Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Sensorites (Part 3 of 3)

By Sophie Iles

As per my article last week week, I’m going to try writing these articles a little differently. After this last episode, I’m going to stop splitting it into parts and instead of trying to cover every moment. I’m going to summarise what happens in the story, before moving onto the aspects that I find particularly interesting!

So, today we look at the end of the Sensorites, finally finishing it’s six parts and just see where for me, the story fell flat. I also want to see how we feel about our antagonists, the first time Susan ever talks about Gallifrey, and the wonderful Barbara Wright. So, lets kick this off shall we?

What happens exactly?:

Kidnap begins with Ian and Susan saving the Doctor after being left unconscious from what is supposedly a monster in the aqueduct. He’s found the source of the poison, a deadly nightshade, that he believes has been planted there for the Sensorites to use the knowledge. The City Administrator and his ally, The Engineer, has kidnapped the Second Elder. They have been using his power and his sash for own ends. The Second Elder tries to foil the plan, but gets killed in the process, and so they try to frame the Doctor. It doesn’t work and the City Administrator’s ally is imprisoned, though only to be released again in secret. The Doctor suggests that the City Administrator be promoted is indeed the Second Elder is the enemy that was against them and now dead whilst John, the man who the sensorites made sick is finally coming back to full health to his fiancee Carol’s relief. He tells everyone that it was the New Second Elder who was plotting to kill them all. Meanwhile, Ian and Doctor tell the First Elder they want to go into the Aqueduct again to stop the poison and deal with the monsters and ask that Barbara now join them. The episode ends with Carol being kidnapped and Ian and The Doctor being given faulty weapons and a manipulated map by the newly appointed Second Elder so they are lost in the dark.

The Desperate Venture then begins with Carole having to write a fake letter, claiming she went back to the ship, when everyone knows that Barbara being back means that someone would have seen her. They deduce she must be in a room in the palace that isn’t used, and save her from the Engineer. Barbara also demands the First Elder tell them where the Doctor have gone and finally he admits that it is the aqueduct. Even though he was sworn to secrecy not to tell. Susan uses her physic abilities that the Sense-Sphere amplified, to guide Barbara and John into the aqueduct to find the Doctor and Ian. Whilst the pair have found the cause of the problems in the Aqueducts. It’s humans who were going completely insane, believed they were at war with the Sensorites. With Barbara and John turning up to save them, they trick the humans out of the dark to , and were then allowed to be taken home with John, Carol and Maitland, whilst the Second Elder, due to the treachery of the map was also banished to the out-lands. The TARDIS team were given the lock back to the TARDIS so they could finally get away from the Sense-Sphere and start their adventuring anew, though not without Ian making the Doctor mad and ending with the time lord promising to leave Ian wherever they landed next.

What didn’t work:

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first shall we, and rip it off like a plaster. The entire serial had some wonderful moments, but personally so much of the story fell flat and could have been reduced to less episodes to build tension. It could have easily have been a four parter episode. I struggle with the way the serial ended, having humans being the enemies all along in regards to the poison. It added an element to the story that wasn’t necessary. I personally had liked that the City Administrator was the main antagonist in a society built so heavily on trust. To add the element of the insane crew under the aqueduct felt like a very last minute decision. Only put in there so that they don’t have to create an actual monster when the City Administrator was already enough of a threat.

In fact, the villain that we are still used to seeing in this piece doesn’t even get a visual end, we are just told he will be banished.

Sadly, with that it left me a little disappointed that there wasn’t more done with the serial, after such a glorious set up to the story.

What worked:

Despite what I said, there are some lovely moments in this serial making it worth watching in full. I must admit stem from Susan Foreman really growing into a character for me. As mentioned last week, her argument with the Doctor had left more than a sobering tone with me. Still trying to decide if this was because of the 60s or an actual character decision due to what was to come. Even at the end of this serial, she relates to wanting somewhere to belong again. My favourite moment with her is when she is talking to the First Elder about her home. We know that it will later be known as Gallifrey, the only way we as an audience know the Time Lord’s planet:

SUSAN: Grandfather and I don’t come from Earth. Oh, it’s ages since we’ve seen our planet. It’s quite like Earth, but at night the sky is a burned orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.
1ST ELDER: My mind tells me that you wish to see your home again, and yet there is a part of you which calls for adventure. A wanderlust.

Part of what makes that part so wonderful, is how much Carole brings to the reading, I genuinely felt sorrow that she was taken away from. This is obviously at a time when the histories of these characters weren’t established, so Susan seems less sad to leave, and as excited to explore the universe. It brings for me, a new dimension to why Susan left with her grandfather.

And, whilst we’re speaking of characters that have grown since the beginning of the series; as an audience member, you really don’t realise how much balance and reason Barbara brings until she’s missing as she has been for almost three full episodes. Within her first moments in the last episode, she’s already making herself useful:

SUSAN: She couldn’t have gone up to the spaceship.
JOHN: Either you’d have seen her, or passed her on the way.
SUSAN: Yes.
BARBARA: She was obviously forced to write this. Whoever made her do it had no idea that I was being brought down here.
SUSAN: I bet the City Administrator had something to do with it.
JOHN: But why kidnap her?
BARBARA: I should think the why’s fairly obvious, wouldn’t you?
JOHN: No, I don’t think it is, Barbara. We’re on good terms with the First Elder, the Doctor’s discovered an antidote for the poison and now he and Ian are tracking down the cause of the trouble.
BARBARA: Look, I’ve been away in the ship so maybe I can see things more clearly. And I think we’re being used by one of the Sensorites who wants to gain power.

And this is why ladies and gentleman, Barbara Wright is my favourite female companion. I will probably say it in my dying breathe. I also loved the moments with Ian and the Doctor as well. When they are both in the aqueduct together exploring it goes to show how they have come along in the series, which is almost at an end. I still can’t believe that my next article is the last serial of series one!

Alas, that is all left to say about the Sensorites. Next week, we look at the Reign of Terror and see just how serious the Doctor’s threat is about leaving Ian behind in 17th Century France.

This week’s doodle is brought to you from the Iles from the household, but not from myself, but my husband, who thought it would be fun to try and doodle the City Administrator now appointed as the Second Elder in his new sash.