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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Doctor Who: The Sensorites

Serial Title: The Sensorites
Series: 1
Episodes: 6
Strangers in Space
The Unwilling Warriors
Hidden Danger
A Race Against Death
A Desperate Venture
Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

The TARDIS lands on a human spacecraft, drifting and apparently full of the dead. However, the crew is revivied from a deep sleep, revealing that they are orbiting the Sense-Sphere, a molybdenum-rich twin-sunned planet, and home fo the Sensorites... the latter of which will not let the Earth exploratory-ship leave orbit.

The Sensorites slip aboard the ship and steal the TARDIS's lock (they just remove the... conceptual doorknob created as part of the illusion... on an advanced spaceship... even though the doorknob isn't real... it apparently still contains the advanced spaceship's door-opening mechanism???) and try to crash the spaceship, hypnotizing the pair of survivors- the Doctor remedies both situations, while Susan's limited telepathic skills pick up the Sensorites, who are frightened of the humans and trying to communicate with her as they sense her and the Doctor to be different.

Responding to an invitation to negotiate, the Doctor, Ian, Susan, and spaceship survivors Carol Richmond and her fiance, John, a minerologist whose mind has been partially broken by the Sensorites' telepathy, travel down to the Sense-Sphere, while Barbara and the ship's captain, Maitland, remain aboard.

In a show of good faith, the Sensorites promise to heal John. The group learns that a previous expedition from Earth had arrived at the Sense-Sphere, who planned to exploit the planet for it's mineral wealth (the molybdenum). Their landing craft exploded on takeoff. Due to the strife that they caused, many Sensorites distrust this new group of humans; the City Administrator plots to kill them with conspirators- while others, including the friendly First Elder, beleive that they may be able to help with a disease currently ravaging the population.

The cause is discovered to be poisoned water from the city aqueduct, and the Doctor devises a cure. Meanwhile, the treacherous City Administrator kidnaps and impersonates his superior, the Second Elder- all Sensorites looking alike save for identifying insignia ont heir clothing.

The Doctor investigates the aqueduct caverns and finds deadly nightshade, the cause of the poisoning- but also encounters a monster, unseen in the darkness. He is knocked out but recovered by Ian and Susan... as the treacherous City Administrator kills his captive, the Second Elder. However, John, now healed, is able to finger the culprit, who revealed himself in gloating to the harmlessly 'unbalanced' man, not expecting him to be cured.

Ian and the Doctor re-descend to the aqueduct caverns, but their weapons and map have been disabled by the City Administrator, leaving them helpless against whatever lurks in the dark.

Barbara arrives from the ship and helps to recover a captured Carol, who had been forced to write a note claiming she'd left for the ship. They discover the treachery and sabotauge, and the First Elder moves in to arrest the conspirators as the women head down to the aqueducts to aid the Doctor and Ian.

Ian and the Doctor discovers the 'monster'- a band of humans from the original scout party. It turns out that the party agreed to exploit the planet for it's molybdenum, but argued the method- the conflict splitting the party in two. Half stole the landing ship- which then exploded upon takeoff- but this other half took to the subteranean caverns to survive; they have been slowly poisoning the Sensorites with nightshade, intent to take the planet and it's resources at their leisure after the Sensorites are dead.

The group is quite insane after all this time, delusional and paranoid, and the Doctor, playing to their madness, convinces them he is an ally, and leads them to the surface to be arrested by the Sensorites- who agree to be merciful and turn them over to Captain Maitland's Earth scout-ship to be treated for their madness on Earth.

Well... it took a little longer than anticipated to get to this one. At least now we can hook the computer to the TV and don't have to squint at the tiny screen.

Before jumping into a review, it occurred to me that, if this had been a New Series David Tennant episode, I think that:
A. The Doctor would have been able to telepathically communicate with the Sensorites himself, and would've been better at it than the Sensorites.
B. The Doctor would fiddle around on the ship with his sonic screwdriver for about 10 seconds. Later, when meeting the Sensorite leader, he would announce that the ship is fixed and out of their control, and could leave any time he wants it to, but he wanted to look around.
C. The humans would have ALL been evil, out for the Sensorites land- not just one crazy group. 'Cause we white people is EVIL peoples, you know...
D. The Sensorites would have psychically scanned the Doctor and announced an impending great disaster for him/his companions. ("Your song will end as silence falls and your journey comes to it's conclusion when the universe will crack and the sun will die and a great traveller will roam no more...")
E. The water thing wouldn't have been QUITE so telegraphed (Oh, I'll drink this other water that isn't as good... and get sick... and the elders drink a different water... and none of them are sick... hmmm, I wonder what could be causing the sickness...?) And the plot wouldn't have been SO IMBECCILIC!!!!!

Good gracious, what infant wrote this screenplay? It was maddeningly, irritatingly stupid, and you wanted to strangle that absurdly idiotic City Administrator, and the intelligence level of the story was LOW BEYOND REASON! A few nice moments with the Doctor in his research element, being the Doctor ("But you didn't kill him- that shows promise for the future of your race..."), and Susan being, realistically, a sulking teenager when she discovers she can't read minds anymore!

*Sigh* I was looking forward to this one, too... bleah! It's no secret that I'm no fan of the Ood from the New Series- like the Slitheen, they felt a little too much like a pet project the creators were determined to make beloved by repeatedly forcing it down our throats and having the characters gush about how great they were. But at least I relished the conection- the 'Ood Sphere,' their home, was supposed to be right by the Sense Sphere, and the alien designs, with their pale, bald heads and big eyes, were designed in homage to the Sensorites with a definite simillarity. Too bad the Ood's cousins turned out to be just as big a dissapointment as the Ood themselves...

Interesting, though, that the description of the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey in this episode is finally visualized in the New Who episode "The Sound of Drums," all those years- and seasons- later; in 2007 we finally saw, through CGI, the orange skies and silver trees and great glass-domed city that Susan speakes of so lovingly in this 1963 episode. Also interesting that, though this is the first true indication we've had of the Doctor and Susan being aliens, the Doctor refers to having a singular heart and doesn't object to being labeled an Earthman. Clearly the progression was there, but the notion of a Time Lord has not yet been developed.

But that STORY...! So dull, so slow- though there were a few nice moments- like the Sensorite outside the window IN SPACE, which was a genuinely creepy shocker- the first three episodes were especially agonizing! At least Barbara had the good fortune to be only tangenitally tarnished by this lackluster episode, as she hardly appeared.

Oh, one other note I forgot- seemed like way more flubs-per-capita than any other episode thus far; a lot of blown lines, from everyone! Despite that humor, it is not enough to redeem this miserable sack of suck.

Great moments:
Much as I dislike this... Susan's description of Gallifrey and the Episode 1-ending creepy exterior Sensorite still shine. (NFS: The scariest moment in many Doctor Who's to come....Ian's first glimpse of a Sensorite out the window....serious....behind-the-sofa...material.)

No blessings of Orb! None at all! Curses of Orb! Bleah!!!!!

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