Episode 7: The Sensorites

The Sensorites

Episode 7: The Sensorites
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by Peter R. Newman
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield and Frank Cox
Wikipedia Entry

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

Description
After landing the TARDIS on a starship of the future, the Doctor and his companions must fight for survival against an alien race that distrust human intentions.

Evaluation
This episode starts strong. The TARDIS crew encounters a starship in which its inhabitants are presumed dead. Luckily for the faint of heart, they are merely in a deep sleep. The starship crew, Maitland, Carol, and John, have been forced to orbit around the Sense-Sphere planet. The alien race, the Sensorites, refuse to allow them to leave as they fearĀ  what would happen if more humans came to potentially exploit their planet. During their initial interactions, the Sensorities attack the ship once more as well as make contact with Susan telepathically.

These first installments of the episode play out like a suspenseful science-fiction film. As the Sensorites are terrorizing the human starship crew, it’s unknown what they’re true intentions are. Combine this terror with the contact with Susan, and it’s a fantastic recipe for compelling television.

The later parts of the installment showcase how the majority of the human crew travels down to the planet with the Doctor. There is a plot in which a power hungry Sensorite takes control of the leadership in the hopes of killing the Doctor and the rest of the humans. While it’s an interesting storyline, it is not nearly as strong as the previous parts in the starship. The suspense could have been heighten with a little bit of editing.

Still, the overall story is compelling and interesting. It also foreshadows human-alien interactions in the future. The Sensorites are fearfully of humans because of their desire to exploit the planet of its goods and wealth. Quite similarly to the American Indian or any other culture that has been reduced thanks to Western “influence”. It’s barely touched upon in this episode, but a savvy viewer might begin to question the role of humanity in a future where exploration and expansion is possible. We always wonder what it would be like to meet an alien. Do we ever consider what it would mean to have an alien meet us or judge us by our history?

Historical Notes
Susan tells the First Elder that they haven’t been to their home planet in quite some time. She describes her home as having a burnt orange sky with trees that had silver leaves.

Susan displays telepathic tendencies in her communication with the Sensorities. It will be later established that the Doctor and other Time Lords have limited telepathic abilities as well.

The Doctor refers to his heart, implying that he has only one. Later episode of the program indicate that Time Lords have two hearts instead of merely one.

The Doctor also refers to himself as human. This will come into play in the Eighth Doctor film.

 

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Episode 6: The Aztecs

The Aztecs

Episode 6: The Aztecs
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan

Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by John Crockett
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Temple of Evil
The Warriors of Death
The Bride of Sacrifice
The Day of Darkness

Description
When Barbara is mistaken for a female incarnation of an ancient Aztec God, she must find a balance between her modern moral views and the manner in which history is created.

Evaluation
This was an important episode in that it discusses the impact one person can be in history. Throughout the entire episode, the Doctor emphasis that history can not be rewritten and that his companions are merely observers, despite how they feel about the actions of the past. Barbara, as Yetaxa, wants to place the Aztecs in a position where all the evil is wiped out and good can become the focus for their society. Barbara’s modern “moral” views are at war with the “morals” of the past. As much as we desire to change our pasts, we have to acknowledge that we would not be the people we are today without the successes and failures of the our past. Each action has a consequence, however small, and with each consequence a lesson is either formed or forgotten. Change never happens overnight and to force such change on a history could be disastrous. The concept of Time Travel is appealing to us all for two reasons: (1) To see the future or past as it involves or (2) To go back in time and fix our mistakes. It will never end well, no matter how much we desire such actions.

This episode hints at the Doctor’s heart. Not the physical aspect of his anatomy, but of his emotions. While the connections between Ian and Barbara have been strengthen between each adventure, the idea that the Doctor could find love is explored in his interactions with a woman named Cameca. The interactions between the two are adorable. There’s real sadness when the budding relationship must be torn apart due to the Doctor’s impending departure.

One note about this episode is that much of the episodes seem to be out of focus. Shots are slightly fuzzy as if everything happened in a dream. There are some actions scenes between Ian and a warrior by the name of Ixtla. The fighting between two is comical and does not pack the punch it should despite the suspense of the fight’s circumstances.

This is a great episode in that it highlights the strengths of all the characters. Barbara in her ideals. Susan with her push for personal freedom. Ian in his desire to protect his friends. The Doctor in his pursuit of knowledge in the midst of sacrificing ideals.

Historical Notes
Throughout the episode Barbara challenges the Doctor in his idea that history should not be changed. This is an important part in Doctor Who’s history as more modern episodes showcase how history can be changed. It’s up to the travelers to decided if that change is good or bad as it could create a ripple effect for the entire universe.

 

Episode 5: The Keys of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus

Episode 5: The Keys of Marinus
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by John Gorrie
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Sea of Death
The Velvet Web
The Screaming Jungle
The Snows of Terror
Sentence of Death
The Keys of Marinus

Description
The Doctor and his companions are forced by Arbitan, Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, to find the five Keys that will restart the Conscience once more. If the time travelers fail in their quest, the evil Voord will take control and life on Marinus will never be the same.

Evaluation
The episode starts out strong with the forced adventure of finding the Keys. There’s some great tension between Arbitan and the Doctor which I couldn’t help but be amused by as it was only a few adventures ago that the Doctor forced Barbara and Ian to travel amongst the stars. Here now was someone forcing the Doctor to do the same.

