What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Rescue,” (One, 1965)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill)

Time: 2493, or thereabouts.

Place: The planet Dido.


1. “A Powerful Enemy” (Season Two, Episode Ten)
2. “Desperate Measures” (S2, E11)

Today’s Lessons

1. The TARDIS materializes, and the Doctor sleeps right through it, which is, by itself, unnerving to Ian and Barbara.  What’s more, when the Doctor decides to have a look outside, he calls for Susan to open the doors and then catches himself, his lip quivering.  Barbara gently encourages him to teach her how to open the doors.  Poor Doctor!

2. The Doctor, Ian, and Barbara venture outside far enough to recognize that they’ve landed in a cave.  The Doctor then encourages Ian and Barbara to have a look around without going too far.  When they ask him what he’s going to do, he answers that he’s going to have a nap!  I think he’s depressed about leaving Susan behind.

3. While Ian and Barbara discuss what could be the matter with the Doctor, and Ian goes so far as to suggest that the Doctor is getting a bit long in the tooth, the Doctor pops out of the TARDIS and says, “Uh, remember, I can hear what you’re saying.”

4. The Doctor repeatedly notes that he’s been to the planet Dido before and can’t understand why its inhabitants–large, insect-like creatures–have become so hostile (what he doesn’t know is that one of them, named Koquillion, pushed Barbara off a bluff!).

5. Early episodic theory alert: I think Bennett and Koquillion are the same person.  You never see them in the same room, and they are both determined to dissuade Vicki from rescue. Update: I so called it!!!

6. Companion spoiler alert: Vicki becomes a new companion for the Doctor…I reason it is because he looks on her as a sort of surrogate granddaughter to fill the hole that leaving Susan behind left in his heart.  Precious.  Although, of course, Vicki is left alone, no thanks to shifty Bennett/Koquillion.

7. This serial didn’t have much going on in it – it was merely a transitional couple of episodes to introduce the new companion, Vicki.  Still, she seems interesting.  A teenager like Susan, though a bit less high strung.  What adventures shall they meet?

Next serial: “The Romans” (Season 2, Episodes 12-15).


What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The year 2164.

Place: Earth. London.


1. “World’s End” (Season Two, Episode Four)
2. “The Daleks” (S2, E5)
3. “Day of Reckoning” (S2, E6)
4. “The End of Tomorrow (S2, E7)
5. “The Waking Ally” (S2, E8)
6. “Flashpoint” (S2, E9)

Today’s Lessons

1. The TARDIS lands by the Thames in a quite broken down area.  Susan (that girl!) decides to go have a look by climbing part of a nearby bridge, but she falls, twisting her ankle and causing the bridge to collapse on top of the TARDIS.  First, Ian sees a warehouse and believes he can find a crow bar to pry off the girder that has blocked the TARDIS; the Doctor chuckles, bemused, and opines that he never ceases to be amazed by Ian’s optimism.  Later, the Doctor crosses over to Susan, who can’t walk with her swollen, twisted ankle, and grouses at her, causing Susan to ask that her grandfather not be mad at her, and the Doctor to threaten her with a good “smack-bottom.” My!  Though he’s right…she is too curious for her own good.

2. While the Doctor and Ian are entering the distant warehouse, which is crumbling from neglect and disrepair, Ian tells the Doctor to be careful.  The Doctor replies quietly, “I’m not a halfwit!”

3. New for Season Two: One wears a monocle!

4. New for Season Two: flying saucers.  On strings.  Which look like wrappers to Reese’s peanut butter cups.  Mmm….peanut butter cups.  Remember: history, special effects, yada yada…

5. Susan and Barbara are rescued by refugees in hiding, who are excited by the prospect that Barbara can cook.  When one of them asks Susan what she can do, she answers, “I eat!”  Point one for Susan.

6. The direction is getting better with this serial.  The reveal of the first Dalek: excellently creepy!

7. When the Doctor tells the Dalek he and Ian first meet that he would like to use wits to defeat the Daleks, the Dalek, after claiming that the Daleks are masters of Earth, responds, eventually, that “resistance is useless.”  Now, call me crazy, but I’ve decided that the Borg from the newer Star Trek series are direct descendants of the Daleks in a way: “resistance is futile,” after all…consider the similarities…

8. In this serial, and at this time, the Daleks have enslaved some of the human race by placing helmets on some, causing them to behave like robots (“robomen”).  When the helmet is removed from these humans, they go insane and eventually kill themselves.  This seems like a precursor to the Cybermen in many ways.  I wonder if some of these alien species are interrelated?

9. The Doctor and Ian are imprisoned in a heliport, where the Daleks have constructed their base.  They are captured with a rebel named Jack, who is certainly skeptical of the Doctor’s optimism at the possibility of escape from their cell.  Inside the cell, there is a magnetized container with what the Doctor theorizes to be the key to the cell.  First, the Doctor uses “three dimensional geometry” to puzzle how to get the key out.  When Jack expresses amazement, the Doctor hands the magnifying glass he was using to Jack and says, “Hold this, and shut up, will you?”  When Ian expresses that the Doctor “sometimes” amazes him, the Doctor replies glibly, “Only sometimes, dear boy?”  I think, as of this moment, we are starting to see glimpses of traits common to all the Doctors.  It seems that William Hartnell also became comfortable with the characterization as of season 2, considering that he is the pattern from which all other Doctors evolved.   I certainly laughed heartily for the first time since the feather plumed hat in “The Reign of Terror.”  The Doctor seems like the Doctor now.

