Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Sensorites (Part 2 of 3)

By Sophie Iles

This week, I’m going to try something a little different, a little unorthodox to what I’ve been attempting before. Hopefully, you’ll hear me out. For the length of time I’ve been doing these articles, I’ve been splitting it into parts. I’ve wanted to cover everything in every moment that sometimes it feels that I start to lose what it is that makes these episodes magical to me.

So, whilst I will summarise briefly what happens in these episodes, Hidden Danger and The Race Against Death, I want to draw attention to aspects to the serial that I find important. I will also start doing an article per serial once i’ve finished writing about the Sensorites. Unless it’s an incredibly long serial that warrants some more talking!

Hidden Danger is basically splitting the team up. This leaves Barbara up on the spaceship, with Maitland, whilst everyone else goes to the Sense-Sphere to meet the aliens and see their way of life. They meet the wise leaders, The Second and First Elders, and also meeting corrupted and evil one out to kill them, aka the City Administrator. It turns out they don’t like humans because the last time they had humans, it started a disease which was spreading around their planet. At the end of the episode, Ian succumbs to this disease after drinking different water to Susan and the Doctor. This leaves them to have to look urgently for a cure and with the hope of curing the others suffering too. They discover it’s poison and have a remedy to cure Ian. The Doctor believes the source of the poison is coming from the Aqueduct and goes to investigate. Despite the warning he wasn’t expecting to be attacked. This leaving a cliffhanger at the end of Race Against Death as a recovering Ian and Susan go looking for him…

For forty minutes of Doctor Who, very little happens over the two episodes. What I want to focus on this week is Susan. In particular, I want to focus on something that carries into the rest of Susan’s appearance in the show: how her and her grandfather’s relationship has developed.

This was sparked because of the first ten minutes of Hidden Danger. The cliffhanger included Susan offering herself to be taken away from her grandfather and friends so that the others would live; to stay on the Sense-Sphere alone. It’s a brave choice for her. Despite my fears for her safety, it was never because I didn’t think she could handle herself. Why, in The Daleks she was the central figure to saving her grandfather’s and her teachers lives!

So seeing the Doctor so livid actually made me as an audience member quite tense. He’s fuming, shouting at the Sensorites before they can take her away. He’s also unknowingly causing the sensitive aliens pain. She listens to his commands but it’s not smooth sailing.

Ian and Barbara summarise the moment after, much better than I ever could.

BARBARA: Sorry, I was thinking. You know, I’ve never seen the Doctor so angry.
IAN: Oh, yes. Susan set him off, didn’t she. The Sensorites must have hypnotised her in some way.
BARBARA: No, I don’t think so. She’s just growing up, Ian.

Susan has done much in the short time we’ve gotten to know her, and that goes for Ian and Barbara too. This glorious teenager is growing up with the children watching the show. We can now see her worth within the team, and really being apart of it.

But even with such progression, is it still the feeling in this era that men still think they know better than women? Or is it just her youth? “Children should be seen and not heard?” Perhaps it is due to these ideas that Susan’s attempts at independence is shot down by the Doctor.

And when I say shot down, I mean shot down:

DOCTOR: What is all this, setting yourself against me, hmm?
SUSAN: I didn’t, Grandfather.
DOCTOR: Oh, I know you thought you were doing your best, child, in the circumstances, but I think I’m a better judge of that.
SUSAN: Well, I have opinions too.
DOCTOR: My dear girl, the one purpose in growing old is to accumulate knowledge and wisdom, and to help other people.
SUSAN: So I’m to be treated like a silly little child.
DOCTOR: If you behave like one, yes.

The Doctor is unwilling to let her explain why she is right in this situation, or listen to her point of view. We know that the First Doctor is a stubborn old fool, but even in the case of Ian and Barbara at this point, he has let them take direction, or listened to them both.

Susan on the other hand, perhaps because of her youth, is always treated with kid gloves. The poor kid can’t express herself without being chided by her Grandfather in this moment. Even when she offers advice with the Sensorites with his way of speaking, he barely listens.

It’s almost heartbreaking to watch, the way Susan finally relents and submits. The Doctor is constantly blaming the Sensorites for their argument but actually, if he had listened instead of barked orders, or spoke to her with a different tone of voice, the teenager that she is might have in fact been able to explain herself without sounding like she’s whining. The ongoing issue of most worried parents, not listening.

At least Barbara has the foresight to explain to Susan how this works, and why she is such a good figurehead for the show.

BARBARA: Look, I know how you feel, but your grandfather loves you.
SUSAN: Yes, I know.
BARBARA: Be patient. We’re all on your side really, you know.

Even as this episode progresses, Susan has a good head on her shoulders as she starts to see things the Doctor hasn’t noticed. John  being healed by the Sensorites being able sense the good and evil within a person. She can also seem to have more links to the aliens because of her telepathy. The Doctor is finally impressed with her and seems to have actually taken Barbara’s advice himself, be patient.

It’s a really interesting place to be, watching Susan and the Doctor’s relationship develop over these two episodes. Just in our first serial, Susan couldn’t bare to be apart from her grandfather, screaming for his safety. Now she’s standing on her own two feet, willing to take on large tasks to help their team.

And now of course, taking care of Ian as they go looking for her grandfather in the aqueduct with the hopes he’s not hurt, whilst Ian is not really in a good enough state to take care of himself. Who’s the teenager now? Who’s having to take control? The wonderful Susan Foreman that’s who. Susan is one of my favourites. If not for the lack of good stories to continue this for her after this point, she could actually be my favourite.

And that’s why, today, you get a picture of Susan as my doodle. Next week, I’ll look at the end of The Sensorites, and see just what sort of story it ended up telling….

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Sensorites (Part 1 of 3)

By Sophie Iles

It’s that time of the week folks, today I’m writing live from the outskirts of Devon to bring you my take on The Sensorites. A story with some flaws but with some great moments, and lets Susan shine for the first time in the series. 

Let’s take a look! 

We left the team confused about how the TARDIS could have stopped, but the instruments show they still moving. Everyone has changed clothes. It’s been at least a few hours, even a sleep, for our humans before they all return together to the console room. It’s Ian’s turn to wear a polo neck jumper, Barbara’s in a pretty dress and Susan’s in a dress. With this change of dress comes a fresh attitude to their next adventure. In fact, the conversation they have before they leave the TARDIS to explore is one of my favourites!

Our content TARDIS team, Susan, Barbara, The Doctor and Barbara.

IAN: There’s one thing about it, Doctor. We’re certainly different from when we started out with you.
SUSAN: That’s funny. Grandfather and I were talking about that just before you came in. How you’ve both changed.
BARBARA: Well we’ve all changed.
SUSAN: Have I?
DOCTOR: Yes, it all started out as a mild curiosity in a junkyard, and now it’s turned out to be quite a, quite a great spirit of adventure, don’t you think?
IAN: Yes. We’ve had some pretty rough times and even that doesn’t stop us. It’s a wonderful thing, this ship of yours, Doctor.

Look at that development! It’s lovely to watch how this four before used to really despise the idea of being together and having to rely on each other (see Edge of Destruction). Now, not only are Ian and Barbara so willing to leave the TARDIS for adventure, they accept there is danger. It still appears that they still have hope the Doctor will still get them home, one day. 

So, off the TARDIS they go and they find they are on a spaceship, and the two crew are dead. Except they’re not. Suddenly, one of them wakes and asks for a heart resuscitation device, which they use on him and his colleague. The two members of crew, Maitland and Carol explain they were not dead but in a deep sleep. They said they were put there by The Sensorites; aliens who live on the planet The Sense Sphere. They have been orbiting the planet for as long as they can remember, as it appears the aliens are using mind control to attack them.

One of the more fun moments in this episode is finding out that the crew are from 28th Century Earth. Excited about this knowledge, Ian and Barbara want to learn about their future. They then learn not only is there no more Big Ben but that London is now part of ‘Central City’. It’s the first time the series dealt with the future of Earth before, even though we had a futuristic sense of time from Marinus and The Daleks. It’s a good clip to watch these humans of the 20th Century get excited about the future they will never live to see, unless the Doctor has his way of course…  They also learn that Maitland and Carol have another crew member called John. He’s somewhere else on the ship, having been the most affected the most by the Sensorites and could be temperamental. The team decide they shouldn’t get involved or learn too much about the future; but when they go back to the TARDIS to leave the lock has been completely removed! They haven’t got a choice now but to get involved in this mystery.

The Crew and the TARDIS team in the Observation Deck.

Moments later the Sensorites attack the group telepathically again rendering them hopeless. Luckily, it doesn’t affect the Doctor or his companions. The affect on the crew causes the ship to try and go out of orbit and crash which fortunately the Doctor stops. These creatures being able to make such a difference without being present is quite a powerful thing. When the situation has solved itself, Barbara and Susan go looking for water but find John instead. He’s moving around in a zombie like state and terrifies them. Also, as the door shuts behind them it can’t be opened again. Now Ian and The Doctor can’t go to help them so they have to deal with John themselves.

The whole sequence is actually quite creepy. Despite the reuse their corridors in this episode, Barbara and Susan do a wonderful job of convincing us of the threat. They hold hands and stand their ground together against the threatening, deranged crew member. Finally, John breaks down in front of them, weeping at the horror of being controlled. Always the mother figure, Barbara strokes his hair as he lays in her lap, comforting him in their predicament. She’s hoping that the others will break through the door so they can all be reunited.

Meanwhile as Maitland is trying to cut through the door to get to them, they here another sound. It’s the the transport the Sensorites use to get onto the ship makes a low whining noise, which they can all hear. This is our first cliffhanger of the serial ends, with the Sensorites finally being introduced outside the window, peering through the observation deck.

So this is how we meet the Sensorites. As a NuWho fan, you might recognise this look from somewhere. If you look at a picture of an Odd from the Tenth Doctor era you’ll see resemblances. The mild mannered poses, the larger heads and the eyes being small are all comparable. In fact, The Tenth Doctor tells us that the races planets revolve around the same sun, which is a cool piece of canon that Russell T Davies created when he made them. 

Either way, though the Odd can appear a evil at times, the Sensorites don’t appear as threatening as their actions have been. They disappear from the observation deck window to enter the ship. The Doctor and Ian have to wake up the crew again as they have been made to fall asleep. Once awake, they can continue to cut through the door. Meanwhile, poor John is still being affected by the Sensorites as they closer to him. This time, Barbara and Susan are there with him. They tell him, to build his confidence, so that they feel safe with him now he’s on their side. This moment is when Susan shows a beautiful moment of intelligence and cunning that I wish we had seen more often in her character development. She tells Barbara about how they should try and use mental telepathy of their own to fight back against the Sensorites. She suggests that if they think about something clearly in their mind they could then defend themselves together, with the same thoughts. 

