Doctor Who: Adventures in Little Land

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 9 Planet of Giants, Episode 2: Dangerous Journey

Hi everybody and welcome back. As you may recall, last time our heroes became teeny tiny after the doors of the TARDIS flew open exposing them all to a heavy dose of shrink radiation…or something like that. It’s really not important. The takeaway here is that they’re small now and stuck in some British guy’s backyard. We were also introduced to the yard’s owner, a scientist named Farrow who went and got himself murdered after logging roughly twelve minutes of screen time. Oh, and while all this was going on, our tiny travelers were suddenly discovered by a cat!

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BBC

Now seeing as how they’ve put the episode’s title right up there by the cat’s eyes, you’re probably thinking it plays a pretty important role in this week’s story. After setting up a cliffhanger like, there’s got to be some sort of payoff. Maybe a big confrontation or at the very least some sort of frantic escape, right?

Well, as it turns out, no. The crew just sort of stands there until the cat loses interest and slowly walks away. Guess what, the cat’s not the only one losing interest around here. Zing!

With our main source of conflict taken completely out of the picture, the Doctor, Barbara, and the rest turn their attention to finding a way back to the TARDIS.

They’re quickly interrupted, however, by the appearance of two regular sized people, or as Ian says, “I can see a huge leg coming!”.

In strolls everyone’s favorite scientist killer Forester along with his associate Smithers.

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Fox

Nope, not that one. This far less interesting Smithers is the inventor of the insecticide that kicked off this whole murder nonsense in the first place.

As the two of discuss the finer points of body disposal, Ian and Susan take refuge in the dead man’s briefcase. Then, after a few minutes, Forester scoops up the briefcase and takes it into the house where he deposits it on a lab table.

Ian and Barbara stumble out from their journey and decide to take a stroll through their new digs. They wander past a set of giant test tubes, then stumble onto a pile of wheat seeds which Barbara immediately decides to pick up.

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BBC

Unfortunately, the seed is coated with some kind of sticky substance, but before she can make too much of it, Ian hatches a plan to chain together paper clips into a makeshift ladder.

This involves an amusing little sequence in which Ian attempts to pop the lock on the giant briefcase.

While all this is going down, a fly manages to sneak on Barbara and guys, it is really gross. Like REALLY, REALLY gross!

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BBC

I know this show may not always astound us with its production values, but whoever designed that thing really nailed it. God!

As Ian and Barbara labor away in paper clip land, we cut away to the Doctor and Susan who are hatching a plan of their own, which involves climbing into the house using the inside of a corroded drain pipe.

With rescue on the way, we bounce back to Ian and Susan who have discovered that the nasty ass fly has died suddenly after sitting down on that pile of wheat seeds. This is obviously pretty alarming to Barbara who moments ago touched the very same seeds.

Ian, however, remains completely oblivious and launches into a prolonged lecture about how Barbara should avoid touching them at all cost, which is insane because he watched her do that very thing not ten minutes prior. He even lent her his handkerchief to wipe the goo off her hands.

Come Ian, get your head in the game!

As Barbara breaks down into tears, Doc and Susan reach the top of the drain pipe and climb out into the middle of a sink.

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BBC

I’ve got to admit, I really dig this set.

Then, in a genuinely clever moment, Susan uses the echo from within the pipe to magnify her voice.

Ian and Barbara hear her and calling and show up at the sink, but wouldn’t you know it, just as they do, those bumbling murderers Forester and Smithers show up wanting to wash their hands.

Doc and Susan dive back down into the drain pipe just before Smithers plugs up the sink and begins washing his hands. Then, in one of the series’ strangest cliffhangers, he pulls the plug, flooding the pipe with water.

This story remains one of the more unusual of the Doctor’s outings. Admittedly there’s not much going on here; it’s really just an attempt to get from Point A to Point B, but it’s fun and clever enough to keep things watchable. Plus, you know oversized props. Those are always fun.

I really wish we’d get more interaction between the regular-sized humans and our tiny stars though. This time around, the two plots remain entirely separate, only overlapping for a few brief throwaway moments. What I really want is for the Doc and company to take on the role of tiny crime busters and foil Forester and Smithers Ant Man style. After all this show has put me through, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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Doctor Who: Season One Retrospective

Welcome back everybody. Last time, we closed the book on the first season of Doctor Who, bringing the first chapter of this massive undertaking to a close. In keeping with the spirit of this project, I went into this almost completely blind, knowing next to nothing of the show beyond its basic broad strokes. It was an interesting experience, tackling something this long-lived from the ground floor. 

So, what’s the verdict? Well, that’s a bit complicated. Obviously the show hasn’t always aged gracefully. Special effects have come a long way in the last fifty years and the show’s production values weren’t always top-notch to begin with. Yet despite all of that, it retains a certain of handmade charm and manages to come alive in small doses. William Hartnell’s performance is a standout for me, investing the Doctor with a gruff, stubborn quality that really breaks from your typical sci-fi hero.

But what about the episodes themselves? Are any of these things actually worth watching?

Admittedly the output here is something of a mixed bag, but there are a few episodes that are well worth seeking out, particularly for those interested in the character’s history.

So without further adieu, here’s my take on the most (and least) watchable episodes of Season One.

Serial One: An Unearthly Child

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BBC

I definitely recommend giving the first episode a watch. It’s a solid intro that does a good job of laying out the basics of the series, introducing the Doctor and his strange time machine through the eyes of his first companions.  

It may also well be the strangest pilot of all time, with a grumpy, mean-spirited old man forcing a pair of confused school teachers to ride shotgun on his jaunts through time and space. It’s really strange just how unlikable the Doctor is. I suspect the producers were shooting for a Sherlock Holmes-style eccentric, but he’s isn’t so much eccentric here as he is just plain mean. It’s definitely a far cry from his more modern incarnations. 

With that one under your belt, you can probably go ahead and tune out for the rest of this arc, which sees the Doctor and his crew journeying to prehistoric times. What follows is three episodes worth of hairy, grunting cavemen yelling at one another about fire, which is not the most compelling of material.

Serial Two: The Daleks

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BBC

Of all these stories, this is probably the one most relevant to modern Who fans, introducing the Doctor’s most recognizable foes. The Daleks are very different from anything else appearing in Season One. Featuring some clever design work and a simple, yet iconic look that has served as the characters’ visual basis for the succeeding fifty years, it’s easy to see how they became such a staple of the series. 

