Monday, August 31, 2009

A survey for our readers

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with a request for all of our readers. As we approach the end of the first season, Ketina and I have been considering the future. Not of the Project itself (we're having too much fun watching each episode!), but the blog posting. There's no question that we've gotten a bit more complicated in posting than in, say, our first episode post, with detailed summaries and overviews/reviews. Ketina has admitted to some blog fatigue; I'm still enjoying it, but there's no question that each post is a lot of work. They take us, on average, about an hour to put together, not least because of the summaries! And, of course, we're doing this without any feedback from you folks (some of whom we know, some of whom we don't). So, as we near our first real landmark, I'm asking each of you to take a moment and leave a comment. Or e-mail us at tadisproject at gmail dot com (yes, tadisproject; typos are bad, especially if you don't catch them before the entire blog has been set up). Feel free to give us any feedback you'd like, but if you could include something about the following, I'd appreciate it:

What do you like about the posts? What do you enjoy? What don't you like? Is there anything you'd like to see us change?

Do you enjoy the summaries? I make them detailed so, even if you haven't seen the episode in question, you'll be able to follow along (especially important with reconstructed episodes). Are they too detailed? And what about the format? (A constant argument between Ketina and myself.) I put it all in one paragraph to make it easily skippable if people want to just jump to the review, but would people like it to be broken up more? How would you prefer to see the summaries, or would you rather do without them altogether?

As for the reviews, how do you enjoy them? Are they dull, pedantic, whatever, or do you find our insights interesting? Is there anything you can suggest that we're not doing?

Please, prove to us that people really are reading and following along! Let us know what you think! I'll put a link to this post to remind people for the rest of the season (five whole weeks), so please comment or e-mail by then. Thanks from both of your hosts and we'll see you in a few days for the second episode of "The Reign of Terror." Until then, and with my thanks for reading this, I remain


Friday, August 28, 2009

"A Land of Fear"

Hello all, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm. Tonight we're entering unknown territory, meaning Doctor Who never before seen by any of us! Always exciting! Let's get to the synopsis...

Episode summary: First aired 8th August, 1964. Two men move through a wood, keeping an eye out for pursuit. Shortly after they disappear, the TARDIS lands in the same place. Inside, the Doctor announces he has brought Ian and Barbara home, though they are somewhat skeptical. Susan, upset that her friends might be leaving, runs out of the control room, into the ship. Although the Doctor wants them to leave immediately, Ian convinces the old man to accompany them outside, ostensibly to treat him to a farewell drink, but actually so the teachers can be certain of where and when they are before the Doctor leaves them. The foursome leave the ship and see cultivated land. It could be England, perhaps...but when? After seeing some movement in the bushes, Ian captures a very dirty and frightened looking young boy who tells them they are in France, but runs off before answering any other questions. The Doctor is happy that he has landed the ship only a hundred or so miles off, given the distances involved, but Barbara wonders if they are a hundred years off as well! The boy runs to a farmhouse and is let inside. A little later, the crew reach the same house and decide to explore, to try and figure out when they are. Everything is dusty and looks as though no one has lived there in years, but the Doctor and Ian find candles in candlesticks. The Doctor searches upstairs, while Ian takes downstairs. Barbara and Susan discover a trunk containing clothes, which Barbara identifies as eighteenth century. Meanwhile, the Doctor, moving into another room, is knocked out from behind! The other three have changed into the clothes (the better to blend in as they make their way back to the TARDIS), when Ian discovers some documents, undated but signed. They appear to be travel passes, and Barbara recognizes the signature: Robespierre! They have landed during the French Revolution, specifically during the Reign of Terror! Immediately, the teachers decide to find the Doctor and get out of there, even though Susan tells them that this is her grandfather's favorite Earth period of history. They go upstairs to search for the Doctor. Ian tries a door which is locked (and behind which the Doctor is concealed) when he hears a scream from Susan. The two men from earlier, Rouvrey and D'Argenson have the women held at gunpoint and capture Ian as well. They explain that they are travellers and almost convince the Frenchmen, but are undone when they say they are travelling alone, which the two know is false. Rouvrey demands to know which side they are on, the royalists or the commune. Barbara says that they are not on either side, they are not even French! Rouvray tells her that if she is to remain in France, she will have to choose a side, like it or no. D'Argenson is increasingly nervous to the point of hysteria, just as the detachment of soldiers who were tracking the fugitives make their way to the house. Rouvray gives Ian a pistol, and tells him the soldiers are attempting to break their nerve. Meanwhile, the Sergeant orders a reluctant soldier to guard the back of the house, telling him he could have a royalist all to himself. Gleefully, the solider agrees. At this point, D'Argenson's nerve breaks and he runs out. Rouvray runs after him to try and protect him from the soldiers and almost does, using his authoritative manner to cow them. However, he then overplays his hand, saying no matter what uniform you put them in, a peasant was still a peasant. The "Peasants" then shoot both nobles dead. The crew continues to search for the Doctor, not knowing that the soldiers have entered the house until all three are captured. The Sergeant and Lieutenant barely keep their men from killing them by speculating on a possible reward or credit if the three are brought to Paris to meet Madame Guillotine. As Ian, Barbara and Susan are being led away, the Sergeant decides to set fire to the house and throws a torch into it. The farmhouse quickly catches fire. Susan becomes hysterical at the thought that the Doctor might still be inside, but Ian calms her by saying that he must have gotten out. The boy, emerging from the bushes, has seen the prisoners marched off and turns back towards the house. Inside the locked room, the Doctor awakens to discover smoke beginning to pour in through the door. He sees it is locked, and bangs on it and yells to no avail. Finally, the Doctor slumps to the ground, overcome by the smoke....