SUSAN: He’s quiet now, but we can’t be sure the Sensorites won’t make him help them. Look, if they can use their brains, why can’t we use ours?
BARBARA: To defend him?
SUSAN: Yes, and ourselves. Grandfather and I landed on a planet once called Esto. The plants there used thought transference. If you stood in between two of the plants, they set up a sort of screeching noise. Grandfather said it was because they were aware of another mind.
BARBARA: Breaking in on their communications.
SUSAN: Yes, exactly. I thought if we both tried together.
BARBARA: Well anything’s better than just sitting here.

It works! The Sensorites crumple and can’t fight back. Though it causes Susan faints it means that there probably is a way to keep themselves safe. This happens just in time for Ian and Maitland to be able to cut through the door to save them and bring them back to the observation deck to safety.  

It cuts from that scene to later on in time. The Sensorites appear to have left them to their own devices for now. Ian puts John to bed, who mumbles the phrase “the dreams of avarice.” Ian shares this with the others. This leads to the team to try and figure out why John’s reaction to the Sensorites is bigger than everyone else by seeing what he was doing before the Sensorites affected him. The Doctor puts his finger on it. He notices that John’s job, studying minerals in the Sense Sphere, meant he saw that the planet is rich in molybdenum. This is a precious material and it could make them all rich! All the intentions of the Sensorites make sense. This is why they’re keeping them hostage, but not wanting to hurt them but not wanting them to leave. 

Once that happens, the Sensorites attack telepathically at the crew again. This time, Ian and Barbara go running through the corridor to go looking for them but when they do. Ian orders Barbara to find a way to lock the doors, rushing towards the observation deck but Maitland can’t help. Meanwhile, Ian raises a hammer to defend himself from them as they move backwards as they move after him. It’s a horrendously tense moment that made me shiver to watch. Barbara runs to get John who could help her instead at the Doctor’s request but she observes when they return to him that Ian is never attacked by the Sensorites. John closes the door, it’s a relief but a wonder as to what they will actually do now they are on the ship….

Back on the observation deck when they are all back together with all the doors locked. Now, the Sensorites try something new… Susan gets a message from them, asking if they can talk. Clearly, she is more telepathic with her than the other TARDIS team in this moment. The two aliens enter the room to speak to the Doctor and the crew for the first time and they give their demands. With the discovery of the material on their planet they can’t let the Doctor go or the crew, as predicted, but they don’t want to hurt them. They offer instead to give them a place of their own to live on the Sense Sphere.

The Doctor refuses. In fact, it leads to one of the first time that we see how the Doctor is with another alien race when threatened. Something that he wasn’t like previously except with perhaps the Daleks, and even then he was their prisoner standing his ground. Now, in this moment, despite not knowing how to defeat them, he is in his element here that we recognise more in future episodes. 

DOCTOR: Now listen to me, both of you. You’ve taken the lock of my ship and I want it returned immediately.
SENSORITE 1: You’re in no position to threaten us.
DOCTOR: 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!

The Sensorites leave, temporarily to ‘decide’ on what they want to do next. Meanwhile, The Doctor has noticed more things about his enemy. Their possible weaknesses with dealing with darkness could be a help to them. Also, there was a really interesting comment made by the Doctor in regards to telepathy…

BARBARA: Well, how can you be sure that the Sensorites will be frightened of the dark?
DOCTOR: My dear Barbara, wouldn’t you be afraid if you couldn’t see your enemies, hmm? Thank you for your admiration, dear boy. Thank you.
IAN: I never said a word.
DOCTOR: Telepathy. You know, telepathy isn’t only a prerequisite of the Sensorites. I know sometimes what you’re thinking.

Now is this intentional to suggest that The Doctor, like Susan are telepathic. They are aliens after all, and not humans, perhaps there was an intention here to show the difference again. After all The Doctor and Susan as opposed to the rest of the crew are supposed to be more alien. This telepathic streak is played on before in the future with NuWho and the Classic Who era, so it’s really awesome to again speculate if this was the intention or not. I wonder if this was what led to the use of telepathy with the Doctor later on… 

And speaking of telepathy…

Susan with the Sensorites…

It’s then when Susan is getting another message for the Sensorites. Worriedly, they watch as she listens and replies to them out loud before moving away from her friends and towards the door. Turns out that they told her if she didn’t go live in the Sense Sphere, they would kill them and she couldn’t have that on her conscience. This left us with a cliffhanger, both for the following week in the past all those years ago and now with this article. 

So! Part Two will show us the best parts of Susan Foreman, The Sense Sphere and just how much the crew need Barbara Wright. This week I don’t have a doodle because I’m actually away from home.  

But have a picture of my brother in law watching the Sensorites with me instead.

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Aztecs (Part 2 of 2)

By Sophie Iles

Welcome back Whovians! We are into the second part of this serial and already we’ve had everything you could possibly want. There’s danger, there’s history, there’s hints of a romantic subplot and now there’s this bone chilling cliffhanger that we were left on as Ian is about face death at the hands of his rival Ixta. It’s up to Barbara Wright to save the day, as she often seems to do…

Before I start laying down the groundwork of the next two episodes I must say out of all of the episodes, this one has such a variety of things going on. Lots of threads being neatly sewn together for the climatic ending of episode four. I really think David Whitaker was a very good script editor to make this serial as good as it is!

So, without further ado let’s find out how our foursome get out of their sticky situation in The Bride of Sacrifice and The Day of Darkness!

Barbara saves the day, because she’s awesome.

Barbara saves the day obviously. She snatches a knife and uses it to threatens the life of Tlotoxl if they don’t let Ian live. They do as their told. Her fierceness sincerely got my back up as I watched this sequence. As this is the end of the fight, no one is given the victory; Ian is unconscious and Ixta ‘cheated’. When Ian next wakes up, Ixta promises to kill him next time (foreshadowing Ixta’s last scene in the serial). Ian also learns that Ixta’s promise to give The First Doctor drawings was false, as there were none. Imagine my frustration as I shake my fist at the screen. I want this dude dispatched as soon as possible.

Ian also learns that Tlotoxl is plotting something, but he doesn’t know what, and he goes straight to Barbara to tell her. It’s strange, but up until this moment in the series, Ian has never been this physically active to me. He was always an action man surely, but he really does feel like a man who trained in the National Service in this series with how well he handles himself and even how he speaks to Barbara about how Autloc is the only good man here willing to see her point of view about sacrifice; it all seems clearer cut than Barbara’s idealistic wish to stop the Aztecs from destroying their civilisation.

Meanwhile, with Barbara having threatened Tlotoxl he’s even more suspicious of her than he already was. Planning with another man, Tonila, to see if poison will kill the goddess, a way of proving she is false.  When both he and Tonila go to her with a poisoned chalice, Ian is hiding waving his hands suggesting she shouldn’t drink it after his warning, and Barbara calls them out on it trying to make them drink it first. Obviously they don’t.

TLOTOXL: I only meant to test you.
BARBARA: With poison?
TLOTOXL: Yetaxa would have lived. The gods are immortal.
BARBARA: Well I would have died. I am not Yetaxa.
TLOTOXL: False. False! I knew.
BARBARA: And who will believe you? I warn you, Tlotoxl, you say one word against me to the people and I’ll have them destroy you. Destroy you!

She’s so upset and angry by the whole event that once he’s gone she just begins to cry into Ian’s arms and her really at her weakest point. This adventure just seems to get rougher and rougher for Barbara with every passing minute and I would personally hate to be in her shoes.

Whilst all of this is going on, Susan and The Doctor have their own problems, though in the case of the Doctor, it’s his eagerness and clear misunderstanding of reading the signs that gets him into trouble. Perhaps, you can call this the good kind of trouble? His relationship with Cameca reaches a new level, when she brings cocoa beans to him when they’re spending time together in the Garden of Peace. In Aztec custom, if you make someone a drink of cocoa beans, you offer them a marriage proposal due to their importance in use as currency.

She wishes to see if the Doctor feels the same way about her, by bringing the beans, which, out of what is probably just politeness and excitement to have a hot chocolate he insists on making a drink for her. To Cameca this is a massive moment, to be made a marriage proposal, and for her feelings to be reconciled. For the Doctor, he’s barely aware of the meaning and just can’t wait to share a drink of hot chocolate with her as a distraction from the chaos around him.

As a viewer you basically know this information before he does, it’s only when she announces the truth that you see William Hartnell react to the news, and it is one my favourite scenes of the serial.

The Doctor gets engaged….accidentally.

DOCTOR: Happy days, my dear.
CAMECA: The happiest of my life, dear heart. Was ever such a potion brewed? In bliss is quenched my thirsty heart. 

DOCTOR: Very prettily put, my dear.
CAMECA: Oh, sweet-favoured man, you have declared your love for me, and I acknowledge and accept your gentle proposal.

It does make you wonder just how much the First Doctor felt about Cameca, bringing in that thought again about previous adventures he had with Susan before we are introduced to them and what ideas William Hartnell had about the Doctor’s past.

Whilst this is going on Susan is still training to be a good Aztec housewife. With Tlotoxl now wanting to destroy Barbara he decides to put pressure on Susan after hearing how defiant she had been before and tells the Perfect Victim to visit her. Of course, being that he is considered the Perfect Victim he can marry who he chooses before he is sacrificed and he chooses Susan. She’s outraged of course! She refuses. This gets her in a hell of a lot of trouble, as even Barbara, not knowing this was Susan who made the mistake, clearly insists that their teachings must be stuck to.

Whoops. That Tlotoxl is a real sneaky git isn’t he?

Susan’s due to be punished, Ian’s unable to be truly helpful to anyone because Ixta is always watching him, and the Doctor has his own issues, but he’s finally found an idea thanks to his new “fiancee”. She offers him a gift of a stone with Yetaxa’s mark on. The Doctor strikes on an idea that there’s another stone, a large tablet in the garden he had been sitting behind. Perhaps that will lead to the tomb.

He tells Ian about this and they decide to meet in secret in the Garden of Peace to check it out for themselves, though this isn’t without the Doctor admitting “he got engaged”, which is hilarious to watch Ian find that funny, a proper belly laugh at that. When they do finally meet, The Doctor can’t take the stone off out of the wall on his own, and Ian has to do it as it’s too heavy. He uses a flashlight to climb into the tunnel, hoping this is an entrance to the tomb. Of course, it’s never that simple with Doctor Who. Ixta was following and tells the Doctor he must put the stone back because it will flood the Garden. He knows full well Ian is in there, trapped in the dark as water floods the tunnel and The Doctor even tells him that Ian is trapped in there but it just means Ixta has defeated Ian again his mind!

