Doctor Who The Sensorites
The penultimate serial in the first season of Doctor Who, The
Sensorites is something of an anomaly. It
doesn't have the excitement associated
with the first stories, a big name writer associated with it, or even
location like the previous story, The
Aztecs. A more sedate adventure,
this serial is often overlooked by fans and as Toby Hodoke notes in one
extras, it didn't even have the decency to be wiped by the BBC so we
sit around and bemoan how great it must have been.
Now that it's been released on DVD in region
one, how does it measure up? Pretty well
actually. While it's not an undiscovered
masterpiece, there are some excellent elements that make this solid
well worth watching.
When the TARDIS materializes, Susan, Barbara, Ian, and the
Doctor find themselves inside another spaceship. They
discover the crew slumped over the
controls and quickly determine that there are no signs of life and that
dead... only to be surprised when they start to groan and wake up.
It turns out that the Captain, Maitland, and his first
office, Carol Richmond, had their physical processes slowed to
levels by the Sensorites, the being who inhabit the planet they're
as the Sense-Sphere. The Senorites have
been controlling their minds ever since the ship's geologist and
John, became excited about something he'd discovered.
A discovery that drove him crazy. He
now wanders the ship, raving.
Realizing that new travelers are on the ship in orbit, the
Senorites sneak about the vessel and steal the lock to the TARDIS,
anyone including The Doctor from opening the door.
Trapped, they have no recourse but to help
the crew and figure out both why the Sensorites have locked the ship in
and how to get them to release it.
The travelers are aided in their quest quite a bit by The
Doctor's granddaughter, Susan. It's
revealed that she has enhances psychic abilities and can communicate
telepathically with the Sensorites. Once
communication has been established, The Doctor, Susan, and Ian travel
the Sense-Sphere along with John and help the Sensorites out with a
couple of problems
of their own, including stopping a group of terrorists and ferreting
Seen today, this seems like a pretty standard story.
The travelers have to help the people they
encounter because they can't access the TARDIS.
How many times have we seen that?
Not all that many, at least not when this story first aired. Yes that plot device does get tired and
over-used quickly, but during this first season you really couldn't say
The story itself was well constructed too. Many
six-part adventures seem drawn out, but
this one feels more like two stories that were welded together
seamlessly. The first couple of episodes
take place on
the spaceship and deal with the mystery of the Sensorites themselves. After that, the narrative switches to the
planet's surface where a whole new set of problems crop up (the
dying of a mysterious illness while members of the government are
against The Doctor and his companions who are only trying to help.) This works well and keeps the action flowing
The set designs, especially those of the spaceship, were
very good and well thought out. The ship
wasn't a gleaming steal and glass structure, but it had a grimy, old,
claustrophobic feel to it. The large round
doors were a nice touch too, the whole effect served to set this ship
from most of the other spaceships of that time.
Susan's expanded role was another nice aspect of this
serial. She played a pivotal role rather
than being a hostage or someone to say "what do you mean grandfather?" So, why isn't this adventure more fondly
remembered? The main reason is that
there's nothing special about the aliens or the situation.
While the first couple of episodes were
mysterious and to a large extent unique, after they go to the
story becomes very pedestrian. It could
even been set on Earth for that matter.
The only unique ability the Senorites have is that they can
via telepathy, something that they do rarely, and it's only about as
having a walkie-talkie. The other
elements of the tale have nothing fantastic or alien at all. Even the Senorites weakness of loud noises
doesn't really come into play. A few
times they cringe when The Docotr raises his voice, but they frequently
each other. With just a little bit of
tweaking, a few more other-worldly aspects, and this could have been a
This six-part adventure comes on a single DVD.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The full frame B&W image is impressive. The Restoration Team
excellent job, really making the most of the 16mm prints that they had
with. The image is nicely balanced and the definition and level
is very good. The contrast has been adjusted too to create a very
image. The blacks are deep and inky and the whites are solid
blooming. This is an excellent looking
This disc is a bit light on bonus features, but the items included are
generally very good. First off is a
commentary track hosted by Toby Hadoke featuring (on various episodes)
cast members Carole Ann Ford and William Russell along with actors Joe
Martyn Huntley and Giles Phipps, designer Raymond Cusick, make-up
Sonia Markham, and the director of episodes five and six, Frank Cox. It's a lively group and Hadoke keeps the
discussion moving for the most part.
Naturally, it's hard to recall a lot of details after all these
but there are some interesting tidbits revealed. It
was interesting to hear Carol Ann Ford,
for example, discuss what it was like to play a teenager as an adult.
The video extras start off with
a very nice piece, Looking for Peter. In
this 21 minute featurette, Tony Hadoke goes in search of the mysterious
of The Sensorites, Peter R. Newman. With
only two writing credits to his name, and an equal number of years
cited as to
when he died, Hadoke has his work cut out for him.
I started out thinking that this was a fluff
piece they threw together to fill up the disc, but as it went on I
engrossed in the mystery. It ended up
being a very touching tribute. Well
The video section is rounded
off with Vision On, a short look
at what a vision mixer does, and Secret
Voices of the Sense-Sphere, a 2-minute clip explaining the odd
audible) sounds that occur in the background of one scene.
In addition there is a pop-up
informational text option which is very informative as
does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each
there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were
background information on the supporting characters. The extras
rounded off with, a couple of photo galleries, and the listings from
Times in .pdf format.
This was a good adventure, with some great sets (especially for the
of the show), a nicely expanded role for Susan, and a structure that
six episodes just humming along. It's
just too bad that the plot wasn't a bit more unique. Even so, it's an
story that fans of early Doctor Who should seek out. Recommended.