10. When the Doctor, Ian, and Jack successfully open the cell, Jack opines, “You’re  a genius!”  The Doctor replies, “Yes, there are very few of us left.”  He’s funny!

11. Ian notes how the Daleks are differently designed than those seen on Skaro in Season 1.  The Doctor surmises that they are looking at an invasion force, so, naturally they would look different. Convenient!  Notably, they are also different colors – though in black and white, they all look either black or white.

12. Also, the Daleks are not yet saying, “Exterminate!”  They say “Destroy!” quite a bit, though.

13. After the rebels attempt an assault on the heliport where the Daleks have constructed their base (and parked their flying saucers suspended from strings), our intrepid foursome is split up.  Susan ends up with a rebel named David.  First, there is clearly a spark of romantic tension between these two.  Second, Susan tries to convince David to find the TARDIS with her, so that they can run away from the Daleks (with her grandfather’s permission, of course).  David explains that running away does not solve problems, and that he must defend his home, the planet Earth.  Susan expresses that she doesn’t feel she belongs to any time or place, and that she has never had a true identity or sense of identity.  Question: Isn’t she from Gallifrey?  Isn’t that her home?  Second Question: As a Time Lord (or Lady), has she regenerated by this point?  This is a question that may not be answered until later, given that regeneration was a concept invented upon William Hartnell’s departure, but what could prompt Susan to say these things, other than her constant gallivanting around the universe with Grandfather Doctor?  She is definitely a complicated alien teenager.  That Girl! Update: A kiss!  Susan and David, sitting in a tree…well, in a field…by a fire.

14. New for Season Two: on location shooting in and around London.  It’s very refreshing to see actual places, such as Trafalgar Square and Big Ben, rather than low budget sets on a sound stage.  Of course, there were some outside shots in “The Reign of Terror” serial, but they were in the country or fields to reflect the outlying areas of Paris.  Also, my thought during the third episode of the serial: this was 1964, the year the Beatles came to America.  Really puts a perspective on the whole affair, doesn’t it?

15. Motorized vehicles still work at this time…ones they find in museums, that is, as the Daleks have outlawed or destroyed all the other ones.  Which, of course, look like vehicles from England in the sixties.

16. As if our intrepid foursome didn’t have enough to contend with between Daleks and Robomen, Susan and David encounter mutant alligators in the sewer, and Ian encounters a being known as a “Slither,” which acts like a pet to the lead Black Dalek of the work camp and eats people!  This is a terrible future!  Turn it off, Doctor!

17. Hilariously, Susan later prepares an ad hoc meal of rabbit for her grandfather, David, and Tyler, the other refugee, and the Doctor indicates that Susan is “quite a good cook.”  Ha!  So, she doesn’t just eat, eh?

18. It seems the Daleks invaded Earth for the purpose of gutting the core and creating a power system to turn the Earth into a giant ship, to be piloted anywhere in the universe.  If they equip the planet with a giant planet-destroying laser… no, I think they just want a giant spaceship.  Question: why?  Don’t they already have spaceships?  Why Earth?  And when is this in relationship to when the Doctor and his companions landed on Skaro?

19. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, work in miniatures and models as much as possible.  Of course, sometimes, it works well, like when the truck that Barbara and Jenny escape in explodes from flying saucer laser beams.  Sometimes, it’s less than successful, like when Ian is hidden in an explosive capsule, which is lowered and then raised in a vertical mining shaft.

20. They said it!  They said it!  When the Daleks discover that Ian is inside the capsule, they say it for the first time: “Exterminate him!  Exterminate him!”

21. While the Doctor, Tyler, David, and Susan are planning to strike the Daleks with the element of surprise, the Doctor tells David and Susan to go around and trigger bombs with David’s revolver. He adds this nugget: “Don’t stop to pick daisies along the way, will you?”  Hahahaha!  It seems the Doctor has caught on to their secret dalliance.

22. Tyler praises the Doctor by saying, “I’ll tell you one thing, Doc, life is never dull with you around.”  The Doctor thanks him, but indicates that he prefers to be called “Doctor,” never “Doc.” Now we know.

23. The Doctor has a pet name for Susan: “My little monkey.”  He also suggests that she has been “thoroughly disorganized” since she’s been away from the school where Ian and Barbara are teachers.  Hm…!