Of course, it’s a perfect moment for a cliffhanger too, but luckily, we all know Ian is a smart cookie. He finds another symbol of Yetaxa’s in the tunnel, and he pushes it to find another to crawl through, reaching back into the tomb just as he and the Doctor hoped.

Now, just to find a way to keep the door open so they can get back in the tomb, all of them safe and sound.

It would be easy to say it was as simple as Ian made it look, tying some old cloth from the tomb so the door could be opened on the other side whenever they want it. Alas, even when all four of them are reunited after Ian rescues Susan from waiting to be punished they have difficulty getting into the tomb. Ian’s trick with the cloth just causes it to get snapped before they can open it again. The Doctor concludes they need a pulley of some sort, in a time when the wheel didn’t exist.

Ian and Susan go back to the Garden, with the hope of climbing through the tomb tunnel again, but little do they know Ian is being set up to be framed for an assault on Barbara’s only ally Autloc (Oh, Doctor Who loves setting Ian up for murder don’t they?) so Susan and Ian are locked away to be punished during the eclipse, Tlotoxl is hoping to bind Barbara and get rid of her, and The Doctor is creating a pulley device of his own.

It’s in this moment, that Cameca has realised that the Doctor doesn’t really intend to marry her, and this sad subplot makes me feel so much for the Doctor, he clearly has enjoyed her company, smiling at her and comfortable. They have been sat together looking quaint. Even discussing a garden of their own. We all know that the Doctor can’t do that. Even in this early in the life span of the show, we know he needs to go off with the others.

She’s no fool, she tells him she knows he plans to leave, and he confirms them, not unkindly, but not apologetically either but he doesn’t even meet her eye. It is a sad moment to watch and William Hartnell does so well to pull you into the moment.

DOCTOR: There you are, my dear, it’s nearly finished.
CAMECA: As is our time together. I do not know what its purpose is, but I’ve always known it would take you from me.
DOCTOR: Yes. I’m sorry, my dear.
CAMECA: Tomorrow will truly be a day of darkness.
DOCTOR: For both of us.
CAMECA: Tlotoxl is determined to destroy Yetaxa?
DOCTOR: He must do to safeguard his own beliefs.
CAMECA: We are a doomed people, my dear. There’s no turning back for us.
DOCTOR: You’re a very fine woman, Cameca, and you’ll always be very, very dear to me.  

Cameca’s part of the story isn’t over, and has in fact saved them all with her wisdom in all matters and her influence. She, aided by the Doctor before she realised the truth asked Autloc who survived his attack go to see Barbara. Their friendship isn’t quite the same, but still believes that Ian did hit him round the head with the club. Barbara tries to explain to him that there would be no reason why her servant will attack him, but even then, his faith is shaken. Poor Autloc decides that it would be better to disappear into the wilderness and find his own way.

But not before asking Cameca to bribe the guard protecting Ian and Susan so Susan can get away. Though Ian uses the opportunity to knock the guy out so he can also escape.

This also makes for one last time for Cameca and The Doctor to meet, he thanks he for giving him back Susan, but you can see the heartache. The first time we ever see someone ask to be taken with them wherever she is heading and he doesn’t even face her. Truly heartbreaking to watch, and again both William Hartnell and Margot Van der Burgh do it all beautifully before she rushes away.

This leaves the climatic ending of the whole serial now they have the means to escape into the tomb because of the Doctor’s pulley. Ian — dressing in the guard’s head dress is on hand to protect Barbara at the sacrifice of the Perfect Victim when Tlotoxl tries to stab her. Tlotoxl and Tonila move to the side calling for Ixta to fight Ian, which leads to a really wonderful tense final fight between Ixta and Ian, and we know it’s to the death this time.

Ian and Ixta face off for the last time…

It’s not the best fight scene (my favourites are within The Romans) but it does make for a dramatic climax, whilst Barbara Susan and the Doctor get the tomb open. Ian and Ixta’s finally stand is tense and the matte painting to show the rest of the Mexico  really gives depth to the situation when Ian finally uses his feet to throw Ixta down the steps to his death.

Ian finally joins them in the tomb, to get back into the TARDIS, where Barbara removes the jewellery and the headdress of the goddess and place it back from where it once came, on the bones of the high priest she had taken them from before.

BARBARA: We failed.
DOCTOR: Yes, we did. We had to.
BARBARA: What’s the point of travelling through time and space if we can’t change anything? Nothing. Tlotoxl had to win.
BARBARA: And the one man I had respect for, I deceived. Poor Autloc. I gave him false hope and in the end he lost his faith.
DOCTOR: He found another faith, a better, and that’s the good you’ve done. You failed to save a civilisation, but at least you helped one man.

Her heart to heart with the Doctor leads to the realisation that at least Autloc, the man she trusted can now find his own faith and not be restricted to the forced Aztec traditions and it really nice to see how NuWho echoes this in the future. Of course, personally, I think this serial did it better.

Next week it’s time for The Sensorites an adventure though I have already seen before can’t wait to revisit, and personally, one of the best stories to depict Susan so we’ll talk about that next week.

Here’s my fanart for the week. Barbara in her Yetaxa garb, and an extra bonus, I’m adding this link where you can watch me draw and colour it too!

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Aztecs (Part 1 of 2)

By Sophie Iles

The Aztecs is a masterpiece. There, I said it. You can shout at me all you like later, you can tell me there are better serials out there in the world of Who, and I will listen, but the levels this serial goes to really is wonderfully thrilling to watch. There’s some dodgy fighting, and some of the dialogue is a little stuffy — but overall, it’s a thrilling watch and one of the few I could probably watch all over again after getting to the end of the episode. I can now also see where Dreamworks got some of their ideas for The Road to Eldorado…

Funnily enough, The Aztecs was the first episode of Classic Who I ever saw. It was on Netflix, and it cut like the first five minutes so i didn’t know what was going on. I was expecting the legendary Tom Baker at the time, to suddenly see it in black and white and his grumpy old man shouting at a woman about not changing history. Unfortunately, teenage Soph wasn’t impressed and switched off after the first episode. This time couldn’t have been further from the truth, I absorbed it like a sponge.

Lets look this week at the intro to this tale: The Temple of Evil and The Warriors of Death!

First we see Barbara and Susan exit the TARDIS after landing in a tomb, which Barbara correctly identifies as an Aztec tomb, of a high priest no doubt, as we discover it’s her favourite historical period — her specialism — which is pretty lucky if you ask me. Barbara and Susan become interested in a door after some exploring and putting on the priestess’s jewellery, Barbara leaves the tomb despite Susan saying she’ll get the others and she walks right into the clutches of the Aztec outside. Susan returns with the Doctor and Ian to tell them Barbara found a door, but obviously can’t find her. The Doctor is furious with her, and Ian is obviously a little worried, which escalates when they too run into the attendants outside.

DOCTOR: You know where we came from?
AUTLOC: The tomb.
DOCTOR: Tell me, is there a way through from this side?
AUTLOC: The tomb is sealed. Go now with these attendants, and soon you shall meet the one who wears the bracelet of Yetaxa.
DOCTOR: What’s he talking about now?
SUSAN: He must be talking about Barbara. She picked up a bracelet from the tomb.
IAN: Well, perhaps we’d better go and meet her.

Whilst behind them, the entrance to the tomb, and their escape is closed and no entrance can be made from the outside. Which, is a big problem, but at least for now, everything appears safe.

Barbara shows the TARDIS team the high priestess’s bracelet.

Barbara has been dubbed the reincarnation of the High Priest Yetaxa, due to the fact she was wearing their bracelet. The company are in good spirits, except for being unsure how to get back to the TARDIS, but Ian and the Doctor are given permission as the ‘Servants of Yetaxa’ to wander the city, which Susan, her handmaiden, is to stay with her.

We meet two priests who are in complete contrast to each other. Autloc, the High Priest of Knowledge, and Tlotoxl, the High Priest of Sacrifice, who Ian labels the “local butcher” before he even announces his title. The latter is wonderful, played by John Ringham, who brings a creepiness to his performance, claiming that Ian should be the commander of their armies, as the chosen one of Yetaxa, to which our friendly neighbourhood science teacher can’t possibly refuse, and that he must challenge the current man fighting for that honor, Ixta.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is taken to the Garden of Peace, which is where the residents over the age of fifty three are given a place of solitude to spend their final years. This is where he meets the beautiful elder Cameca, who he decides to question about the tomb when he finds out she knows of the father and son in regards to whom built Yexata’s tomb.

For a few good moments, perhaps possibly Ian having to deal with the jealous Aztec warrior, the crew seem to be enjoying their stay. Barbara and Susan enjoy wearing the Aztec headdresses, observing how the Aztecs had both beauty and horror, which the Doctor seems overwhelmingly charmed by Cameca in the garden. It’s not until Ian rushes to Barbara to tell her that he has to hold down a sacrifice in her honor that Barbara decides she, as the Goddess Yetaxa, would not allow it.

She wants to meddle with history, remove the sacrificing all together, and protect the Aztec civilisation before it gets destroyed by the Spanish. The Doctor is furious but Barbara as she often does stands her ground. The whole moment completely opening up a discussion on why the Doctor is so set on not meddling with time. The whole dialogue in that scene, and the delivery made me wonder, as I often do, what William Hartnell’s mind had concocted as we know he and Carole Ann had their own ideas of their family background just what the First Doctor meant by that final appeal:

BARBARA: There will be no sacrifice this afternoon, Doctor. Or ever again. The reincarnation of Yetaxa will prove to the people that you don’t need to sacrifice a human being in order to make it rain.
DOCTOR: Barbara, no.
BARBARA: It’s no good, Doctor, my mind’s made up. This is the beginning of the end of the Sun God.
DOCTOR: What are you talking about?
BARBARA: Don’t you see? If I could start the destruction of everything that’s evil here, then everything that is good would survive when Cortes lands.
DOCTOR: But you can’t rewrite history! Not one line!
SUSAN: Barbara, the high priests are coming.
DOCTOR: Barbara, one last appeal. What you are trying to do is utterly impossible. I know, believe me, I know.

In other words, what the hell did you try to do before now One?

