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.



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.



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!



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.



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.”



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: We Don’t Talk About John

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 1: Strangers in Space

We pick up at last episode’s end, with the crew of the TARDIS escaping from Aztec era Mexico only to find themselves stranded when the TARDIS’ instruments begin feeding them contradictory information. One set of sensors tells them they’ve stopped, while another insists they’re still moving. 

As the Doctor and his companions puzzle over this latest problem, they begin reminiscing about old times.

“Boy, we sure we have changed a lot these past few months, why remember that time we fought the Daleks?”

We sure have had some wild times - BBC

We sure have had some wild times – BBC

Its so strange, that for a second I genuinely thought this was turning into a clip show.

Fortunately, the Doctor opens the door a few minutes later, sparing us all from a “very special episode”.

Leaving the TARDIS, they find themselves on the bridge of another spaceship, where a man and a woman sit slumped over the controls. After a quick check of their pulses, Ian discovers that both of them are quite dead.

Making things even stranger, the bodies are still warm, meaning they’ve only just died.

Seeing that there’s very little to be done, the Doctor and company decide to just call it a day and head back to the TARDIS for another round of reminiscing. Then, just as they’re getting ready to leave, one of the dead astronauts starts to move.

The man gets them to retrieve a strange rectangular object, which he presses to his chest, then insists they do the same to his female companion. Barbara does as he tells her and within a few seconds, the weird box resuscitates her too.



This sudden resurrection leaves everyone with a fair amount of questions, but the man, who introduces himself as Captain Maitland, sets them at ease by explaining that the object was a heart resuscitator and that, “When you found us, we were in a very long sleep, but we weren’t dead.”

Um, okay.

The Doctor asks if the two of them are from earth. Maitlind says that they are and Barbara gets very excited.

“How’s it looking?” she asks.

His companion, who is named Carol, answers that there’s “still too much air traffic.” As in flying cars.

When Ian tells them that he and Barbara are from London, the man looks at him strangely, then reveals that he and Carol hail from the 28th Century.

Captain Maitland and Carol Richmond - BBC

Captain Maitland and Carol Richmond – BBC

Then just about the time everyone’s starting to get along, Carol goes and ruins things by insisting that they all leave.

Maitland agrees, telling them, “There is only danger for you. You must go.” Which is certainly one way of getting rid of unwelcome house guests.

The proud crew of the TARDIS, however, haven’t been schooled in the finer points of hospitality and refuse to leave without an explanation.

And what an explanation it is. It seems the spaceship is positioned in orbit around a planet called the Sense-Sphere. The aliens that live there, the Sensorites, actively prevent them from leaving orbit. They’re able to do this by exerting power over not only their craft, but over their minds as well, using their influence to place the astronauts into periods of death-like sleep.

Strangely enough, despite all this, the Sensorites never do anything to actually hurt them, and in fact, take a hand in keep them alive, feeding them during these forced hibernations.

As Doc and the others brainstorm various ways of helping them, someone wanders over to the TARDIS and begins waving a 1950s TV antennae over the lock.

Meanwhile, back on the deck, Susan suggests they just bring the two astronauts with them, but Carol says they can’t on account of someone named John.

Then Barbara smells something burning.

Cut to: our antenna-wielding villain who burns the lock off the front of the TARDIS.

Eventually, after Maitland’s eighth straight plea for them to leave, the Doctor decides that’s actually a pretty good idea. Only problem is the lock’s been stolen, meaning they can’t reenter the TARDIS.

That’s about the time the whole ship starts shaking. The Sensorites take control of Capt. Maitland and set the ship on a collision course with the planet.

The Doctor grabs the controls from him and manages to steer them away at the last second.

As they all unwind from their near death encounter, the Doctor tries turning the conversation back to the astronauts’ third crew member John.

It seems that John’s is something of a sensitive topic, and after revealing that John was the only member of their crew to have direct contact with the Sensorites, Maitland suddenly clams up.

As everyone puzzles over this unusual situation, Barbara and Susan start preparing rations from their ship. They head off in search of water, stumble on a massive hatch and decide to go inside.

Inside, they find a long hallway along and a series of doors. Then, just as they disappear from view, some catatonic stranger shows up, closes the door behind them, then starts staggering down the hall. Ladies and gentlemen I think we’ve just met John.

On the bridge, Maitland and Carol remain close-lipped about their crew member until they realize Barbara and Susan have wandered off. This prompts a full-scale freakout as they try chasing after them, but alas, the hatch is locked, trapping the two girls inside.

With that, we finally get an explanation of what’s going on. Carol and John were engaged, but when the Sensorites attacked, he took the brunt of the attack and it shattered his mind.