24. David is in love with Susan and proposes marriage (*sob*).  What’s more, she loves him but is highly conflicted, as she loves her grandfather as well.  When Susan hesitates, David tells her passionately that he is giving her a time, place, and an identity to which she belongs.  Aw!   What’s more, though Susan is prepared to go with her grandfather, the Doctor doesn’t give her a choice! He locks the doors of the TARDIS; tells her that though he has taken care of her and she of him, she now belongs to David and the time in which he lives.  He encourages her to go forward with her beliefs, reminds her that she will always be his grandchild, and promises that he’ll be back.  And then he leaves!  The TARDIS de-materializes before her eyes.  The Doctor could have at least left Susan with a good pair of shoes!  David then tells Susan that the Doctor knew she could never leave him and takes her hand, as she drops the necklace her grandfather gave her and walks away.  Question: Is this the end of Susan?

25. This is, by far, the best serial to date – filled with action, adventure, romance, Daleks, good acting, good directing, and some of the best writing of the early seasons.  In a Doctor Who sampler, I would consider this a necessary addition, for much of the mythology of the series begins here, with this serial, and with the way the characters interact with the Daleks and each other.  This is now my favorite of them, and I can’t wait until the next serial featuring the Daleks.

Next serial: “The Rescue” (Season 2, Episodes 10-11).

What I Learned From Doctor Who: “Planet of Giants,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: Presumably the 1960s, based on the dress and lack of specificity.

Place: Earth.  In or around London.  It looks as though the Doctor nearly has it right…but for one small problem.  Get it?  Small?


1. “Planet of Giants” (Season Two, Episode One)
2. “Dangerous Journey” (S2, E2)
3. “Crisis” (S2, E3)

Today’s Lessons

1. New feature for Season Two: Susan’s eyeliner.

2. The doors open mid-materialization of the TARDIS, and the Doctor has something like a heart attack in the near miss, after Ian, Barbara, and Susan successfully re-close the doors.  The Doctor grouses while Ian and Barbara fret over his well-being.  When the Doctor shouts that he’s talking about time travel and doesn’t expect Ian and Barbara to understand, Ian retorts, “Well, how can we?  You never explained it to us!”  Fair point.  The Doctor then apologizes to Barbara for being rude and admits that he “forgets the niceties under pressure.”

3. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to show the effect of, say, being shrunk down to size and being carried away inside a giant matchbox within a giant briefcase or satchel, and how turbulent such a journey might be, simply rock back and forth on your feet against a large box covered in black material.  See also: exaggerated falls and rocking during attacks on the Enterprise or TARDIS.

4. Susan explains to Ian, and the Doctor to Barbara, that when the doors opened mid-materialization, the whole inside containment of relative size/being bigger on the inside thing leaked out, causing the whole TARDIS and everything inside it to shrink.

5. The second episode of the serial finds Ian and Barbara carried away in a briefcase into a nearby house, and Susan and the Doctor climbing up the drain pipe of a sink in the house with the intent of rescuing them.  Inside the house with the sink is a laboratory, where apparently an insecticide is being fashioned, one so deadly that it kills insects on contact (though apparently not miniature humans…) and one so important, one of the inhabitants murders someone else for it.  How can an insecticide be worth murder?  Update: There was a mistake in the formula, and the murdering investor would have lost money.  That old chestnut.

6. The Doctor and Susan become stuck in the laboratory sink, while the scientist goes to rinse his hands of blood, and puts the stopper in the sink to fill it.  Their escape seems rather sudden – they manage to climb back into the drain and to find an overflow pipe to hide in, and even when they suspect that the rush of filled water from the sink will go into the overflow pipe, they still manage to climb out without drowning.  Seems…convenient.  Though kudos to the art directors for constructing what looks like the large basin of a sink and drain in and around which the actors could climb.  See: in the sixties, CGI wasn’t the norm.  They had to rely on ingenuity to create suspension of disbelief, and though it wasn’t always successful, it wasn’t always Unsuccessful either.

7. Why doesn’t Barbara just tell the others that she touched the wheat seeds coated with the insecticide?  That seems very out of character for her!  It seems more like something Ian would do.  Frustrating!  And an unresolved question: the Doctor figures out her plight and rightly chastises her for withholding this piece of information.

8. The Doctor is a bit of a pyromaniac!  In order to attract attention to the house and the murder, and to create a distraction, so that they could escape through the open front door, the Doctor and his companions hatch a plan to start a fire in the house by lighting an over-sized match and setting a flammable can of insecticide on fire.  While the can explodes, and the foursome get away and back to the TARDIS safely, they do not succeed in starting the larger fire, though the Doctor took much glee in starting it!

9. “Planet of Giants” was not my favorite serial, though it was probably an early influence for the film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  Everything that happened was solved too easily and too quickly, despite the immense dangers our intrepid foursome faced.  The cat just walked away, the water just disappeared, the exploding can’s shrapnel managed to miss them all – it was all a bit too convenient — danger devoid of any real stakes.  The next serial marks the return of the Daleks, though, and they’re always a good time.

Next serial: “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” (Season 2, Episodes 4-9).

What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Reign of Terror,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The 18th Century

Place: Earth, France, during the time of the French Revolution.


