Doctor Who #32: The Unwilling Warriors

"Well you come from nowhere and you seem to be going nowhere."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of the Sensorites. First aired Jun.27 1964.

IN THIS ONE... The Sensorites board the ship and refuse to free the crew because they know too much - namely about a rich ore deposit on their planet.

REVIEW: What the Aztecs did for Barbara, The Sensorites attempts to do for Susan. She seems to grow up in this one, and the strong empathic skills she's shown in the past are brought to bear as she becomes, more or less, the telepathic conduit between the aliens and the humans. She appears well able to explain psychic phenomena, and takes to the task with calm and bravery (see also Theories). Though she's best suited to the task, all the women have a stronger connection to the Sensorites, even Carol, while the Doctor is deaf to them. It's less a Time Lord thing than a female thing. The dialog isn't drawing attention to it, so I'm not sure why, though looking through the somewhat sexist point of view of the era, it may be that women's more emotional minds are more open to the Sensorites. They do say mineralogist John opened his mind to them when he got excited by a rich molybdenum deposit, after all, and fear acts as an open door. However, it seems to be a two-way street, as all the women can sense the Sensorites up to one point or another.

And we do finally get to see a lot more of the Sensorites and they're really not as rubbish as I was once led to believe. They have no sense of style, and those stethoscopes/telepathy boosters look silly, but the masks are fine, the suction cup feet are a fun trait, and their short stature works for these cerebral creatures. They're not meant to be particularly threatening physically, and though Ian tries to treat them as Voord or Daleks, Barbara brings him back to reality with her sensible analysis of the situation. They're a threat, but not monsters. Their perfect solution to their problem is simply to put anyone who would want to exploit the Sense-Sphere in a colony where they would be well treated, but never allowed to leave or tell their secret. Their mental powers and technology allow them to enforce this pacifist ideal, though of course, there's also the matter of the debilitating side effects prolonged exposure to their mental attacks can have on the psyche. There's mention of Sensorite warriors, but these are unlikely to be much of a physical threat, not when loud noises and the dark seem to hurt them so much. Can they really survive in the vacuum of space? I have half a mind to call that shot of one outside the porthole a mental illusion. Creepy and dramatic, but it has no effect on plot.

So that's the set-up. What was that disastrous first contact with Terrans? What will happen with the molybdenum MacGuffin? How will Susan fare as she leaves the safety of the TARDIS family to go down to the planet with the Sensorites? Will they recover the TARDIS lock? (So the Sensorites DID remove it... weird.) There's enough here to keep you watching.

THEORIES: Time Lord telepathy is now a fact. While the classic Doctors rarely made use of it, and usually only with one another in multiple Doctor episodes, or in passing, or perhaps as a powerful form of hypnosis, Doctors 10 and 11 have made clear use of it in several episodes. At this point in the series, however, the term "Time Lord" is years from being coined. Susan obviously has abilities beyond those of humans, but the Doctor does not. Or does he? Unlike Susan, he's making a conscious effort to keep his mind closed to the Sensorites. It may even be the cause of his irritability here, because his harsh "Do as I say!" to Barbara is otherwise slightly out of character. We also hear him tell Ian that sometimes he can read what he's thinking, but that sounds like a joke. New Who Doctors require physical contact, so it's not like he he has a telepathic field around him he can tap into. Maybe a pat on a companion's shoulder is more than it appears. Then again, can we take any future Doctor's abilities are evidence that the first Doctor has them too? Like dozens of other traits - physical and mental - the level of telepathic ability may vary from incarnation to incarnation. A regenerated Susan, for example, might have far weaker psychic ability. Or it may prove one of her constants. We'll never know (in-canon, at least).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The plot is developing nicely, Susan gets a strong role for once, and the aliens aren't half as bad as fan wisdom would have you believe.

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