As the time for sacrifice comes, Barbara stands her ground, informing them all she does not wish the sacrifice to go ahead, but insulted and dishonoured, the victim instead throws himself off the top of the tomb at Tlotoxl’s suggestion. And just then the rain arrives just as Tlotoxl said it would. Susan also tried to stop the sacrifice too when she was not permitted entrance, which gets her sent away to learn their customs, better than to be punished. Poor Barbara trying to protect everyone, just gets people dead anyway or in more trouble than it’s worth. Not to mention, Tlotoxl is now absolutely sure that she’s a false goddess.

The Doctor is really harsh with her when he sees her alone again, shouting and now even more upset that Susan is somewhere they can’t reach. It’s a good moment, strongly acted, Barbara trying to show her strength of will is still crushed at the thought that Susan could not come to any harm to which she starts to cry. The Doctor does apologise to her, comforting her, and tells her that they’ll be fine, he has plans to find out to get into the temple with his new found friend in the Garden of Peace.

Yexeta and Tlotoxl

It’s after this that Barbara gets to face off against Tlotoxl, who tries to trick her into giving knowledge she wouldn’t know, but her knowledge on the Aztecs and her quick cunning words give her time and space to speak to them. She’s great here, both actors spar with each other expertly, and when it is said and done, Barbara has asked that Autloc challenge her divinity as the High Priest of Knowledge, whilst Tlotoxl informs her, Ian is to fight Ixta over the command of their armies.

Ian and Ixta trading barbed words.

Ian seems to not be out of place though next to Ixta, the young man who is his rival to command is a try hard, desperate to prove himself, and is obviously good with weapons. Ian though, cool as you please suggests that the only he only needs his thumb to defeat him and proves as such, putting said thumb on the pressure point at the back of Ixta’s neck that renders him unconscious in front of a lot of influential people. (Go Ian Go!)

This only makes Ixta hate Ian further, he’s determined to defeat Ian and he’s about to get his chance. Cameca approaches Ixta, asking about his father’s plans for the tomb, claiming the older servant of Yetaxa is after information. He says he will speak to him, and tricks the Doctor, by claiming that he needs his help to defeat his rival in combat. The Doctor is unaware that it’s Ian that Ixta is facing, gives him a poisoned thorn from one of the plants in the garden, and tells him that if he scratches his opponent with it it will drain them of his strength. So by giving Ixta the tool to defeat Ian once and for all.

Susan meanwhile seems to be doing well learning the customs of the Aztecs, but still is in refusal to accept some of their traditions. It’s a very strong serial for her in that regard, considering the smaller part she plays, and showing that defiance to Autloc is going to get her into a lot of trouble, and she, taking after her other female role model Barbara, won’t take no for an answer.

The Doctor goes to tell Barbara about Ixta and the plans for the tomb, but Barbara informs him that she’s not allowed to see anyone but their own priests whilst Tlotoxl is challenging her divinity — and informs the Doctor that he’s assisted in Ixta defeating Ian which clearly the Doctor is troubled about, and though he rushes out to help, he’s taken away to be punished!  Barbara tells Autloc he had not known of the denial of entry, and was ignorant and she tells him also that the fight between Ixta and Ian should not end in death and she forbids it with the hope that it’s not too late.

So the fight between Ian and Ixta begins at sunset, Susan blissfully unaware still learning away in the city, whilst the pair fight on. As an observation, Ixta who’s supposed to be well trained does do badly against the science teacher. This is surprising as a new viewer but actually there’s a Big Finish Audio that does explain this Ian trait (It’s Farewell, Great Macedon check it out if you like this serial!) but Ixta finally uses the thorn on Ian and it’s not good news.

It’s terrible to watch as The Doctor rushes forward towards the fight, newly released, trying to warn his friend but it’s too late, Ian Chesterton’s reflexes slows down, fighting hard all the while as he’s slowly poisoned. It’s only when Ixta is ready to give the final blow when Barbara turns up in her beautiful headdress every bit a goddess — determined to make sure it doesn’t end in blood shed and left in a chilling cliffhanger that I don’t think I could have handled to wait a week for…

TLOTOXL: A false goddess forbids it. Destroy him.
TLOTOXL: Your place is in the temple.
BARBARA: I am loyal to those who serve me.
TLOTOXL: If you are Yetaxa, save him.

And so next week, we look at what happens to Ian, what will Susan’s modern views mean for her safety, and how far will Tlotoxl go to prove Barbara isn’t a goddess. Find out next week with The Bride of Sacrifice and The Day of Darkness….

Sadly, I don’t have a picture today, due to having been at Cardiff Comic Con this weekend, so instead, have a picture of men, dressed like a miniature sized twelfth doctor who left his real jacket at home and stole Ace’s badges….. I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend and see you next week!

Me with a mondasian cyberman!

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

By Sophie Iles

The end is nigh! The Key of Marinus quest is almost over, but with a slight hitch. Ian’s being framed for murder and the last micro key has been stolen. Welcome my friends, to the final part of this adventure looking at The Sentence of Death and the Keys of Marinus. I like this serial, but I do feel that the end gets slightly rushed, but I feel that a lot with Terry Nation’s stories — at least these few that I’ve seen. Let’s go through this and find out for ourselves?

As per our cliffhanger, Ian has been set up for murder and theft, found knocked on the head on the floor by the body, fingers all over the murder weapon: a mace, locked in a vault, which he can’t have been allowed access to, where the micro key has been stolen. With all these thoughts in hand he must be guilty. It doesn’t help that in the lovely city of Millennius, the legal system is “guilty until proven innocent”. Doesn’t that make you feel a little uneasy? We after all know the truth, our audience hoping that someone will find evidence to prove his innocence

Of course, they’ve yet to reunite with the Doctor who we’ve not seen for two episodes.

Welcome back Doctor!

When he does turn up there is a little bit of fanfare of course, Susan practically tackles him, and once again you can really see there’s been so much development since these characters met, even between Susan and the Doctor, perhaps, dare I say it, having Ian and Barbara around have left him open up to his more sensitive side?

IAN: Doctor!
SUSAN: Grandfather!
BARBARA: How did you get here? ALTOS: We looked everywhere.
SUSAN: I’m just glad we’re back together again.
DOCTOR: Yes, so am I, dear child. So am I. However, we have some important work to attend to. Excuse me. Chesterton, you and I must have a talk.
IAN: We haven’t much time for a talk, Doctor. In a moment I’ve got to go in there and face an accusation of murder. I need a man to defend me.
DOCTOR: I am that man.

Alas, they still have hard work to do, as Ian needs to be proved innocent, even if the poor man who was murdered, Epiram was a friend of Altos’s, also sent to get the key by Arbitan, makes no difference. Concrete evidence is what they need. Which is why the Doctor promotes himself to defend Ian in court.

This episode really does prove how valuable the Doctor is to the team, despite the fact he’s not been around for almost an hour of this serial, here he is using logic to figure out that the murderer was either the relief guard who found Ian — or in cahoots with him. On meeting said relief guard, Aydan, they discover he’s a bit tetchy, doesn’t like them talking to his wife Kala and when they leave they stay by the door to see him hit her.

So, with this information at hand they pull a trick, claiming the fake micro key is the one they found in Aydan’s office when they call Sabetha for a witness. Aydan’s reaction shows his guilt, but before he can implement anyone else in the crime, he is killed in the courtroom by an unknown assassin. As Kala cries over her dead husband, all of this feeling very little like  a Doctor Who story and more like a satire of any court room case I’ve ever seen, they still believe Ian is guilty, with no proof that he isn’t the one who’s in league with Aydan.

Whoever killed the lad too is stirred up by it, because not long later, The Doctor still trying to plead for more time to find evidence, Barbara gets a phone call (though it looks more like a hairbrush but you’ve got to love 60’s predictions of future technology) claiming that they have Susan and are going to kill her. This ends Sentence of Death, which actually on it’s own is a fine episode, showing a lot of strong moments, but sadly, it’s the second part that I feel rushes through to the conclusion.

Barbara gets a distressing phone call from Susan….

The Keys of Marinus shows us, once again as she has done plenty of times this serial, Barbara takes charge of hopeless situations. She decides not to distract the Doctor, but to try and find Susan herself with the help of Altos and Sabetha, tying the link that perhaps Kala might know Susan’s kidnapper if it was someone her husband’s dealt with. On talking to her however, she cries and exclaims she doesn’t know anything…and without realising it implicates herself in the crime!

KALA: I know of no one. My husband was very secretive. He never told me who he saw or where he went. Now, please, Aydan is dead. If he committed a crime, he’s paid for it. He’s dead, but I’ll have to live with the memory of his crime for the rest of my life.
BARBARA: I’m sorry, but you see, you’re our only help.
KALA: Leave me alone. Leave me alone. I do understand and I sympathise with you. You must have been sick with worry since you spoke to Susan, but I just can’t help you. I know nothing.
BARBARA: I’m sorry.
ALTOS: Come on.
BARBARA: Please understand, we had to try. Goodbye.

After they’ve left she has the lightbulb moment, they never even mentioned about the telephone call to the wife, and therefore she’s the culprit behind the kidnapping! The three of them then sneak back in the flat just before she can murder Susan, to the relief of everybody capturing her.

The next sequence is one of my favourites, Ian has been tried for the murder, and he’s waiting on his sentence, and The Doctor can do nothing but sit and try to wrack his brain. He looks rather upset to have failed Ian, and the development of The First Doctor in this moment, is so heart breaking. A man who’s always rushing off to the next adventure, never staying in one place, and up until very recently had no love for the human’s he’s absconded away on his time machine and yet, despite the fact Ian is sentenced to death, he won’t give up on him or in clearing his name. Though Barbara is about to ring, and change the course of this scenario, the reaction of the Doctor being told to leave, still makes me incredibly proud of him.

TARRON: It’s time to leave, sir.
DOCTOR: Leave? I can’t leave now. I must find new evidence and re-open the case…

The Doctor who failed Ian Chesterton…

But with the revelation that Kala murdered her husband, Susan said that her accomplice would be “along to collect the key” and the Doctor finally realises a way to trap the murderer, because he claims he knew all along where the key was hidden, inside the murder weapon itself.

So, when they catch the prosecutor red handed trying to steal it alone with Tarron of Millennius’s police guard. They not only have the key, but they also have Ian safe and sound back with them so they can return to Arbitan.

Whilst Susan, Ian, Barbara and the Doctor say their goodbyes, Sabetha and Altos go on ahead, to find what was their home with Arbitan taken over by the Voord, and by Yarkek, their leader. He is dressed as Arbitan in his robes, and interrogates the pair about the micro key and it’s whereabouts. Sabetha tries to claim that Altos means nothing to her to save him, but it doesn’t work, and Yartek threatens to hurt the other if he doesn’t get any answers.