1. “A Land of Fear” (Season One, Episode Thirty-Seven)
2. “Guests of Madame Guillotine” (S1, E38)
3. “A Change of Identity” (S1, E39)
4. “The Tyrant of France” (S1, E40)
5. “A Bargain of Necessity” (S1, E41)
6. “Prisoners of Conciergerie” (S1, E42)

Today’s Lessons

1. In the first episode of this serial, the Doctor is in a bit of a tantrum.  At the end of “The Sensorites,” Ian makes an off-handed comment about their futuristic human friends by saying, “At least they know where they’re going.”  The Doctor doesn’t like the implication of this statement at all.  He thinks Ian is making insinuations and spends much of the next landing trying to turn Ian and Barbara off the ship.  Despite Susan’s woe at their departure, the Doctor keeps making remarks, such as, “Oh, you’re still here?”  Ian and Barbara, unsure that the landing site is in fact the England of their time, wheedle the Doctor into exploration by appealing to his great knowledge, yen for research, and wisdom.  It’s funny: One is like a petulant child!

2. Ian makes the comment that at least the Doctor “tried” to get him and Barbara home, even though it was out of “bad temper.”  Is the implication that the Doctor isn’t trying to get them home?  As in: he wants them along for the ride, despite his grumpiness?

3. Susan offers this bit of information: “The Reign of Terror,” i.e. the French Revolution, is the Doctor’s “favorite period in the history of Earth.”  Uh….hm.  And: why?

4. The Doctor is affected by smoke inhalation, same as humans.  Fire is bad for most creatures of the universe.

5. The Doctor, after being rescued by the boy named Jean Pierre from the fire at the farmhouse, decides to walk the 12 kilometers to Paris, where Ian, Barbara, and Susan are being imprisoned prior to their inevitable beheading.  The Doctor stops to talk to a work foreman, and they get into a heated argument.  The foreman says to the Doctor, “I suppose you think you’re very clever.”  The Doctor responds, “With all due modesty…yes.”

6. The Doctor clubs the foreman over the head with a shovel!  When the foreman threatens the Doctor with his pistol and coerces him into work detail, the Doctor tricks the foreman into thinking he’s dug up buried treasure.  When the foreman, who is greedy, suddenly volunteers to do all the digging, the Doctor hits him over the head with his shovel, causing the workers to run away, now free, and the Doctor to continue his journey.  So much for not liking weapons!

7. The third episode of the serial finds Barbara and Susan being rescued from the guillotine by rebels, Ian escaping from prison, and the Doctor bartering for a new outfit, so he can pose as a French regional officer to try to order Ian, Barbara, and Susan out of prison.  The hilarious part about this is that his hat has an impossibly large plume of feathers on top of it.  I’ve learned nothing from this other than confirmation of what I already knew – the Doctor is a madman in a box, from One to Eleven (and beyond).

8. The fourth and fifth episodes of this serial are missing episodes.  Only audio and still photographs have been recovered, except for mere seconds of moving footage.

9. When Barbara argues with the Doctor about the best next step to finding Ian, the Doctor says: “Now, don’t you argue!  You know my plans always work,” or something to that effect.  Unless I heard him wrong…I would take exception to this assertion of the Doctor’s.

10.This serial might be interesting because of how involved each of the characters get in this particular slice of history – though wildly aware that they are in the middle of the French Revolution, each character takes an approach within the idiom of who they are.  Ian fights to save his friends, including those he makes along the way. Barbara’s compassion–particularly when she finds out that Leon, a revolutionary who flirted with her, was slain by Jules after the latter discovered Leon was a traitor and tried to harm Ian–overflows, and her frustration at the circumstances becomes an urgent plea to Ian to read his history books.  Susan is always the damsel in distress, though she isn’t without pluck (and she gets sick with a fever for no explained reason).  The Doctor, of course, tries to think his way out of tight spots.  Yet, the backdrop is always the Revolution and the stark reality of war and death; science fiction doesn’t even factor into this story.  Many of One’s episodes are characterized by subtext and social commentary, and this serial is no exception.

11. In an effort to rescue Susan from the Conciergerie Prison, the Doctor tricks the Jailer into thinking Susan has escaped by having her crouch down very near the door to her cell, only so he can hit the Jailer over the head with a bottle once the Jailer opens the door.  That’s two sneaky clubbing attacks that the Doctor has perpetrated in this serial with items that may not start out as weapons but certainly become such when the Doctor wields them!

12. In the last episode, after Lemaitre has revealed his true identity, and a plan is hatched to jailbreak Susan while Ian helps Lemaitre spy on Robespierre in the wake of finding out that Napoleon Bonaparte seeks high position within the French government, Barbara has a little chuckle.  When the Doctor asks her what is so amusing, she answers that it seems funny that so much feverish effort should be spent attempting to save Robespierre when history reveals that he will be beheaded on the guillotine anyway.  The Doctor reminds Barbara that history can’t be changed, and she admits she learned her lesson with the Aztecs, but the Doctor notes, “We may not be able to stem the tide, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop ourselves from being carried away with the flood.”  Arguably, avoiding adventures to dangerous parts of history might achieve the same effect, though.

13.  The ending quote from the Doctor for this serial and this season: “Our lives are important.  At least, to us.  But as we see, so we learn…our destiny is in the stars.  So, let’s go and search for it.”