What a marvelous cliffhanger! And a fantastic first episode from writer Dennis Spooner, who we'll see again in the second season. Definitely a change of pace from "The Sensorites," this week went from light and humourous to just plain shock as Spooner subverts what little format the show has had thus far by killing off the two people we're led to believe the TARDIS crew will be following in this adventure. (The first time we've seen apparently major characters killed so quickly in a story, I think!)

One thing that our entire crew very much enjoyed, though, were the first TARDIS scenes and Ian's hard-learned ability to play the Doctor's vanity like a flute. His supposed logic--"You can come see us again, but what if we don't see you for some time? Let us say goodbye over a drink!"--was a perfect way to convince the reticent Doctor to explore with them. Susan's sadness at parting from the people who have become her best friends was well played too. But the crowning moment (and the culmination of the season, I think, even if it wasn't originally planned that way) was the small conversation between Ian and Barbara, where both confessed that they weren't all that disappointed to not have made it home after all. The adventuring has gotten into their blood!

That's not to say they need have every adventure. When they discovered the blank passes and realized whose signature adorned them, Ronelyn piped up: "Ah, Robespierre. Robespierre?! Time to go!" We laughed, but that's exactly the reaction Ian and Barbara both had. And we were as amazed as they were when Susan revealed this to be the Doctor's favorite historical period! (Of course, we have seen evidence that Susan and her Grandfather have been there before...remember the book in "An Unearthly Child?")

One of the fun things about this episode was actually the discussion that ensued afterwards with Schmallturm and me explaining some of the history of the revolution to Ketina. It's nice when an episode prompts something like that--certainly showing that Doctor Who can keep its educational remit all these years later! To that end, I quite liked the characters of the nobles and especially the soldiers, showing us the bloodthirstiness that ran through the Reign of Terror as well as the arrogance that led to it. Very well done, I thought.

The production itself looked surprisingly good as well, especially given this story's position at the end of the season--and an unplanned end as well. (I'll talk more about it in the wrapup, I'm sure, but the originally scheduled break in production was after the last episode of "The Sensorites." The popularity of the show led to the BBC adding six more episodes.) Although there was one point when Ketina swears she saw a fold in a backdrop in the forest, the sets are mostly quite good. (Indeed, Schmallturm and Ronelyn were briefly fooled by the opening shot of the episode, being sure it must have been shot in an actual forest!) The farmhouse is an excellent set and is very well matched by the model shot at the end. The burning model was, I thought, pretty convincing!