The different parts of the adventures range from fun to uncomfortable. At times it feels like the writers began to throw whatever they could to create tension and drama without considering the repercussions of their actions. Some of the adventures were too long (the courtroom drama) or the adventures were uncomfortable (the potential rape of Barbara in the icy wasteland). There was never a clear balance of adventure and exposition between the different adventures and I found my attention drifting at parts.

Yet, the parts that were the strongest were those that focused on the character development instead of just the adventure storyline. An example of this would be when the Doctor and his companions travel to the City of Morphoton. Barbara becomes the lead of the story. There’s even a shift in the camera work in that we see the story unfold through her perspective instead of observing the story in the their person. It’s a great element to the storytelling and it highlights the skill of Jacqueline Hill’s talents as an actress.

The tension of this first adventure storyline is built well and provides a fine resolution in its action. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, not all of the mini-adventures share this quality. The strength of Barbara’s character diminishes in a different adventure, and is later pushed aside to include a weak woman storyline. There are later hints of the original adventure’s theme in different scenes but it is as if the story peaked with the first adventure and then coasted through until the end. I do want to emphasis that I still enjoyed this episode. The parts that were entertaining were more in number than those that were boring. It was frustrating in that those less than stellar segments weighed the story down.

 

 

Episode 4: Marco Polo

Marco Polo

Episode 4: Marco Polo
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Waris Hussein
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Roof of the World
The Singing Sands
Five Hundred Eyes
The Wall of Lies
Rider from Shang-Tu
Mighty Kublai Khan
Assassin at Peking
(All Missing)

Description
At the roof of the world, the Doctor and his companions meet one of Earth’s greatest adventurers: Marco Polo.

Evaluation
This is one of the problems with watching the First Doctor adventures. Some of the episodes are missing. Marco Polo was a seven-part episode that entailed great costume changes and elaborate set designs. The audio track still exists as well as production stills and off-screen photos called ‘tele-snaps’. There are two different ways to enjoy the story. On The Daleks/The Edge of Destruction DVD there is a condensed version of the episode using the audio and the stills as a means to tell the story. There is also a book adaption published by Target Books. For the purpose of these two formats, this evaluation will be split into two.

Serial Evaluation
I really wish this episode has survived the great BBC purge. The audio presented on the DVD is only 30 minutes and only skims the surface of the story. Apparently there is a larger audio version of this available through BBC audio which I’ll have to seek out when I have a little bit more time (and money). The story entails the Doctor and companions coming into contact with Marco Polo on his travels to meet Kublai Khan. Marco wishes to take the TARDIS to Khan as a means to buy release so he may return back home to Venice. From there the episode is a struggle for survival through the caravan travel and a fight to regain access to the TARDIS. The companions make an impact on Marco and his traveling companions.

For what was presented in the 30 minute presentation, there’s also a discussion on a friendship that is formed with Susan and a girl named Ping-Cho. Much of their conversations stem from the fact that Ping-Cho has been engaged to marriage to a much older man to maintain relations with the warlord factions. It’s interesting to note Susan’s disagreement with how Ping-Cho has been forced to marry. There seems to be an underlining element of feminism that serves on the outskirts of some of the early Doctor Who story lines. It’s refreshing to see because Susan and Barbara are in perfect positions to be just pushed aside as the helpless females of the group. Yet, Ian and the Doctor are witness to their strength and acknowledge that they are vital part of their group.

Book Evaluation
The book adaptation was actually written by the same person who wrote the episode, John Lucarotti. It’s an incredibly short read for those of us who read fast. It’s still a short read for those who read slow as well. The pacing of the book reads like the episode installments in that there are moments in which the plot slows for establishment and then builds up to create tension. It moves in waves as each installment’s issues come to light, failure in the adventure leads to more exposition until finally a conclusion is created. I don’t want to seem as if I’m demoting the book because it clearly is an adaptation, but it was refreshing to see the tension build and imagine it as if it were an episode. Reading the novelization just enhanced my desire to see the episode instead of merely reading about the action.

The story is simple enough. As it was established in the 30 minute audio presentation, Marco Polo wants to keep the TARDIS and use it to exchange his freedom so he many return to Venice. The Doctor and his companions spend their time trying to convince Marco that they must let them leave as soon as possible. The Doctor, sneaky Time Lord that he is, plots and plans alternative routes of escape as the travelers move their way through Ancient China. There’s a sub-plot involving a warlord who wants to take over Kublai Khan’s power. The sub-plot hinders the Doctor’s plans, creating suspense throughout the story.

The ending has an interesting discussion on the source of power within our Ancient Histories. What does it mean to have power and how is power represented in everyday mundane interactions? Does power have a symbol and can leaders become great leaders by obtain objects or through their actions? Granted, these are elaborate questions for a conclusion presented in a limited amount of time. I couldn’t help but wonder these questions when we see the actions and thoughts of Kublai Khan as he interacts with the Doctor.

Overall, what was presented in the audio format was too short and left me wanting. The set designs looked gorgeous and the costumers looked elaborate. The book adaptation serves as a great example of what could have been. As more money had been poured into this episode than the previous one of The Edge of Destruction, it’s sad that one can not appreciate what looks like a stellar episode.

Historical Notes
N/A