Friday, 25 July 2014

Saturday 25 July 1964

Last week the Doctor's joy at discovering what's been poisoning the Sensorites looked likely to be short-lived thanks to the terrible monsters lurking in the caves of the Sense-Sphere.  This week we begin with the Doctor alarmed by their approach, and an arresting marriage of text and image that would make a really good album cover for an Indie band.

Susan and Ian, having followed after him, discover the old man in a sorry state, his jacket ripped to shreds.  Fortunately, though, he's mostly unharmed.

Carol implores the Sensorites to help out, but they explain that, as they can't see in dim light and loud noise causes them intense pain, they wouldn't be a great deal of help (you'd think that as loud noise affects them so badly they might have invented ear plugs of some sort - perhaps we're meant to infer that the Sensorite way is to work around their limitations rather than try to conquer them).  They do have some good news for her, though: her fiancĂ© John is nearly restored to sanity (is that some kind of weird Sensorite umbrella in the foreground?).

The Doctor explains his theory that the being(s) inhabiting the tunnels are behind the poisoning of the water - and he's come to the even more startling conclusion that there's also a Sensorite working against he and his companions.  His words are overheard by a Sensorite who is indeed working against them...

But the Doctor can't get the First Elder to understand: as far as he's concerned, the Sensorites have the perfect society, and the idea of one of them being in any way underhand is unthinkable.  It's not the only concept the Sensorites struggle with: when a  scientist tells Carol that John's mind was addled by permanently lifting the veil over the fear section of the mind, she makes the mistake of likening it to an eyelid, then has to explain what one is.

In the wicked City Administrator's lair, his engineer aide is trying to tell him about what he heard in the caves, but he's having a bit of trouble spitting it out: "I heard them over... over... talking!" Convinced more than ever that the visitors are dangerous, the Administrator determines to get hold of the key for the disintegrator and blast them to bits.

Threatened by the Administrator with being imprisoned forever in a dark box full of noise, the imprisoned Second Elder mentally contacts the leader of the Sensorite warriors (he's played by Joe Greig, who's now been three different Sensorites - they certainly got their money's worth out of him) so that the Administrator can get hold of it.  Is the Administrator a uniquely naughty Sensorite of a kind that's never been known before, or is the First Elder just a horrendously ineffectual leader who's entirely naive about his subjects?

When the Administrator, disguised as the Second Elder, goes to collect the key, the Doctor spots him and tries to get hold of him.  When he describes how the Sensorite ran away from him Susan mocks the way the Sensorites walk on their circular feet in a shockingly insensitive manner.  Get her on some space Equality and Diversity training straight away, I say.

When the Administrator returns to his HQ, he finds that the engineer hasn't even bothered to tie the Second Elder up again (he's probably the most pathetic henchman we've ever seen around these parts - the Sensorites clearly need a lot more practice in being evil).  The Second Elder turns violent on his captors and bends the key all out of shape.  And ends up dead in the process, the poor dear.

With the key now utterly useless, the Administrator thinks of a way to turn the killing of the Elder to his advantage...

In the First Elder's reception room (which appears to be loosely modelled on a 1950s TV panel show), the Doctor's ultra-chuffed at being presented with a cloak to replace his ruined jacket (the fact that the Sensorites would have a garment such as this just hanging around is mind-boggling in the extreme: perhaps the babygro look is just the current Sense-Sphere fashion and a while ago they were all walking around looking like the cast of Sergeant Cork).  Always an inveterate name-dropper, the Doctor tells everyone how Beau Brummell always thought he looked better in a cloak.

This happy moment's swiftly ruined by the arrival of the Administrator, who's got the Engineer to lie that he saw the Doctor killing the Second Elder.  Ian's having none of it, and swiftly tricks the simple-minded Sensorite into saying the Doctor was wearing the cloak he's just been given at the time.  "Your story is a tissue of lies!" gasps the First Elder, unused to such things.

The Administrator swiftly denounces the engineer to avoid taking any blame, and, thanks partly to the intervention of the Doctor and chums who want to make an ally of him, he's given the job of Second Elder (which, unbeknownst to our heroes, he's been doing anyway).  Ian soon has second thoughts when the promoted Administrator immediately insists that everyone calls him Sir... (As an aside, there are lots of references this week to Barbara still being aboard the spaceship, as if everybody was worried the audience might have forgotten her.  You have to wonder what she and Captain Maitland have been doing up there for the last couple of weeks).

Anyway, here's John restored to normality.  He's now able to tell everyone that he overheard a Sensorite plotting, but the Administrator manages to convince everyone that it was the late Second Elder.

Ian's come across the family photos of the Earth astronauts who visited the Sense-Sphere a while back, but the Doctor's more interested in their plan of the Sensorites' aqueduct.  Susan comes to the realisation that the Sensorite John overheard was the Administrator - before our friends can do anything about it, though, the villain's had the Engineer (who he's had released from Sensorite prison) alter the aqueduct plan so the Doctor will get lost.  What's more, the two Sensorite weapons the Doctor and Ian are presented with (in a nice presentation box) before heading back into the caves have been tampered with - so they're now totally useless.