14. This wasn’t my favorite of the serials.  I think my favorite so far is “The Keys of Marinus.”  Yet, it was a fairly thorough and amusing representation of a turbulent time in history – though everyone spoke with English accents.  Robespierre gets shot in the jaw before being escorted to prison, so it’s interesting to see that British TV in the sixties didn’t shy away from the gruesome.  The thing I enjoyed most with this group of six episodes is reflecting on how Ian and Barbara are schoolteachers, essentially living their lessons.  The early intrigue of the show is very much alive, and it’s no wonder “Doctor Who” has lasted for so long.

So ends season 1 – 42 episodes down!  600+ more to go, but the journey back in time is much like the journeys that the Doctor and his companions take in the TARDIS – it’s fun to be able to go anywhere, and it’s always bigger on the inside!

Next serial: “Planet of Giants” (Season 2, Episodes 1-3).

What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Sensorites,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The 28th Century

Place: Earth, in the future, and the space surrounding it.


1. “Strangers in Space” (Season One, Episode Thirty-One)
2. “The Unwilling Warriors” (S1, E32)
3. “Hidden Danger” (S1, E33)
4. “A Race Against Death” (S1, E34)
5. “Kidnap” (S1, E35)
6. “A Desperate Venture” (S1, E36)

Today’s Lessons

1. In the first episode of this serial, the Doctor and his companions remark on how they have all changed from “mere curiosities” in a junkyard to friends with a spirit of adventure.  The Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and Ian and Barbara have made themselves a cohesive unit.  Thus, decades of character patterns and relationships are born, where the Doctor and his many faces always travel with companions to share his quests and adventures.

2. The southern half of England, including London, at this time is apparently called “Central City.”

3. The locking mechanism on the TARDIS is what helps to maintain the interior dimensions of the ship…and the Sensorite aliens took it!  When in doubt: do NOT break the lock on the TARDIS door, or the whole ship might melt in on itself.

4. The Doctor tells the Sensorites that he “never threatens,” but he does “keep promises,” and he promises them that he’ll make their life very difficult.  So, in other words, the Doctor knows how to toy with semantics.

5. The Doctor told Ian that he is telepathic, because he sometimes knows what Ian’s thinking, after thanking Ian for his “admiration,” when Ian indicates that he said nothing admiring.  I think the Doctor was joking…more importantly, I think he and Ian play with each much like a cat and ball of string.

6. Susan is able to make contact with the Sensorites telepathically.  The question is: why her? Barbara and Susan somehow figure out, earlier, how to think thoughts at the Sensorites to prevent their mind control from infiltrating their brains, but Barbara apparently loses this ability, while Susan becomes the sole vessel of communication with these strange aliens. Question: Why is this only Susan’s talent?   Further, Susan and the Doctor had their first fight!  Susan (That Girl!) insists on sacrificing herself to the Sensorites’ demands because she can use telepathy.  Was that always a thing?  Could Susan always use telepathy?  I ask again, why can only she use telepathy?  Then, the Doctor notes that the Sensorites caused them to argue when they’ve never argued before.  How is that possible?!  Susan is a teenager, by Earth years anyway, and One is an old, science-bent fuddy-duddy.  And why can’t the Doctor use telepathy?  What is going on?!?

7. The Doctor has become much more forceful in this serial.  He is the leader of the expedition now, and his companions treat him as such.  When he tells them to do as he says, they do it.  For the most part (there is the matter of Susan agreeing to go with the Sensorites to their planet, despite her grandfather’s protests).

8. The Sensorites themselves are smushy-faced aliens who are deathly afraid of the dark (even though they live in space…) and use silver medallions attached to their chests, which they hold up to their foreheads/minds, to speak to the “Sense-Sphere,” which is apparently a central hub of communication for their leaders.  Honestly, the Sensorites remind me of precursors of the Oods, given the Oods’ little white globes that they use to speak to non-Oods.

9. The Doctor, in telling Susan that she was all wrong about her defiance with respect to the Sensorites, mentions that one of the benefits of growing old is to impart wisdom and knowledge to those younger…maybe that’s the Doctor’s idiom in a nutshell.  Question: Exactly how old is he here?  In Time Lord years?  I know he’s portrayed by an old actor, but…

10.The Sensorites tell the Doctor that he must come to their planet because the First Elder senses “great knowledge” in him.  His answer: “I thought so!”

11. A new feature for this serial: super dramatic close ups on the face of the Doctor when he makes some discovery, has some epiphany, or expresses foreboding.  In some ways, this serial is taking on more of the qualities that have become tradition for the show over the decades.

