Friday, July 31, 2009

"A Race Against Death"

The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you another tale from the Sense-Sphere. Let's skip the preliminaries and get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 18 July, 1964. Ian collapses and the First Elder tells the others he has the disease and they have no cure--he will die! The Doctor wastes no time; he questions the First and realizes the only thing Ian did that the others did not: Ian drank the water from the aqueduct, rather than that from the crystal spring. The "disease" must be due to a contagion from the water! The Doctor asks First for the return of the TARDIS lock so he might have access to his laboratory, but the First hesitates and says he must consult with the Second Elder. The Doctor suggests that no one be allowed to drink the aqueduct water, to which First agrees, telling the Doctor and Susan that Ian should have about three days, so they have time to find a cure. The Second, when consulted, tells the First he is uneasy about returning the lock; is it possible that Ian is only feigning sickness? Meanwhile, scientists are using a mind device to cure John. The City Administrator arrives, furious that resources are being wasted to save the human, it would be better to kill him! This is overheard by the Second, who again admonishes the Administrator. The Administrator again says he would do anything to assure his city's security, even if the elders would compromise it. He then tells Second that the whole "water" connection must be a lie to cause the Sensorites to question their basic resources. Second, having not thought of this, hurries off to consult with First. John looks at the Administrator and mutters, "Evil...evil...." He passes out just as Carol comes in, mistaking the Administrator for a scientist. He is angry at first, until she explains that it was difficult to see his collar of office from behind, making it hard for her to tell one Sensorite from another. This gives the Administrator the beginnings of an idea...The Doctor, meanwhile, is incensed that the elders have decided not to return the lock core. First tells him he will have full access to the Sensorite laboratories and equipment, which mollifies him somewhat. Leaving Susan to nurse Ian, the Doctor goes off to isolate whatever is contaminating the water. He believes, from Ian's symptoms, the contagion to be atropine. But they must first isolate the poison before they can cure it. Although the Sensorites have tested the water previously, they have not done so in a methodical fashion. The Doctor convinces them to test a sample from each sector, as the sickness seems to get better or worse in various sectors at various times, even though all the water ultimately comes from one source--the aqueduct. After a few negative results, he finally finds evidence of atropine in the water of Sector 8 and distills an antidote for it. The first batch is to be sent to Ian. Meanwhile, the elders confer; the Second has an appointment, but will then bear the First's congratulations to the Doctor. His appointment, however, is a trap and he is kidnapped by the Administrator, who steals his sash. After all, the way Sensorites who are not in close contact often identify themselves is with their badges of office, so he can convincingly pretend to be Second with the sash! He also warns Second that his family is being held as assurance for his good behavior. The Doctor goes to check on John and talks with Carol, telling her he will be making an expedition to the aqueduct, and soon they will hopefully all be able to leave. John tries to tell them of the plot against them, but they cannot understand him. The Administrator, meanwhile, proves his masquerade to be viable by intercepting a scientist on his way to deliver the antidote to Ian. The scientist gives it to the "Second," assuming he will deliver it, but the Administrator (after the scientist leaves) dashes it to the ground instead. If Ian dies, then the aliens are telling the truth, but if Ian lives, they must be lying, he tells his follower. Susan and the First wonder what's holding up the antidote's delivery, and Susan decides to go to the lab to check. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the chief scientist arrive at the aqueduct, a dark and forbidding place. The scientist tells the Doctor that all attempts to light it in the recent past have failed. When the Doctor proposes exploring anyway (he has a torch), the scientist warns that there are monsters dwelling within; anyone who ventures in has heard horrible growlings and shriekings. Sound and darkness--the two things Sensorites fear, the Doctor realizes. He tells the scientist to go back, he will explore alone. Susan has administrated another dose of antidote to Ian, though both she and First still wonder what happened to the first batch. The scientist enters and tells the three of the Doctor's expedition. Ian decides, weak as he is, that there's no choice; he must follow the Doctor. Susan demands to go along. First is touched and amazed by the humans' bravery; he decides he and Second had misjudged them. He uses telepathy to try to talk to Second, who is being held captive by the Administrator. Second no longer has his telepathic device, so he can receive, but not send. The Administrator demands Second tell him all he hears, on pain of his family's death. Second conveys the information, which includes the information that all three humans have gone to the aqueduct. The Administrator is delighted; no one goes into that darkness and returns alive! The scientist leads Ian and Susan to the aqueduct and gives them a light. They enter, looking for the Doctor. The Doctor, meanwhile, has gone further in and discovers exactly what he was looking for--a sprig of deadly nightshade, the plant atropine is made from. Suddenly he hears a terrible roar as something seems to be approaching him from the darkness....