The Voord at this point really are a great villain, but with only ten minutes left of the episode, it’s clear that everything is going to be summed up fairly quickly and makes them lacking in reality.

Susan, Ian, Barbara and the Doctor arrive back in the building too with their travel dials, and when they reunite in the corridor, (it is one of the sweetest examples of the friendship of this group might i add) they end up splitting up in search of their new friends and for Arbitan after they attacked by a Voord soldier again. Ian takes the key, and has been told explicitly not to give it over unless he’s absolutely sure, but when he and Susan find Yartek, the Voord claims that it really is him but he is dying of a horrid disease and so covers his hood. For a long and rather annoying moment, I am sure that Ian believes the rouse — until he questions Yartek about Altos when he claims to believe Sabetha had picked up the young man on her adventure, when he in fact had been his assistant.

But even with that, Ian makes sure to leave on a good note. He gives over a key alright, but it’s the dummy key. A key that Sabetha warns will disturb the computer and set it to destroy the building, the supercomputer and everyone inside with it. They all get out of the labyrinth of a building just in time, where Altos and Sabetha hand in hand plan to return to Millennius to live together, whilst the Doctor and his companions have places next to visit.

It’s a lovely way to end the serial, Barbara looking off longingly as their new friends go off to start off somewhere new, whilst Ian taps her shoulder gently to join him in the TARDIS. They’ve settled into this life now of danger and adventure, and it shows despite the obvious wishes to return back to home. It’s a nice ending, but it is still incredibly rushed at the end which for me is it’s only downfall.

So, what’s next week? It’s another historical of course! Join us next week to watch the Aztecs, and how Doctor’s first ever real efforts to make sure they don’t meddle with history starts to take shape.

As for this weeks doodle? You have Sabetha standing up to Yartek. Enjoy!

PS: If you like the idea of the Voord, one of my favourite First Doctor Big Finish Stories is Domain of the Voord and I think it’s one of my favourite Big Finish stories, elaborating on Voord history, lifestyle and religion and some very exciting and terrifying adventures with relatives of Yarket involved.

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus  (Part 2 of 3)

By Sophie Iles

So, next up on our list is our next part of our quest. In case you missed last week’s here’s the rundown. The Doctor and his crew have been asked by Arbitan or rather, blackmailed, to track down the Keys of Marinus. These keys are scattered across the planet Marinus and they are using travel dials that have been set to plan their journey across the planet to find them. They found the first key of the four that they need to get to activate the super computer to prevent the invasion of the Voord, a creepy alien race, so now the team have gone on during their next adventure…The Screaming Jungle.

Susan’s disturbed by the screaming jungle…

Susan, Barbara and Ian have arrived at their second location with two friends they’ve picked up along the way, Sebetha, Arbitan’s daughter and his assistant Atlos, but Susan is already freaking out the moment they arrive. She can hear something that everyone else can’t in this jungle in it’s simply freaking her out. After some consoling, Barbara and Susan have a moment where she tries to learn what she heard but Susan can’t place it only that the noise was horrible and terrifying. We also learn that Susan rushed off ahead because she can’t bare goodbyes because the Doctor was going ahead on his own to get the last key, (It’s really no surprise as this seems to be a ongoing family trait as we learn in later years) and was concerned to know if the Doctor was alright when she disappeared, and Barbara assured her he seemed find.

What’s really interesting to me about this serial is this is also the first time that we’ve seen the companions act on their own for an entire episode without the Doctor, and actually, as Classic Who proves time and time again, they are more than capable on their own. This moment also shows these two lovely women conversing in a manner they couldn’t with the Doctor around where Barbara is wishing that Ian wasn’t so protective, but also understand it in a nice piece of dialogue and a smug smile from Susan at the end:

BARBARA: I do wish Ian wouldn’t treat us like Dresden china.
SUSAN: I think it’s nice the way he looks after us all the time.
BARBARA: Yes, I know, but just once in awhile…
SUSAN: You rebel.

Whilst in this horrific jungle, Barbara finds the micro key they’re looking for, but alas, it’s obviously a trap and she gets stolen behind a revolving wall. The best part about this action is that even in danger, screaming as the wall takes her away, Barbara still throws them back the micro key she found. Good ole’ Barbara Wright doesn’t miss a trick as usual and obviously Ian is so determined to get her, that Ian stays in this place to help rescue her whilst Susan, Altos and Sebetha go on to the third location. It’s not until after Altos and Susan have gone are the group aware that Barbara’s find is actually a fake…but Sebetha goes on ahead to help the others, which gives us fourteen minutes of material of just Ian and Barbara working things out for themselves in a land of booby traps, (queueing my thinking about The Goonies whenever that word is mentioned.)

After almost being murdered by one of these booby trap, whilst Ian is locked in a cell, Barbara is saved by the traps creator Darrius, who trying to find out why she wants the mirco key. Again, I’m thrown back to my childhood Sundays of watching The Last Crusade on repeat as the Knight asks Indy why he seeks the Holy Grail, except imagine Indy wrapped in a net trying to explain himself…

DARRIUS: Who are you? What interest have you in the keys?
BARBARA: Look, I can’t talk to you like this. Let me go.
DARRIUS: Are you a Voord? You do not resemble their race and yet
BARBARA: Arbitan sent us.
DARRIUS: That is a lie.

Whilst Barbara explains Arbitan sent them, the old man is strangled by one of the jungle’s creepers and he dies before he can truly explain himself or the whereabouts of the micro key, leaving just a few words about whispering and darkness and a strange set of letters. This leaves Ian and Barbara having to manage on their own, becoming a little detective team. The chemistry between the characters is wonderful to watch as always, Barbara chiding Ian about getting excited about the man’s scientific experiments, which Ian tends to shut down Barbara’s outside the box thinking because of his own scientific logic. Despite their differences in approach It’s really fun to watch how these two work out a problem, and finally they’re able to find the key under pressure as the jungle tries to kill them when they understand that the code was actually the name of a chemical and not a code at all. 

Though I might add on the rewatch, the whispering jungle, which then tries to kill them does sound like a terrifying version of the TARDIS take off.

So, micro key in hand they finally turn their travel dials to the next location, but they’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire…Well, when I say fire, I mean ice. Welcome to Episode four, The Snows of Terror.

Out of the frying pan, into the freezer

Ian and Barbara enter a new sub zero freezing temperature, where it’s so cold they are basically freezing to death, laying together on the ground, Ian begging Barbara not to fall asleep, reaching out his hand. Alas, they both collapse to the ground, and would be dead if not for the stranger that arrives to save them.

Barbara wakes up to Vasor, their creepy savior, who rubs her hands to help make sure she recovers from her temporary frostbite, and he really is creepy, and even if Barbara isn’t frightened I certainly would be but when a jungle and radiative monsters have tried to kill you, you can either be afraid of everything or feel prepared to fight everyone, and I personally believe Barbara is the latter.

VASOR: Your friend is here. He still sleeps. Your hand is slightly frostbitten. Put it in mine. We must help your friend like this too. Rub the hand slowly, like this. Yes? Understand? Are you afraid of me?
VASOR: Last year I broke the back of a wolf with my bare hands. I’m Vasar. Most men fear me, so I have few visitors. There, see? The blood is beginning to return.

Ian wakes, and they learn that Altos was looking for Susan and Sebetha and worried Ian decides he should go out and look for him and help find the girls, whilst Barbara stay with their creepy savior. Something I as an audience member is against from the get go. Sure enough, my instincts were right because Vasor has some of Sebetha’s micro key necklace and their time travel dials in his draw, whilst Ian finds Altos left for dead in the snow, and blames Vasor for it. The two men rush back to save Barbara just in the nick of time, outnumbering the trapper 3-1 and demand he help them find Susan and Sebetha, whom he reports are in a cave that he abandoned them in so he could steal their things. Vasor is made to lead them to the cave, but the tough hunter tells them all that he is afraid of the cave because of demons…and nevertheless, Ian wont let him get off the hook that easily.

Despite the fact they are on their own, Susan and Sebetha appear to be doing well for themselves, even though their fire has run out They decide to try and leave the cave but realise they’re lost and decide to just keep travelling deeper into the mountain. Sebetha is a good influence on Susan as they look around, and finally are reunited with the rest of their party as they all get across a rope bridge, which then Vasor breaks and runs away so they can’t leave.

Ian is annoyed with himself that he didn’t keep an eye on the trapper, but once again Barbara is level headed and suggests they’ll find a way out, even to Ian’s frustration knowing she’s right. There’s something about Barbara that makes her a good center for the group as even when confronted with possible danger, she questions everything and everyone with a good authoritative voice and she’s a wonderful sounding board for everyone, and still creating what I believe is the archetype companion we know to date.

Barbara, Susan and Sebetha meet the Ice Knights.

They meet the frozen knights, standing in the caves, the demons that Vasor probably heard of guarding the key they require which trapped in a block of ice, and so they must find a way to get it. Using the piping in the cave from a volcanic sprint (guess who found the piping, the wonderful Miss Wright, of course) they are able to melt the ice but in doing so defrost the ice knights too. Luckily, Ian and Altos have made a bridge of tree trunks to cross the chasm that Vasor had left from stranded across but it’s not that stable and there needs to be time for it to freeze so it’s easier for them all to cross…but time is now against them with enemies on their tail!

So now it’s Susan’s turn to shine now (all my children have done so well this serial!), bravely crossing the tree trunks on her own to attach the bridge, whilst Ian stops the de-iced knights by getting them stuck behind blocking the exit of ice bravely. It doesn’t stop the soldiers for long, but it’s long enough for Susan to repair the bridge and for everyone to get across safely.

They return to Vasor, to retrieve their things, and use the travel dial to escape, leaving the horrified Vasor to deal with the ice soldiers who he always saw as demons, which rightly so gets him killed.

They twist their travel dials, to move forward to their last location and retrieve their last key, and to finally meet up with the Doctor, but Ian’s travel dial lands him into a world of trouble, another frying pan moment, as he finds a dead body and knocked out next to it, with someone framing him for the crime in the process.

What will happen next week? Will the Doctor be of any help? How will Ian explain hismelf out of this one? Next week we’ll be looking at the final two episodes of this serial: The Sentence of Death and The Keys of Marinus.

But as I try to do every week, it’s not over yet. Here’s my doodle of Ian in his Marco Polo gear which he is also wearing throughout this serial too: 

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus  (Part 1 of 3)

By Sophie Iles

This is a great serial, there’s no doubt about it. This story gives us action, there’s creepy enemies, Barbara looks stunning even in rags and is bad ass, and after the sad lack of being able to watch Marco Polo, we get a very put together TARDIS team, who have moved on quite drastically since the End of Destruction.   