Unfortunately, the story here is a bit of a slog. It clocks in at a lengthy 7 episodes, much of it spent with the Daleks humanoid enemies the Thals. There’s not nearly enough going on and the writers fall back on a constant cycle of capture and escape in order to pad things out.

The Daleks are cool though and watching them deliver trays of food to their captives is something that should be experience by everyone at least once. 

Serial Three: The Edge of Destruction

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BBC

Moment for moment, The Edge of Destruction has the most entertaining moments of season one. Settle in for such surreal moments as a blade-wielding Susan, people screaming at clocks, and a seemingly drunken Doctor trying to maroon his companions in space.

You won’t understand what’s happening and you won’t care. If only the rest of the series could be this delightfully unhinged. Plus, at a breezy two episodes, this is the most accessible serial by far.

Serial Four: Marco Polo

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BBC

There’s really no reason to weigh on this one, since you can’t watch it anyway. The first victim of the BBC’s regrettable junking policy, this entire serial has been lost to the ages. The original audio survives, synched up with still photos into a kind of visual slideshow called a tele-snap. This appears as a bonus feature on The Edge of Destruction DVD. My advice, don’t bother. The history episodes are typically among the show’s least interesting stories, designed to add an educational component to the series. 

Serial Five: The Keys of Marinus

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BBC

As crazy in many ways as The Edge of Destruction, but far more tedious, The Keys of Marinus was concocted as a quickie replacement after an earlier script proved problematic. William Hartnell was also on vacation for part of the shooting time, leading the producers to create a series of stand-alone adventures loosely connected around an attempt to locate several computer keys.

While the disconnected nature of the stories makes it pretty hard to care about the arc as a whole, I can definitely recommend a few of the episodes themselves. The Velvet Web is particularly gonzo, with Barbara facing off against a squad of telepathic, disembodied brains, while The Screaming Jungle sees Susan, Barbara, and Ian stumbling into a jungle that screams…and kills!

Serial Six: The Aztecs

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BBC

One of the more dramatically satisfying offerings, the Aztecs distances itself from the series’ pulpier aspects in favor of a straightforward time travel morality play.

Landing in 16th Century Mexico, the crew of the TARDIS encounters the Aztecs. Barbara is mistaken for a goddess and uses her newfound political clout to try and end the Aztecs’ practice of human sacrifice, while the Doctor attempts to teach her that it is impossible to change history. It’s a theme that has long since lapsed into a time travel cliché, yet it remains important in establishing the show’s morality, laying down some much-needed ground rules.

Serial Seven: The Sensorites

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BBC

This one smacks of wasted opportunity. It starts out strong with a first episode that plays out like a scenario from The Twilight Zone. Stumbling onto a stranded spaceship, the Doctor and his friends discover a group of Earth-born astronauts who are being menaced by unseen aliens. The setup is creepy and the alien reveal is especially well done.

From there, the tone changes significantly, falling back on a standard, yet serviceable aliens meet earthlings cultural exchange story before devolving into something else altogether in its final moments.

I’d recommend the first episode for its creepy atmospherics, but I wouldn’t invest any more time in it than that.

Serial Eight: The Reign of Terror

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BBC

One of the most padded serials of the entire season, The Reign of Terror drops the crew of the TARDIS into France during Robespierre’s reign of terror. Unfortunately, the writers fail to pull anything interesting out of this historical backdrop and the action quickly falls into a tedious cycle of arrest and escape which ultimately amounts to very little. You do get to see Hartnell sporting some fantastic new clothes, but at a lengthy seven episodes, it’s just not worth it. 

Well, I guess that’s about it for now. There’s plenty of more Who to tackle, so be sure stay tuned as we dive into Season Two. 

Doctor Who: Escape From Paris

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 6: Prisoners of Concierge

Welcome back everybody. Today’s episode is something of a special occasion, marking not only the end of this story arc, but of the entire first season as well. Plus, as an added bonus, the animation portions are done for the time being, giving us a welcome return to live action. 

So, without further adieu, let’s jump right in.

As you may remember, last time the Doctor made a deal with French officer Lemaitre in order to save Susan’s life. This involved Doc taking him to the safehouse where his friends are currently residing.

As Doc strolls in to the safehouse with Lemaitre, we get a pretty fantastic moment where Jules yells out, “Your friend has betrayed us!” before everyone stands there silently, waiting for the onscreen credits to roll. 

With the cameraman properly credited, the characters come to life again and Lemaitre surprises everyone by insisting that he has come to them as a friend and that Ian will back him up on that.

Ian’s responses is a confused, “I will?” 

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BBC

Then Lemaitre reveals that he is, in fact, the long pursued James Sterling. Everyone’s pretty stunned by this, but considering our list of potential candidates included him and the idiot jailer, this doesn’t strike me as that big of a shock. 

Everyone’s also pretty pissed off that he didn’t reveal this sooner–and you can go ahead and include me in that group—but Lemaitre/Sterling (LeSterling?) tells them he needed to be sure that he could trust Ian before approaching him. 

Then the Doctor breaks in with the best line of the episode, “That’s all very well Lemaitre or whatever your name is but the only reason I brought you here was to help Susan.” 

Doc’s on the verge of one of his famous tantrums, but LeSterling offers to use his position to give them all safe passage. 

With the Doc momentarily pacified, LeSterling asks Ian to give him the message that he received in jail.

Ian tells him that he is to return to England, because the intel he’s collected is needed urgently. 

Lemaitre insists there should be more to the message. Ian thinks that over for a moment, then tells him the prisoner also mumbled a bunch of nonsense as he died. 

While they try wrapping their head around that, LeSterling reveals to them what Robespierre told him last episode about shadowing Paul Barras. That sufficiently jobs Ian’s memory and he recalls the prisoner mentioning something about Barras and a sinking ship. 

But wait, what’s this? It just so happen that there’s an inn called The Sinking Ship, which would make an ideal location for a secret meeting. 

Since Barras knows Lemaitre’s face, he suggests that Ian and Barbara show up instead.  