At that moment, inside the hatch, John staggers towards the two women. He opens his mouth like he’s going to speak, then promptly pitches over onto his face. Unfortunately, much like a Romero zombie John doesn’t stay down for long.

He goes after Barbara and Susan once again, then suddenly drops to his knees and starts weeping.



Being the sensitive soul that she is, Barbara comforts him, while outside, Maitland and the others use a fantastic space torch to try cutting through the door.



Then, all of the sudden a high-pitched whining sound starts up, signaling the return of the Sensorites.

Maitland tells the Doctor and Ian, “No violence unless the Sensorites start it first.”

To which Ian responds with the episode’s best line, “Why no violence? Surely we have a right to defend ourselves.”

The ship’s instruments stop responding and the scanners go dead. Then Ian looks out the window and sees this.



God! Alright, looks like I’m not sleeping tonight.

And with that, our episode comes to a close. Pretty good overall, maybe my favorite episode so far. Its got a real creepy Twilight Zone vibe to it that manages to turn the shows limited resources into an asset. The way the writer establishes the Sensorites long before their arrival is a great way of scaling up the tension. Then there’s that reveal, which is really unnerving. It reminds me a lot of the famous Shatner episode of Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, released a year earlier.

The Twilight Zone - CBS

The Twilight Zone – CBS


Not sure if it’s a conscious influence or not, but they make for an interesting comparison.

This story’s just getting started. Tune in next time for episode 2: The Unwilling Warriors.

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.



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?



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.



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.



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.



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.



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



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.

Doctor Who in Welcome to the Jungle

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

Last time, we got our best best episode yet. It had solid direction, a decent script, and was driven by a genuinely off-putting threat. This week, not so much.

Now, far be it from me to talk smack about Terry Nation. Dude created the Daleks after all. But, I think we can all agree that sometimes even the most reliable people still occasionally fall asleep at the wheel. And on that note, I give you…

Episode 3: The Screaming Jungle

We start on a pretty promising note, with Susan sinking to the ground, reacting to some horrible noise with her hands clamped over her ears.



Stranger still, no one else can hear what she’s reacting to. It’s an effective image, one of those great “what the hell’s happening moments” that hooks you in from the start.

Oh, and a quick note before we go any further, the Doctor’s completely absent this week, leaving us with Ian, Barbara, and Susan, along with Altos and Sebetha, their two tagalongs from last time.

So, as Susan descends into her usual hysterics, Ian says screw it and takes off exploring, leaving Barbara the unenviable task of trying to calm Susan down.

They have a little heart to heart, then just as Susan’s starting to level off, they get attacked by a bunch of vines. Susan flips out again, while Barbara insists that the plants couldn’t very well be attacking them because, well that would be crazy right? Totally out of place in a rational world ruled by robots and time lords.

Having just fought off a bunch of killer plants, Barbara does what any sane individual would and plunges into the jungle alone. Instead of more killer vines though, she hits a dead end guarded by what appears to a statue of Snagglepuss.



Sitting on top of the statue, Barbara finds the micro-key, but when she climbs up to grab it, the statue goes into full-on Fratboy mode and decides to grope her while the whole wall turns into a secret door.



That’s right, ANOTHER secret door. What is it with this scriptwriter and hidden panels, does he get a bonus for each one he works into the story?

Meanwhile, Ian gets back with the others and begins a frantic search for a way in. He also finds the micro-key lying on the ground. Only thing is, it’s not actually the micro-key, but some kind of cheap forgery.

After far too long, Ian  puts two and two together and realizes maybe he should just do like Barbara and climb up on the statue since that’s what triggered it in the first place. Sure enough, soon as he hops aboard, the statue gets all grabby and Ian finds himself on the other side of the wall. As he steps out, we get what is easily the best moment of the episode, in which he steps on a secret panel, causing a nearby statue to try and kill him with an ax. Then, just at the last moment, Barbara warns him and he ducks out of the way.

As the two of them compare notes, they stumble upon yet ANOTHER immobile door. Ian goes off to look for a way in, but as soon as he leaves some shabby old man just straight up opens the door, letting Barbara in.

She makes it all of four steps, then gets captured by a net.

Meanwhile Ian has found a pretty handsome pickaxe, but when he goes to pick it up, SURPRISE, a set of iron bars slams down behind him.



Oh, shame on you Ian, falling for the old pickax on a chain bit.

Then, because there really haven’t been enough booby traps yet, a spiked ceiling beings lowering itself toward Barbara.

The shabby old man steps in and stops it and they share an exposition-laden conversation where she reveals to him that Arbitan sent them to retrieve the keys.



Ian breaks out of ax jail and comes running just in time for old Shabby to get strangled by a plant.



The old man lies down, begins ranting about the jungle, then promptly dies after spitting out a random selection of numbers and letters.