Lets see what happens and pick over some favourite bits. I am going to do this over three parts, just because a six-part format really should warrant the time and the love it deserves.

After landing the TARDIS, the team go outside to check out their new location, Ian is wearing his remnant outfit from Marco Polo, which as now that serial is missing it makes me long even more for that missing story. But alas, onwards we go to see Marinus.

It looks like a normal beach that they’ve landed on until they discover that there’s class on the beaches and the sea is actually acid, which is actually pretty terrifying. Susan, Ian and Barbara only realise this together with the fortunate accident that Susan’s shoe falls in a tidal pool and they watch it disintegrate. Ian gives her his shoes to wear so she can safely recover some shoes from the TARDIS and off she scarpers. This did make me laugh when the Doctor chids Ian for not bringing his shoes when Susan could have worn them when the old dog catches up to them after his own exploring on the beach discovers the glass. They may be friends now  but his jibes at Ian are always entertaining.

DOCTOR: Sea of acid. Astonishing. You know, in all my travels I’ve never come across anything like this before. However, Susan wasn’t harmed, anyway.
BARBARA: She was a bit frightened of losing her shoes, but she’s gone back to the ship for another pair.
DOCTOR: Yes, and if you’d had your shoes on, my boy, you could have lent her hers. You mustn’t get sloppy in your habits, you know.

They look round to discover that there is a massive building not far away, which they are keen to explore together when Susan gets back, but she instead finds footprints and decides to follow them.

The Voord, Terry Nation’s newest monster….

Now, we finally get to meet the Voord as between these scenes they’ve been trying to get into the TARDIS and failed, and are now going to be our main enemy for this serial. These beings were Terry Nation’s second attempted at bug eyed monsters which, though doesn’t carry over to be as successful as the Daleks in future, I still found them pretty strange and frightening. They look like men in black rubber suits and flippers, with a strange triangular helmet so it covers their faces entirely. We don’t know what they look like inside the black suit either, as whilst waiting for Susan, the other three find a ripped suit and a broken one man submarine — which they assumed meant he was destroyed by the acid so there was no way of surviving the sea of death.

They’ve waited for Susan long enough, and decide she must have gone to look at the building herself. It is so fascinating to see just how easy they accept this fact, when just in An Unearthly Child, The Doctor or Susan wouldn’t have really let each other out of their sight!

The Doctor, Ian and Barbara looking for Susan….

But yes, on we go, to the city, whilst our audience is aware of the Voord, our central players only have an inkling that someone else is with them on this planet, and they start following her footprints to the building. A building that has quite a few secret entrances. One by one, the team get split up by revolving walls. We see Susan almost stabbed by a knife wielding Voord, but she is saved by an elderly man in a white hood, who then in turn is saved by Ian and the group are reunited so as to finally get to the bones of what is going to happen in this serial.

This man is called Arbitan and he is the Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, a computer that keeps peace and order across the planet. It’s power eliminates evil thoughts but the Voord, in particular a Voord named Yartek has worked out how to control the computer if he can get hold of it, but Arbitan has figured out how to prevent that from happening, to upgrade it, but they need the keys to active the upgrade. To protect it, these five remaining keys are spread across the planet, as he has one on him at all times, and that even though he even sent his daughter and many others to collect said keys but she and the others has not returned and so he begs the team’s help.

The Doctor refuses to help. This after all is a Doctor who doesn’t want to get involved just yet, that only does these heroic deeds by design of their own survival ala The Daleks. Sure enough, when they return to the TARDIS they can’t get into it, a force-field covers it. Arbitan is now making them do this quest under force, or as the Doctor calls it sheer blackmail.

So, The Doctor doesn’t have much choice in the matter after all that. They are all given travel dials, something that seems to be the influence of the time travel teleportation bracelets we have in the NuWho era, which whisks them towards their first adventure and the first key. Unbeknownst to our travelers however we watch Arbitan fall to the hands of Yartek, with the Voord taking over the building and the computer whilst leaving a good cliffhanger that when the team arrive, Barbara is nowhere to be scene, and there’s blood on her travel dial.  

Fortunately, Barbara seems more than fine when they rush to her aid. She’s actually relaxing on a chaise lounge, looking as merry as ever. The trappings and world they have been sent too is beautiful, and that a man named Altos lets them know that this is the city of Morphoton, an advanced and pacific society. Whilst Ian and the Doctor are completely skeptical at first, they are one round by food and wine and the promise of tinkering in a science lab. Things really are just too good to be true however, when Barbara wakes the following morning to discover their trappings are really just rags and dirt.

Now this is one of my favorite serials for bad-ass Barbara moments. We’ve seen her stand up to the Doctor, we’ve seen her work things out in the Edge of Destruction, but in this moment she’s basically on her own. Her friends have all been seduced just as she was by whatever power that this town has, and despite her telling them they don’t believe her. It turns out that in the night there is a hypnotic pulse that was sent through them all, but Barbara’s disk slipped off so that it didn’t take effect on her. She appeals to her friends greatly, but to no avail. So, she’s going to have to figure it out by herself. The big bad here are called the Brains of Morphoton, which are terrifying creatures, brains on stalks that have grown out of their bodies because they were no longer needed and are hypnotising the entire city.

DOCTOR: Here, drink this.
BARBARA: No, it’s filthy!
DOCTOR: Now you’ve broken it.
IAN: Barbara, what’s got into you?
BARBARA: Why can’t you see?
DOCTOR: This is going to test our host’s patience, you know. It’s one of a set.

Barbara keeps trying to appeal to the others but they just laugh and wave her off, so Altos tries to take her away from her friends to his masters but she able to gets away from him and discovers Sabetha the slave girl. It’s there she realises, because Barbara has the powers of the deduction that we can only dream of and she’s greater than she’s ever given credit for, that this young woman is the daughter of Arbitan that went missing looking for the key, when she has said key around her neck. She tries to break the hypnotic hold on her, but fails, it’s only when Altos arrives to try and take Sabetha away at the Brains orders that she knocks him out and so Barbara runs promising she’ll come back for the girl.

Like I said, for Barbara, this is one of her strongest moments in the series and as a Barbara fan I couldn’t be prouder.

Barbara tries to go back to her friends, to explain what she found, and runs into Ian. Who she hugs, but alas, despite the tender moment he is also being controlled by the Brains of Morphoton, and he takes her to the masters who make him try to strangle her to death. As a fan of these two teachers, watching this scene is horrifying, as Barbara begs for Ian to stop and control himself, but alas, Barbara fights back, but not before breaking the machinery as she escapes his hold to break the hypnotic spell on Ian and their enemy with it. the Brain of Morphoton chanting ‘Kill Her’ the whole  is utterly terrifying and only gets louder and louder in agony and desperation when she starts destroying the machine that keeps them alive.

A hypnotised Ian has hold of Barbara for the Brains of Morphoton.

For me, the heartache comes afterwards, as we don’t know just how much Ian remembers but as he cries out when the Brains are also destroyed, he asks where he is before rushing and hugging Barbara, who comforts him and tells him everything will be alright. She really is a great role model for future companions here, and perhaps what inspired strong women in the role in the years to come.

Everyone and everything is back to normal on Morphoton, the TARDIS team have their first key of Marinus and everyone has regained their memories. It turns out that Altos and Sabetha were both on the hunt for the keys also, so they join the time travelling party to continue what they started. They decide to split up, The Doctor to forth to get the fourth key, whilst the rest of them, to Susan’s dismay go to get the second key. In a bid to not have to say goodbye to her grandfather again, she teleports early, but this results in a cliffhanger where she’s stood screaming….

And that’s all we have time for! Overall, the episodes are good, and set up a really good structure for six part episodes as they continue for the rest of the Classic Who era, if anything, there’s almost too much story here for two episodes and it could have easily been seven like the Daleks. Still, as our heroes do not know yet of Arbitan’s fate we have still yet to see just how they will deal with that as time goes on….

Next week we look at The Screaming Jungle and the Snows of Terror, as we search for the remaining keys and whilst we wait, here’s a doodle of the TARDIS Team!

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Edge of Destruction

By Sophie Iles

This serial is something else. I really mean it. After stories like the Daleks and the Unearthly Child, you expect a bit of a pattern. We certainly do in the New Who world, this however is something completely different (Sorry Monty Python, but I couldn’t help myself) and because of that again makes it another favourite of mine.

The backstory to that is quite simple. A friend of mine sat me down, brandished her DVD copy at me and told me that this episode is unique and one of her favourites. The reason for this was that David Whitaker had only two days to write this story, with the pressure of the BBC wanting to do a thirteen episode run, with the limitations that due to budget they could only have the story take place in the TARDIS and only with the main cast. They had to fill this two week lull in their shooting schedule with something, and this is what we got.

Even with all those limitations, this strange story still is able to tug at my heartstrings just because the clever Mr. Whitaker saw as an opportunity to explore these much loved characters. Let’s see what the plot has in store.

After the Doctor tries to set the coordinates to move the TARDIS on after their adventure with the Daleks, there’s a sudden explosion, and everyone falls about and collapses. Barbara, Ian and Susan wake with memory issues, forgetting where they are or who their friends are, before finding the Doctor with a nasty cut on his head. Susan freaks out, but Barbara who seems the most normal at that moment starts trying to fix the Doctor’s wound. Ian sounds floaty, and Susan keeps complaining about the back of her head hurting. Already, everything is terribly weird and we haven’t got a clue how this has started or why.

The Doctor wakes, a bandage now on his head, also disorientated, and all of a sudden it’s finally apparent that this is the first time since they’ve stepped foot in the TARDIS they’ve had any time to think about their predicament. Ian and Barbara don’t trust the Doctor, and the Doctor doesn’t trust them back, making for some suspicious interactions particularly from the time lord. It appears he’s starting to suspect that it was the humans who had caused the problems with his TARDIS. This isn’t even to mention Susan’s erratic behaviour, looking violently at them and ending up stabbing a chair with scissors and being overall threatening to her former teachers in the process. This scene actually had the BBC pouring in letters of complaint, and I’m not surprised. I jumped out of my skin on my first viewing.

Susan’s actions with the scissors caused a lot of complaints.

