TV Club: The Sensorites

TV Club is taking a trip to the Sense-Sphere to meet it’s mysterious alien inhabitants and a stricken spaceship crew.

All six episodes are available to watch for free on BBC iPlayer:

And the story is available on DVD:

Don’t forget to add your rating out of 10:

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4 Likes

I gave this a 3/5. While I think the idea is interesting, and starts well, it just descends into a long, drawn out slog of a serial. It feels like a four-parter that was spread too thinly into six.

It only gets this high of a rating because the beginning is so strong.

4 Likes

Been a bit since I’ve seen this one, so struggling to remember many details, but I do remember it being one of my favorites of season 1. Probably 3rd place for the season, behind Edge of Destruction and Keys of Marinus. Remember it feeling really similar in a lot of ways to The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, which is another story that, while not a top-tier favorite or anything, I think has a lot going for it and gets a lot of undeserved hate. Also surprised to find while looking back to see how I rated it that it’s a 6-parter and not a 4-parter like I thought, because I don’t remember feeling like it was suffering from the kind of pacing issues that so many early stories do.

2 Likes

The slight tumbleweeds of this thread may say something about The Sensorites…

Once upon a time I was definitely of the opinion that this was the weakest of the season.

But when I rewatched it a couple of years back my two kids watched too and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Seen through their eyes I started to see the positives. The central mystery is actually a good one and the path to the solution is satisfying.

The concept of the Sensorites is actually quite cool even if some of the realisation (the silly feet mainly) lets it down. The fact that, in these early years, aliens weren’t always monsters is something to be celebrated because it adds nuance to the show which was possibly drowned out by the success of the Daleks and the attempts from then on to find ‘the next Daleks’ meaning that all the ‘monsters’ had to be ‘baddies’.

10 Likes

“Isn’t it a better thing to travel hopefully than to arrive?” - Susan.
I just love that quote!

The Sensorites is just undoubtedly Susan’s finest hour! Carole Ann Ford is actually given something tangible to do in this script, and she runs with it. Admittedly I find Susan quite grating a lot of the time, but here she is just awesome!

The story is really creepy from the beginning and that first cliffhanger is just fantastic, and I really wish they could have maintained that atmosphere throughout the entire story.

That the Sensorites can’t tell each other apart is a bit ridiculous, especially as there is quite a bit of difference on the different costumes. But for the audience the sashes makes perfect sense as a narrative device.

The script is fine and keeps the story moving along at all times, though admittedly this would probably work better as a four partner - candidate for the next colourisation project?

The Doctor doing actual science is always a good thing in my book :+1:

I have rated it at 3,5/5 :star:
That first season is just really good! :blush:

9 Likes

The DVD of this story has one of the ranges best VAMs - Looking for Peter:

(These are just clips - the feature itself is longer).

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This is the serial that got me into the Hartnell era, and I love it to death. The only thing I’d change about it is more Barbara :smile:

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I personally don’t really like the Sensorites too much. I don’t think the part when they are still on the ship is very interesting, meanwhile while I enjoy the part of the serial that isn’t set on the ship more I honestly feel like that whole thing goes on far too long and I would have probably enjoyed it a lot more if it had been shorter.

4 Likes

It’s pretty solid! I dreaded watching it, when I first get around to it and after watching it, admittedly I don’t understand why this story is really looked down so much, sure it might be perhaps one of the weaker ones in this Season for me but honestly, it’s really solid. I think the pacing is alright, I always love a good 6 Parter and while this by no means is a perfect one, it doesn’t really drag like some other stories do. The Cliffhangers we get here are fairly good, with the standout being the first one. The build in suspense in the first Episodes are stellar, seeing the Doctor doing actually Science is great and of course as many pointed out this is pretty much one of Susan’s finest hour we got in the Show. I do think some plot points around the end of the story just kinda come out of nowhere and while not a bad idea, they do kinda lack the fleshing out.
But overall not really bad, not a personal favorite but yet another strong outing for Season 1!

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For me, it’s okay but nothing special. It kinda takes a hard left turn halfway through that doesn’t quite work for me. I did find though, that the Target novelization improved the story.