All in all, I enjoyed this episode a lot, as did my colleagues. We had quibbles (Ketina will mention a few of those below), but it was exciting to see Doctor Who we'd never seen before and gratifying to see that it's of such good quality. I, for one, can't wait until next week! But until then, I remain



Ketina here,

The Good: As The Historian already mentioned, I too loved the scene when Ian convinces The Doctor to go with them to explore the area. Very well done. I also liked the discussion between Ian and Barbara just before they followed The Doctor and Susan down to the farmhouse. Lots of other good stuff - the farmhouse set, the confrontation and sudden deaths of the aristocrats hiding in the barn, the fire, etc.

The Silly: Things weren't so fantastic this week that we completely lacked in silly, however. The music, consisting of stalking oboes that stopped just when they turned the lights on (okay, when they lit the candles, but there was definitely more than candle light). The "let's put on these clothes we just found" from Barbara. Flashback to her impulsive behavior in the Aztecs. But, at least her character is consistent. The mob of soldiers actually saying "rhubarb rhubarb." Seriously, Schmallturm heard one and then I heard another a bit later. And towards the end I'm sure I saw a set wall behind the trees.
And, the screams return - Susan is at it again! The Historian has apparently missed them. I had not.

I'm very much looking forward to this week. But I worry that the rescue from the guillotine, and the escape from the fire, will not be done well. I fear there will be a weak resolution as to how they are going to get out of this pickle. Crossing my fingers that I'm wrong.



A quick P.S. from the Historian: Everyone reading this, please be on the look-out for a post in the next few days asking for opinions on the blog format and our reviews as we approach the end of the first season. I implore, I beg, please read it and respond! Thanks!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"The Sensorites" wrapup

Hello all, the Historian here. I apologize for the lateness of this post, but here we are to wrap up the last science fiction story of the first season. Or, perhaps I should say, two stories, since this serial can be divided into two seperate-but-related stories. The first two and a half episodes chronicle the steadily rising tension on the Earth space ship, while the last two and a half bring us adventure and mystery on the Sense-Sphere. I found both halves to be quite a lot of fun (with quibbles) in completely different ways, though Ketina disagrees a bit; she much preferred the second half, but found the first to be fairly tedious. (See below for the links to our individual episode reviews.)

This story is also a bit infamous among fans for what I've called one of the most ridiculous plot points the show's ever seen (and that's saying a lot): the "Sensorites all look alike to each other" twist that enables the City Administrator to further his plans. Although it was nowhere near as painful as I remembered, it's still a significant blight on what is actually otherwise a very good story, Ketina's criticisms aside. (She does have a point about the spaceship corridors...) As I've observed before, watching this story an episode at a time, one per week, has done wonders for its pacing; as a "movie," this story might seem to drag at times, but at 24 minutes a week, things feel a lot more, well, zippy. The writing, while not up to the level of some other scripts, is still of decent quality and the acting is quite good.

The standout, technically, is obviously the Sensorites themselves, Doctor Who's first attempt (barring the Daleks) at depicting a non-human looking alien. Barring the round feet (which Ketina and Schmallturm found pretty hilarious), I think the show's done an excellent job. The masks were really good, very interesting, and the actors did a decent job of conveying a sense of "alien-ness." This story also gave us a villain, the Administrator, who reminded me a bit of Tlotoxl in that he's not out for any selfish gain (Barbara's speculation that he lusts for power seems to be more a secondary than primary motivation), but for the protection of his people. He, like Tlotoxl, represents orthodoxy. Unlike the Aztecs, though, the Sensorites are ready for change; rather than being a dark anti-hero who represents (and fights for) the way things are supposed to be, the Administrator is the guardian of a fossilized fashion that needs to change. It's interesting to see the two villains, one after the other.