Poor old Shabby, your dirty clothes and unkempt facial hair will never be forgotten.

Except by Ian and Barbara who pull a blanket over his head, then immediately proceed to ransack his place looking for the micro-key.

They fumble around for a while in his lab when they’re interrupted suddenly by a series of strange whispers. Then, the jungle comes alive and starts attacking them through windows.

In the midst of all this, Ian works out that the man’s dying words were a chemical code. They find the key inside a vial marked with the same code. Then, they zip off with their time dials and find themselves in the midst of some arctic climate. And that’s where it ends?!

Seriously, what the hell is going on with this episode? Was it written using madlibs? The elements just seem to have been thrown together at random. From killer plants to booby traps to a weird old man who dies literally moments after being introduced and none of it’s ever explained. We do get some vague dialogue concerning a nature enhancer, but that’s about it. Why does the jungle whisper? Who is the old man and why is he out here in the middle of nowhere? And while we’re at it, where does he get those fantastic traps?

Sadly, Mr. Nation can’t be bothered to tell us. Instead, Ian and Barbara spend roughly twenty-three minutes trying to circumvent not one, but two locked doors. Not exactly the stuff of great drama.

Maybe the Doctor was right to sit this one out.

Well, tune in next time for The Snows of Terror, featuring whispering flakes of killer snow or something.

The Complete Doctor Who: Serial 2 The Daleks Episodes 5-6

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

Episode 5: The Expedition

Last time our heroes escaped from the Dalek city, only to discover they had left a vital piece of their ship behind, a plot twist which caused me to roll my eyes so hard, I lost my vision for the better part of the day.

Needless to say, I’m not exactly thrilled to sit through another trip to Dalek town, particularly one that revolves around the search for an intergalactic spark plug, but you know what? Sometimes you just got to take one for the team.

We begin with a lengthy debate on the nature of violence. The Thals won’t fight, which is pretty understandable given that their last big battle reduced the world to an irradiated wasteland. Which would make it the second most tragic thing to happen to them after their choice of wardrobe.



The crew of the TARDIS doesn’t care about things like morals though and just really wants to get home. All except for Ian, who’s not keen on sacrificing lives over a silly ship component.

Based on Barbara’s past behavior, you would expect her to agree, but apparently this week she has forgotten she cares about people and is really only concerned with saving her own skin. She then proceeds to angrily recap the plot for Ian in case he’s forgotten things that happened literally moments ago.

And what about the Doctor, usually the prickliest pear in the bunch? He’s actually pretty gracious here and thanks Ian for not rubbing his face in the fact that this entire situation is basically his fault.

Not sure what’s up with the characterizations here. Barbara is acting like the doctor, while the Doctor comes off as remarkably laid back. Did the actors get bored and just swap scripts or what? 

Then the personality mix-and-match hits critical mass when the Doctor insists, “With me to lead them, the Thals are bound to succeed.”

Did I miss something here? This is the same guy who ran away THREE times in just the last episode alone, right? Now apparently he is a master strategist, Barbara is a shrill nag and Susan, well Susan is still basically useless.

Since Ian remains the only character capable of decisive action, it falls on him to speak to the Thals. And how does he go about converting this group of dedicated pacifists? With a rousing speech? A tragic parable illustrating the inevitability of violence? Nope, he grabs Alydon’s girlfriend and threatens to hand her over to the Daleks.

Alydon is having none of that though and promptly coldcocks him.



This is apparently enough to unseat the Thals’ entire moral philosophy and they soon come to the conclusion that there are some situations in which fighting is okay. That was pretty easy. 

Ever wondered what it looks like when a Dalek drops acid? Fortunately this episode is kind of enough to show us and the results are not pretty.



The Daleks have duplicated the Thals’ anti-radiation drugs, which has certain unfortunate side effects, namely, the tendency to spin around in a circle chanting, “Cannot control. Cannot control.” I’d love to see a pharmaceutical commercial for that one.

“Do not take if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Side effects include, uncontrolled spinning and in, some rare cases, death. Do use if you are a mutant cyborg.”

With a vast cross section of them dying from the drugs, the Daleks conclude that maybe what they need is more radiation. Sound good to me. Anytime something starts to hurt, I always respond by doing the exact opposite and hey, I’m still here.

So, the Daleks round up the rest of their drugged friends and bathe them in vast quantities of radiation, reasoning “if they don’t die we’ll have our answer.” Which is pretty stone cold for a group that spent the preceding four episodes serving food to people on tiny little platters. I guess they did kill that one guy, but  having spent this much time with the Thals, I think I probably would have done the same. 