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I thought the resolution of the story was a bit too fast paced but I really enjoyed Susan’s role in the story. The Sensorites themselves were interesting creatures and you can tell RTD got inspired by them when making the Ood. The Doctor was also great in this episode and its cool seeing the doctors first wardrobe change of the show. I do think this episode would have benefitted from being shorter. A 4 parter would have worked great like @ItsR0b0tNinja suggests. The highlight is definitely the cliffhanger of the first episode. It was amazing.
8.5/10

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I thought this one was fun, if perhaps a little long. Really enjoyed seeing Susan play a bigger part, she really shines in this story. The sensorites I find are an interesting concept too

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Delta do you work for the BBC because this is absolutely the sort of shit that’s gonna make me go out and buy The Sensorites on DVD.

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I’m to busy ‘working’ (by which I mean slave labour) for @shauny

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THE SENSORITES

Oh you thought it was just Audio Club that had to put up with my walls of text? YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY.

I wasn’t gonna start this today because it’s nearly 10pm already but I’m after smoking two bowls of that fake weed you can buy in shops here (whether by placebo or force of will it’s working nicely) and I felt a bit of nostalgic sadness. We lost William Russell today, and I think one of the only things Doctor Who fans can agree on is that the show would not have anywhere near the lasting success and impact were it not for Ian and Barbara. As we already lost Jacqueline Hill (and far too early at 63, in my opinion), now losing William Russell, despite his reaching 99, is doubly hard. So, with my slightly foggy brain craving some comfort, I swallowed two melatonin, curled up on the couch with River the beagle (yes she’s named after who you think she’s named after) and started it.

I have little reminiscences about The Sensorites - I’ve always sort of glazed over it in my re-watches. It’s one of those episodes that has always been on in the background because I just got finished with The Aztecs and I was too busy / drug addled to pay close attention; one day I will tell the story of how the Classic Who Twitch stream coincided with one of the single worst periods of addiction in my life, and the “drug addled” part will make sense to you a bit more. However, it does have a reputation as a bit of a dud in Season 1, so I didn’t go into it expecting much.

EPISODE 1 - “It all started with a minor curiosity in a junkyard…”

Funny that this absolutely iconic line comes from an episode that doesn’t seem to be fondly remembered. I think I actually loved this? There’s so much in it to enjoy.

Sadly, one of the first things to mention isn’t exactly enjoyable; you can already tell that Hartnell’s health is ailing; the show has a rigorous schedule that we all know about and the wear is starting to show in his performance. There are a few heavy fluffs in that opening scene in the TARDIS, and he seems low energy in general. To his credit as an actor, you can actively see him warming up as the episode goes along, and by the end he is rather an engaging, if almost enigmatic presence on screen. The sequence where he directs the entire crew on how to pilot the tumbling ship around the Sense-Sphere is electric viewing, striking forward comparisons to Capaldi’s precise, workmanlike yet elegant piloting of the TARDIS, a far cry from Eccleston and Tennant’s manic energy. We see The Doctor here not as a doddering old man, but an incredibly intelligent and astute one, rapidly able to identify the problem and solve it with very little stress, and it’s a great look for the character.

Speaking of great looks, the direction on this one is superb. The shot of the team exiting the TARDIS doors directly onto the bridge of the ship genuinely made my jaw drop - people talk about The Bells Of St John for the motorcycle one-shot, but how many people know that they’d already done it nearly sixty years earlier? On top of this, the blocking is dynamic; the director clearly understood levels, and any time four characters appear framed on screen together, it just is a treat to look at.

Of course, there are some drawbacks - although the set is used tremendously well for its small size, there are a couple of moments where the suspension of disbelief is strained rather heavily. Considering that we saw how short a walk it was from the TARDIS to the bridge, it seems inconceivable that none of them would have noticed a Sensorite coming in and burning away the lock. Ditto for the conversation between Maitland and Carol, which is clearly supposed to be very clandestine, something that’s rather undermined by Ian walking into shot where he had clearly been standing several feet away. What I’m saying is there’s some real Voord-Hiding going on in this one, but the strength of the direction in other aspects (even those interior TARDIS shots are from angles we haven’t seen before) makes up for it.