Here are the links to our individual episode posts:

"Strangers in Space"
"The Unwilling Warriors"
"Hidden Danger"
"A Race Against Death"
"A Desperate Venture"

As always, here is a link to the official BBC episode guide for "The Sensorites," and here is a look behind the scenes of the production. Feel free to leave comments about any aspect you think we missed, got right, got wrong or any little thing at all, and join us here in a few days for the first episode of the final story of the season! Until then, I remain


Thursday, August 13, 2009

"A Desperate Venture"

Hello all, the Historian here, along with Ketina and Ronelyn, bringing you the exciting conclusion to the Doctor and co.'s adventures on the Sense-Sphere. Before we begin, to save my poor typing fingers, let it be known that the former City Administrator of the Sensorites will now officially be known as the Second Elder. That being said, on to the summary!

Episode Summary: First aired 1 August, 1964. Carol, returning to the courtyard to look for Ian and the Doctor, is grabbed from behind, a hand put over her mouth to stifle the scream...she is taken to the disintegrator room, where she discovers her kidnappers to be the new Second Elder and his henchman. Using threats, they force her to write a note to John, telling him she has returned to the space ship, so none of the humans will question her absence. The ploy fails, however, as Barbara has just journeyed to the Sense-Sphere and knows no one could have gone up to the ship without her knowing. The First Elder confirms that he gave no such order, but (per the Doctor's instructions) will not tell Barbara and Susan where the Doctor and Ian have gone. The First, confronted with the idea that Carol could be being held against her will by a Sensorite, at first refuses to believe it, and confirms she could not be held in the palace proper. There is, however, a seldom used room below the palace where the disintegrator is kept. He does not believe she is there either, but to ease the humans' minds a little, he does tell them that Ian and the Doctor have gone to the aqueduct with light and weapons. Barbara and Susan are still not pleased. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ian, fairly far into the aqueduct, have discovered that both their map and weapons are useless. They realize that finding their way out without a map will be difficult and they have no food and only the poisoned water to drink. Things look grim, but they press on. In the disintegrator room, the henchman, alone with Carol, threatens her as John sneaks in the door. Between the two humans, they manage to subdue the henchman. The First Warrior arrives recognizes the henchman as the one taken into custody for lying about the death of the old Second Elder. He will not escape this time, vows the Warrior. The First consults with the Second, telling him he fears the henchman had an accomplice. Susan and Barbara, who had been present at the henchman's questioning enter and say the the Sensorite has not named any fellow conspirators (much to the Second's relief), but has admitted to tampering with the maps and weapons given to the Doctor! Barbara asks for a second map to the aqueduct. The Second tries to sway the First against this to no avail. The Doctor has been a great help to the Sensorite nation, at great personal hazard, and the First will give all the help he can. In the aqueduct, the Doctor and Ian are still walking. They have heard roars and movement, but always in front of them, receding. Ian sees movement up ahead and rolls up the map to use as a decoy, poking it in front of him. Sure enough, the map is grabbed--and Ian follows, trying to struggle with whatever it is. The creature gets away, but Ian is sure it was a human! The Doctor confirms this, looking at a piece of cloth Ian tore from the adversary--a rocket badge with part of the word "Engineer" on it! Just as I thought, the Doctor says. It must be a survivor of the rocket crew, hiding down here for 10 years, scaring the Sensorites away with noise and darkness and poisoning the water! Now, they have two goals: find their way out and find the man or men and discover the reason why the aggression. Susan and Barbara are shown a model of the aqueduct and Barbara says she and John will go after the others. She hits upon a good idea for guidance: she will try to use a Sensorite mind transmitter disk and keep in touch with Susan, who will guide her using the model. Carol will join Susan and Barbara asks they be guarded by those the First trusts. "I trust all Sensorites," he says, and, with no better alternative, Barbara leaves. The First expresses admiration for her and Susan asks why he trusts all Sensorites. Shouldn't trust be earned? The First tells her that all Sensorite civilization is built on trust, though he will think about what she says. He goes on to say Earth people have great wisdom, but Susan reveals that she and her grandfather are not from Earth. On their planet, the sky is the color of burnt orange at night, and the leaves on the trees are silver...she misses her home greatly, the First reads in Susan's thoughts, but she has a wanderlust too. He agrees that all the humans will be free when all of this is over. The Doctor and Ian are still wandering, the Doctor making chalk marks on the pipes as they go. Suddenly, he and Ian realize they are surrounded by two men in rags of uniform with long hair and beards, bearing sharpened sticks. They advance slowly, then finally, haltingly, speak, asking the Doctor if the war is over and the Sensorites are all dead. Ian tells them that this is the case, playing for time, but they decide to take their prisoners to see their commander. John and Barbara, with telepathic help from Susan and Carol, enter the aqueduct. The Doctor assures his captors that the two of them are alone, not knowing that John and Barbara are following. Those two, meanwhile, have managed to find the map left by Ian. Looking at it, they can see it has been altered--all the proof they need to convict the Second Elder, thanks to the testimony of the scientist commanded to alter it. As the Doctor and Ian are being led on, the Doctor continues to mark pipes. They are finally brought to the commander, clearly a madman, who makes the two comfortable and talks about keeping his men (all two of them) in line--must maintain discipline!--as well as the war. He tells that two of his men "mutinied" 10 years ago, so he was forced to sabotage their ship, and the rest have waged what they believe is a guerrilla war ever since. The Doctor tells him that the war is over, and the commander insists, rather violently, that only he and his men have any claim on the molybdenum the planet holds. The Doctor tells the commander that he and Ian have been sent to lead them home. Just then, one of his men returns, warning of more intruders. The commander immediately declares the Doctor and Ian to be Sensorite spies, but it is John and Barbara, not Sensorites, who are brought in. The Doctor convinces the spacemen that all four of them are arrived to bring the victorious Earthmen out into the light. At the entrance to the aqueduct, the First Warrior and one of his subordinates (presumably telepathically informed by Barbara) are waiting for the party's return. They quickly subdue the two men, but are forced to stun the commander. The Warrior reveals that he had felt the urge to kill the commander, but he still only stunned him, which the Doctor praises. Later, Ian and Barbara talk with the First. He tells them he has given the Earth ship permission to take the three insane men home with no penalties. He also says that the former new Second, having been convicted by the evidence against him, will be exiled far from the city. The TARDIS lock has already been replaced in the ship's door, so the First bids his new friends farewell. The Doctor and Susan wait in the TARDIS while Ian and Barbara say goodbye to Carol, John and Maitland. Susan is sad that her telepathic abilities will be almost gone once she's out of range of the Sense-Sphere's special atmosphere, but the Doctor tells her it's all for the best. Still, she has shown a talent for it, and when they go home, perhaps she can develop that talent fully. He has no idea when this could be, however. Ian and Barbara enter and the four watch the Earth ship disappear on the scanner. Ian makes a small joke about how the Earth ship knows where it's going! The Doctor takes great offense and threatens to put Ian off the very next time they land....