Back in the Thal camp, the Doctor utilizes his newfound battle skills to formulate a two-pronged attack. One group will storm the city as a distraction, while another makes its way around for a rear attack. This involves traveling through a long swath of swampland, which is “alive with mutations.”

Ian and Barbara take a small contingent of Thals into the swamps, which exude a staggering amount of background noise. The foley guy rolled earned his paycheck this week.

We also see that Barbara is now rocking the Thal’s signature leather chaps, which is a vast improvement over that awful skirt she’s been wearing since episode 1. Good for you Barbara.

Ian goes over to wash his face in a nearby pond, a pond that is almost certainly seething with radiation, but why not right? He’s totally taken anti-radiation drugs, which means he’s 100% immune. See, I paid attention in science class. Then, he looks up and sees this.



Forget about the Daleks, I want to know more about that thing. My God is that creepy looking.

They all make camp for the night and, after a fitful night of sleep, one of the Thals goes off to fill the water sacks with, what I can only assume, is more radioactive water. Instead he finds this.



What exactly is going on with that pond? Star shaped monsters, random whirlpools. If that’s what’s going on, do you really want to be drinking the water?

Disposable Thal #2 gets sucked in and the group stands there thinking maybe the Doctor’s plan isn’t so great after all.

Episode 6: The Ordeal

Everyone stands around absorbing the effects of last episode’s amazing whirlpool death, particularly a Thal named Antodus, who is very sad.

Meanwhile, the Daleks are busy plotting the massive radiation death™ of what remains of their world. Unfortunately, making another neutron bomb will take a full 23 days, which is far too long by Dalek standards. When they set their minds on nuclear armageddon they want it done YESTERDAY. 

By this point, Barbara and company have apparently made it through the swamps because they’re now in some sort of cave.



Barbara flirts with a guy named Ganatus, who’s just as boring as she is, making them a perfect match.

There’s some shenanigans with a rope. Ganatus falls down a cavern and Ian steps in to save the day, reminding us that everyone else on this show is basically useless. 

And what about the Doctor? He’s outside the Dalek city jamming the Daleks’ surveillance equipment by reflecting bright lights at them.



I honestly can’t decide if that’s the most brilliant plan ever or the most stupid.

The really important take away here is that the Doctor’s having a ball. “We’ll show them a thing or two,” he rants like a grandpa hopped up on too much cold medicine.

Then, we’re back to the cave because apparently someone spent a great deal of money on this set and damned if they aren’t going to get their money’s worth.

Remember Antodus, the sad Thal from earlier? Well, he’s not too pleased with this course of action and wants to run away, reasoning “Even if we do get through, we’ll never defeats the Daleks.” Which raises a sound point. What is the plan for doing that?

Antodus gets angry, the two of them engage in what might charitably be called grappling and unleash a rockslide, closing them in.

Outside the Dalek city, the Doctor has found the Daleks power source. That’s right, it’s just hanging out there like an electric box. The Doctor shorts it out and again, he’s having the time of his life. “Don’t you realize what I’ve just done?” he exclaims, “A few simple tools, a superior brain…” then the Daleks roll in and capture him AGAIN, because it’s been at least one whole episode since that happened.



They’re taken back into the city and forced to sit on the floor like a pair of naughty children, leading to what is probably the best scene of this entire story arc. The Daleks lay out their plan to vent the radiation from their reactors out into the world.

Susan questions why they’re so interested in the Thals, to which the Daleks reply, “The only interest we have in the Thals is their total extermination.” Which pretty much sums up my feelings on them too.

The Doctor has a weirdly dramatic moment where he exclaims, “That’s sheer murder.” But the Daleks are quick to correct him. “No. Extermination.”

Then the Daleks line up, do a strange Hitler salute with their arms and start chanting in unison. It is without a doubt the single creepiest moment of the show thus far. In my side research I read that the Daleks were originally based on the Nazis, designed to represent the cold, faceless nature of fascism, but I didn’t really get that vibe until now. Don’t know why the writers waited this long to break this out, but it’s a pretty effective moment in capturing just how inhuman the Daleks can be.

Back in the cave, Ian and the rest of Zero Squad stumble across a crevice. Ian decides to jump it and one by one, the other members of the party follow. And I do mean one by one, as we’re treated to a lingering shot of each and every one of them jumping across what is an obvious set. Then Antodus takes his turn and immediately falls over the side, pulling Ian down under the weight. As he scrambles for a handhold we’re left pondering what would happen if Ian were to die. I assume everyone would just sit down until they died of slow starvation. 

Join me next time for the thrilling conclusion to the Dalek saga in The Rescue.

The Complete Doctor Who: Serial 2 The Daleks Episodes 3-4

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

Episode 3: The Escape

Last episode we got our first look at the Doctor’s greatest enemies the Daleks. It was heavy on plot, remarkably light on interesting developments, but fear not, because this episode is wall to wall gold.