The premise and story is also at both turns interesting and terrifying. It’s not all perfect - The Doctor flip-flops between wanting to help and leaving them to their fate rather quickly with little motivation (although “There’s not an ounce of curiosity in me my boy…now tell me who’s attacking you!” got a laugh out of me as well as Barbara) and having the TARDIS lock stolen is such an obvious contrivance that it’s hard not to roll your eyes a little. By and large though, the script is great - the two astronauts embody a sort of stoic sadness, the worldbuilding about 28th century England being half one massive city is great (and predates Judge Dredd by quite some time) and the Sensorites are built up as a scary yet entirely mysterious villain. What do they want? Why are they here? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT AT THE WINDOW?

There’s also all the business with Barbara and Susan and John The Mindbothered; again, not all perfect. Why and how do these doors stop functioning? Is it John? Is it the Sensorites? Why push a filing cabinet in front of a door when the door itself is capable of closing? HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THE CABINET LABELLED WATER? That, however, is all made up for by giving Barbara one of the best Hero Moments she could have hoped for. After ten minutes of building John up as an absolute lunatic who’s liable to go all Sutcliffe on our poor heroines with a torque wrench, and another five of them sort of being menaced by him while he wanders around all wailing and distressed like the monsters in one of those horror games where you’ve got no gun, they finally have to confront him.

And Barbara, bless Barbara, the mother all of us wished that we had, sees that he is just afraid, So so tremendously afraid, more so than the both of them. So when she sees an opportunity, she extends her empathy, she holds him tenderly, talks him down and tells him it’s going to be alright. Don’t we all wish we could have Barbara hold us and tell us it’s going to be fine? I know I do, these days more than ever. It’s so powerful that even when the Sensorites make themselves known (Again, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT AT THE WINDOW) and you think maybe this is what will turn him into the threat he’s been painted as, he instead vows to protect Barbara and Susan. The power of love indeed.

Honorable mentions in this episode go to Ian’s Battle Turtleneck, which makes him look incredibly handsome, and I think the first canonical appearance of the Brainy Specs? Correct me if I’m wrong.

All in all, a really strong first episode, far stronger than I was expecting it to be. I doubt it’ll be able to hold its momentum, but I am seriously rooting for it here.

EPISODE 2 - “I don’t make threats, but I do keep promises!”

Mistakes were made. Fake weed and melatonin before a B+W Sixties Who episode, in bed? Recipe for a pleasant night time, but I actually meant to watch this. I managed to get through this one episode last night before the dreaming took me, so this morning I fired up another crafty bowl and went around again.

I don’t want to say this is all over the place. The core of the story so far is compelling, it’s just hampered by the execution. All the business with the doors just isn’t explained at all - Barbara goes through a whole rigmarole trying to find someone who can lock the doors for her, but when John The Mindbothered finally does it, it looks no different to the way they’ve been opening and closing the doors the whole time. That’s not even to mention that the door stays locked for all of fifteen seconds before the Sensorites use their Space Tennis Racquet to burn through the lock anyway. I don’t want to say padding is at play here, but I might end up doing it anyway.