Poor Barbara seems to be the only person with any sort of common sense or grounding in the episode, as she battles with a strange acting Ian, a suspicious Doctor and Susan being odd too. Even the TARDIS seems odd, only showing pictures on the scanner of what appears to be previous places they’ve been, opening doors and closing them on their own and producing water in bags instead of in cups, whilst also not showing that there’s any faults in the TARDIS on it’s fault locator. (PS: I would love the fault locator to come back one day. If you’re reading this Chibnall…)

Finally the Doctor makes his accusations, which he’s clearly been building towards. He blames Ian and Barbara for the whole affair, being knocked out and the state the TARDIS is in, with the theory that they wanted to blackmail him to get them home. The results produce a very unhappy Barbara pointing out some very important moments in the story so far, and is one of those famous scenes in Doctor Who history that just shows how valuable a companion really is to this crotchety time lord:

BARBARA: How dare you! Do you realise, you stupid old man, that you’d have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian hadn’t made fire for you?
BARBARA: And what about what we went through against the Daleks? Not just for us, but for you and Susan too. And all because you tricked us into going down to the city.
BARBARA: Accuse us? You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us. But gratitude’s the last thing you’ll ever have, or any sort of common sense either.

Barbara ends this point by suddenly holding her head and screaming, everyone holding their head as all of a sudden, time melts away inside the TARDIS, the clocks and their watches literally melting, which Ian rightly points out couldn’t be their doing even if they had wanted the Doctor to take them home. 

Into frame pops the Doctor again, brandishing water on a tray very calmly despite this previous note, telling them they should all just sleep on the problem, and you’re immediately suspicious. Did the Doctor just completely deny that time was melting in front of them? (I did say this was a trip guys, I wasn’t joking.) This seems pretty ordinary, everyone goes off to bed, and not surprisingly the water was drugged to make them all sleep, apart from the Doctor. It’s apparent that all he wants to do is get those pesky humans away from his TARDIS so he can figure things out.

And it just leads to Ian strangling him — though it’s actually him just trying to stop the Doctor from doing something foolish — either way that’s what it appears, causing a pretty creepy cliffhanger. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the child to watch that episode unable to escape of the horror of what was happening on screen; that someone was strangling the Doctor.

He really doesn’t hate you that much, Doctor…

The second episode deals with Barbara once again, much like in the Daleks having a good head on her shoulders. Whilst the Doctor is ready to kick Ian and Barbara out of the TARDIS, she suggests that perhaps everything that’s happening is because the TARDIS is warning them about something. That the reason why they’re all acting funny, that the console is trying to hurt them, that it’s showing time melting — is because there’s a bigger threat at work.

It’s really the first time we see the TARDIS as anything but a machine, and this is obviously exploited in later episodes, to personally my complete joy. With Barbara figuring all this out, the TARDIS lets us know by causing little light explosions, that in fact the TARDIS is close to plunging back to the beginning of time and its own destruction. They only have so much time to figure out what’s causing the problem before they all die, and it takes the four of them together to ask the right questions and it’s the first time we really see them work as a team since the Dalek episode where they are trapped together.

And honestly, I was cheering them on. The rewatch had me cheering the Doctor finally understanding what it was that caused the ship to be faulty, Ian asking all the right questions, Susan checking the fault locator whilst Barbara kept putting everything together. It was a real triumphant moment to watch.

Just an added thing before we look at the end of this episode is talking about Hartnell’s performance as the Doctor. Honestly, I love his Doctor so much, and it’s in this episode that he really shines and gets an added wow factor. When we are so used to seeing him struggle with his lines, this episode has a soliloquy of the Doctor discussing the formation of the solar system. It’s an outstanding moment, and great fun to watch as you really feel he finally understands what’s happening. A real must watch for those who are getting into watching the First Doctor stories.

Though, perhaps it’s most amusing that in the end of it, it all happened because the Doctor pressed a switch and it got stuck. That’s right folks. A jammed switch is the reason for all this chaos, but look what it caused? By the end of the episode, the four travellers are talking to each other as though they are all on some sort of vacation instead of it feeling like two separate groups of people being forced together for adventures.

DOCTOR: Yes, I suppose it’s the injustice that’s upsetting you, and when I made a threat to put you off the ship it must have affected you very deeply.
BARBARA: What do you care what I think or feel?
DOCTOR: As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.
BARBARA: Perhaps.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes. Because I accused you unjustly, you were determined to prove me wrong. So, you put your mind to the problem and, luckily, you solved it.

This quote truly is part of my favourite moment in the serial when the Doctor is talking to Barbara, their interaction speaks volumes of the Doctor growing to understand humans, and in turn  his companions understanding him. I love just how sweetly Barbara smiles at him when he offers to help her put on her new coat to explore outside. It’s a sign of true progression of these characters, basically becoming a little family.

And it honestly makes me want to love this team so much more than I already do.

This week as promised, my related doodle is a picture of the Doctor with a bandage on his head. Next week I’m going to discover Marco Polo, because as I have the novel, we can have a look at what we have left of this well liked serial!

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Daleks (Part 2 of 2)

By Sophie Iles

With five episodes to talk about, you’ll probably suspect this to be rather daunting to write. The last two episodes after all had a lot going on, and with five more episodes to review, how can you possible summarise it without it being a novel length? Well, I think I’m just about going to manage it, and that’s because, for me, this is where the Daleks serial comes under fire compared to its predecessor The Unearthly Child. Today I will be looking at The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal, and The Rescue.

We last saw Susan preparing herself to leave the TARDIS with these anti radiation drugs to save her family and friends under her arm, again to leave the safety of the TARDIS and return to the rather terrifying dead jungle where apparently horrid mutations called the Thals live in.

But when Susan steps back out there, preparing for the worst, she does meet a Thal, but not the kind of monster she’s expecting. Who she meets instead is al tall blonde adonis is probably the best way to describe Alydon. For a ‘mutated’ human he’s almost sickeningly kind, and Susan’s darling face lights up and comes to trust him and so do the audience in turn. It is after all much easier for us to trust this guy than the Daleks with their scary exteriors. It turns out that the Thals didn’t even know the Daleks still existed, and that they have been using the drugs to survive out in the jungle, something that they were kind enough to offer to our TARDIS crew.

Susan meets Alydon, one of the Thals.

She’s escorted by her new friend through the jungle to make it back to the city safely, and Alydon even gives her more drugs to make sure that there’s enough for the Daleks and her companions just in case they steal their stash. He explains that they hope to make a treaty with the Daleks because their race despite farming some of the land are running out of food and need help. Already we are sympathetic towards them and when Susan returns to her party she tells them all about Alydon.

The Daleks however, the cunning lot, have been listening in and we see for the first time their true intent when it comes to the Thals. Quite simply they want them dead. They want to trick them. It’s here we see the Dalek’s truest colours and it’s a colour we recognise every time we see them again. They hate everything that isn’t them, and their old enemy must be destroyed.

Susan is asked by the Daleks to write a message of peace for the Thals, to indicate that they will help them grow new food, and the Thal leader called Temmosus, is sure that this will lead to good fortune, but Alydon is suspicious, even with Susan’s signature at the bottom. They decide to meet the Daleks as planned, unaware of the fate that will before them.  

Susan writes a message for the Thals from the Daleks.

Meanwhile our main characters are no longer in a state of illness what’s left for them is curiosity and thirst to escape. Barbara, Ian and the Doctor come to the conclusion the Daleks were listening to their conversation about the Thals and how they wanted Susan’s help in the first place. It leads to a really fun scene where they pretend to have an argument and rip out the camera feed on the wall of their cell. For those just tuning in it could very well look like the Doctor being his arrogant self but fortunately even the Doctor sees that this is a bad sign. It means now they can talk together and work through an escape plan together without the Daleks noticing. So begins my favourite part of the serial.

The companions show their worth their weight in gold. In comes Barbara, cool as you please, taking mud off Susan’s shoes so they can create mud to blind the Dalek’s eyestalk. It’s even Ian that has the idea of how to stop The Daleks using Alydon’s cloak to cut off the Daleks connection to the floor. I fear that both these ideas would probably not be credited to a companion today and a far more Doctor-ish solution to a problem. Something that just shows really just how this television show has changed over the years. It’s the teamwork of this episode, that is really lovely to watch, even if for the time being is just because they need each other to survive.

Their plan to escape is a success of course! They capture a Dalek and with some very clever film making wrap the monster inside the metal casing in Alydon’s cloak so we never fully see what the Dalek looks like, before Ian steps inside to pretend. I still love that Ian Chesterton is still not only the first person to pretend to be a Dalek — something that becomes a recurring theme in New Who it seems — but as far as I’m currently aware, the only individual to be shot by a Dalek and live. He even has to do the horrid monotone voice, and despite themselves everyone laughs at his impersonation.

This leads us nicely into the next episode. The Thals on their way to meet the Daleks to sign this peace treaty whilst our TARDIS team try to escape. They’re able to convince the Daleks just long enough to get Barbara, Susan and the Doctor into a lift back up to the surface and away from their cells, but poor Ian is still in the Dalek casing, hoping to catch the lift after them.

For a few horrid and tense seconds, we don’t know what his fate will be, and they don’t want to leave him alone, but because the action man he was hired for is sticking round for a few adventures yet, he gets into the lift just in time and is met with a running hug by Barbara. What a sweet pair they make!

Now, to get out of the city, but Ian wants to warn the Thals they are walking into a trap, and just in the nick of time the science teacher is able to warn them of the Daleks betrayal, but not before Temmosus is killed in the process.

Now we have these two groups together, The Doctor with his companions and The Thals in their camp, making decisions on how to proceed. They know now to what lengths the Daleks will kill the Thals, but they are no longer a warrior race and stick with pacifism. Also, The Doctor explains that the fluid ink, the piece of machinery the Doctor originally claimed was needed to be filled with mercury and his fake reasoning to get into the city was now in the Dalek’s possession and without it they can’t leave in the TARDIS.

Either way, they have to go back into the city, but they still have to convince The Thals to help them.

IAN: I will not allow you to use the Thals to fight for us.
DOCTOR: Are you challenging me?
IAN: Yes, I am.
BARBARA: Do I have any say in this?
IAN: Of course you do.
BARBARA: Well I think the Doctor’s right and I want to get out of here.
IAN: I am sorry, I’m not having anyone’s death on my conscience.
BARBARA: Except mine and Susan’s and the Doctor’s?

These scenes are fascinating to watch because it’s Ian and Susan who stand opposed to Barbara and the Doctor in the argument. Ian doesn’t want to ask pacifists to fight if they don’t want to, whilst Barbara and the Doctor point out that without their help they are probably going to be killed. It’s the first time we see Ian and Barbara on opposing sides, considering how they’ve already been supporting each other previously, and for the first time sees Barbara in a vein of self interest we’ve never seen before. Ian’s morally good action hero hat hasn’t wavered but also knows that without their help, the deaths of his friends and himself is also on the line. It is a very difficult choice to make.

