The SensoritesBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 16 January 2007 - Reviewed by Eddy Wolverson

“The Sensorites” is a story that in many ways encapsulates the show’s first season. Personally, I don’t find that it stands up as well today as some of the other early serials do, but there is still a lot to like about Peter R. Newman’s six-parter and, more to the point, it showcases many of the classic devices that made the series so successful. First off, the story has ambition. Verity Lambert and her production team weren’t afraid of landing the TARDIS on the deck of a 28th century spaceship no matter what constraints they had in terms of money or time. I mean just look at the Sensorites! They might not look much in the face of modern prosthetics and make-up techniques but for 1964, they are an absolutely phenomenal visual achievement - according to Russell T. Davies, their strange, uniform appearance inspired the Ood over forty years later!! They are also an interesting race in terms of their motives and their actions. The evil Sensorite who becomes the Second Elder is a wonderful Doctor Who baddie – he’s just so evil! It’s wonderful to see him interact with the ‘goodie’ Sensorites who are reasonable and want peace. It’s a wonderful Doctor Who device that would appear time and again in classic stories like “Doctor Who and the Silurians” but you saw it here first!

Moreover, “The Sensorites” isn’t chained to one location. We are taken from the spaceship to the Sense-Sphere, the Sensorites’ unique home, which breaks up the six episodes wonderfully. It’s a trick that later production teams would use on their six-parters – serials like “The Time Monster”, “The Seeds of Doom” and “The Invasion of Time” all have the four episode / two episode divide to help maintain the pace. Once again, it dates right back to here.

This story also sees William Hartnell at his absolute best in the role. He is confident, brilliant and forceful. Unusually, this serial also sees Hartnell have to do a bit more emotionally. “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” aside, the tension between Susan and the Doctor has never been higher than in this story. She’s growing up, and he doesn’t like it. There’s also a lovely symmetry in how the Doctor feels at the beginning of the story, and how he feels at it’s conclusion. In “Strangers In Space” he takes the time to comment on how all the crew have become good friends, and then by the end of “A Desperate Venture” he has decided to put Ian and Barbara off the ship! Fantastic!

In fairness, “The Sensorites” isn’t a particularly good story, nor is it one that stands up all that well under modern scrutiny. I like it because it sums up those early, pioneering Doctor Who serials so wonderfully; in those days they weren't scared of anything, they just did their best with a few quid, a cramped studio, some wonderful actors and a bucketful of imagination. As I’m writing this nearly forty years later they must have been doing something right.