Let’s talk about the Sensorites a second while we’re here; first of all, the cliffhanger is definitely a reshoot because instead of looming slowly up the window in the sinister, uncanny fashion that left me feeling all unnerved at the end of Episode 1, this time it reminded me more of the time I saw 30 Seconds To Mars in concert and Jared Leto was pushed up onto the stage by a raising platform. Entirely too fast, it just renders what was a scary moment into a much sillier one. It isn’t helped by the fact that the first thing we see of the Sensorites proper is their feet. WHAT ARE THOSE doesn’t even begin to cover it. Their feet look like someone has glued paper plates to the bottom of their legs and then just pulled leggings up over it. Also, one of them stands on the other one’s foot, which I’m sure there was much mental argument about. What actually stands out to me as successful however, are both their height (they managed to cast actors of basically the same height, which at least sort of helps you buy into the later idea that they can’t tell each other apart) and their eyes, which are just sunken black pits in their swollen, almost Xenomorph (Alien on the brain again Turn) heads. That’s the most uncanny part of them for me, as there’s no real humanity reflected in them. I was pleasantly surprised when this was also drawn to attention in the script, with The Doctor making a rather astute deduction about their ability to see in the dark. They’re also clearly triggered by loud noise, although he doesn’t mention that. The pull quote is from the moment he confronts the Sensorites, where William Hartnell’s long career portraying army sergeants and hard-men pays off. He squares up to them, pulls on his lapels, and very firmly tells them “I don’t make threats, but I do keep promises, and I promise to cause you a whole world of trouble if you don’t return my property.” He’s one step away from chinning one of the Sensorites and its magnetic.

The whole TARDIS team get a lot to do in this episode - Susan and Barbara are instrumental in the first defeat of the Sensorites, and Susan actually gets to be a Time Lord for once when she not only references a previous unseen adventure, but uses her mental abilities to help her and Barbara defy the Sensorites. Does she get a little peril-monkeyed later when the Sensorites start talking to her? Yes, but at least she has lines and an active participatory role in the plot, which isn’t often something we can say for Susan. Barbara also continues to show that she’s the real loving heart of the team, working to reassure John (who’s giving a very wild-eyed performance, chewing on the scenery slightly if we’re willing to admit it, but adding a very real sense of tension) and keep him onside. Then we have Ian, brooding and lumbering in his Battle Turtleneck, playing the great defender, menacing the Sensorites with a pipe wrench and generally just pacing about looking sexy. He also has a sybilant S, much like I do, which is nice (although you’d think that would be the sort of thing a 1950s drama school education would beat out of you, they were certainly bothering me about it in 2009). That scene with The Doctor where Ian is framed in the foreground, with The Doctor pacing behind over the shoulder is another example of the striking direction and efficient usage of the space. Same for the end of the episode, where again the four TARDIS team members are packed on screen, all at varying heights and poses. It’s a wonderful tableau.

Not all perfect of course - there’s a very clear moment where William Hartnell steps right on top of William Russell’s line, and the way his explanation of the high melting point of molybdenum sort of putters into nothing makes me think there were probably about three or four more lines in that speech that ended up just not happening. The way Susan asks Ian what the spectrograph is comes across as strange too, almost like the show remembered for a second that it was ostensibly supposed to be educational and then forgot it again just as quickly.

Not exactly mixed feelings about this one, I think the good in the episode slightly outweighs the bad, as the bad is mostly issues with execution and effects. Even though the door business annoys the hell out of me, I will freely admit that every time one of them opens (even if the karate chop gesture needed to do it is SO silly) I find myself going “Wow, how did that open?”, which I think in the context of Sixties Who has to be deemed something of a success.

Oh god this is a six parter. Well, I’ll post this first two episodes now just in case I bump into a post limit.

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EPISODE 3 - “Sometimes no opinion is worse than a very dogmatic one.”

I certainly don’t have no opinion about Episode 3. My opinion, actually, for the first ten minutes or so, was that we have all been talking nonsense about The Sensorites, and that this really deserves to be a cult classic. The way they make use of the limited space of the ship set is clever and efficient, and every shot in there has a sense of urgency. The acting performances are all very good too, and I have to give special mention to the work that William Hartnell and Carole-Ann Ford put in in the first third of this episode.

Susan and The Doctor’s discussion about whether she can go with the Sensorites or not, preceded by a nail-bitingly tense scene where they basically prevent her from going, is a bit of characterization that I don’t think a lot of people would attribute to Classic Who, especially not the 1st Doctor or Susan. Hartnell is especially good here; any cobwebs from the start of the episode are blown off, and he’s a force of nature here, nearly bubbling over with impetuous violence that softens slowly into the worry of a grandfather. There’s obviously the slowly developing sub-plot about Susan maturing and growing away from The Doctor, although when you consider that she’s never written consistently across the series, it doesn’t hold as much weight as today’s character arcs (although, well, Ruby Sunday? Does she have more compelling features than Susan, really?).

