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
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!
NEXT WEEK: "A DESPERATE VENTURE"