This was a good ending to the story, tying all the plot threads up neatly. A little too neatly, in fact, and, in some cases, a bit too quickly. There is no confrontation with the Second Elder, for example, and the leave-taking scene with the First seems a bit rushed and awkward, as if they realized there was no more time left. And no on-screen goodbye for John or Carol? I understand that contracting the actor who played Maitland for another episode would have been a waste of funds, but still.

The discovery and capture of the Earthmen also felt a bit rushed, given that a good deal of the past four episodes led up to it. Perhaps that's not quite fair, since a longer period might have felt dragged out, did feel like there were several excellent cliffhanger moments in there had there been another episode! I quite enjoyed the varying kinds of "crazy" amongst the men. One of them, the second, had gone full-on savage (apparently), the first was almost there, and the commander had retreated into an illusion of command and discipline. (The moment when he told the first to "prepare the men" to go out to the surface--when we knew there was only one other man to be told--was pretty much perfect.)

Honestly though, there was only one point where I found myself absolutely questioning this plot. Somewhat unwillingly, I was forced to buy the idea that Sensorites without accoutrement looked exactly the same to each other (see the disguised "Second" meeting the First Warrior last week). I didn't like it, but I decided to let it go. Then this week, the First Warrior is confronted with the henchman, a Sensorite with no accoutrement, and immediately recognizes him as the one arrested the week before. I know I can't be the only one to see the contradiction here?