Not to harp on it either; a lot of people think that 12 was most heavily influenced by 3, but there’s a lot of Capaldi’s take on the Doctor in this episode, especially in those first scenes. He even tells Barbara AND Susan both separately at points to “Do as you are told!”, which if that reference wasn’t intentional, is still one of those DiCaprio pointing moments for me. Capaldi has definitely been the most Grandfatherly Doctor since 1 (and not for nothing is there a photograph of Susan on his desk at the University).

There’s also the poor space crew, who all put in solid performances. The small scene in John’s room, with the darkened light shadowing all of their eyes, the clear sadness and tension that they all feel. Their situation is horrible, when you consider it, and for once we’re not being shown stiff upper lip Brits in space. These people are clearly being traumatized by this situation, and it shows, even if Carole’s completely pristine beehive hairdo is a little suspect.

And then.
And then the Sensorites start talking.
And then we get to the Sense Sphere.

And I begin to realize why this episode is not held up as a classic of paranoid space drama. Because when we get to the Sense Sphere, any conception of the Sensorites as an inscrutable race of telepaths capable of driving humans mad to protect their own interests is thrown out of the window in favor of a race of grey bureaucrats in ill-fitting jumpsuits. There’s a whole caste system at play, not to mention the story of the five previous humans who turned up for the molybdenum, so now our story about three people trapped in awful circumstance has become a story about society and colonialism and capitalism, very rapidly, and without a tremendous amount of skill.

Of course there’s the [EXPLETIVE REDACTED] disintegrator. If I was reluctant to accuse the door business of the first two episodes as padding, I have no such fear here; watching the City Administrator and his lackey slowly program the weirdest looking weapon I’ve ever seen, complete with unwieldy firing key (sure that won’t turn up later) turned me around on this episode so fast. It doesn’t help that all the Sensorite dialog is muffled by their very strange facial hair, either.

And the WATER. I’ve been dying to talk to you about the water. I hate it when the episode I’m watching undermines something I’ve said already with my chest, because up until this point, The Doctor has proved to be very shrewd; working out the Sensorites’ weakness, using the watches of the space-people to determine their time of death, even recognising that letting the Sensorites take Susan was playing too far into their hands. The Doctor has been doing a lot this serial so far to show us where his strengths lie, but we’re also supposed to believe that he wouldn’t solve this mystery immediately?

I’m sure I might be suffering from “Seen This Before Syndrome”, but if Ian was the only one who drank the Dasani water when all the Elders are drinking Fiji, and then Ian gets sick, and none of the Elders have gotten sick yet? Come on Doctor, put two and two together. Anyway, he doesn’t, and Ian has a big old drink before immediately going into anaphylactic shock like that kid at school who can’t eat peanuts, and the First Elder proclaims he’s screwed and he’s gonna die.

I could be ready to eat my words - I don’t remember how quickly the Doctor works the issue out, but I’m willing to bet that it’s gonna take a full episode of Ian being in grave danger before we get there. The wheels are beginning to fall off, folks.

There are three more episodes left of this, and I know that so much of it is going to be tied up in Sensorite politics, but I’m good, I’m gonna power through. I won’t go back on my word though, the first two and a half episodes of this are just as good as anything Doctor Who was doing in its first season. Someone has already mentioned upthread that six episodes was probably too long for this, and on my way into Episode 4, I think I’m inclined to agree.

EPISODE 4 - MONTAGE TIME!

You know what, I think we’ve all been talking shit about The Sensorites. After the dready disintegrator scene in Episode 3, I was fully prepared for this episode to be nothing but talking and lengthy technical sequences. I was definitely prepared for them to take an unrealistically long time to figure out that it was clearly the water doing the poisoning. How nice to be wrong on both counts!

Ian is dying, and very quickly (although still perhaps not quickly enough but it is television, we have to have some tension) The Doctor figures out that the aquaduct water has been poisoned in some way. After a bit of back and forth with the First Elder about getting the TARDIS back (involving some tremendous Hartnell shouting; in a weird way his yelling even after he’s been told it hurts the Sensorites has some future echoes of 15 sort of intentionally but not antagonizing the Space Babies. Also of course, in this very grandfatherly episode, the parallels with Capaldi get stronger and stronger) and feeding Ian a bunch of salt-water to make him puke (classic 1960s medicine there), we’re treated to a montage SO silly that it spins from bad to camp almost the second you see the piece of paper with all the districts written out in eloquent cursive. Throw in a few shots of The Doctor muddling about with test tubes in the Brainy Specs, and a couple more of Ian flailing around on the bed, and you’ve got yourself a medical montage, baby! Is this the first montage in Doctor Who? Perhaps one of the first montages full stop? I doubt it, but it seems both very quaint and strikingly modern for 1964.

Speaking of modern, very brief shout out to the scene in the aquaduct with The Doctor sort of looming in the background between the pipes, framed very well as an impish figure as the scientist talks about the monsters. His little laugh and the twinkle of delight in his eyes when he understands that there is more to this mystery than just the cure is such a Doctor moment. After a shaky start (and there are still a lot of flubs on show in this serial), Hartnell is coming out of this with a really enjoyable performance as The Doctor. He’s also got a lot to do in the script - everyone does really, apart from Barbara who’s on holiday this week, as is tradition to have someone piss off to Weston Super-Mare for a week in the middle of a six-parter.

John and Carole sort of fall by the wayside this episode too, although we’re treated to some really good shots of John in the sort of mad-scientist helmet contraption that could only be designed in the mid 60s - he looks like a novelty ice cream trapped in the final scene of A Clockwork Orange. John is beginning to wear on me a little bit, which is I think one of an actor’s problems when you start your performance at an 8 or a 9 like John did in these first episodes; he doesn’t really have anywhere to go, and I’m starting to get a little bored with him just mumbling “Evil…eeeevil” whenever he’s onscreen.

Speaking of evil, let’s talk about the City Administrator. I will admit that I let out an internal groan when Carole mentions that she wouldn’t be able to tell them apart without the sashes, and you can almost see the lightbulb go off over the top of his head. It’s far from subtle acting, but then, how subtle can you be when you’re dressed like a Sensorite and have no discernible facial features? It’s forgiven, I suppose. What’s less forgiven is the moment that the City Administrator’s plan pays off, he is recognised as the Second Elder, and literally a second after the person they have deceived has wandered off, his lackey says “SUCCESS!” in the loudest possible stage whisper he can. I was half expecting the Sensorite scientist to turn around and say “I beg your pardon? Success at what?” However, as the episode goes on, I started to warm to the Administrator as a villain, because he’s in the classic “Power Hungry Idiot” mould and despite the limitations of his costuming, he chews some scenery like a good Power Hungry Idiot ought to, ending the episode claiming bombastically that “SUCCESS FOR ALL MY PLANS IS NEAR.” Eat your heart out, Underwater Menace.

But yet there’s more! Two more episodes to go, and I have a vague memory of humans living in the aquaducts, but I cannot for the life of me remember what the source of the terrifying monster scream that menaces poor Bill Hartnell at the end is. I have been incredibly surprised at how much I’m enjoying this on a rewatch so far, but also with its reputation, I am waiting for the moment that it fumbles the bag. Maybe it won’t, and it will just remain an above average episode of Doctor Who, but so far I do think it deserves a kinder eye than the one it got.

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I’m not a huge fan of this story. It’s a bit too long and has several good elements, but it’s not one that I generally feel the need to rewatch. I give it a 6.2/10.

This is a weird story in the sense that the first two episodes are completely different from the remaining four. Part One is a tense and exciting thriller mystery inside a cramped spaceship and one of the best single episodes within the First Doctor’s era; it’s a near-perfect mix of acting, music, sound design, direction, and camera work. The opening episode is a base-under-siege prototype that would work just as well with, say, the Second or Tenth Doctors.

I love how the characters take some time to reminisce about their previous adventures, including ones that we haven’t heard about before or since.

