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Authors: Nigel Robinson

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Doctor Who: The Sensorites

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DOCTOR WHO
THE SENSORITES
NIGEL ROBINSON

Based on the BBC television series by Peter R. Newman by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation

Number 118 in the
Doctor Who Library
A Target Book
Published in 1987
By the Paperback Division of
W. H. Allen & Co. PLC
44 Hill Street, London W1X 8LB

 

Prologue

Out in the still
and infinite blackness of uncharted space, hundreds of light years
from its planet of origin, the spacecraft hung, caught like a fly in
a gigantic spider's web. Here in the outermost reaches of the galaxy
few stars shone; what little illumination there was came from the
bright yellow world around which the ship moved in perpetual orbit,
and that planet's mother star.

If there had been
human eyes to watch, they would have recognised the ship as an
interplanetary survey vessel, one of many sent out from its home
planet in the early years of the twenty-eighth century to search for
new sources of minerals to replace those long since squandered on
Earth. Nearly a fifth of a mile in length and with its dull grey hull
studded with innumerable scars, the result of thousands of meteor
storms encountered in its four year journey, its survey had been
almost complete when it entered this region of the galaxy; and now
here it remained, a ghost-like satellite in the planet's otherwise
moonless sky.

Along the cold and
empty corridors of the ship all was still, save for the occasional
tinkling of an on-board computer and the steady rhythmic pulse of the
life support system. Otherwise a ghastly silence reigned, as
impenetrable as stone and as quiet as the dark and lonely grave.

The crew's
quarters, the recreational areas, even the power rooms and
laboratories were also empty and shrouded in semi-darkness. All
unnecessary power had long since been reduced automatically to a
minimum: where there were no living creatures there was also no need
for light.

Upon the flight
deck, once the hub of all activity on board the spaceship, the same
all pervasive stillness was supreme. By the navigation and command
consoles, their forms half-hidden in the baleful light of the
scanners, sat two motionless figures - a man and a woman. Dressed in
the same one-piece military grey
tunics, they were slumped over their respective control boards, their
ashen faces totally oblivious of their surroundings, or of the
digital read-outs displayed on the computer screens above their
heads.

A single blinking
light on a control console indicated that the ship was in flight,
continuing its interminable and purposeless orbit of the yellow
planet. But there was no one on board the ship able to acknowledge
its futile warning, nor to take any action to alter the spaceship's
course.

To all intents and
purposes, it was a ship of dead men, going nowhere.

Strangers in Space

In the dazzling
expansive surroundings of a control room which boasted instruments no
one on twenty-eighth century Earth could even have dreamed of, the
four people around the central control console seemed strangely out
of place. As out of place, in fact, as the antique bric-a-brac which
crowded the room.

The youngest of the
four was a teenager, dressed in the style of clothes common to Earth
in the 1960s. No longer a girl, and not yet quite a woman, her
closely cropped hair framed a face of almost Asiatic prettiness, and
her dark almond eyes belied an intelligence far beyond her tender
years. Her companions were all turned intently towards the flickering
instrumentation on one of the six control panels of the central
console. She, however, looked enquiringly at the puzzled face of the
silver-haired old man, from whose side she seldom strayed and whom
she trusted implicitly.

'What is it,
Grandfather? What's happened to the TARDIS?' she asked, her tone
wavering as she tried hard to conceal the inexplicable sense of
unease she felt within herself.

The old man looked
up. 'I really don't know, my child, I really don't know,' he said,
tapping the fingers of his blue-veined hands together as was his
habit when faced with a vexing problem.

He wore a long
Edwardian frock coat, checked trousers, a crisp wing-collar shirt and
a meticulously tied cravat. He seemed every bit the image of a
well-bred English gentleman of leisure rather than the captain of a
highly advanced time and space machine.

Turning to his
other companions he drew their attention to the tall glass column
which now rested motionless in the centre of the hexagonal control
console. 'All indications are that the TARDIS has materialised. But
that' - and here he pointed to one
persistently flashing light on the control board - 'says we are still
moving. Now, what do you make of that, hmm?'

The third member of
the TARDIS crew spoke up, a tall tidy woman in her late twenties,
with a stern purposeful face which nevertheless possessed a
melancholy beauty. Like Susan she too dressed in the fashion of late
twentieth-century Earth, though her more conservative clothes
reflected her maturer years. 'Perhaps we've landed inside something?'
she suggested. 'Perhaps that's why we appear to be moving? What do
you think, Ian?'

'You could be
right, Barbara,' agreed the stocky well-built young man beside her.
He spoke to the old man: 'Try the scanner again, Doctor; let's see
what's outside.'

The Doctor
activated a switch and the four travellers looked up at the scanner
screen, set high in one of the roundelled walls of the control room.
The picture on the screen was nothing but a blanket of random flashes
and lines.

'Covered with
static,' observed the Doctor.

'That could be
caused by a strong magnetic field,' Ian ventured.

'Yes. Or an
unsuppressed motor,' agreed his older companion.

'Can we go outside,
Grandfather?' asked Susan.

The Doctor allowed
himself a small smile, recognising in his granddaughter the same
insatiable curiosity which had caused them to begin their travels so
very long ago. He nodded his assent: 'I shan't be satisfied till
we've solved this little mystery.'

By his side,
Barbara sighed. 'I don't know why we bother to leave the TARDIS
sometimes,' she said gloomily.

'You're still
thinking about your experiences with the Aztecs,' remarked the
Doctor.

Barbara's mouth
formed a rueful half-smile. 'No, I've got over that now,' she said,
recalling a previous adventure in fifteenth-century Mexico. There she
had unsuccessfully attempted to put to an end the Aztecs' barbaric
practice of human sacrifice. The Doctor had watched her struggle with
wry admiration, knowing all the time that no mortal man could ever
halt the irreversible tide of history. The Aztecs had practised human
sacrifice and nothing that Barbara or even he - travellers out of
time - could do would ever alter that immutable historical fact. The
Doctor had long ago come to terms with the futility of attempting to
change history, but Barbara could never stand back and watch her
fellow creatures suffer. Cold scientific observation was all very
well, but it meant nothing if not tempered with human compassion and
love.

But she would
eventually accept the strictures placed on travellers in the fourth
dimension, thought the Doctor. Yes, Barbara and Ian would learn from
their fellow travellers, just as he and Susan would learn from them.

The Doctor paused
for a moment to recall his first meeting with Ian and Barbara.
Teachers at Coal Hill School in the London of 1963 and curious about
the background of their most baffling pupil, they had followed Susan
one foggy night to an old scrapyard in a shadowy road called Totters
Lane. There they had finally met the girl's grandfather and guardian
- an intellectual giant known only as the Doctor, an alien cut off
from his home planet by a million light years in space and thousands
of years in time. And there too they had stumbled across the secret
of the TARDIS - a craft of infinite size, capable of crossing the
dimensions of time and space, and housed in the impossible confines
of a battered old police telephone box.

Originally
unwilling fellow travellers, Ian and Barbara had grown fond of their
alien companions, as had the Doctor and Susan of them. And though at
times the two teachers -Barbara especially - thought longingly of
returning to their own planet, their journeys through time and space
still inspired in them a great pioneering spirit; what had started so
long ago as a mild curiosity in a junkyard had now turned into quite
an exciting adventure.

The Doctor applied
himself once more to the problem in hand. With an experience born of
countless journeys, his eyes dashed quickly over the dials and
digital displays on the console. Satisfied with the read-outs from
the TARDIS computer, he turned to his granddaughter. 'Open the doors,
Susan,' he commanded.

'You've checked
everything then, Doctor?' asked Ian.

'Of course I have,
Chesterton,' he replied peevishly. 'Plenty of oxygen and the
temperature's quite normal.'

'So there's just
the unknown then,' said Barbara.

'Precisely!'

Susan operated a
small control on the console. With a gentle hum the great double
doors opened. All four travellers felt the same thrill of
anticipation they always felt upon entering a new world. What would
lay waiting for them beyond the doors?

The police box
exterior of the TARDIS had materialised inside a long shadowy
corridor. But for the large circular doors which periodically
interrupted the ridged aluminium panelling of the walls, the
time-machine might just as easily have landed in an underground
tunnel: everywhere there was the same claustrophobic sense of doom
and menace. Indeed, the air seemed as stale and musty as the air of
any tunnel could. There was no sound to be heard.

'You were right,
Barbara,' said Ian; 'we have landed inside something.'

'It's a spaceship!'
exclaimed the Doctor triumphantly, satisfied now that the mystery of
the TARDIS's apparent motion had been explained. 'Close the doors,
Susan,' he said to his granddaughter, and then addressed his other
companions: 'Let us be careful: there seems to have been some sort of
catastrophe here.'

With the TARDIS
doors securely locked, the crew ventured cautiously down the
spacecraft's grey corridor. The design of the ship seemed to be
solely functional and was devoid of any decoration or colour. Whoever
the ship's crew might be, thought Barbara, they must be very dreary -
or extremely dedicated. But as she walked down the long passageway,
almost wading though the oppressive silence, she began to wonder if
the ship was inhabited at all; perhaps it had been abandoned years
ago, left to drift through all eternity like a Maty Celeste of space?

The Doctor had
considered it wise to keep to one corridor, rather than pursue any of
the connecting passageways or doors, and after some minutes the four
friends came upon what they took to be the spaceship's main flight
deck. Here the gloom was
dispersed somewhat by the illuminated screens set around the walls,
and the view of a bright yellow planet through the observation port.
Several banks of computers lined the walls and they chattered away
spasmodically to each other. But other than that the place was dead:
no movement, no life, nothing.

It was Ian who
first saw the two bodies. Rushing over to the man, he raised his head
from where it had slumped onto the control panel, and felt for a
pulse. Nothing. Shaking his head, he returned to the others, one
heavy word on his lips: 'Dead.'

'Look, this one's a
girl,' cried Susan, going over to the body at the navigation console.

Barbara quickly
joined her and, like Ian, checked for signs of life. 'I'm afraid
she's the same,' she sighed. 'What could have happened to them? I
can't see a wound or anything.'

'Suffocation,
Doctor?' ventured Ian.

'I never make
uninformed guesses, my friend,' said the Doctor, tapping his coat
lapels, 'but that's certainly one possibility.' He looked down at the
dead girl's face. Her fair hair was piled in disarray on top of her
head, but there was still a prim beauty about her. 'Such a great
tragedy. She's only a few years older than Susan.'

While her
companions had been examining the bodies, Susan had stood back,
feeling once again that strange sense of unease she had experienced
before in the TARDIS. It wasn't the fact that these two young
astronauts were dead; she had seen death before, in many gruesome
forms. But this was something different, inexplicable. It was as if a
thousand voices were shouting in her head, telling her to get off
this ship of dead men while she still had the chance. 'Grandfather,
let's get back to the TARDIS. Please . . .' Her voice trembled.

'Why, my child?'
asked the Doctor, looking up from the dead girl's face.

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