12. When the First Elder supplies the Doctor and Ian with weapons for their journey into the aqueduct to remove the poison affecting the Sensorites’ water supply, the Doctor mentions that he has never liked weapons, “though they are handy little things.”  Question: When does he get his sonic screwdriver?  Not that it’s a weapon…

13.  Susan tells the First Elder that she and her grandfather, the Doctor, are not from Earth but are from a planet “quite like Earth,” except that at night the sky is “burnt orange” and the trees are “silver.”  I don’t remember seeing trees in any representation of Gallifrey…

14. Apparently, Susan is only able to use telepathy while within the Sense-Sphere, because of high frequencies or some such, but the Doctor promises her that they will explore her ability when they return home.  Question: Why is he having such an unfocused time with the TARDIS?  I’m not sure that was ever made clear…

15. “The Sensorites” was a fun serial, in that it combined elements of true science fiction and horror.  It was slow to start, but the greater intrigue came from the Doctor’s explorations and experimentation and from the First Elder’s need to understand the humans/human-like beings in his midst.  The plot of the City Administrator/Second Elder was a bit ham-fisted, but at least his voice of suspicion facilitated the building of trust between the two different peoples.

Next serial: “The Reign of Terror” (Season 1, Episodes 37-42).

What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Aztecs,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The past, the year 1430 (BC?) or a bit beyond.

Place: Earth, Mexico at the time of the Aztec Empire.


1. “The Temple of Evil” (Season One, Episode Twenty-Seven)
2. “The Warriors of Death” (S1, E28)
3. “The Bride of Sacrifice” (S1, E29)
4. “The Day of Darkness” (S1, E30)

Today’s Lessons

1. One of Barbara’s specialties is history, specifically ancient cultures.  From examination of an Aztec mask, she is able to identify the year and location to which they travel in record time.

2. The budget seems to have increased by this serial.  The sets for the Aztec temple are some of the most elaborate used on the show, with ancient-looking artifacts, false walls and secret passageways, and a bevy of other interesting details.

3. Ah, the sixties!  British actors given darker faces to look like native Mexican peoples…but with the English accents still in tact.  It can’t be offensive, then, I guess…right?

4. When Barbara is believed to be a reincarnation of one of the Aztec gods, having emerged from a temple tomb with a bracelet and talisman of the revered, two high priests supplicate to her good will.  The Doctor refers to this ceremony as “charming.”  He probably forgot about the ritualistic sacrifice associated with this ancient tribal nation and empire…

5. I think the Doctor has a little crush!  He is introduced to an elderly woman in the Garden of Peace…and describes her as “charming” several times. I wonder if this will go anywhere…

6. Speaking of ritualistic human sacrifice, when both Ian and Barbara find out that a human is to be sacrificed in honor of Barbara’s godly persona and in the interest of inviting rain, both Ian and Barbara face individual revulsion and loathing to participate.  Ian is made an honored warrior and is expected to escort the human to be sacrificed to the altar and to hold him down.  Barbara, however, sees her god character as a means to appeal to the people and to end the practice of human sacrifice. In the meantime, the Doctor begs Ian and Barbara not to change history or to alter the timeline one strand/string; he says it is “impossible” to do so, and exclaims, “I know!  I know!”  That exclamation might be the most interesting and revealing line of dialogue he has uttered yet!

7. The Doctor becomes downright hostile toward Barbara for using her perceived godly influence to cancel the human sacrifice, leading the sacrificial lamb to plummet in suicidal fashion to his death out of fear of being disrespected and dishonored.  The Doctor also accuses her of injecting her traditions upon another’s culture, and he’s so vehement, Barbara starts to cry.  He then apologizes for being harsh with her…two thoughts come to mind.  First: isn’t this a bit like the pot calling the kettle black?  The Doctor changes history all the time!  Of course, perhaps not in such a key way…  Second: it was his idea to have her play the part of god in order to help their situation.  What did he expect would happen?

8. Barbara subsequently calls the Doctor “an old rogue.”  I guess they made up.

9. The Doctor meets his crush again in the Garden of Peace, who seems to be spying for one of the priests.  When he introduces himself to the woman properly, he explains that he is not a doctor of healing but one of science and engineering and “a builder of things.”  Question: What did he build, though?  He also calls her “charming” again (clearly, this means he likes her).  And she flirted back by telling him that his heart is young, and that he is “smart like a schoolboy.”  Hoo boy.  The Doctor may not start kissing people until later, but he had no problems flirting with them as early as the First Doctor!

10. Again, I call attention to the fact that the universal translator must be working well, considering they are speaking to a Native American race that was not known for its English skills, and everyone is understanding each other properly.

11. Susan is a bit of a feminist.  In order not to anger the priests further, she agrees to be trained in the duties of a hand servant, but when she is informed that she will be betrothed to marry, she refuses to submit to the idea of betrothal, instead assuring her tutors that she will marry whoever she wants.  Later, she is entreated to marry someone who will be sacrificed during a solar eclipse and is earmarked for public punishment when she refuses to do so, wherein thorns will be placed through her tongue and ears.  Why doesn’t she just agree to marry the guy when her husband will only be alive for a few days, and when they might access the TARDIS earlier than that?  That girl!

12. The suspicious priest of sacrifice (or whatever he is called) begins to defy Barbara and her purported authority as the spirit of a god.  In order to maintain her charade, Barbara cheats!  She uses her foreknowledge of the future to prophesy the demise of the Aztecs as they actually died. No one believes her, but she’s telling them about their own future!  Paradox alert: is the demise of the Aztecs a self-fulfilling prophesy?  Would they have really succumbed without knowing how they were going to succumb?  In the Whoniverse, anyway?  Update: given the end of the serial, probably not.  The Doctor notes that Barbara does not successfully change the course of the Aztec history, including the penchant for human sacrifice.