We begin with our usual recap. Susan reaches the TARDIS where she pockets the anti-radiation drugs, then steps out for a chance meeting with this guy.


Oh, did I frighten you? – BBC

That’s right, dude’s straight up chilling outside, doing his best impression of the creepy guy at the back of the bus. Susan is understandably terrified, so the man gives her his name, Alydon, and a backup supply of drugs. So just to review, a crazy looking stalker gives a box of “medicine” to a teenage girl. Yup, I’ve got a feeling this is going to turn out just fine.

He also lends her his cloak, which might be the most insane piece of clothing ever worn by anyone ever.




Susan takes the drugs back to the city, where the rest of the crew enjoy an improbably quick recuperation given that they were dying of radiation only moments ago.

Meanwhile, in their funny little command center, the Dalek’s concoct a plan to lure the Thals into their city.

They also decide to bring food to their prisoners, which they serve to them on a little silver platter.



This is absolutely fantastic and left me with a single burning question; how is this not a theme restaurant? Dalek waiters taking your order in a shrill robotic voice.

“Welcome. to. Daleks. Today’s. specials. are…”

I would practically live at a place like that. Seriously folks, let’s get a kickstarter campaign started to fund this thing toot sweet.

We follow this up with our first group shot of the Thal and folks, it is a thing of true beauty.


Any cosplayers out there looking for their next look, I challenge you to make this happen. Torn leather chaps, open chest V-neck shirt, along with that tortoise shell pattern cloak. The thought of a good half dozen of you descending on Comic Con rocking that look fills me with a special kind of glee.

You might think that’s as good as things get, but folks, we’re just getting warmed up. Next, we get what has got to be one of my top ten favorite things of all time, when the Daleks dictate a letter to Susan. A letter which she writes out in LONGHAND. The future everyone. Incredible.



Meanwhile, back in the cell, the Doctor works out that the Daleks are powered by static electricity, which seems remarkably low tech for a race of beings in possession of a paralysis ray.

The group hatches what may be their weirdest plan yet, staging a really ham-fisted fight during which they tear out the security camera that’s been recording them, then mix water with the jungle remains from the bottom of Susan’s shoes.

A Dalek comes in later with another serving tray, allowing Ian to block the door with the remains of the camera. Barbara smears mud on the Dalek’s scanner and they straight up pull the Dalek by the arms onto Susan’s tortoise cloak, thus severing its power. That’s right, they defeat a Dalek using a combination of mud and a stupid looking cape, leading me to wonder how they ever managed to reach their arch-enemy status. I guess in the world of the good Doctor, mud and capes are hard to come by.

Then they pop the top off the thing like it’s a can of Pringles, pull out the creature inside (which thanks to a blanket we never fully see), then deposit it in the corner of the room.



Ian climbs inside and we get the Stormtrooper disguise scene from Star Wars a full fifteen years early.

After they step out of the room, we get what is actually a pretty cool cliffhanger, in which a clawed hand reaches out from beneath the blanket, revealing there’s more to the Daleks besides their metallic shells.

Episode 4: The Ambush

We pick up right where we left off, with Ian rolling down the hall in his Dalekmobile, herding his friends before him like prisoners. He tries bluffing his way past another Dalek, who decides he really ought to clear things with his boss first. Then we get a true first for this show, when Susan actually does something useful. Not surprising, it involves screaming, which turns out to be a pretty good way of distracting mutant cyborgs. Live and learn kids.

They all pile into the elevator and start their long trip to the surface. And I do mean long, as they take what might be the slowest elevator ride of all time. 

Ian gets stuck inside the Dalek, which is kind of amazing and the Doctor pulls his “every man for himself” schtick, leaving him behind.

Meanwhile, the Daleks have figured out what’s happened and are going to work on the elevator door, blasting away with a wicked looking welding torch that’s a damn site more menacing than the fall-down ray they used earlier.

The Doctor reaches the top with Susan and Barbara in tow, while Ian struggles to escape his robot costume, which is a really weird way to build dramatic tension.

The Daleks finally force their way through and straight up annihilate the Dalek inside. The top crumbles away and they realize its empty.

The elevator goes up once again and Ian FINALLY makes it to the top. That’s right folks, we’re halfway through this thing and our heroes have successfully ascended an elevator. Go team.

By this point, the Daleks are themselves coming up the elevator, so Ian destroys it by grabbing an inexplicably placed piece of modern art and pushing it down on top of it. What in God’s name is this doing here? There is literally nothing found anywhere within the halls of a city populated entirely by mutated blobs riding around in roving shop vacs, yet for some reason the top floor has a piece of corporate art?

