Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani + Doctor
Who: The Sensorites (BBC DVDs)
Sound: B- Extras: A+/B Episodes: A/B-
Having had eleven iterations played by eleven different
actors across six decades, Doctor Who
is a character with many faces. Couple
that with the many different producer, director, and writer teams, and you can
watch a Time Lord who seems in one episode like a secret agent (Tom Baker in “Seeds of Doom”), and in another, a
bumbling carnival barker (Sylvester McCoy in “Paradise Towers”). Separated
by nearly 20 years and a lot of cultural upheaval, it might seem like first
Doctor William Hartnell (1963 - 1966) and fifth Doctor Peter Davison (1982 -
1984) would not have much in common.
However, a comparison of story no. 7 “The Sensorites” and story no. 136 “The Caves of Androzani”
reveals more similarities than one might think. Both stories begin in typical Who fashion,
with the Doctor and companions walking into an encounter with aliens. But while the races encountered in the two
stories are quite different, the reactions of the two Doctors are not.
In “Sensorites” the Doctor,
Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and Ian
Chesterton (William Russell) pilot the TARDIS on to an alien spacecraft where a
team of human crewman stand frozen in suspended animation. Also on board are the incredibly powerful and
enigmatic Sensorites. Are they friend or
foe? Do they mean the Doctor and his
companions harm, or can they be met peacefully?
It turns out that like the humans the Doctor seeks to rescue, the
Sensorites are as plagued by fear, doubt, mistrust, and anger as humanity. Broken into two factions, the Doctor must
convince the pro-human group that dealing with humanity is worth the
trouble. Writer Peter Newman gives the
Doctor key opportunities to show his quality in this story, and the careful,
considered approach pays dividends in the end, and Mr. Hartnell carries it off
wonderfully, mixing just the right amounts of brilliance and nuttiness. Carole
Ann Foreman’s affecting as the telepathically tortured Susan also impresses.
In “Caves” it’s Peter
Davison’s turn to shine. Along with the
luminous Nicola Bryant as Peri, the Doctor finds himself on the honeycombed
world of Androzani Minor. There the two get mixed up in a turf war between
rebels and the officials mining the world’s cave for an amazing drug called
Spectrox. Spectrox extends life, and is
produced by strange alien bats. Worth
killing for, the combatants take few prisoners over their war for the
substance. While in the caves, the Doctor and Peri suffer terrible poisoning
from unrefined Spectrox, and the Doctor must ultimately use his wits, guile,
and courage to save Peri. He suffers
mortal injuries in the process, and exits the stage with a climactic
regeneration scene, giving way to Colin Baker as the new, sixth Doctor.
Both discs are loaded with extras, but the Davison story
contains two discs, and includes numerous features and interviews on Mr.
Davison’s departure from the show, set and cast notes, images, commentaries,
and much more.
The contemplative scientist side of the Doctor exists very
strongly in both Hartnell and Davison’s versions of the character. While Hartnell played the aged wise man,
Davison was comfortable in the role of the energetic young scientist. You can see some of the best of both versions
in these two stories.
- Scott Pyle