As you can tell, quite a lot happened in this episode, although the team had surprisingly little to say. We agreed that some of us had been a bit hasty in joking about the "mystery" of the source of the contagion (i.e., the water) last week, since the mystery turns out to be not the source, but the why and the how! We're still in the dark about that (well, somewhat), but the mystery has been developed nicely. How has the poison been spread, once the water leaves the aqueduct? And why? By whom?

The one area of some disagreement was the montage showing the Doctor testing the water interspersed with Susan tending Ian. I quite liked it; it was a good reminder that the Doctor is supposed to be a Scientist with a capital S. We get to see him actually in a laboratory doing work. The bits with Ian and Susan simply emphasized the time limit he was under, giving an urgency to the work.

Another excellent point was the Doctor's deduction of the shenanigans going on at the aqueduct. It is as if someone who knows the Sensorite's weaknesses has specifically tailored the environment to keep them out. Hmmm.....

This is also the episode that has what my memory told me was one of the worst plot points in the history of the series: the idea that Sensorites can't even tell each other apart without their badges/sashes! Thankfully, the memory lies a bit, and the explanation the Administrator gives, that people not in the inner circle would only know the Elders at sight from a distance, is at least slightly more convincing that I remembered. (More convincing to Ketina and Schmallturm anyway. I'm still not totally sold, especially since the scientist the Admin fools is one who'd just seen the Second a few scenes before!)

As far as the regulars go, this is all the Doctor's show. He moves from infuriated to curious to gleeful to thoughtful, and none of it the least overacted. His joy at working with other scientists in a good laboratory is evident and well played. Ian and Susan are good considering their small part in this episode; William Russell does a convincing job of playing sick. The rasp he puts in his voice to indicate his sore throat was a nice touch.

The Sensorites are each marvelous. The more I see them, the more I like the masks. They're basic rubber, true, but they're still very effective and it's a tremendous credit to the actors that they do such a good job of conveying emotion through, basically, non-emotive masks. Story-wise, in this episode, they're generally well-drawn characters, with the possible exception of the Second who comes off a bit wet. Still the Administrator's semi-insane dedication to safety and definitely insane xenophobia work really well, as does the First's basic nobility--and his recognition of the nobility he finds in the humans. Very well-written aliens indeed!

And that's basically it for me this week. I'm really enjoying this story; it's developed well from the shaky initial episodes and I'm very much looking forward to finding out what happens next! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

So, I can't complain too much about this one. There's an intriguing plot developing regarding why are the Sensorites being poisoned and by whom. The visuals are simple, but compelling.

The Silly:
However, I thought the montage where the Doctor is analyzing the poison, cut with shots of Susan tending Ian, was rather goofy. The music, checking off the list of locations in English by the aliens, and Susan's fretting, I all found very silly. And Sensorites have fantastic handwriting - apparently some Sensorites are nuns (okay, you probably only get that joke if you went to Catholic elementary school, like me).
And there was the awesome tubie device on John's head, as they attempted to fix him, and we even get a quick shot of one of the Sensorite apparently PAINTING it.
And then, the fantastic line from the First Elder, "I shall give the congratulations to my Doctor..." Awesome!

No screams this week, but heading into the dark with the scary monsters next week, I'm sure we'll get one or two.



Friday, July 24, 2009

"Hidden Danger"

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



Ketina here,

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.



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!