Then, in one of the episode’s many awkward transitions, we’re given a brief shot of the inn’s exterior before cutting inside where Barbara, dressed as a barmaid, serves wine to their friend Jules.

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BBC

Jules tells her that he has bound and gagged the innkeeper and left him in the wine cellar, so I guess it’s safe to say that some time has passed.  

Barbara heads into a back room where Ian stands there punching a peephole into the wall. 

Eventually, Barras shows up, only to be joined a few minutes later by his mysterious guest, who turns out to be none other than Napoleon Bonaparte himself. 

Barras tells Napoleon that Robespierre is to be arrested the next day and proposes joining forces to establish a new government.

As this is going on, Barbara and Ian stand there at the peephole, listening in on them like a couple of pervs. 

Napoleon thinks that’s a mighty fine idea and takes Barras up on his offer. 

Then the cameraman treats us to an extreme close-up of Napoleon’s face, which transitions into an equally crazy shot of Lemaitre staring into the camera yelling, “Napoleon? Napoleon as ruler of France?”

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BBC

Needless to say, Lemaitre is not pleased by this latest turn of events. 

The Doc, however, doesn’t give one whit about any of this and takes off with Barbara to go rescue Susan, while Lemaitre and Ian go to the palace for news of Robespierre.

In the palace itself, Robespierre locks himself in his office as a bunch of soldiers show up and break down the door.

Ian and Lematire show up just in time to see Robespierre get shot, then hauled away off to prison.

Meanwhile, back at Concierge Prison, the Doctor walks in on the jailer who is currently engaged in the 18th Century equivalent of a raging kegger.

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BBC

Doc tells them that Lemaitre has been shot as a traitor and that he is there to round up the man’s accomplices. 

He orders the Jailer’s drinking buddies to arrest him, then feigns a change of heart and allows him to remain on as jailer after getting the key to Susan’s cell. 

As Doc frees Susan, Robespierre is led inside. 

Jules, who plays a remarkably small role in this episode, wonders aloud who will be the next ruler of France and, for some reason, Ian tells him to remember the name Napoleon. 

Then Doc shows up with Susan and the whole gang leaves Paris by carriage. They hop aboard the TARDIS and the Doctor makes a grand speech about how “Our destiny is in the starts,” over footage of outer space. 

And with that, we bring our coverage of season one to a close. That’s one whole season down, can you believe it? Don’t worry, I’m not quite done talking about this season, so join me next time for my definitive Season One wrap-up. 

The Doctor’s New Clothes

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 3: A Change of Identity

Last time, the majority of our cast got themselves shipped off to prison while the Doctor took a scenic walking tour of France. Then, in the episode’s final minutes, Barbara and Susan were led out to the guillotine, while Ian looked on helplessly from his cell.

We open this week on a shot of a city street as the Doctor finally makes his arrival in Paris.

Then it’s off to another part of the city, where a pair of young men hover in the shadows, waiting to ambush the prison caravan on its way to the guillotine.

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BBC

Meanwhile, back in the dungeons, everyone’s favorite Jailer shows up for his regular food delivery only to be by summoned by his Uniformed Superior. In his hurry, the jailer somehow manages to leave his entire ring of keys dangling from the keyhole of a nearby cell.

The Uniformed Man, who has been waiting all of twenty-three seconds, immediately snaps at the Jailer for taking so long.

When the Jailer points out that he was delivering food, Capt. Uniform screams and knocks the pair of bowls he’s holding to the floor, shouting, “The prisoner’s food is unimportant!”

So, what is important? Long lists of execution figures, which Uniform informs us will soon be examined by Robespierre himself. He’s also quick to add that if the records aren’t correct, the Jailer himself might find his way onto the list.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to have never lived through a genocidal purge, so my knowledge in this area is somewhat lacking, but how exactly does one screw up a list of executions? Do you accidentally check the alive box by mistake? It seems pretty cut and dried.

While this is going on, we cut to inside of Ian’s cell, where everyone’s favorite man of action searches his surroundings for a way out. He notices the keys dangling from his cell door, steals the key to his individual cell, then sticks them back exactly as he found them.

Then, with that accomplished, he sits down to reward himself with a nice bowl of Parisian slop.

Back in the main area, Uniform is apparently pleased with the Jailer’s figures and promises to put a good word for him in higher circles.

Jailer’s feeling pretty good about himself. The right word in the right ear might mean bigger prisons and bigger prisons means bigger keychains. Oh, the possibilities.

Unfortunately that’s about the time he notices that his own keys are missing and races back to the cells. He finds them hanging from the door where he left them, never suspecting that they’re a single key short.

Well played Ian, well played.

Down in the streets, Susan and Barbara enjoy what may be the worst carriage ride of all time on their trip to the guillotine.

Fortunately, their journey is interrupted when one of the horses throws a shoe.  Barbara plans to make a break for it but Susan’s not feeling well enough to move, so they just stand there hugging instead.

But then the two rebels from earlier show up, kill all the guards, and whisk the two of them off to safety.

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BBC

With that settled, it’s back to the Doctor who continues wandering the streets. He stops in at a clothing shop and inquires where the newly arrested prisoners are taken.

Then, he starts rummaging through racks of clothes, discovering a Regional Officer’s uniform. Despite possessing no money whatsoever, he talks the shopkeep into giving it to him in exchange for the clothes on his back. The Shopkeep agrees on the condition that Doc throw in his ring. Doc agrees on the further condition that he be given parchment and writing materials.

Meanwhile, the rebels have succeeded in bringing Barbara and Susan to their safehouse. The lead rebel introduces himself as Jules and gives his partner’s name as Jean.

Jules says they’ll make arrangements to have the two of them smuggled out of France, but Barbara refuses until they’ve found the missing members of their group.

In the dungeon, Ian calls for the Jailer. When he doesn’t answer, Ian uses the key to unlock his cell and make a break for it.

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BBC

On his way out, he stumbles on the Jailer, who is passed out drunk along the floor. Strike two Jailer.

As he escapes, the Uniformed guy secretly watches, in the hope that Ian will lead him to the British spy mentioned last time.

Back at the safehouse, Barbara and Susan use a map to show Jules where they were captured.

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BBC

After hearing about the farmhouse, Jules asks them if they encountered two men and Barbara tells them of the two men that were shot during their capture.

