The City Administrator returns to Plan A – The Disintegrator Ray. Meanwhile, The Doctor looks for the connection between the poisoned water and the monsters in the aqueduct. Also, a Sensorite scientist learns to shake hands.
“To see all the time is not a good thing.”
We left The Doctor in the dark aqueducts, a loud roar coming from nearby. Susan and Ian rush into the dark and find The Doctor on the ground, his jacket ripped, but otherwise okay. He didn’t get a look at what attacked him. He proclaims that he knows what is happening with the aqueduct, but that the pressing matter is finding The Sensorite who is plotting against them.
The City Administrator demands the imprisoned Second Elder arrange the return of the firing key to The Disintegrator Ray. Once they have the key, The Second Elder grabs it and breaks it before The City Administrator can activate the ray. In the ensuing struggle, The Second Elder is killed. The conspiracy has now turned to outright murder. The City Administrator will kill Sensorites for his goal. He then comes up with a plan to pin the death on The Doctor. The City Administrator’s co-conspirator claims to have seen the murder. He says The Doctor pulled the weapon from his coat. Ian quickly points out that The Doctor’s coat had been ruined and left in the aqueduct. Being caught in the lie, the co-conspirator corrects himself, saying it was most-definitely a cloak, not realizing The First Elder had presented The Doctor with the cloak mere moments earlier. This is obviously not going well. Conspiracies are only as good as those involved. The City Administrator then proves he is a better mastermind, transferring the xenophobia to The Second Elder, and casting all blame onto him. The City Administrator is now officially promoted to Second Elder, being championed for the position by The Doctor. Ah, dramatic irony. The episode ends with Ian and The Doctor entering the aqueducts with weapons and a map sabotaged by The New Second Elder, and Carol being kidnapped, hence the title.
I have to say once more that I think the strength of this story is the plotting. The actions and words of the characters are not wasted. One example is the destruction of The Doctor’s coat, which plays heavily into proving he didn’t commit murder. In any number of stories these would just be events that happened but have no overall relevance. In this story, the coat and the cloak play heavily into events. Likewise, The First Elder realizes that it The Doctor and his companions didn’t kill The Second Elder, then someone else must have, and that someone would have to be a Sensorite. So many of the details in this story help create the clues for the characters and the audience. We know The Sensorite villain and we see the clues that are planted for our characters, but there is also a mystery in the aqueducts and this mystery is hidden from the audience. Yet even this plot has clues in the nightshade, the darkness, the noise, and in exposition that was set up earlier in the serial. I’m not sure what else Peter Newman has written, but I bet he would be a good mystery writer. His command of pace, detail and motivation would certainly be a boon in that genre.
I have given Susan a bit of grief in previous stories, but I have to admit that she is really working in this story. I don’t know if it is Barbara’s absence (she is still on the ship with Maitland) which allows Susan to be portrayed as stronger and more Barbara-like, or if she is finally being written as competent in her own right. In my opinion, this has been the best use of her character since the episode An Unearthly Child. No screaming, no panicking, she even seems smart and intuitive. I wish she had been used like this in all the stories. The fact that she wasn’t lends some credence to the generally accepted idea in fandom that three companions in the TARDIS doesn’t work. Two is thought to be the ideal number. While I don’t think that should be a hard rule, I do acknowledge that it often doesn’t work because it can be hard to find enough for each character to do. These episodes on The Sense Sphere seem to lend credence to this rule. There is the hint that Barbara will return in the next episode. It will be interesting to see what happens with Susan’s character at that point.