As Ian and the Doctor head toward what the Administrator hopes will be their doom, Susan, Carol and John enjoy a beautifully presented fruity buffet courtesy of the Elders.  Carol's slightly disappointed by the Sensorites' fruitarian fare: "How I long for a big, juicy steak," she sighs.  "You'll just have to make do with a small, juicy fruit," says the now very chirpy John to great comic effect.

Viewers with inquiring minds may be wondering what exactly all this has to do with kidnap.  Well, the answer comes in the episode's very closing seconds, as Carol, having gone for a bit of a wander is grabbed by an unknown assailant...

Goodness.  Well, there's nothing quite that dramatic in tonight's next programme, but I can assure you there's plenty to enjoy.

After a pretty lacklustre episode last week, tonight's instalment of The Larkins is a bit of an improvement (whether it's actually better or I just find its incidental details more interesting, I don't know).  The staff and punters of CafĂ© Larkins are in celebratory mood.  Why? Because the near-unthinkable event of Alf Larkins winning some money on the horses has actually occurred (the horse's name was Pussy Willow, which inspires Hetty Prout to turn to camera and tell the audience her thoughts on the odd names given to horses, for some reason).  

Alf reveals to a curious Osbert the reason he chose that particular horse: he had an omen (he saw a cat stuck in a tree).  Ada's face on hearing this is a picture (of a kind that could be used to scare away intruders).

Now he's got a bit of dosh Alf's happy to share his wealth: he offers one free cup of tea to all the assembled patrons.  Ada, as the love of his life, is offered a slice of cake and a doughnut too.

Enter the gypsy of the episode's title, played by the wonderful Eileen Way, so memorable in the first Doctor Who story, touting white heather and fortunes.

Reading Henry's palm, she deduces that he's done a lot of travelling (cue much audience laughter).  Willie Payne does, at least, get the chance of a decent joke for once.  "No more, please, no more!" he cries in terror as the gypsy feels his palm.  "Superstitious?" she asks.  "No, I'm ticklish".

Hetty, perhaps unsurprisingly, proves totally susceptible to the gypsy's wiles.  As well as some lucky heather and a read of the palm (she gives her 10 bob out of the till to tell her everything she can - "If it gets too lurid, write it down), she buys up all the clothes pegs, artificial flowers and elastic the old woman's got with her.  Sadly, she doesn't give trading stamps.

Meanwhile, Ada's been tearing a strip off Alf for his meanness with his winnings, reminding him that her mother always warned her against him (the thought of what Ada's mother might have been like is more than a sane mind can contemplate).  Returning to the counter, she resists her first instinct to shoo the gypsy away and instead, plying the crone with a pork pie and a cup of tea, puts a dastardly plan into action by sending Alf out to deal with her.  No fan of "diddikai", Alf slings the gypsy out, receiving a terrible curse in the process.

Lofty, treading on the gypsy's foot on his way in, also gets cursed (note the decidedly two-dimensional meat in the butcher's shop backdrop over the road).

The explosion of white heather in the caff since the gypsy arrived leads a scoffing Alf to refer to the BBC's infamous Scottish music and dance show The White Heather Club.

But soon Alf begins to believe in the curse, particularly when Lofty falls off a ladder and those who the gypsy blessed start having tremendous luck.  Osbert, for example, achieves a huge win on the horses (buying Hetty and Ada each an enormous box of chocs of the old flowers-on-the-lid type)...

...and Henry announces that he's getting married ("That ain't lucky," Alf mutters darkly).  Paddy, who previously has never done anything of note in the series, gets a tax rebate for the significant amount of £40.

Alf's convinced something terrible's going to happen: the sword of Damocles (it rhymes with yokels) is hanging over his head.  Ada, who hadn't banked on this degree of paranoia, brings him a cheering bowl of cream of chicken soup (it doesn't look very creamy, but then she has removed all the germs by hand).

From somewhere, goodness knows where, Alf's acquired a huge, leatherbound history of the Romany, and in it he's discovered a remedy for the curse, which Ada and the others reluctantly agree to go along with just to perk him up.

The task of preparing the brew falls to Hetty: "Frog's legs, rabbit foot, bogwort, henbane, mandragora, snake liver, and a couple of newts".  When Ada explains they're just doing it for psychological reasons she's not best pleased: "The trouble I had finding snake's liver! I could've made do with a lump of rock eel from the fish shop" (just try getting a lump of rock eel from your local fish shop).

Everything takes a turn for the Devil Rides Out as Alf's placed in the centre of a chalk circle with the rest of the cast performing a curious ritual around him.  Sadly, Alf then learns that the ritual needs to be carried out by a Romany High Priest.

His attempt to find such a person fails, but, finding his wallet gone, he assumes someone picked his pocket when he was out looking.  Deciding this must be the fulfilment of the curse, he's overjoyed.  Then Ada reveals he left it behind.

Erm, the end.

A little light music now, with the third different number 1 single in as many weeks.  By now it's become inevitable that any new single by the Beatles will reach the top spot, and here's their latest, the title song from their smash hit movie.

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