padded episode, but not a bad one. I can say that it certainly gives no indication of where the story is going next and the cliffhanger was very effective. We're all looking forward to next week! But, until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Well, that was a bit of a disappointment. My quick summary of the episode, "A very long walk down a very short hallway." Which did fill about half of the episodes length. I rate this one as slightly, and only slightly, better than the terrible "The Ordeal" episode from The Daleks story. Okay, to be fair, have erased much of "The Ordeal" from my mind. :)

Well, let's see. The acting wasn't terrible. The design of the sets looked cool, even if the sets themselves were flimsy and poorly made (see note about the wall flapping above). The direction also leaves a lot to be desired. Looonnggg shots of people staring off into space. The Sensorites faces looked really cool, but the rubber of the masks was evident, as well as the zippers and very silly big round feet. Floomp floomp floomp.

As for the plot, well the overall plot was fine. Bad guys won't let the good guys go because they found gold (okay, molybdenum, but it might as well be gold), and now the bad guys (who aren't really that bad, apparently) can't figure out what to do with the good guys. One of our other viewers, Schmallturm, described it as a good plot for a Star Trek episode, and I agree.
But the details of the plot seemed vague and weird to me. If the Sensorites just want to keep them prisoner, why terrify them and freeze them and drive them crazy? Especially if they mean what they say about not wanting to harm them? While their motives have been explained, their actions are bizarre. And who were the unwilling warriors, as indicated in the title of the episode? Maybe later episodes will explain some of this. We can only hope.

Until next time!


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