With that insane business out of the way, our “heroes” look out a window just in time to see a group of Thals headed toward the city and an obvious ambush (like the title, see?).

Naturally, the Doctor feels no inclination whatsoever to help them, so Ian agrees to stay and warn them. I’ve got to wonder why this isn’t called the Ian Chesterton show, since he’s the only character willing to do anything.

Ian proceeds to find the Thal leader, then watches him for a solid three minutes, finally yelling a warning when it can’t do a conceivable bit of good.

The Daleks kill the hell out of the Thal, giving him what is perhaps the most undignified death of all time.



Here’s hoping they build a statue commemorating his sacrifice.

Then the remaining Thals escape the city by doing this.



Again, not really selling me on the whole menace of the Daleks thing.

Ian joins up with the others at the Thal camp and we learn a little bit about their culture. In the years since their great war with the Daleks, the Thals’ culture has done a complete 180, making them opposed to violence of any kind. This poses something of a moral dilemma. Do they convince the Thals to fight, or allow them to embrace what is a very positive break from their violent past?

At least it would be a moral dilemma if it were any other show but this one. Instead, the Doctor decides it’s time to leave, making this the THIRD time he has run away in just this episode alone.

Having witnessed Barbara’s compassion towards Za back in the last serial, one would logically assume she would have some objection to this, but no, she simply grabs Susan and gets ready to leave.

Outnumbered by the others, Ian reluctantly goes along, only to reveal the episode’s final twist. Remember the fuel cell that started this whole mess in the first place? Well, it seems it’s gone missing, taked by the Daleks at some point offscreen. GROAN. Yup, that means it’s back to the city we just spent four episodes escaping from.

I can’t believe how absolutely off the wall this episode is. I get that the Doctor is meant to be unconventional, but all he seems to do is turn tail and run, which is a remarkably strange way to anchor your outer space adventure series. At this point, Ian has become the de facto lead, only by virtue of the fact that he occasionally does something to drive the narrative forward.

It’s also important to note that there are four main characters here. This is a conscious choice on the part of the creators, so why are they given so little to do? It’s a head scratcher to be sure. Oh well, perhaps we’ll get some answers next time when our “heroes” return in The Expedition.

The Complete Doctor Who: Serial 2 The Daleks Episodes 1-2

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

After the last serial’s unfortunate detour into Flintstones territory, the TARDIS bounces back into the world of sci-fi as its crew finds itself stranded on…

The Dead Planet.

The episode beings with the Doctor and company scoping out their most recent destination through the TARDIS’ view screen. Before getting ready to leave, the Doctor tells Susan to check the radiation gauge, which immediately spikes into the red zone the moment her back is turned.



Don’t you just hate those time delayed geiger counters?

Outside, the crew stumbles through yet another jungle (is the TARDIS set on jungle mode?), although this one is completely petrified, making it potentially even less interesting than our previous romp through caveland.



Luckily Ian discovers a strange city on the horizon, which utterly captivates the Doctor to the point that he has to be all but dragged away by his more pragmatic companions.

On the way back, Susan is accosted by someone or something that grabs her by the shoulder. True to form, the Doctor doesn’t believe her.

As Susan pouts and Ian badgers him with questions, the Doctor decides to hell with it and just serves his crew lunch, giving us our first look at the Tardis’ very strange and very awesome food machine.



I love this thing. It’s such a great combination of high and low tech, almost steampunk in how analog it is. The various foods are created through a series of numbered codes that the Doctor reads off of a handy recipe book. The machine assembles the components, then spits out what looks like a thick piece of chalk.

That’s about the time something starts tapping on the outside of the ship. Everyone is understandably freaked out and demands to leave, but the Doctor’s really taken with that city and delivers the episode’s best line, “I shall do what I want to do.”

Finally, Susan convinces her Grandfather to haul ass to someplace where they’re not in immediate mortal danger. He starts punching in commands until the ship suffers one of its regular malfunctions. Seriously, does anything on this ship ever work right? Like ever?

The Doctor traces the problem to an empty fluid link, which requires Mercury in order to run, which, of course, he doesn’t keep on the ship.



This seems like it should be a much bigger deal, but the Doctor dismisses it with a shrug, confident they’ll find a nice, healthy supply of the stuff in the strange alien city. Seems reasonable to me, surely earth elements are readily available on cold, dead, alien worlds.

They trek back out into the jungle where they stumble on an unusual metal case full of strange glass vials, which they promptly leave it behind.

Then it’s off into the city where everyone immediately starts to feel sick. Sick. Lost. Malfunctioning time machine. This is playing out like a highlight reel of the world’s worst family vacation. If only they could all get separated somehow we would hit every single item on the checklist.