Jean is worried about the soldiers discovered their escape route and believes there may be an informer in their group.

Then another rebel named Leon shows up with a message for Jule.

“There is a man. A stranger. He’s been asking for you.”

Which is apparently pretty important because Jules and Jean immediately head off to investigate, leaving Barbara alone with Leon.

Back at the prison, it’s dress-up time as the Doc strides into the dungeons wearing a full French uniform. And yes, it’s as fantastic as it sounds.

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BBCS

Show of hands who thinks this should become his regular look? Doc storms in and immediately begins dressing down the jailer, berating him for not providing him with an escort through the city.

Then he asks about Ian, Susan and Barb and is told that the two women were rescued and that Ian escaped.

As he stands there conversing with the Jailer, the Uniformed Man shows up and demands to see his papers.

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BBC

After looking them over, Uniform says he’s going off to discuss execution figures and since the province Doc claimed to be from is going to be discussed, he should join him.

Then, a short time later, the shopkeeper shows up at the prison and gives the Doctor’s ring to the Jailer in order to rat him out.

Well, quite a contrast from last week’s snoozefest. There’s actually quite a bit going on here and the director does a solid job cutting between the various groups, while keeping the story moving. Plus, Hartnell with a cape! There might be hope for this storyline yet.

Tune in next time for episode 4, The Tyrant of France.

 

Doctor Who: A Master of His Craft

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 1: A Land of Fear

So, you remember how at the end of last episode, Ian made an offhand remark about going home and the Doctor lost his mind? Well, it turns out that gonzo moment is the motivation behind this week’s story.

As we open, The Doctor’s still fuming from that perceived slight and has brought the TARDIS back to earth with the intention of kicking Ian and Barbara off his ship for good.

Ian is skeptical that they’re actually back home, having witnessed the Doctor’s none too impressive navigational skills in the past.

Doc is adamant, however, and fires up the ship’s external camera as proof.

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BBC

Yup, that’s definitely twentieth century London, all right. No way that could be happening anyplace else.

Unconvinced a few shots of trees, Ian insists on some actual hard proof before departing the ship. This succeeds in making The Doctor even angrier, shouting, “I’m rather tired of your insinuations that I’m not master of this craft.”

This pretty much sets the tone for the entire episode, with Ian and the Doctor sniping at one another like an old married couple.

Finally at around the five minute mark, Ian succeeds in convincing the Doctor to join them, meaning we’ve dedicated a full fifth of this thing’s run time to just getting them all off the ship.

With Susan in tow the group heads out into the forest, where Susan notices a distinct lack of external lighting for what is supposed to be 20th century London.

Then, after hearing what is obviously gunfire, the Doctor suggests, “Perhaps it was a rabbit. You know Chesterton’s getting quite jumpy these days.”

Ian heads into the bushes to investigate and comes out with…a filthy child.

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BBC

The kid is completely freaked out, which is pretty understandable reaction to being questioned by an angry William Hartnell. 

Ian tries pumping him for information. He asks if they’re in England and the kid tells them they’re in France.

Doc is quick to defend his calculations, saying, “A few hundred miles or so either way is to be expected, after all it’s only a fraction of the distance we’ve covered. It’s quite accurate in fact.” 

Ian takes another jab at the Doctor’s time travel skills, while the kid manages to run away. 

He makes it to a decrepit farmhouse, where he knocks on a thick door before disappearing inside.

After some wandering, the Doctor and crew arrive at the same battered home and engage in some light snooping.

After lighting a few candles, the Doctor decides to head upstairs.

Then Susan stumbles onto a chest containing 18th Century period clothing. There’s also a bunch of weird documents inside, including one with Robespierre’s signature. Which definitely cracks the list of worst things to discover while lost in the woods.

As Ian and friends grapple with that, we cut away to the Doctor just long enough to watch him get hit upside the head.

Then it’s back to Ian and friends, who are now squeezing into old-time clothing.

As they stand there changing, Susan says the Doctor might not want to return to the ship once he finds out where they are because the reign of terror is, “his favorite period in the history of earth.”

So, to review, given the opportunity to go anywhere in history, the Doctor’s favorite period is the Reign of Terror. Not the Renaissance, not ancient Greece, no sir, Doc’s excited by a place renowned for its frequent beheadings. Maybe not the guy you want blasting you around through time and space.

While the group lets that sink in, they’re interrupted suddenly by a pair of men with old school pistols.

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BBC

The men, named D’Argenson and Rouvray, begin questioning them about their loyalties, which quickly becomes moot when a group of soldiers show up and surround the place. This immediately sends D’Argenson into a full-scale breakdown in which he recounts the details of his family’s murder.

The TARDIS crew decides that you know what, maybe now might be a good time to head upstairs and check on our friend, which is a pretty smart move since seconds later D’Argenson throws open the door, revealing their position.

The leader of the soldiers orders them to open fire, but Rouvray steps up and orders them all to stop, which they surprisingly do. 

As they stand there embroiled in a standoff, Rouvray engages in a bit of 18th Century trash talk.  

“You can give them uniforms lieutenant, but they remain peasants underneath.”

It’s pretty great moment, with the rebel using his charisma to hold the soldiers at bay.

Sadly, it’s not long before one of those same “peasants” shoots him down.

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BBC

Then, having wetted their taste for murder, the entire detachment bulrushes D’Argenson, killing him too.

And what has become of Ian and company?

Well, having successfully made it to the second floor, they are immediately discovered by the Lieutenant and his eyepatch-wearing sidekick.

As they’re paraded outside, a fierce debate breaks out between those in favor of killing them now and those that want to kill them later. The laters win, when the lieutenant finally insists on bringing them to Paris, so they’ll receive credit for their prisoners.

So, with murder momentarily off the menu, old one-eye decides to burn down the house as an alternative.

Inside, the Doctor struggles valiantly to his feet, only to pass out again from smoke inhalation.

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BBC

Some days it really doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

As Ian and the others are led away, they notice the house engulfed in flame and come to the rather troubling realization that the Doctor is still inside.

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BBC

As the crew is led away, we pan over to find the frightened boy from earlier hiding behind a bush.

Well, after a brief adventure with the Sensorites, we’re back with another history episode. It’s a strange one to be sure, with the Doctor inexplicably reverting to his earlier, angrier persona while trying to rid of himself of his companions.