It's a shame, too, because other than that big plot point, this was a very good story. I'll discuss more of that (and include some dissenting opinion) in my wrap-up, but we definitely had some very decent writing and some fine acting. Hartnell and Russell both shine this week, and the rest aren't far behind. In fact, all the acting was quite good. And I was very impressed with how, thanks to a few simple shifts in lighting, the director managed to make what must only have been two aqueduct sets look like very different areas very effectively.

I'm sure there's much more to say, but it's late and I want to save something for my wrap-up! We're going to have to take a break next week, due to worldly concerns, but we'll see you again in two weeks with a new adventure! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Okay, let's dive in first with some of the weak points of this week's episode. First of all, the ending did seem a bit rushed, giving relatively quick resolution to a long and mildly complex plot. This resulted in a few "wait, what just happened?" moments for me. And there were a scattering of flubbed lines and a few minor effects gaffes and audio issues, but nothing too memorable or significant.

The Good: Quite a bit this week. I liked the explanation why Susan and Barbara spoke out loud to each other when they were using telepathy to communicate - to better focus on their thoughts, although of course it was to tell the TV viewers what they were saying to each other. The insanity of the crewmen hiding out in the aqueduct was also pretty cool. First two guys acting like cavemen (couldn't help but to recall "100,000 Years B.C." again) [Which was, I'm sorry to say, entirely my fault as I called out "You make fire!" when they appeared.--The Historian], followed by a commanding officer believing he had a much larger crew. At first I thought he did have a much larger crew, but then recalled that it was previously mentioned that there was a crew of five on the first space ship, and two of those were accounted for. I loved the way the Doctor and gang trick them into leaving the aqueduct.

Cool Moment: Susan's description of her home planet. I believe this is the first time in Doctor Who that the Doctor's home is described in any way. She doesn't say much, but it's cool nevertheless. Later in Doctor Who, this same description from The Sensorites is used in the Tenth Doctor story "Gridlock" (Season 29 or New Series 3, depending on your reckoning). Doctor Who history in the making. :)

Until next time!


Friday, August 7, 2009


Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with a somewhat reduced Project crew of Ketina and Ronelyn, bringing you more adventures on the Sense-Sphere. Let's get to the episode summary!

