Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sensorites — Blogging Doctor Who

I think that's the bad guy
The episode starts off with a recap of their adventures since "An Unearthly Child.” Did they find that viewers who had missed the first few stories needed an update? The sequence concludes with the Doctor telling about another adventure, which initially seems to be told as something that he expects Barbara and Ian to remember, but then Susan chimes in that it was before they landed in twentieth-century London. It has the feel of a save by Carole Ann Ford, and then William Hartnell recovers nicely.

There are a lot of flubbed lines in this story, but Hartnell is not the main culprit, for a change. The actors playing the Sensorites seem to be particularly prone to flubbed lines. Maybe the heavy makeup confused them.

“The Sensorites” is a good story, though not as good as “The Keys of Marinus.” The first episode has a degree of menace that the subsequent ones really can’t match. Although the moment that the Sensorite is seen outside the spaceship window (“Hi there!”) is more amusing than scary. I mean, they just don’t look frightening. On the other hand, it’s quite a self-aware thing for the aliens to be complaining that they all look alike can’t tell each other apart. Which makes us expect that Sensorite humor goes something like:
“Who was that lady I saw you with last night?”
“That was no lady, that was your grandfather.”
I’ll admit, I’d like to see a species of aliens who look and sound alike to the Doctor, his companion, and us, but when this is pointed out, the response is a withering, “what are you talking about, we look and sound nothing alike, you on the other hand…” You would think that a species that truly had no identifying characteristics would figure out some non-falsifiable way of identifying each other. (As they a telepathic species, you would think that their thought patterns would be that way of identifying each other,[1] but the disguise by swapping sashes makes that unlikely.)

The Senorsites start out menacing and mysterious, but the script drains that from them. In the end, they turn out to be few in numbers (a dying race, perahps?), living in a single city, surrounded by the wasteland. Their water needs are provided by a single aqueduct, which is constructed in a manner that prevents the Sensorites from servicing it. Which raises the question: who built the aqueduct? For that matter, with their sophisticated technology (they cut the lock off the Tardis, after all), artificial lighting seems to be beyond their capabilities.

One bit of unintentionally humorous language: Barbara describes a map as “all screwed up” in the final episode. Not referring to the tampering, but that the document has been twisted. She is not using a mild vulgarity.

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
There is a moment where they pan up the body of a Sensorite (from those ridiculous feet). Midway, a bulge made me wonder if the Sesorites wore underwear under their garments. Still, the body wasn’t all that great. No, this is a serial devoid of eye candy.

So, Is This a Must-See?
I’m going to rank this one below “The Keys of Marinus.” While keeping to one main problem (getting back to the Tardis, just as in “Keys”), it still has a fairly episodic structure; each problem is solved in turn, instead of the new problems being obstacles to solving the previous. I think there’s a reason the Sensorites were never used again. They’re not very interesting. This isn’t a stinker, but it falls a little short.

Coming Next: The first season alternated history and science fiction, so it's time for "The Reign of Terror."

  1. Which would mean that corpses could only be identified by a process of elimination. Here’s a thought for a science-fiction mystery: A human is called in to help investigate when a member of a physically identical telepathic species is murdered. Humans are under suspicion, because of the locals have an inability of attacking someone in close proximity (due to the telepathic bond), but the first step is to identify the victim.  ↩

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