2 February 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day Thirty-Three: Hidden Danger (The Sensorites, Episode Three)

Dear diary,

Oh, all right, then. This one was a bit of a slog. I'm starting to worry that my desperate attempt to find good in a story usually considered to be terribly dull may be a tougher task than I'd anticipated.

I'm not even completely sure what the problem is. Plenty happens in the episode; they have another encounter with the Sensorites, they leave Barbara on the ship so that Jackie Hill can take a couple of weeks in Spain, we meet another group of Sensorites, and Ian falls victim to the disease that's been wiping them out, as we discover by the filling on of a lot of back story.

Actually, that's it. That's the problem. The 'filling in'. It's not the greatest writing of all, is it? There's a very real attempt to make the Sensorites seem like a three-dimensional race, but it's not done very subtly. Perhaps the worst offender is the scene where two of them set up a disintegrator machine to use against our heroes.

The dialogue between the two is along the lines of 'Is their hurt on the left, or the right? Or is it in the centre, like ours [because we're aliens! See? Aliens! Our hearts are in a strange position! Because we're aliens!]'. As if that wasn't clunky enough, they then decide to set it to the centre anyway. If they have no reason to assume that their hearts wouldn't be in the centre, then why bring it up? Poorly done.

And the disease is none-too-subtle, either. It's actually quite a nice set up, and a good way of shifting the focus of the story slightly for the remaining episodes; the first two were about encountering the Seonsorites, the other four are about curing their ills. Except…

When the Doctor, Ian and Susan are given glasses of water, a big point is made that they've been served the 'basic' water, which is filtered down through an aqueduct from the hills. The Elders don't drink this water, but Ian takes a sip. A few minutes later, a point is made that the disease affects all of the Sensorites. Except the Elders. Who don't drink that water. And then Ian suddenly starts to show symptoms of the illness. Shortly after drinking the water.

I know that Doctor Who is aimed at a family audience with a large number of children watching, but after we've sat through four episodes of The Aztecs, which is rich in history and very deep, this just feels… well. patronising.

The dialogue, aside from being so clunky, continues to be functional as in the last episode. There's even one exchange which goes along the lines of 'But how?' / 'I will explain…'. I think this is the main thing making The Sensorites a bit of a chore now.

Still, we're at the half-way point. Maybe things get better from here as Peter R Newman gets used to writing for the series? Once the world of the Sensorites is set up, he may be able to tell a decent story to keep me hooked…

Next Episode: A Race Against Death

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