Whoops, spoke too soon. Ian immediately rectifies this oversight by suggesting they split up, which for some reason involves Barbara striking off on her own while the other three stick together.

As you can imagine, it takes literally minutes for this plan to go off the rails. Barbara finds herself trapped. Her hatch turns into an elevator, which leads her deep underground. She stumbles out, then this happens.



Remember last time when I called out the final caveman fight as being especially well shot. This is another great example of the show’s occasional visual inspiration. It’s weird, it’s unnerving and, best of all, it does all this without revealing the identity of the threat.

A couple key takeaways here. The Doctor is still pretty abrasive, but we’re starting to see a different side of his personality here. He might not have much of a use for people, but this episode paints him as a man driven by scientific curiosity, which does a good job of rounding out his character. I only wish that he was the focus of the show and not his milquetoast companions, who routinely stand around delivering long exchanges of exposition.

I also like the city sets. Sure, they’re rather simple, but they have a kind of cold, foreboding quality with their long empty corridors and oddly shaped doors.

Episode 2: The Survivors

We pick up exactly where we left off, with Barbara suffering attack from some unknown assailant, while the rest of the crew continues to explore the mysterious city. They enter a random room and stumble upon a conveniently placed geiger counter, which explains why they’re all suddenly feeling so sick.

We also find out that the Doctor lied about the malfunctioning fuel link, because what’s a few dead friends compared to traipsing around a city with nothing in it? With that out of the bag, the Doctor displays his now-legendary compassion, proposing they return to the ship, leaving Barbara stranded alone in the city. Ian is less than pleased with this idea, but it’s all rendered moot a moment later when they find themselves facing down a horde of killer robots.



This is actually a pretty good reveal, which starts on Susan’s frightened reaction, then pulls back to reveal that they’re boxed in by Daleks. Glad to see we’re getting a bit more variety in the shot selection.

Apparently the good Doctor’s tendency to beat feet is wearing off on his companions, because Ian’s first impulse is to make a run for it. Unfortunately, the Dalek’s hit him with a paralysis ray, which leads to the utterly fantastic line, “My legs. My legs. I can’t use my legs.” Show of hands for who else wants a talking Ian action figure with that as one of its catchphrases.

The Daleks deposit the Doctor, Susan, and Ian in a detention cell where Barbara has already been imprisoned, making this the second time the crew of the TARDIS has been captured. 0 for 2 guys. Now I’m no Time Lord, but if this is going to keep happening, it might be a good time to invest some type of offensive weaponry or maybe just a skeleton key.

The Daleks trot out the Doctor for questioning and through their conversation we get our first hints of what the hell’s happening.

Years ago there was a war between two races, the Daleks and the Thal. A nuclear attack caused the Daleks to burrow into the ground where they remain trapped. The Thal’s true fate is unknown, but the Daleks know they have survived and assume they have become “disgustingly mutated.” This admittedly doesn’t make much sense given that five minutes ago they thought the Doctor was one of them, but seeing as how we’re dealing with a bunch of talking pepper shakers, I’m just going to go ahead and forgive it.

The Daleks believe the Thals have survived due to a supply of anti-radiation drugs, which they are eager to get their hands on. The Doctor finally puts two and two together and realizes that the strange vials they found outside their ship are, in fact, the very same drugs. He proposes letting one of his group go out to get them, which the Daleks are all too willing to agree to.

Everyone is pretty far gone by this point, leaving it to Susan to get back to ship and retrieve them. She does this by engaging in some of the most insane running I’ve ever seen–I swear it’s like she’s powering her legs with her face–but I guess it works for her, because she finally reaches the ship and finds the drugs. The episode ends as she reenters the jungle, then it’s off to credits land.



Let’s take a moment to talk about the Daleks. They don’t exactly exude menace–they’re actually quite silly, if we’re being honest–but there’s something distinct about them that I can’t help but like. They’re certainly unique and I’ll sure as hell take them them over a tribe of fire-obsessed cave dwellers.

In looking ahead to future episodes it’s interesting that the Daleks really haven’t changed much in 50 years. A few visual tweaks maybe, but that’s about it. They’re also one of the Doctor’s most resilient foes, crossing swords (or, in this, case plungers) with nearly all of the eleven doctors, most often more than once. Much like with the various Doctors, I’m looking forward to seeing how these unique villains develop over time.

Up next: More fun with those wacky Daleks in episodes 3-4.

The Complete Doctor Who: Serial 1 An Unearthly Child, episodes 2-4

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 unique 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.

Last time we tackled the first ever episode of Doctor Who, which introduced us to the first Doctor, as well as his granddaughter Susan and reluctant companions Ian and Barbara. At episode’s end they were whisked away courtesy of the TARDIS, depositing them into their first ever adventure. Quick note everybody, the following contains spoilers, fifty year old spoilers, but spoilers all the same.