The Doctor and his companions bickering in the Thal Camp.

Finally, because the bickering is getting them nowhere, Ian decides that the only way the Thals will help them is if they see there’s something in it for them.  Ian uses the Thal’s emotions against them. He claims that maybe they could trade one of the Thals, Dyoni for the fluid ink they need instead of any fighting needed. As Dyoni is Alydon’s intended partner, this makes him angry, and he hits Ian in the face and Ian shows them that fighting to protect their loved ones is something they must do because the Daleks will find a way of destroying them. It’s a powerful trick, but it works. Soon, they groups are working together to get into the Dalek City.

Now for me, this is where the serial starts to fall down a tad. There’s been a lot going on, a lot of intensity and darkness and worry for our characters, but when this plan starts to unfold for me it takes a long time. Also, because of the necessary inclusion of the Thals to the story, I feel like the separation of Susan and the Doctor and thus Ian and Barbara going on the expedition to find another way into the city means it loses the charm of their interactions.

Though that might be my bias, but even Ian and Barbara seem split even whilst they explore, as Barbara seems to spend time with another Thal, Ganatus, than with Ian, almost as though they’re trying to make a point but haven’t expressed what the point was? Perhaps they didn’t want to see Barbara who at this point is a strong independent woman be reliable on her friend, and want her to be helped by dashing alien instead? Either way, the change in dynamic seems strange, and despite a number of Thals being killed in the episodes that follow on the journey, I suspect it’s that feeling of watching a red shirt in Star Trek, if someone’s going to get the chop it’s not going to be our leads so each death doesn’t hit that hard because of it. It doesn’t help that their side of the journey doesn’t fully conclude until our last episode aswell so everything is still dragging out until then, which seems strange after the time jumps previously with Susan in the jungle and her journey to the TARDIS.

Whilst The Expedition is happening, The Daleks who took some of the anti radiation medicine are falling ill, proving their theory that they actually thrived off the radiation now instead of becoming sick by it. That they could radiate the planet again with another bomb and wipe out the Thals entirely. Meanwhile, The Doctor and Susan get themselves kidnapped by the Daleks whilst they’re out breaking their short circuits and causing trouble to be the decoy for the other party, with the hope of being the Daleks main focus they won’t notice Ian, Barbara and the Thals coming in the back door.

We finally come to the final chapter of our story, Ian and Barbara’s team run into Alydon’s team of Thals in the city, and they all decide to save the Doctor and Susan together in the control room. A fight ensues, and the Daleks overcome with surprise are defeated, but not without causing more Thal deaths. The TARDIS team are reunited and unharmed and have the fluid ink and they can finally leave Skaro.

As a serial, it’s not bad. I really loved watching the first three episodes again, but by the time I was watching the final three it all really seemed to drag for me. The Daleks are worth it however, a really awesome introduction to these horrid creatures, and such a massive part of their mythology as time continues the Daleks are seen twice more in William Hartnell’s era, and though I have yet to watch them they play a massive part in the rest of the Doctor’s classic era stories. I am more than just a little excited to see how these mutations continues to entertain and terrifying children throughout the classic era.

Next week tune in as we discuss The Edge of Destruction! What exactly is Susan doing with those scissors? What is going on with the TARDIS and why does it feel like we’re watching a very surreal one act play?

Also, my doodle for this week is again very quick I’m afraid, this is due to the fact I’m not actually with my drawing materials at the moment, but here’s a snapshot of Susan outside the TARDIS!

Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Daleks (Part 1 of 2)

By Sophie Iles

This week in this series we get to our first really meaty serial of Doctor Who, which to this day leaves a lasting mark on our favourite Time Lord as this serial introduces us to Terry Nation’s Daleks for the very first time. As this is a seven episode epic, I’m going to only talk about the first two episodes, which I think considering the fact the rest of serial drags out a lot and the story dynamic changes from the beginning of episode three it’s a good place to stop. This means in this article I will be talking about The Dead Planet and The Survivors and even with just these two episodes there is a lot to talk about…

The Dead Planet is as creepy as it’s supposed to be, an introduction to what in the future will be classed as the planet Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks. The episode is also as simple as it sounds, introducing what will be quite a formulaic approach to Doctor Who in the future, landing on a planet, exploring it and getting into trouble. Something that happens here for the first time.

Not without a little meddling from the Doctor however, but I’ll get to that soon enough…

When they first arrive Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor are fascinated and terrified admittedly by the place and its stone cold death like manner. They are unaware that the radiation on the planet is incredibly high and causing them to slowly become sick, and discover that there is a city past the jungle they had landed in. With some meddling from the Doctor, they decide to go take a look in the city, but not before Susan believes she was touched by someone in the forest, and that a strange box of vials was left outside their TARDIS…something unfortunately they put on the ship before continuing their adventures.  

It is in this city we meet the Daleks, a race that Whovians need no introduction to these days. They have been in the show many times in the last fifty years but now is the first time the Doctor meets them on screen; the metal casing and the balls formed on the outside, the toilet plunger tool for a weapon and of course the blaster gun and its creepy eyestalk — and that’s without the voice barking in a vibrating tone ordering about our heroes. I’ll be honest, the point of view shot cliffhanger when a Dalek is heading towards Barbara is one of my favourite cliffhangers in the entirety of Doctor Who.

Barbara Wright meets a Dalek for the first time.

Before I skip on to the story chunks of the next episode I really do love the first episode because there are some beautiful character moments in The Dead Planet with each character, so let’s have a good look at those.

Firstly, The Doctor’s curiosity is something that we are familiar with in the show. This is the first time we really see it in action. At first, the Dead Planet interests him but not enough to stay for a long period — until they see the city off into the distance. This changes everything. This even leads the Doctor to even temporarily break the TARDIS on purpose, and lie to all his passengers so they are all forced to go explore the city just for his gain. If only he had checked the radiation counter again, there wouldn’t be the certain danger that followed…perhaps he’d might not be so foolish…

Meanwhile Ian and Barbara’s moment come two fold in this episode over two conversations, firstly, Ian’s bold acceptance that this is how it’s going to be whilst travelling with the Doctor is apparent. Compared to the first time he steps out of the TARDIS, dazed and bewildered and completely skeptical, here he is taking the new adventure in his stride. Barbara is less enthusiastic this time. She had obviously hoped for Earth, she clearly hopes for something she is able to recognise. After all their first adventure was cavemen and no matter how foreign they seem, it is something she had probably read about as a history teacher. Dying planets and metal creatures are something far out of her understanding and it puts her at a disadvantage.

IAN: Try not to be too upset
BABARA: I counted so much on just going back to things I recognise and trust. But here there’s nothing to rely on. Nothing.
IAN: Well, there’s me. Barbara, all I ask you to do is believe, really believe, we’ll go back. We will, you know.
BARBARA: I wish I was more like you. I’m afraid I’m a very unwilling adventurer.
IAN: I’m not exactly reveling in it myself.

It’s the conversation about trust that I love so much in this episode. They can’t trust in anything but each other in that moment. They can’t even trust the Doctor yet (which he’s obviously made apparent the cheeky alien that he is) and Susan is still learning so they can go in blind to these exploits but at least they’re not alone and I think in some mad way — this is something I love about having more than one companion in the TARDIS, and something that I think sometimes lacks in the New Who series, that feeling of togetherness. The Doctor is an alien, and no matter how many pop culture references he makes or how much he will eventually love Earth, the companion is always the one who has to be on the back foot and so the idea that it’s okay to be scared and at least we have each other feels like a very powerful message to me, for all age groups and all different types of relationships. That, or I’m really just a big softie myself.

Lastly we have Susan and her adoration of the nature that she finds on the planet which is another favourite moment of mine; not to mention her sadness when Ian breaks said flower, accidentally when Barbara screams in fright at a dead metal creature. We are so focused on Ian and Barbara’s fear about not getting home and here is Susan finding beauty even on this sad and lonely planet. Basically what I’m saying here is Susan Foreman must be protected at all costs and her role only gets better as the episodes go on.

The Dead Planet leads neatly into the next episode The Survivors, where we watch as the TARDIS team are captured by the Daleks and are all suffering from radiation sickness, the Doctor more than the others. It finally comes out that he was lying to get the team in the city in the first place and Ian and Barbara don’t even have the energy left to be upset. The Doctor is basically dying for all of the episode and the feeling of intensity just grows and grows as it’s unsure how any of them will survive.

It becomes clear that the Daleks believe they are something to do with The Thals, a ‘mutated’ race that live out in the jungle. But The Doctor explains to their captors they are just travellers and so The Daleks confirm that the box that was left near their TARDIS is the drugs they need to survive. They decide they will let one of them go to get the item in question so they can cure their ailment and protect themselves against the radiation. Ian wants to go of course, but thanks to his being a heroic fool at the beginning of the episode, the Daleks shot at him and temporarily paralyzed his legs. Despite Ian’s displeasure at doing so, and Barbara’s insistence that she’s just a child, Ian tells Susan it is up to her to save the day. This young time lady who before this point has probably not had to do anything like this before, scared to death and visibly shaking, as her teachers and her grandfather are dying in a Dalek cell has no choice but to take up the mantel. She goes back out into the terrible jungle to try and get back to the TARDIS and get the vials they need.

The Doctor being interrogated by the Daleks for the first time.

As Ian recovers with his legs, he like Barbara and the Doctor continue to suffer with the radiation sickness and its dark nature actually made me cry at the screen for Susan to succeed like I was watching a football game. Susan runs through the forest for a few screen minutes before to everyone’s relief she gets to the TARDIS, gets the drugs and almost decides to wait there. We hear Ian’s sick voice as a memory to tell her to come straight back and then she opens the doors again and leads us straight into another cliffhanger moment, back out into the jungle.   

You can’t help but be hooked by this point, even though I have seen this episodes that follow, the questions still fall on the tip of my tongue: What will happen next? Will she meet the ‘mutated’ Thals? How will they escape the Daleks? Will the drugs actually help or will it make things worse? Will Susan get back in time? You can’t help but wonder what the families thought as they watched this for the first time around their television sets in the 1960s and it’s that sort of intrigue and passion that I believe keeps these stories alive fifty years later.

Next week, we learn about how Daleks hold objects, we meet the Thals, we watch our favourite TARDIS crew trick a Dalek and watch as we get a tiny glimmer of what the original Dalek mutation looked like and see just how they get away from Planet Skaro together out of the firing pan and into another proverbial fire that is The Edge of Destruction.

There’s no doodle this week, but instead have a picture of me pretending to be Ian in The Survivors holding my legs back in April at the Doctor Who Experience: