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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani + Doctor Who: The Sensorites (BBC DVDs)

Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani + Doctor Who: The Sensorites (BBC DVDs)


Picture: B-     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


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