The Cave of Skulls


Have you ever been dragged to a party only to discover you’ve made a terrible mistake? That’s a lot like the opening scenes here. A bunch of people in animal skins crowd around as their would-be leader Za rubs a bone between his fingers in a futile attempt to make fire.

That’s right, given the opportunity to travel anywhere in time and space, the writers have seen fit to drop us into the middle of cave man times. <sigh> Okay, to be fair, it’s a low budget show, and rocks, caves, and animal skin costumes come pretty cheap. I suppose if we’re being honest, every planet in Star Trek looked like it was shot on the edge of a California freeway so I suppose I can deal with a few rocks and dirt.

As Za plays with his collection of sticks and bones, we get some great ominous ranting from a terrifying old woman. The actress’ name is Eileen Way and she’s really quite fantastic. Her vacant stare and rasping voice are genuinely creepy and I found myself wishing she played a larger role in the story.



We’re also treated to a nearly endless repetition of the word fire, which will continue for the duration of the next three episodes. Are you starting to feel glad I’m watching this and not you?

After this, it’s back to the TARDIS where we learn that the Doctor has no idea where they are. That’s right, as if being trapped with the Doctor wasn’t terrifying enough, it seems the TARDIS itself is on the fritz, depositing them randomly into various places and times. It’s also supposed to change shape, camouflaging itself as something from their surroundings, but for some reason, it still appears as a police box.

The doctor goes out to “get samples” which is apparently Time Lord slang for smoke up.



His trip to flavor country gets cut short though when he gets conked on the head and carted off by a wandering caveman.

This introduces us to Kal, Za’s chief rival for leader and as the two square off, their conflict plays out like a primitive election, with fire, animal skins, and meat being the central issues of the day. We even get our first negative attack ad with Kal declaring, “Za will give you to the tiger. Za will give you to the cold.”

If Mitt Romney had crafted a gem like that, things might have turned out very different.

Soon after, Barbara, Susan, and Ian stage what is perhaps the world’s most terrible rescue attempt, which basically consists of them running into the cave screaming.

Surprising no one, they are immediately captured and tossed into a space called The Cave of Skulls, which is about as pleasant as it sounds.

Later on that night though, the weird old woman breaks into the cave and helps them escape, motivated by a profound fear of fire that is never really elaborated on. Not that it really matters though because she’s killed shortly afterward, robbing the episode of its most interesting character.

Za is awakened by his girlfriend (wife?) and told what has happened. He chases them into the jungle, only to get gored offscreen by some kind of wild animal. The Doctor tries to make a break for it, but Barbara insists they help him, saving Za’s life in the process. Za’s rewards them for this act of mercy by promptly recapturing them.

Then it’s back to The Cave of Skulls. Za gets his fire, Kal is slain, and the crew of the TARDIS escape by balancing skulls on the edge of torches.



No, I’m not making that up.

I think it’s safe to say this is not the Doctor’s finest hour. The story seems padded and it’s at least one episode too long. It takes our heroes far too long to outwit a group whose IQ hovers somewhere in the single digits and let’s face it, if a time-traveling alien can’t outwit a bunch of fire-obsessed neanderthals then what good is he?

It’s not a fantastic story, but at least some of the pieces are slowly staring to take shape. The companions have started slipping into their roles. Ian is becoming the man of action. There is also a decent character moment for Barbara in her insistence on saving Za. It’s a good character beat that sets her up as the group’s conscience. Susan still doesn’t do much besides scream, but you know what, two out of three ain’t bad.

William Hartnell’s turn as the Doctor continues to please. Here, he is largely devoid of compassion, functioning as more of an anti-hero than anything else. The other characters are in constant conflict with him. We haven’t been told how long the Doctor has been separated from his people or why that happened in the first place and I’m beginning to suspect that may play a role in his prickly demeanor. In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out over time. Will he soften under his companions’ influence, or will they continue on as the world’s most dysfunctional group of time travelers?

While the look of the show is pretty flat, it does have occasional flashes of visual ingenuity. The final confrontation between Za and Kal feels particularly brutal, alternating frantic close-ups with reaction shots from the Doctor and his crew that really sell the off-screen violence.

Barbara's horrified reaction to Kal's brutal murder.

Barbara’s horrified reaction to Kal’s brutal murder – BBC

Throughout the fight, the flame light flickers over the cavemen’s bodies, underscoring the source of their conflict. A really effective scene that manages to sidestep the show’s technical limitations.

That’s it for now. Hopefully next episode will bring us somewhere more compelling as the Doctor squares off against the Daleks for the first time.