January 18: "Kidnap" / "A Desperate Venture"

(The Sensorites episodes 5 & 6)

I have to say, for all his scheming, the City Administrator's not actually very good at being villainous, is he?  It's particularly entertaining how, after the accidental death of the Second Elder, his attempt to pin the blame on the Doctor falls apart in two minutes -- but as the Sensorite Nation is a society based entirely on trust, it makes sense that they would be lousy at deception.  Still, there's something about watching their conspiracy collapse after three questions from Ian that's tremendously fun.  Really, if it weren't for the Doctor, Ian, and Susan suggesting that the City Administrator replace the deceased Second Elder, he wouldn't have gotten anywhere.

Still, for all that, nothing much happens in "Kidnap" -- the kidnap itself is the cliffhanger of the episode -- and there's a bit of a sense of marking time.  But at least it does so enjoyably.  It's "A Desperate Venture" where things pick up.  And Jacqueline Hill's back from her two-week vacation, so we get everyone participating in the story again.

The Doctor and Ian encounter the source of the poisoning.
("A Desperate Venture") ©BBC
And the aforementioned kidnap of Carol is once again quickly foiled.  Once the First Elder suggests where they might have taken her, it doesn't take much for John to head in and rescue her.  Entertaining stuff, but the real focus of the episode is the Doctor and Ian's exploration of the aqueduct system.  It turns out that the three crewmen from the first expedition, presumed dead in the explosion that destroyed their ship and killed their fellow crew, are in fact alive and waging war against the Sensorites.  It's rather difficult, upon first seeing them clearly, to avoid thinking of Monty Python's various bearded and bedraggled characters (especially since the man called Number One bears a passing resemblance to Eric Idle), but that's hardly the fault of the production team.  Indeed, writer Peter R. Newman goes out of his way to give the three men a sense of dignity.  They're clearly insane, but it's not a cackling sort of madness; rather, it's simply a determination to destroy the Sensorites without considering why they're doing it.  In fact, the First Elder suggests it's inadvertently the fault of the Sensorites, since they most likely experimented with the thought transmitters and were driven out of their minds.  It's a satisfying ending when they're caught; none of them are killed, and there's a suggestion that they may be able to get help.  Sadly, however, at the conclusion of the story we're simply told about the former City Administrator's comeuppance rather getting to actually see it.  In this respect, the serial does disappoint somewhat.

Still, The Sensorites is a delightful story.  It might be a little long, but it rarely feels like it's dragging.  And the Sensorites themselves are really well done -- in a series that is occasionally xenophobic, it's refreshing to get an alien species that is so obviously sympathetic.  The story isn't terribly concerned with evil or danger, and there's hardly a cynical bone in its body.  It's a refreshingly charming approach to Doctor Who