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!


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