The Part 1 cliffhanger is another classic one. I’m sure it terrified thousands of kids back in the day!

Part 3 is where the narrative decline begins, as we enter the Sense Sphere and begin following the talkative and identical Sensorites in their everyday duties.

The latter half of the adventure is very repetitive and struggles to find a satisfying path towards a climax, so much so that the eventual twist in Part 6 just kind of comes and goes with little impact. Peter R. Newman butchered that climax by building up to nothing and then hurriedly wrapping everything up.

Parts 4 to 6 are filled with padding, an uninteresting medical mystery, and the Sensorites plotting and scheming for the sake of it but never actually doing anything even remotely threatening. Unfortunately, the focus on the titular race in the latter half of The Sensorites results in a lack of inspiration and a significant loss of narrative momentum.

The writing in Parts 4 and 5 seems to make a few too convenient and contrived solutions to create artificial tension, and the way the City Administrator’s idiotic plan seems to work by itself is simply stupid.

This serial begins the process of Susan gradually becoming independent of the Doctor, a development that the latter finds difficult to accept. This is causing great strain between the two central characters.

Newman decided to give Susan some character development and make her more useful rather than annoying, but unfortunately, this trend did not continue until her departure just a few stories later. Carole Ann Ford seems to relish this recent development and offers a fine performance.

The Doctor once again takes the lead (despite claiming he doesn’t want to), and he truly feels like the Doctor we know and love. This story also allows him to do some investigating on his own for once. William Hartnell is on fire in the first two episodes; he is eager, funny, valiant, stubborn, and defiant, and he puts in one of his best performances on the show.

Yay for a “the Doctor doing science” montage!

The guest cast in the first two episodes is great, particularly Stephen Dartnell’s John. It’s unfortunate that they lose their opportunity to shine after Part 2.

The Sensorites are a fairly good concept and a nice idea for a more intelligent and less aggressive alien race; they also make for a perfectly creepy threat during the first half of the serial, but they gradually lose their charm and creepy factor as the serial progresses.

The presentation of the Sensorites as highly telepathic aliens is somewhat troubling because they appear to communicate normally with everyone, including each other.

The Sensorite actors flub their lines so frequently that they give Hartnell a run for his money!

Peter Glaze, in his role as the City Administrator, embodies a pantomime villain, characterised by his peculiar, raspy voice and excessively theatrical sentiments. His grand plan is flawed since there are bigger variations between the different Sensorites than what the story tries to make us believe (such as their voices and body shapes differing).

The Sensorite masks look creepy enough, and the spaceship set is nice, so it’s slightly disappointing to see the Sense Sphere look so boring.

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Have to love the fact that - of all the monsters from the Hartnell era, they chose the Voord and the Sensorites to make action figures from!

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There are things that I like about this story, composition wise. A six part serial with a 2+4 format, a window into an alien society, and telepathy among them. On paper, it seems like this is a serial that I expected to enjoy.

But I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected I would. I mean, I didn’t hate it, but it did feel like somewhat of a slog to get through. I enjoyed the Sensorites as an alien race, and felt sympathy with the visual and auditory distress they experienced throughout the serial.
I enjoy that Susan gets a time to shine, though. This serial’s take on a coming of age tale, with Susan asserting some independence from the Doctor was definitely one of the highlights. I wish Susan could have gotten more stories like this.

Perhaps this was a classic case of trying to do too much in too little time. Or too little in too much time. It seems like Doctor Who stories have a tendency to run into one or the other.

If this story did not include story elements that I enjoyed, it would have probably received a 2/5 or 2.5/5. But since it is not every day that Susan gets to show off cool telepathic powers, a 3/5 it will have to be.

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Don’t know why (probably nostalgia) but I love the art and colour choices for the Target novelisation of this cover:

Sensorites_target118

Also, I’ve spotted the narrated soundtrack of this story is narrated by William Russell and has a bonus interview with him. Might be my next listen:

9781405666817-jacket-large

And there’s so much lovely artwork for this story. This is the vinyl release:

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