Episode summary: First aired 25th July, 1964. The Doctor has discovered a sprig of deadly nightshade in the aqueduct, but something has discovered him! Shortly thereafter, following the growls of the monsters, Susan and a still-recovering Ian come across the Doctor. He is unconscious and his coat is in tatters, although he is otherwise unharmed. Susan finds a pipe which Ian surmises is a broken piece of the lighting system, but Ian insists they get the Doctor out of there rather than investigating. Once out in the light, they revive the Doctor and the three discuss the situation. Susan tells her grandfather about the antidote for Ian being intercepted, and the three realize there are three specific problems: who is responsible for the poisoned water, the monsters in the aqueduct and a possible enemy in the Sensorite city. The Doctor pares that down to two enemies, as the water and the monsters are undoubtedly connected. They return to the Sensorite city, determined to find their enemy, but do not know that their conversation has been overheard by the City Administrator's henchman. Meanwhile, John is being prepared for his final treatment. He still tries to communicate the plot against them to Carol, but the Sensorite scientist tells her treachery is impossible as Sensorite society is built on trust and peace. He then explains to Carol what had been wrong with John and exactly how they are treating him. Compartments of the brain, he says, are separated by veils, and John's have been damaged. The equipment is repairing them. John still cannot quite communicate his fears, but he does recognize Carol as the final treatment begins. The henchman meanwhile tells the Administrator that the Doctor and his companions live. The captive Second Elder taunts the Administrator, causing him to advance his plans. He forces the Second to mentally contact the First Warrior, telling him to meet the "Second" in the courtyard (actually the Administrator in disguise) and bring the disintegrator firing key. The Second's family is threatened, so he complies. The TARDIS crew enter the courtyard just in time to see the exchange take place, and the Doctor tries to follow the "Second" to ask him about the antidote. Inexplicably (to the Doctor), the "Second" runs from him! The Administrator brings the firing key to the disintegrator room, but before he can use it, the Second grabs it and a struggle ensues during which the key is destroyed and the Second is killed! The henchman is worried, but the Administrator has a plan. Meanwhile, the First Elder receives the three companions and gifts the Doctor with a cloak to replace his coat, which had been left at the aqueduct. The Administrator (in his collar), the First Warrior and the henchman arrive, with the announcement that the Second is dead. The henchman claims to have been an eye witness to the Doctor's murder of the Elder, but Ian catches him up when he claims to have seen the Doctor remove a stone from his coat and kill the Second with it. The henchman is led away and the Administrator says he will interrogate the Sensorite personally. Believing the Second must have been their enemy, the crew decide to suggest the Administrator to be the new Second, thinking he would be grateful to them, but he coldly demands Ian call him "sir." Meanwhile, John's treatment is over and he's back to his old self. He tells Carol that his memories of the previous few weeks are hazy, but he thanks the scientist by showing him how to shake hands. The TARDIS crew enters the happy scene. The Doctor and the scientist go off to a corner to consult and Susan attempts to help John's memory. He recalls a conspiracy, but can't quite say who was behind it...a Sensorite with some kind of adornment. The new Second Elder enters and says it must have been his predecessor, acts rude and leaves, telling Susan that the First demands to see the Doctor at once. The Doctor and Ian are looking through things left by the earthmen who came to the world previously, including snapshots and a rough map of the aqueduct. The scientist says that one of the humans was very interested in the aqueduct, but the map was not very good. He can supply the Doctor with a detailed map. Susan begins to give the Doctor the Second/Administrator's message when something occurs to her. Did the plotter have a black collar on, she asks John? Yes, that's it--he remembers the collar. So the Administrator--now the Second--is their enemy! Meanwhile, the new Second shows his henchman (released from prison) two weapon sticks, asking if it is possible to make them useless, while still looking the same. The henchman gets to work. The Doctor and Ian go to see the First, realizing they cannot simply accuse the new Second without proof. They ask for permission to explore the aqueduct, and the First offers them light and weapons. They also ask if Barbara could be brought down from the spaceship, which the First agrees to. The First Warrior brings two weapon sticks, which can stun beings from thirty feet away. The Doctor, who dislikes weapons, accepts them because they stun, not kill. Unbeknownst to all, these are the same weapons that have been made useless by the henchman. The Second accidently intercepts the scientist, who is on his way to deliver the aqueduct plans to the Doctor. He offers to deliver it himself, but has his henchman alter some routes so the Doctor and Ian will get hopelessly lost. The plans arrive and the Doctor and Ian make ready to leave, although the First worries. After they are gone, he and the Warrior talk of how brave the strangers are. But the First is troubled. If they are innocent of killing the old Second, then...a Sensorite must have done it, which is unthinkable! Meanwhile, Carol, Susan and John, who know nothing of the Doctor's plans, prepare to start in on a feast to celebrate John's recovery. Carol leaves to find out where the other two humans are and John tells Susan that Carol means more to him than anything in the universe. Carol comes to the courtyard, finding it deserted. Without warning, she is grabbed from behind, a hand covering her mouth before she can scream...

There was a lot to like about this episode, from the Doctor's logical examination of the situation to Ian's masterful takedown of the henchman's accusations and more. I especially enjoyed the latter scene; Susan begins to get upset, but the Doctor immediately quiets her, realizing that the Sensorites have little experience with lies. Ian and the Doctor listen and then Ian calmly, almost effortlessly, cuts through the tiny tangle of falsehood. It was almost elegant, that scene.

The Doctor's insistence that they faced two threats, not three, was also a canny reading of their situation. One that didn't take a lot of effort for us, of course (even those of us with no vague memories of seeing this story before have pretty much figured out who is poisoning the water and why), but still handled quite well.