Friday, July 10, 2009

"Strangers in Space"

We're back! The Historian here. After an agonizing, but necessary two week break, Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and I have reconvened for this first episode in a new story. Before we get to the summary, I'd like to encourage our readers (whoever you are) to feel free to make comments, either regarding any episode or just generally, letting us know who you are, how you found us and what you think of the Project. We'd like to hear from you! That being said, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 20 June, 1964. The TARDIS has stopped...but it's still moving. Have they landed on something, or perhaps in something? While they try to think through the problem, the four friends reflect on how they've changed since that fateful night in a junkyard in London, talking about their various adventures together. The Doctor even shares an adventure he and Susan had in the time of Henry VIII, before Ian and Barbara joined them! Finally, they open the doors and emerge into what appears to be the cockpit of a spaceship. At the controls, they find a man and a woman, both seemingly dead. After a discussion, the travellers begin to leave, only to discover the spaceship crew isn't dead after all, merely in deep comas! After being revived, the captain, called Maitland tells the TARDIS crew that he and his crew, the woman Susan and another man called John, are being held captives by a mysterious alien race called the Sensorites, natives of the planet the ship is standing off from known as the Sense-Sphere. Maitland urges the Doctor and crew to leave before they too are trapped, but the Doctor talks the captain into explaining the situation: the 28th century Earth ship had come to this sector of space and found themselves unable to leave. The Sensorites apparently kept them here through some form of mind control, putting them into a deep sleep if they tried to leave. And yet, both Maitland and Carol have memories of being fed and taken care of; it seems the aliens are interested in keeping, but not killing them. Meanwhile, an alien-looking hand has crept towards the TARDIS, using a piece of equipment to remove the lock mechanism, although it is still unable to open the doors. Finally, the Doctor agrees that they must flee, but the travellers discover that the lock is gone--without it, there is no way to open the doors! Suddenly, the ship lurches out of control! Maitland feels his will leave him and is completely unable to move to control the ship, so the Doctor jumps in and takes over. Ian helps Carol control the thrusters, while Barbara and Susan assist as best they can. After a close call with a collision course with the planet, the ship settles back into a normal orbit. The Doctor speculates that this was all an attempt by the Sensorites to scare them, and possibly to test the new visitors. Maitland is horrified that he was unable to resist their influence at all. Later, Susan and Barbara begin preparing food, while the Doctor tries to get more information about both the Sensorites and the third missing crewmember, John. Answers about the latter are not forthcoming. Asking Carol where water is, Susan and Barbara misunderstand and wind up passing the water machine and going through a closed door into a dark area of the ship. As they walk on, a human looking hand closes and locks the door behind them. After a few minutes, Ian realizes the two are missing and Maitland and Carol leap up in fear. They have gone into the ship where John is! He had been Carol's fiancé, but when the Sensorites had taken over their minds, John had become violent and they had shut him out of the cockpit. That was some time ago; who knows how he is now! Meanwhile, Susan and Barbara have encountered and run from a figure they only barely see in the dark. Attempting to sneak past him, he snaps on the lights, begins to walk towards them and collapses, clutching his head. Barbara soothes him and the women realize he's scared and pathetic rather than harmless. On the other side of the door, Maitland has begun to cut through the lock when a high pitched whine is heard--an indication that Sensorite craft are approaching! They leave the door and prepare for the boarding. John, meanwhile, hears the noise and tells Barbara and Susan he'll protect them. In the cockpit, the strange craft approach and then there is silence. Suddenly, a weird figure appears at the window outside the ship! The Sensorites have come....

It's funny; after viewing this episode, we all remarked how little happened in it compared to previous episodes, but writing a summary out like that...well, it feels a lot more full than I'd thought. One thing that is definite is that this episode was less about events than atmosphere; in reality, no one is ever in any danger at any point (even John isn't the threat he at first appears to be), but the feeling of tension and menace builds palpably. This different approach--from a new writer to the series, Peter R. Newman--gave this episode a very different feel from any of the others. Even towards the end of this first season, it's fascinating to see the show still experimenting with new tweaks to the format. (Full disclosure: Schmallturm found the episode a bit too talky, rather than completely atmospheric.) A note about that "towards the end" bit; it turns out that this story was originally supposed to be the end, but the season was expanded to one more six part story beyond this one. This, of course, explains the "summarize our adventures thus far" scene. It was a delightful addition, if a bit out of place considering, and a valuable "look how far we've come" kind of assessment, almost an admission that the whole "get Ian and Barbara home" thing won't be the focus of the travels any longer.

