Doctor Who #34: A Race Against Death

"It's not always possible to do these things at the snap of a finger."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 of the Sensorites. First aired Jul.18 1964.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor finds an antidote for the Sensorite "plague" and goes down into an aqueduct to find the source of the poison while the City Administrator's plots keep the cure away from Ian.

REVIEW: On the surface, this is an acceptable "find the cure in time" scenario, with a montage and everything, ending in an intriguing revelation. However, it all falls apart because the Sensorites are so STUPID! These creatures have a scientist caste and laboratories, disintegrators and space travel, and yet the Doctor pretty much has to teach them how the scientific method works. They've been living with a plague for years, but haven't yet realized it's not a disease, but a poison. They've tested the water, but only from a single source, and found nothing. Worse still, it takes a comment from Carol to give the Chief Administrator the idea to switch badges of office with someone as a disguise, because apparently, even the Sensorites can't tell each other apart without them, at least not without prolonged exposure. That's fine for unique positions, but what about the middle class? You would have thought their telepathic abilities would have given them some kind of non-visual cue to their identities. That's IF they were really identical, which they aren't. Body shape and voices vary quite a lot. It doesn't end there. Because there are strange noises in the aqueduct, a scientist says there are monsters down there, so no one goes anymore. So their water supply cannot be serviced because of superstition, basically. These guys are just bad at questioning assumptions, as shown repeatedly by the Chief Administrator's unwavering mistrust of the humans. He dooms his people by trying to protect them from the wrong thing. It would be ironic if it weren't so dubiously motivated.

The Doctor and Susan are only smart in comparison, because even their deductions are slow to come. Even with little-to-no familiarity with the serial, I was way ahead of the Doctor on every plot point. I bet the kids in 1964 were too. When you compare this to stories like The Aztecs that has adult narrative strategies and themes, it's almost like it's not even from the same series. The poisoned water is OBVIOUS. That the Sensorites are the victims of sabotage is equally OBVIOUS. Their own story says that of 5 humans, 2 took off in the ship that exploded. Can't ANYONE do the math and realize 3 were left on the Sense-Sphere? Their assumption that the other three stowed aboard and were destroyed is just like the rest of their assumptions, taken as fact.

And the hack production values don't give much relief from the plot holes. The sets are so cheap, you have to wonder if they spent all their money bringing in a fountain. The musical stings go "Tan-tan!!!" every few minutes. And what can I say about that silly list of districts? I'll spare you the rant. The cliffhanger is also problematic because while we hear a monster's growl, the next episode card reads "Kidnap". Not only is that a very dull title for an episode, but it completely undercuts what the cliffhanger is trying to do.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Cheap-looking, but the real flaw is that the Sensorites are real dunderheads. Things happen only because the characters are stupid. Lazy writing makes for an annoying viewing experience.


snell said...

"Things happen only because the characters are stupid."

Welcome to the real world...


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