13. The Doctor is being devious and somewhat irresponsible himself, by giving the rival warrior a shortcut to defeating his challenger, Ian (the Doctor doesn’t know that Ian is the opponent).  Still, it seems callous of him to have yelled at Barbara about certain things, only to turn around and try to influence the skirmish of such high-ranking warriors.  I think there’s something off about that Garden of Peace.  Or, perhaps the Doctor is a fool in love.  Either way, this is not working out well for our intrepid Doctor and his companions.

14.  The Doctor is engaged!  It seems Ten is not the only version of the Doctor to get himself into a bit of a wedlock pickle.  There’s no doubt that the Doctor enjoys the old woman in the garden and vice-versa, but it appears that he has been nursing her requited feelings for him to obtain information…until she “accidentally” spills her cocoa beans.  Seductress!  The Doctor falls hook, line, and sinker for her ruse and is offering to boil her cocoa in no time flat!  Oh, One is so young, isn’t he?

15. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to show, say, the heft of a large decorative stone being moved out of the way, to reveal an entrance to a tomb, say, one need only fashion an ornate and gilded stone out of Styrofoam and a bit of paint, even if the lack of good special effects doesn’t mask the sound Styrofoam makes when subjected to pressure, such as grasping.

16. Why is it that Barbara, as the stylized god, is so concerned with changing the people’s minds about their laws and ways?  Doesn’t she understand that changing history for them may change history for everyone else?  Doesn’t she realize that once the travelers find their way back to the TARDIS, they’ll leave, having left their indelible, history-changing mark on the Aztec peoples?  Also, why on Earth does she speak in Shakespearean diction?  Or, perhaps, stylized “royal-speak?”  I swear, every time Barbara-as-Aztec-god speaks, iambic pentameter and many “we’s” and “us’s” become part of her speeches.

17. Barbara learns that she can’t change the Aztec civilization, as, one by one, the high priests lose faith in her as a representative of the gods, but the Doctor reminds her that the high priest of knowledge who left for the wilderness adopted a new faith, a better faith, and encouraged her to take comfort in the good she did for one man.  Oh, the wise Doctor prevails.  It’s his insight into life that keeps us all coming back, I reckon.

18. Also, the Doctor was truly in love – or, at least, in admiration of the old woman in the garden. He ultimately pocketed her token.  She also accepted that they would not be married and entreated him to “think of her,” whereupon his lip quivered in regret.  Aw.

19. “The Aztecs” was a much more thorough and interesting historical serial than “Marco Polo,” as it attempted to observe actual history rather than weave pure fiction from loosely known facts.  The production values were clearly higher, with a bigger budget devoted to sets and costumes.  The delight of this serial is the growth of two characters: The Doctor himself, who we now see stepping into an advisory and educator role, where he imparts his wisdom of space and time to his companions, and Barbara, who, while playing god, learned much about being a mortal, ordinary human.  It was also enjoyable that Susan’s role was diminished in this serial – and when she did appear, she did not have one shrieking fit of hysterics, though there were some tears.  This serial did little to advance the “mythology” of the Whoniverse, but it was another interesting stab at social commentary, even as British actors portrayed an ancient and extinct people in slightly historically-offensive fashion.

Next serial: “The Sensorites” (Season 1, Episodes 31-36).

What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Keys of Marinus” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The time is not specified, but the advancement of the planet and the talk of its history appear to indicate that this adventure takes place in the future.

Place: Marinus, a technologically advanced but stagnant planet.


1. “The Sea of Death” (Season One, Episode Twenty-One)
2. “The Velvet Web” (S1, E22)
3. “The Screaming Jungle” (S1, E23)
4. “The Snows of Terror” (S1, E24)
5. “Sentence of Death” (S1, E25)
6. “The Keys of Marinus” (S1, E26)

Today’s Lessons

1. The TARDIS has color television!  So says the Doctor, though he noted it doesn’t always work. Ha!  Meta jokes.

2. One is eternally curious.  In fact, that might be the whole theme of this Doctor incarnation.  For One, it is about the science and exploration.  He wants to test, poke, prod, sample, observe.  One is a scientist above all other things.  His greatest desire as of “The Velvet Web:” a well equipped laboratory with every conceivable apparatus/device.

3. Susan, on the other hand, though she takes after her grandfather in terms of his curious streak, lacks years of intelligence and wisdom and tends to repeatedly get into trouble.  Why does she wander toward the building in “The Sea of Death” rather than toward her grandfather after she loses her shoes to the acidic lake?  That girl!

4. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to show the effects of, say, a large cavernous structure or building with many corridors and alien architecture, one only needs to build a partial set and convey size and strangeness with paintings and backdrops featuring perspective drawings.  See also: every other television show from the era.

5.The Doctor just called Ian resourceful!  He really must be warming up to his companions. Perhaps, these are the seeds of doubt regarding the Doctor feeling lonely and enjoying his explorations with others…?  Though, I’ve seen (and shared) a meme quoting One as saying, “Fear makes companions of all of us.”

6. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to show or indicate an invisible force field around something, say a TARDIS, one only need to have the actors mime touching an invisible wall in front of them.  In other words, when in doubt: learn to mime.

7. Device introduction alert! Teleportation bracelets?  They’re from Marinus!  Also, as the Doctor says, they are a perfectly acceptable way to travel.  And the ultimate fashion accessory.

8. One’s favorite foods include: pomegranates and truffles.  In addition to salty bacon.

9. When The Doctor decides that the party should split up to look for the remaining keys after the brain aliens are defeated by Barbara, Susan teleports away quickly. She mentions to Barbara that she didn’t want to stay around until the last moment because she doesn’t like “goodbyes.”  Doesn’t that sound familiar?

10. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, when you have a statue with moving arms and no mechanical prowess to clasp the arms shut, grabbing and trapping whomever is in front of the statue, use real human arms.  They may not match, but at least they work!

11. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, when one needs to have a cavern made of pure ice, simulate the effect by hanging a bunch of cellophane.  Of course, your lack of historical special effects prowess may do nothing to muffle the sound of moving “shattered” ice made out of cellophane, but the visual is convincing enough…

12. The Doctor, as of these episodes, is definitely warming up to Ian and vice versa.  When Ian is falsely accused of murder in the Marinus capital, The Doctor takes it upon himself to defend Ian in the resulting trial, where the accused is deemed guilty until proven innocent.  The Doctor gives each of his companions, including the two from Marinus, tasks to complete. When Ian asks what he can do, The Doctor simply responds, “Trust me.”  Ian doesn’t even try to argue. Evolution! Progress!

13. The Doctor resorts to subterfuge to trick one of the guilty parties to admit his wrongdoing in committing the aforesaid murder.  Sadly, it doesn’t really add up to much of a defense in this unusual legal system.

14. One’s “a-ha!” moments are kind of cute.  William Hartnell did an adorable job of creating a demonstrable giddiness when his Doctor is pleasantly surprised, either by the solving of a mystery, such as the case of who really committed murder in the capital – as opposed to the falsely accused Ian – or by being surprised by some trick or bit of cleverness by one of his companions. He was also giddy, and then a bit grumpy, when Ian revealed that he tricked the alien race in the tower by providing them with the fake key that they had acquired in one of the earlier quests.  I think it’s fair to say that giddiness in general is a common attribute to all of the Doctor’s personae.

15. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, to show, say, a TARDIS in relation to a fictional, large structure, such as an alien pyramid-like tower, one needs to only build a model.  While the model itself doesn’t have to be exactly to scale, or the detailing on the model exactly accurate, one should really invest in realistic looking greenery and shrubbery to better mask the illusion.  The final shot of episode 26 contained what was clearly a model TARDIS on, most likely, the base of a train set.  I know, it was 1964.  Perhaps the budget was a bit too limited for realistic shrubberies – some that looked nice and were not too expensive, at any rate.

16. “The Keys of Marinus” serial is ultimately the most interesting and riveting set of episodes in the One era so far.  Setting the Doctor and his companions in a place where, first, the conceit of the planet/world is that minds are run by machinery, allows for a social commentary/subtext that is both timely to its era and ahead of its time, considering the then-prevalent real-life fear that a surge in advancement of machinery and/or technology could result in a loss of control by the people who created this machinery/technology or greater dangers.  In fact, at the end of the serial, the Doctor advises Sabetha, Arbitan’s daughter, to relinquish the final key and to leave the machine in its dormant state of disrepair, as he suggests that no good comes of people being controlled by machines, or something to that effect.  This statement ultimately serves a double purpose: it’s a warning to the Doctor Who audience about the impending and very realistic dangers that technology can pose to societies and races of beings at large, and in the wake of atomic warfare, twenty years after the conclusion of World War II but deep within the Cold War, this attitude is not surprising.  Yet, the statement provides a secondary effect, in terms of some narrative foreshadowing: after all, are not the Time Lords held somewhat captive by their own advanced technology?  Was the Doctor not making some kind of veiled reference to his own people?  This is, of course, long before Gallifrey disappears in the time stream, but the Gallifreyans are a technologically advanced society who manipulate and control time and events in time.  Interesting to consider, eh?

The second element that makes this serial particularly fascinating and fun to watch is the scavenger hunt underlying the search for the keys.  The Doctor and his companions, including Sabetha and Altos, when they are found in “The Velvet Web,” must travel to pre-programmed destinations via wrist teleporter to search for a set of keys that control the mind and mood altering machinery created by Arbitan.  Each location has different environments and dangers, and each episode is, ultimately, a self-contained story serving a larger narrative arc.  For the first time, it appears, in the show’s history, the writers created a layered and complex story involving the talents of all of its characters, where Ian, Susan, Barbara, and the Doctor himself are able to have a rotating hand in playing victims, heroes, and solvers of greater mysteries.  Of all of the One serials I have seen so far, “The Keys of Marinus” is my favorite to date.

Next serial: “The Aztecs” (Season 1, Episodes 27-30).