I mentioned last week that I'd had a problem with this story in the past, though I admitted that it had been many years and I might have been mistaken. But this week confirms it: when the purported "Second Elder" (actually the City Administrator in disguise) meets the First Warrior, who had had extensive contact with the real Second, the latter doesn't see the subterfuge. Thus, the plot point we explained away last week becomes inexplicable this week; yes, they are actually saying that the Sensorites themselves cannot tell each other apart without their collars, sashes, etc. This...stretches credibility, to say the least. How can a society function when you don't know who you're talking to? Remember, we were told earlier than lower caste Sensorites have no accoutrements. Quite simply, it makes no sense and it is this point that detracts from an otherwise (thus far) excellent story.

Honestly, there was just too much to like in this episode and very little to dislike. The acting, a few we-can't-stop-the-camera flubs and all, was quite good. I continue to be taken with John; he's a great role very well played. The First Elder actually has a real sense of gravitas; you can feel the weight of leadership on him and the compassion in him. The Administrator/Second (thank goodness I can stop typing Administrator from now on!) is a good villain; he does what he does out of his concern for the safety of Sensorite society--"the Sensorite Nation," which begs a question I'll ask below--not simply to gain power. As with last week, I was impressed with how good the actors were in being able to emote in those relatively immovable masks. Even Carol won me over a bit this week, and the regulars were excellent, all three of them. (And Jacqueline Hill returns from vacation next week! Yay, Barbara!)

The final question I'll leave you with is this: If the Sensorites are a peaceful society, if their entire society is based on peace and trust, why do they have a warrior's guild? Why a disintegrator weapon? Is this a vestige of the past, a ceremonial post? Or, as Ronelyn guesses, are the Sensorites not alone on their planet? (She pointed out that they do have a word for "monster.") Is it a clue that the new Second continuously refers to not the "Sensorite society" or the "Sense-Sphere" as a whole, but the "Sensorite Nation?" He was the administrator (last time, really) for the city they are in; is it one of many? City-states, perhaps? The script doesn't tell us--yet, anyway--so we're forced to speculate. If any of you have any ideas, feel free to share them in comments!

Anyway, that's all for me. Until next week, I remain



Ketina here,

I'm writing this without reading The Historian's entry first, for a change, so hopefully we don't repeat each other too much.

Let's start with The Silly: Lots of verbal gaffes this week. Both The Doctor and a couple of Sensorites had flubbed lines, with one Sensorite saying something along the lines of "While observing them I obser... obs.. heard them talking..." I suppose you had to be there. :)
Susan had an apparent gaffe, but she pushed through the line well enough so it sounded more like a teenager running off the mouth a bit, so it worked.
Right at the start of the episode there was this big music sting as the Sensorite spied The Doctor and companions leave the aqueduct. I can't help but to laugh every time they do those.
And the biggest silly is, of course, the entire essential plot point that the chief warrior can't tell the difference between the Second Elder and the City Administrator disguised as the second elder only wearing a sash! Okay, I get the "can't tell us apart from a distance" argument, but previously we'd seen the chief warrior interact with both of them, so what the hell? You seriously tell me that they can't tell the difference between members of their own race? Even I could tell them apart just based on their voices and paunches (several of the Sensorites are quite rotund). [Note from the Historian: Apparently, this was so ridiculous, we both felt we had to mention it!]
And the end of the fight scene between the City Administrator, his stooge, and the Second Elder was silly too. The stooge pushes the elder, the elder falls down, the stooge leans over "he's dead!" I suppose you could have descibed it as a blow to the head, but those Sensorites must be really fragile.

The good: While the City Administrator plot point is goofy, the remaining plot isn't too bad. Better pacing, nice mystery with the aqueducts. And the use of total darkness was cool.
Unusual for me, but I actually liked the matte painting they used for the background in the courtyard of The Elders. Nice weird alien city scape with lots of cool looking geometry. Still, obviously, a matte painting but nice nevertheless.
John's switch from crazy dude to together dude was nice too. I like the actor (one of the few who did not flub a line this week), and the white streaks in his hair, still there even after his recovery, were a nice touch to indicate his ordeal. I was a bit surprised that he didn't have any hard feelings about the Sensorites, however. I would have been quite upset if I'd gone through several months of insanity caused by them!

So, I have my guesses on how the story is going to wrap up next week, but I'll keep them to myself.

That's all for now!