Something interesting to note is that this spaceship crew is the first time the TARDIS crew has encountered Earth humans in the future. All the other humanoids have either been aliens (the Thals, the peoples of Marinus) or people of the past (Marco Polo, Tlotoxl, etc.). This is our first glimpse of the future of mankind as a far spacefaring race--it's implied that the Sense-Sphere is a long way from home, and we see a rather nice 1964 version of the far future in the spaceship cockpit set. Both Schmallturm and I found the uniforms of the crew to be kind of spiffy in a Thunderbirds sort of way. The biggest puzzle, though, was the blasé reaction of Captain Maitland to the idea of encountering time travellers from the 20th century. Does this imply that time travel is around in the 28th century? It's not clear; whether it will be made more clear or not is...also not clear. Still, the people of the future don't seem too much different than the TARDIS crew, although it was nice to encounter people who didn't immediately want to hurt, trap, trick, or whatever our friends.

Acting-wise, the regulars turn in a decent performance, with William Hartnell showing his mettle once again. In a crisis, it's completely believable that his Doctor would push the ineffectual captain aside and take over. (Is this the first time we've seen the Doctor wearing glasses? I can't remember.) The rest all have their moments, although I can't come up with anything that stands out. The guest cast was a bit of a mixed bag, with Maitland being a bit wet and Carol not really doing much. In fact, it's Stephen Dartnell as John who stands out thus far among the guests; his character was by turns menacing (remember, he's shambling towards them in the dark after locking the two women in; for all they know, he's the Sensorite that is apparently on board) and pathetic, but completely believable. (As a side note, Schmallturm insists that John reminds him of David Bowie, specifically his hairstyle and the idea of a neurotic spaceman trapped on his ship. Of course, when this story aired, Bowie was still David Jones and, at best, playing small folk clubs, but Schmallturm was very insistent. At times like this, I've learned to smile, nod and promise to put it in the blog post.) And the monster, the Sensorite? Well, the idea that it could apparently survive the vacuum of space and appear at the main viewing window is a bit creepy, but we didn't really get a good enough look at it for me to form a firm opinion yet. Next week, hopefully!

So yes, I found this to be a bit slow, but an intriguing start to a new story. Had I been watching this in 1964, I would have had absolutely no idea where it was going. (As it is, I'm reserving judgment, unwilling to rely on old memories!)

Over to Ketina, and we are back on track to see you all again next week! Until then, I remain



Ketina here.

Let's just dive in, shall we.

The Good: The set and costumes were pretty keen. They did a very good job setting up the creepiness and ratcheting up the tension. And the John character was particularly effective. He was zombie-like at first, but then collapsed like child in Barbara's arm, which I thought was all around quite good. I am enjoying this story so far, but well...

The Bad: The pacing just didn't do it for me this week. My memories of the old Hartnell stories is that they were always at a colossally slow pace. Watching the episodes as we are for the TARDIS Project, with one 25 minute story a week, does change this - the pace has generally been much faster watching them in this fashion. But this story reminded me of how I remember these old stories; slow plodding pace with lots of dialog, long still scenes, and slow plot.
Also bad, but probably intentional, the terrible terrible high pitched sounds generated by the Sensorite's approach. Ow my head.

The Silly: The story was full of tension and suspense, but the clichéd music stings throughout, "duh nah!", I found more silly than tension filling.
Susan and Barbara running down the tiny, tiny corridor away from John.
The end moment, as the Sensorite clings to the window from outside, was very reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone episode with the gremlin on the plane wing and William Shatner freaking out.
And it appears that heroine screaming has returned!

One very interesting thing about this story though, is that it presents many mysteries in this first episode. If the Sensorites make these high pitched sounds when they're around, how come we heard nothing when they were steeling the TARDIS lock? If it was John who stole the lock instead (maybe while hypnotized) then why didn't we hear the door open? Were the Sensorites really going to stop them from crashing into the planet, if they hadn't have gotten away on their own? Why weren't the space explorers surprised to see time travelers from 20th century earth (I doubt we'll get an answer to this one)? And of course, who the heck are these Sensorites and what do they want?