Doctor Who episode 35: Kidnap (25/7/1964)

A new director, Frank Cox, takes over from Mervyn Pinfield for the final two episodes of this adventure. He’d previously handled The Brink of Disaster, which was an immediate improvement over Richard Martin’s The Edge of Destruction. The difference is less perceptible here, mainly because Pinfield did a decent job with the earlier episodes, but I did notice more use of close ups (Kidnap begins with a close up on Hartnell and ends with one of Ilona Rodgers), and a neat cross-fade to represent telepathic communication. I also had a slight sense that this is a bit under-rehearsed – nearly everyone fluffs a bit (especially the Sensorite that takes an age to spit out the mangled line ‘I heard them over- over- over-talking’), and steps on each other’s lines.

The episode is largely an exercise in stringing things out for another week, with events very gradually shifting towards an imminent climax. The Second Elder is killed; John is finally cured of his mental health issues and remembers that the City Administrator is their enemy – just after the Doctor and Ian have conspired to make him the new Second Elder; the Doctor and Ian head back into the aqueducts for a showdown with the Sensorites’ enemies – equipped with sabotaged weapons and a useless map. In between, there are many longueurs: a false accusation of murder against the Doctor, quickly refuted because of some interminable business with cloaks and coats; the drippy John and Carol mooning over each other; various discussions about trying to get Barbara down to the Sense-Sphere, and plenty of expository ranting by the City Administrator. Fortunately, there’s enough complication to justify most of this – particularly having the Humans’ main enemy promoted to a position of even greater authority.

However, there are some odd choices here. Ian has apparently been cured of his deadly atropine poisoning off screen, after nipping to the laboratory for a new dose of antidote, and, having finally found something for Susan to do at the start of the adventure, Carole Ann Ford’s been given nothing but feed lines for about three weeks now. This must have been a pretty thankless week for her and William Russell. By contrast, Hartnell again gets the lion’s share of good material: name-dropping Beau Brummel, and out-thinking all the other characters – ‘I’ve more or less solved that problem,’ he says of the monsters and the poisonings. He also claims, ‘I’ve never liked weapons at any time’, which tends to reinforce my view that this is the first story that’s been written with an absolutely clear sense of who the Doctor is – which isn’t to say Peter R. Newman got there first, just that the production team had a settled view, and presumably David Whitaker edited the scripts accordingly.

 

Next episode: A Desperate Venture

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