There’s also the unfortunate matter of that drawn out beginning. Once the writer’s finally get everyone off the ship though, it actually turns into a pretty decent first episode. There’s something genuinely disturbing about the threat this time around. I guess it’s a lot easier to take a battalion of soldiers seriously than an alien wearing a bodysock and the director manages to tap into the frightening qualities of mob mentality.

The ending with Hartnell trapped in the house is pretty effective too, with the building becoming completely engulfed in flames. Definitely one of the stronger cliffhangers the show has managed thus far.

 Well, that’s it for this week. Tune in again next time for the fantastically titled: Guests of Madame Guillotine.

Doctor Who: A Desperately Confusing Venture

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 6: A Desperate Venture

So, quick recap on where we are at this point. After uncovering the former City Administrator and current Second Elder as their mystery foe, the Doctor and Ian headed off into the aqueducts to search for proof of his guilt. Before departing though, the Administrator (let’s just agree to call him that) managed to hatch one final scheme, having their weapons and map sabotaged before sending them off into the aqueduct’s labyrinthine depths.

Then Carol the astronaut went and got herself kidnapped, which is precisely where we pick up this week, with Carol hauled into the Administrator’s lair so he continue wreaking havoc on the humans.

Now, far be it from me to criticize the Administrator’s villain skills, so far he’s concocted some pretty wicked schemes, but I’m at a real loss to understand his latest brainstorm, in which he forces Carol to write a handwritten letter explaining her disappearance.

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BBC

Show of hands who thinks that’s going to work?

Needless to say, his plan goes immediately off the rails with Carol’s friends not only seeing through her silly note, but immediately copping to the fact that she’s been kidnapped.

As they attempt to work out where she is being held, The Chief Elder tells them about the disintegrator room, a rarely used building in another part of the city.

As they head off to rescue Carol, we cut to the Administrator’s lair, where the kidnapper has taken up his boss’ tradition of weirdly poetic monologues.

“All human creatures are naive, they live while they have a purpose, as soon as that purpose is achieved their life has no value left.”

As he stands there engrossed in poetry, John manages to slip into the room and sneak up behind him, only to be discovered at the last second.

The alien grabs some weird sci-fi gadget off the wall, then threatens to fry Carol with it.

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BBC

Carol, however, quickly disarms the situation by simply reaching over and unplugging his weapon.

With nowhere left to go, the thug is taken back into custody.

Back at the palace, Susan and Barbara interrogate the alien, which seems like a job that should probably be handled by law enforcement officials, but I suppose a London school teacher and her teenage student is close enough. The thug refuses to reveal his accomplice, but does admit to sabotaging the supplies he gave to Doc and Ian.

As Barbara and Susan cook up a plan to save their friends, the Chief Elder pledges to help them in whatever way he can.

Meanwhile, down in the aqueducts, the Doc and Ian are wandering around lost. They hear some kind of monstrous growling, then notice something moving in the shadows.

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BBC

Ian quickly arms himself with their most powerful weapon, a rolled up piece of paper, then movies in to investigate. As he gets closer, he sees what appears to be a human man.

The two tussle briefly before the the man runs off, leaving Ian clutching a patch from the figure’s clothing. After examining it closely, the Doctor reasons that it must be a survivor from the spaceship that exploded years ago.

You’re probably scratching your head over that last sentence, so let me take you waaay back to the third episode of this arc, where one of the Sensorites tossed out a throwaway line about how a group of humans had previously visited their planet, then turned on one another before blowing up their ship.

That’s right, that obscure, half-forgotten detail is now the payoff of our seven part story.

While you wrap your head around that, we’ll head back to the Sensorite palace where Barbara and Susan have cooked up what is actually a pretty good rescue plan. Susan will remain in the palace near a map, while John and Barbara head down into the aqueducts with one of the Sensorite mind transmitters. That way, they can check in with Susan periodically for directions.

As Barbara and John leave, we get an interesting scene between Susan and the Chief Elder, during which she talks briefly about her home planet, “It’s quite like earth, but at night the sky is a burt orange and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.”

It’s kind of a throwaway moment, but significant, given that the show really hasn’t done much with the Doctor’s background.

From there we cut back to the aqueducts where the Doctor has taken to marking the walls with chalk as a means of charting their direction.

After making his latest mark, he and Ian head down a dark corridor only to find themselves surrounded by what appears to be two homeless men wielding giant number 2 pencils.

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BBC

The shabby men tell Doc that they’ve been expecting him and ask if the Sensorites are all dead.

Doc decides to play along and they lead him away to meet their Commander.

Meanwhile, John and Barbara come upon their friends’ abandoned map, then notice the Doctor’s markings on the wall. Barbara checks in telepathically with Susan, who is able to chart their location using her offical Doctor Who: Sensorites playset.

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BBC

As John and Barbara head off in pursuit, the Doctor and Ian are brought in to meet this guy.

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BBC

And yep, he’s as crazy as he looks. Turns out he’s the one whose been poisoning the water as part of a guerrilla war against the Sensorites.

The Doctor tells him exactly what he wants to hear; the aliens have been wiped out and that the planet is now his.

That’s about the time John and Susan show up and nearly blow everything. The Commander accuses them all of being Sensorite spies, but the Doc manages to B.S. him into believing Susan and John are members of a special committee there to welcome him back to the surface. Yeah, that should work.

As the Doctor leads the Commander and his men back to the surface, Barbara’s Sensorite companions are busy setting up an ambush.

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BBC

His men go peacefully enough, but the Commander bullrushes the alien, getting a nice shot of the stun ray for his troubles.

Back at the palace, Carol and John agree to take the Commander and his fellow poisoners back with them to earth and the Chief Elder explains that the human’s homicidal urges were probably brought on by mental illness stemming from experimenting with the alien’s mind transmitters.

Not only does this not make much sense, it completely undercuts the thematic underpinnings of the story. The Commander’s appearance makes for a pretty bad payoff storywise, but they could have really done something with it, playing the xenophobic Administrator off against the equally intolerant Commander.

Stranger still, is the lack of resolution regarding the Administrator, who we never see again. That’s right, despite serving as the central villain for a full seven episodes, we never actually get to see his comeuppance. Instead, he is arrested at some point off-camera, with the Chief Elder revealing he will be “banished to the outer wastes.”

