Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.
Warning: the following contains spoilers.
Doctor Who: Serial 7 The Sensorites, Episode 3: Hidden Danger
Last time, the crew of the TARDIS faced off against the Sensorites, a race of aliens with strong psychic abilities who were menacing a group of human astronauts. During their encounter, the Doctor told them he was damned tired of their monkeyshines and fully intended to fight back if they pushed him too far.
So, having been effectively told off by a senior citizen, the Sensorites devised a new strategy and talked Susan into accompanying them down to their planet as a hostage.
Needless to say, this new strategy only succeeds in making the Doctor even crankier.
Susan, however, is determined to go with the aliens and the situation quickly devolves into a round of parent vs teenager, with Susan telling her grandfather, “Stop treating me as a child.”
With that gauntlet thrown down, the Doctor breaks out his full arsenal of parental cliches, finally telling her, “You’re not going with them Susan and that’s final.”
Eventually he succeeds in wearing her down and as the Sensorites watch their plan fall apart before their very eyes, one of them has the bright idea to announce aloud, “We must stun them with the hand rays,” which is probably not the best way to take your foe by surprise.
Needless to say, this plan doesn’t turn out so hot either and instead of getting stunned, Ian turns out the lights, rendering the Sensorites effectively blind. Seems that despite their many talents, seeing in the dark is not one of them and as they grope around blindly, Ian uses the opportunity to relieve them of their weapons.
As Ian flips the lights back on, the Doctor strolls over and announces “We have power over you, but we don’t intend to use it, only in our defense.”
With that established, the Sensorites decide they need to check in with home base, so out come those fantastic stethoscopes they use to read people’s thoughts.
As the Sensorites check in with their brain phones, the Doctor takes Susan into an adjacent room so he can lecture her some more.
Then, after a few minutes, the Sensorites pop in to inform the Doctor that he’s to travel down with them planetside so he can meet with their leader. While they await the arrival of the spacecraft that will bring them down, we finally get to the bottom of why the Sensorites are so damn distrustful. It seems the last time they encountered people, the humans all turned on one another, destroying their ship in the process. Ever since then, the Sensorites have been dying in alarming numbers.
The shuttle finally arrives and the delegation party hops aboard. As part of the arrangement, Maitland and Barbara are to remain in space, while the Doctor, Ian, and Susan travel to the planet’s surface with Carol and the increasingly unstable John.
Meanwhile, on the surface of the Sensor Sphere, the First Elder is discussing strategy with his second-in-command and the City Administrator. The Senior Elder is remarkably progressive and believes a peaceful situation can be reached.
The City Administrator? Not so much and immediately begins putting a plan in motion to kill the entire group with the aid of a “disintegrator ray”.
That’s right, the Sensorites have a fully automated assassination machine complete with grid-based death ray just waiting to be rolled out. As the Administrator begin punching in the Doctor’s coordinates, Battleship style, they’re interrupted by the First Elder who gives them a good scolding before making off with their firing key.
It’s just about this point that the Doc and his friends reach the council chambers, where they immediately being discussing John’s mental problems with a nearby Sensorite. This figure, who could easily be a janitor for all they know, is quick to assure them that John’s sanity can be restored given enough time. He then commands one of his flunkies to, “conduct him to one of the restrooms” which doesn’t seem like the best environment in which to recover from PTSD. Maybe he is a janitor after all?
Also, as a result of his condition, John has apparently gained the ability to read people’s intentions, making him a kind of walking morality gauge.
Then, as John and Carol are whisked off to enjoy the rejuvenating properties of the <ahem> restrooms, the Doctor, Ian, and Susan are led in for their meeting with the Chief Elder.
As they take their seats, they are given little finger bowls of water. This apparently doesn’t sit well with the Chief Elder, who angrily insists, “You will bring them the crystal water!”
As the crew receives their water upgrades, we cut back to that rascally City Administrator who is now more determined than ever to kill the Doctor and his friends. Worse still, the Chief Elder’s second-in-command has decided to join him in his schemes.
Back in the chamber room, the humans sample the pleasures of the “crystal water,” while the Elder elaborates on the disease that’s killing his people. Strangely enough it affects everyone but the elders, who we are also told drink nothing but the crystal water.
But before anyone can make the obvious connection, Ian launches into a coughing fit, then falls over unconscious.
As his companions jump in to investigate, the Sensorite Elder states that Ian is dying.
Wow. This arc really detoured into crazy town this week. We went from an atmospheric, Twilight Zone style thriller to something involving crystal water, disintegrator rays, and long-winded conversations about cultural differences. And throughout it all Hartnell is at his most ornery, snapping first at the Sensorites, then Susan, stopping just short of screaming that if that football comes into his yard one more time, he’s damn well keeping it. God, I love the first Doctor.