January 17: "Hidden Danger" / "A Race Against Death"

(The Sensorites episodes 3 & 4)

Seriously, there's just something wonderful about the Sensorites.  The wizened head, with its wrinkles and wispy hair, combined with the all-over jumpsuits, makes them look very charming -- especially since, as we learn in these two episodes, the Earth people don't have much to fear from them.  Once again, communication is shown as the way to solve conflicts; once the Doctor shows that he and his friends don't wish to harm the Sensorites, things begin to go much more smoothly.

Jacqueline Hill is only around for the first half of "Hidden Danger" before she's gone completely, off on vacation while Barbara is left on the spaceship with Maitland.  Everyone else gets to venture down to the surface of the Sense-Sphere and enjoy the Ray Cusick-designed sets, with its nice non-angular lines informing the look of the place.  Meanwhile, William Russell gets to drink poisoned water and be sick for the entirety of "A Race Against Death" -- his death being the one the Doctor's racing against.  This seems to be the tipping point for the First Elder, the leader of the Sensorites, who becomes convinced that the humans mean them no harm, and he agrees to give back the Doctor the lock of the ship (removed in "Strangers in Space") in exchange for an antidote to the poison that's been afflicting parts of the population.

The Doctor instructs the Sensorite scientists. ("A Race
Against Death") ©BBC
Of course, you can't convince everyone, and in this case it's the Sensorites' City Adminstrator (as played by Peter Glaze) who is determined to prove that the humans are up to no good.  It's not the world's most subtle performance, but there's something marvelous about his rabid xenophobia, as he goes out of his way to be antagonistic, first trying to kill the humans by force before turning to subterfuge.  "We must match cunning with cunning," he says, still firm in his belief that the Doctor intends to poison the Sensorites with his so-called "cure", and this is what leads him to kidnap the Second Elder and take his place, allowing him more freedom to carry out his villainy.

And lest anyone still be unconvinced of the modernity of this story, note that once the Doctor develops the antidote, he's fulfilled his part of the bargain and can get the lock to the TARDIS back; he can leave at any time.  Yet he decides to go into the aqueduct where the poison seems to be originating from and try and remove the source, not because he has any external obligation to do so, but because it's the right thing to do6.  It's quite out of keeping with the previous stories, but not with the direction the current serial is taking -- nor is it out of keeping with the series as we now regard it.  The Doctor is slowly but surely taking steps toward becoming the moral crusader of later years.

6 Thanks go to About Time, which first pointed this out to me.