Then, because this episode hasn’t been nearly crazy enough, everyone climbs aboard the TARDIS and as they watch John and Carol’s ship depart on their viewscreen, Ian casually says, “At least they know where they’re going.”

This somehow causes the Doctor to go into one of the ugliest meltdowns he’s ever had, yelling, “Implying I don’t? So you think I’m an incompetent old fool, do you? Since you are so dissatisfied my boy, you can get off my ship and the very next place we stop I shall take you off myself and that’s final.”

Fade to black.

Wow. Not even really sure where to begin. I mean seriously, what the hell was going on behind the scenes on this one?

“Okay, this Administrator guy, he’s got to go.”

“But he’s the villain. The whole story’s written around him. We can’t just get rid of him.”

“Don’t worry about it, no one will notice. No, what we need is something outside the box, I’m thinking….cave people. You know how popular they are. Crazy army cave people. With sticks!

“I’m not really sure that’s–“

“Oh, oh and what if at the very end of the episode we have Hartnell completely freak out, just lose it, you know, make the audience feel really uncomfortable right before the credits.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.”

“Are you kidding me? It’ll be brilliant.”

Well that’s it for The Sensorites I guess. Join us next time for Season One’s final story arc, The Reign of Terror.

Doctor Who: The Administrator’s Web of Schemes

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 5: Kidnap

It’s something of an understatement to say our last episode covered a lot of ground. Ian was poisoned and the Doc went to work creating an antidote. The astronaut John began the process of recovering his sanity with the help of an alien brain-get-better ray, while the City Administrator broke out what might be the strangest supervillain plot of all time, stealing his boss shirt sashes in an attempt to impersonate him. Finally, the Doctor struck off alone to get to investigate the Sensorite’s water supply only to stumble onto may or may not be a giant monster growling in the distance. Then, Ian got better and ran off with Susan to go help him.

Everybody still with me? Good, because it actually gets even more complicated from here.

We pick up with Ian and Susan arriving at the aqueducts where they overhear the same monstrous growling. Following the source of the sounds, they stumble upon the Doctor, who is passed out along the ground.

Then, we make a quick stop over at the Sensorite palace, where John continues to receive mental health treatments from what looks like an industrial grade hair dryer.

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BBC

As he continues to recover, his girlfriend Carol makes a futile attempt at talking the Sensorites into going out after the Doctor, but they’re too freaked out by the monsters that patrol the aqueducts.

So hey, small aside here. One of the key things established last episode was that the Sensorites tell each other apart by the various sashes and collars that denote their occupations.

With that in mind, check out the adorable little logo this guy gets to wear.

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BBC

What is his job exactly? Director of crazy science? President of leaky bottles? In any case, it’s a winner. I expect to see a good dozen of you rocking that look come cosplay season.

Anyway, back at the aqueduct, Ian and Susan tend to the Doctor, who, aside from a shredded coat, seems surprisingly unharmed.

After that, it’s a quick cut to the palace again, where the Chief Administrator delivers another one of his fantastic, strangely poetic screeds about earthlings, Their pleasant smiles conceal sharp teeth, their soft words hide deadly threats.

In addition to spinning xenophobic couplets, he’s also hell-bent on getting his hands on that radical disintegrator ray from the second episode and forces his captive, the Second Elder, to summon someone called the Senior Warrior so that they can get their hands on the weapon’s firing pin.

This culture is all about iconography, so what do they use to denote a badass title like Senior Warrior? A large sword? Perhaps a pair of crossed pistols on his chest?

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BBC

Nope, just a couple Charlie Brown stripes across his wrists. Kind of a huge fumble there guys.

With the firing key en route, the Administrator dons his boss sash and heads out to retrieve it. Unfortunately, his choice of meeting spot puts him directly in the path of the Doc and his friends, who as luck would have it, desperately want a word with the Second Elder. So, faced with discovery, the City Administrator makes a break for it, narrowly managing to escape.

Then, back at his base, he breaks out his best He-man impression, hefting the key while exclaiming, Now I have the power!

Thats apparently the last straw for the Second Elder who suddenly jumps into action mode, fighting off the administrator, then straight up bending the key with his bare hands.

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BBC

Yes, it is truly the Second Elders finest moment…for roughly thirty seconds or so. Then, the Administrators stooge walks over and conks him on the head.

Needless to say, the firing pin is a complete loss, leaving only the one in the First Elders possession, an alien who tends to frown on things like first-degree murder.

Oh, and it turns out theyve got another problem too, since the lackey killed the Second Elder good and dead.

But thats okay, the Administrators full of plans and decides to pin the aliens murder on the Doc and his friends.

And hey, speaking of the First Elder, whats he up to these days? Well, hes spared no expense for his new friends, breaking out the card tables, then presenting the doctor with a fancy new cloak.

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BBC

As Doc stands there modeling, the Administrators toadie bursts in and accuses him of killing the Second Elder.

A key part of his testimony is the fact that he saw the Doctor draw the murder weapon from his coat, which he then amends to a cloak when he notices what the Doc is wearing.

Seeing that the Elder gave him the cloak roughly 40 seconds ago, it doesnt take long to see through this subterfuge and the lackey is immediately hauled off to jail.

That does leave the matter of certain other criminal dealings unresolved, for instance, who intercepted the antidote Doc sent to Ian last episode?

The Administrator is quick to salvage the situation though, blaming the various traitorous dealings on the now dead Second Elder.

With that settled, the First Elder turns his attention to his subordinates vacant position.

The Doc and his crew, who as off-worlders, shouldnt really have any say in the matter whatsoever, nominate the Administrator for the job, hoping to curry some favor with him.

The First Elder agrees and because it just wasnt hard enough telling these characters apart, the Administrator becomes the new Second Elder.

Then Ian walks over to congratulate him and gets a whole lot of sass from the former administrator.

When you address one of the elders, you call him sir!” 

Meanwhile, John has completed his brain treatments and meets up with Carol and the rest of the group for a touching reunion.

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BBC

During their conversation, Susan asks him about the numerous warnings he gave while still insane, but it seems that John can only recall vague details.  As he starts putting the pieces together, the old Administrator shows up to massage his story, convincing John it was the now dead Second Elder that was behind everything.

Then, having covered his ass, old Admin takes a brief moment to wise off to the Doctor, because honestly, whats power if you cant abuse it?

As he leaves, the entire group takes a moment to connect over what a dick he is, until Susan interrupts them, having worked out that the Administrator is the real traitor.

Her theory is soon backed up by John who remembers the Administrators collar when he stopped by to taunt him several episodes prior.

Then, since he cant go more than three minutes without breaking a law, the old Administrator stops by to spring his lackey from jail and has him monkey around with those weird ping-pong paddles they use as weapons.

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BBC

Back in the palace, Doctor and Ian work out a plan to prove the Administrators guilt. Doc figures the water supply is being deliberately poisoned and proposes going back to the aqueduct for another search.

They run their plan by the First Elder, who agrees to give them weapons and a map and also signs off on letting Barbara come down to the planets surface.

Unfortunately, the Administrator intercepts the map and has it altered before giving it back to them, along with the sabotaged weapons.

As they get ready to leave, Doc and Ian decide to leave Susan in the dark, so she isnt tempted to accompany them.

Then, John and Susan get ready to make dinner. Carol leaves for a moment and gets abducted giallo-style by someone off-screen.

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BBC

Wow. That was pretty dense.

I think the real takeaway here is that the Administrator is the Steven Hawking of hatching plots. There’s an entire genre written around people trying, then failing to get away with murder, but for the Administrator it isn’t even a speed bump. He quickly puts together a plan to have the victim discredited by a false witness, then, when that falls apart, he still salvages the situation by pinning his crimes on the dead guy, then breaks out his lackey to carry out a sabotage plot. Hats off to you administrator.

Doctor Who: Parents Just Don’t Understand

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.”

As long as you live under the roof of my TARDIS... -BBC

As long as you live under the roof of my TARDIS… -BBC

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.

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BBC

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”.

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BBC

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!”

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BBC

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.

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BBC

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.

Doctor Who in The Sensational Psychic Sensorites

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 2: The Unwilling Warriors

Last time, the Doctor and crew stumbled onto the bridge of a spaceship where a trio of astronauts were being tormented by a group of psychic aliens called Sensorites. Barbara and Susan stumbled down the wrong hallway, accidentally locking themselves in a room with John, an astronaut suffering serious emotional trauma after his encounter with the aliens.

We pick up right where we left off, with Ian spotting of one of the Sensorites floating outside one of the ship’s windows.

As the Sensorites board, the two astronauts Maitland and Carol start going catatonic, while in another part of the ship, John starts receiving psychic messages telling him to menace Barbara and Susan.

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BBC

Ian and the Doctor manage to revive Maitland and Carol, then set to work breaking down the door so they can get to Barbara and Susan.

Just about that time, the Sensorites stroll in, giving us our first good look at them and wow, the designer really broke the mold on these guys.

Dig those fantastic feet - BBC

Dig those fantastic feet – BBC

Dressed from head to toe in a pair of wild footie pajamas and looking like a cross between an old man and a goldfish, the Sensorites might be my favorite thing since that time the Daleks made Susan transcribe a letter.

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BBC

And speaking of Susan, she actually contributes something useful this week by remembering an encounter she and the Doctor once had with psychic plant, in which they were able to block its mental probes. She suggests trying the same tactic against the Sensorites and, sure enough, moments later the aliens fall to their knees in pain.

Then Susan passes out, which to be fair, can’t really be held against her. That’s just kind of what she does, right?

Meanwhile, the Doctor and crew finally manage to break down the door. They put John to bed, then set about trying to come up with a plan.

As the Doc tosses out various theories, we cut back to one of the Sensorites who is eavesdropping on his conversation by placing a stethoscope to his head. My God, these Sensorites are getting better by the second!

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BBC

Since John was the most seriously affected, the Doctor theorizes maybe he was targeted for some specific reason and decides to look into his work. John was the ship’s mineralogist and, after looking at his research, the crew determines he discovered a large supply of molybdenum on the planet’s surface.

Evidently, molybdenum is of incredible value in the future, so the Sensorites have been keeping Maitland and his crew prisoner so they can’t tell anyone what they’ve found.

After figuring this out, Maitland and Carol collapse yet again. This is the last straw for Ian who has had just about enough of these psychic shenanigans thank you very much. So, with Barbara at his side, he sets off to find these Sensorites and give them a piece of his mind.

But, while his heart is in the right place, Ian’s follow through leaves a lot to be desired. After laying eyes on them for the first time, Ian beats a not-so-hasty retreat, backpedaling slowly until he finally manages to lock them behind a door.

Unfortunately for Ian, he didn’t factor in the power of the  Sensorites’ goofy ping-pong paddle, which apparently can be used to unlock doors. Oh well, live and learn, I guess.

With the door unlocked, the Sensorites walk through it to a second door, but instead of going through it, they pull out their trusty stethoscopes for a nice trip into Susan’s mind.

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BBC

Using Susan as a vessel, the Sensorites tell the Doctor they simply want to talk, so the second door is opened and the aliens stroll in for a nice heart to heart.

Never one for pleasantries, the Doctor cuts right to the chase, demanding, “Why don’t you let these space people go back to their earth?”

The Sensorites say they can’t let them go because they’ll reveal the rich deposits of molybdenum. Instead, they’ve prepared a nice place for them on their planet where the earthlings can live out the rest of their days.

The Doc tells him that’s not going to happen and that they’re more than capable of defending themselves, which leads to what may be the best trash talk of all time.

“You have only proved that you can lock doors. We can unlock them.”

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BBC

The Doc counters with the equally sensational, “I don’t make threats, but I do keep promises and I promise you I shall cause you more trouble than you bargained for if you don’t return my property.”

Seeing as how no one’s going to budge, the Sensorites scuttle off to decide how to proceed. Then, with the aliens gone, the Doctor reveals that he’s been assessing their weaknesses and has determined that their eyes will not allow them to see in darkness. In light of the Sensorites’ psychic powers, you’d think he might want to play things a little closer to the vest, however, the whole thing becomes moot when the Sensorites reach out to Susan once again.

After another one-sided conversation, Susan reveals that she’s agreed to go down to the aliens planet as their prisoner in order to spare the rest of the crew.

As she departs, the hatch slams shut, bringing this episode to a close.

Another solid episode. While it doesn’t quite live up to last episode’s creepy Twilight Zone setup, it manages some pretty fun character moments. The Sensorites are wonderfully ridiculous and Hartnell gets to deliver a pretty badass speech. All in all, pretty fun.

Doctor Who in Escape From Mexico

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 6 The Aztecs, Episode 4: The Day of Darkness

Last time, the Doctor finally discovered a way into the crypt where the TARDIS was trapped. Ian plunged in, and in true pulp fashion, found himself knee deep in a watery deathtrap.

Fortunately, a series of cave drawings along the ceiling catches his attention and after pushing on it a bit, the ceiling gives way into yet another secret passage.

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BBC

As anyone who’s been following this blog knows, if there’s one thing old school Doctor Who loves, it’s a good secret passage. Hell, the entire fourth serial involves the heroes basically stumbling through one secret doorway after another.

Anyway, after escaping through the ceiling, we get a bunch of weird shots of Ian crawling around, separated by a series of equally strange fadeouts. I guess this is supposed to be compressing time, but honestly, how long is Ian supposed to be crawling around in there? Finally, after what may be minutes, hours, or days, Ian climbs through a trapdoor into the room where the TARDIS is housed.

On the far side of the room, he finds the goofy, one-sided door that got them into this whole mess in the first place.

Ian searches for a way of opening the door from the outside and hits upon a unique solution. Grabbing a long leather thong from off of the burial slab—Are Aztecs usually buried with long chords of leather?—he ties it to a table, then pulls it under the door with him as he leaves.

Then he steps out into Barbara’s throne room just in time for a convenient reunion between himself, Barbara, and the Doctor, who is very relieved to find that Ian’s not dead.

That leaves everybody accounted for, except for Susan, who has once again been taken hostage, this time as a part of a forced marriage plot arranged by Tlotoxl.

And speaking of Tlotoxl, how is everyone’s favorite scenery-chewing crabass?

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BBC

The answer is, unusually well. For once, his scheme is actually going according to plan, so he leaves our number two villain Ixta behind to guard Susan.

Seeing that he’s alone with a sixteen-year-old girl, Ixta walks over to her and breaks out this cherry of an icebreaker, “Do you ask yourself where Ian is? I can tell you. He is dead.”

Which might be the most awkward trash talk of all time. Imagine Jason Statham breaking that out in the next Expendables film.

Then, just about the time things are looking bleak, Ian pops up from behind, coldcocks Ixta and hightails it with Susan

Meanwhile, back in the throne room, it seems Ian’s pull rope isn’t as effective as he had originally hoped.

Doc points out that, “What we really need is a pulley.”

Sadly, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of those lying around 15th Century Mexico.

Instead, everybody decides to play tug of war using Barbara’s throne as a fulcrum, which lasts all of thirty seconds before the thong breaks.

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Then, seeing as how it’s been a whole four minutes, Tlotoxl whips up yet another of his evil schemes. This one involves braining the other high priest Ortlock with Ian’s club, then leaving it near the body as a frame.

Back in the throne room. Ian realizes his pull rope has failed and finally just says to hell with it and heads back to the garden with Susan in order to use the secret door again.

When they get to the garden though, they find Ortlock passed out along the ground.

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BBC

Ian picks his club up from the ground just in time for the Aztec goon squad to show up and arrest them.

Funny little aside, this is the exact same trap Ian fell for back in episode 25. Maybe from this point forward, framing people for assault will replace the secret passageway as the writers’ favorite go-to gimmick.

Next, we cut to the doctor carving a wheel out of a block of wood. I’ve got to hand it to the guy, when he wants something done, he damn sure makes it happen, even if he has to hue it from a solid hunk of wood.

As you might recall, the Doctor is engaged to Cameca, because they made some cocoa together and…you know what, just take my word for it.

She joins him in the garden, gets a look at the Doctor’s wooden wheel and blurts out, “I do not know it’s purpose, but I’ve always known it will take you from me.” Which is just fantastic. Folks, please feel free to reenact that scene with things lying around your home or office.

As they part, Doc leaves her with the line, “You are a very fine woman Cameca and you shall always be very, very dear to me.”

Ortlock, who I should probably point out is not dead, shows up and talks to Cameca. Seems Ortlock’s beginning to lose his faith, not just in Barbara’s divinity, but in everything. So, faced with the uncertainties of life, he takes a page out of Sam Jackson’s book in Pulp Fiction and decides to wander the earth.

Before he goes though, he decides to help Barbara and her friends one last time by giving Cameca a trinket representing all of his earthly wealth to use as a bribe.

Meanwhile, over in Aztec jail, Ian and Susan are being watched by a guard wearing a fantastic birdhead.

Cameca comes in and bribes him, but Ian knocks him out anyway, then steals his awesome helmet.

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BBC

Ixta—now sporting full leopard head regalia—discovers Ian and Susan have escaped and goes off to find them.

Ian is now posing as one of Barbara’s guards, Lando Calrissian style, when Tlotoxl runs in and tries to stab Barbara.

BBC

BBC

Ian manages to stop him, then, Ixta shows up to answer the question, who is stronger, birdhead or leopard face?

BBC

BBC

While the two of them fight, the Doc gets to try out his fancy new pulley.

After some clumsy combat, Ian pitches Ixta off of the room. Doc gets the door open and they all escape into the tomb.

With them gone, Tlotoxl is finally free to perform his human sacrifice.

Inside the tomb, Barbara waxes over her failure.

“What was the point of traveling through time and space? We can’t change anything.”

The Doctor cheers her up by pointing out that she did help Ortlock to see the truth.

“You failed to save a civilizaton but at least you helped one man.”

Now, far be it from me to deflate such a lovely sentiment, but I don’t know that pushing someone into an existential crisis that ends with them fleeing into the desert is really doing them any favors, then again maybe that’s just me.

Then, everyone piles back into the TARDIS just in time for its most recent malfunction, with the ship telling them it has simultaneously stopped and is still moving. Sounds like a fascinating set-up to next week.

Tune in for an exciting time as the TARDIS gets a tune-up in Strangers in Space.