The Sensorites

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007 – The Sensorites
Doctor Who serial
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Peter R. Newman
Director Mervyn Pinfield (episodes 1-4)
Frank Cox (episodes 5,6)
Script editor David Whitaker
Producer Verity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Norman Kay
Production code G
Series Season 1
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 20 June 1964
Date ended 1 August 1964
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Aztecs The Reign of Terror

The Sensorites is the seventh serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 20 June to 1 August 1964. The story is notable for its demonstration of Susan's telepathy and references to the Doctor's and her home planet.

Plot[edit]

The TARDIS travellers land on a moving spaceship and find the crew apparently dead. However, one of the crew members, Captain Maitland, regains consciousness and Ian Chesterton fully revives him and another woman, Carol Richmond. These two tell the travellers that they are on an exploration mission from Earth and are orbiting Sense-Sphere. However, its inhabitants, the Sensorites, refuse to let them leave the orbit. The Sensorites visit and stop the travellers from leaving, while sending them on a collision course, which the Doctor diverts. The travellers then meet John (whose mind has been broken by the Sensorites) and find out that he is Carol's fiancé.

Returning to plague the crew, the Sensorites freeze Carol and Maitland once more. The Doctor breaks Maitland's mental conditioning, but cannot help John. Susan's telepathic mind is flooded with the many voices of the Sensorites who remain scared of the humans and are trying to communicate with her. Meanwhile, The Doctor works out that the Sensorites attacked the human craft because John, a mineralogist, had discovered a vast supply of molybdenum on Sense-Sphere. Susan reports that the Sensorites want to make contact with travellers, asking the crew to go aboard Sense-sphere and reveal that a previous Earth expedition caused them great misery. The Doctor refuses but Susan, under duress, agrees and begins to leave the ship.

The Doctor deduces that the Sensorites need plenty of light, so Ian reduces the lighting on the ship, rendering the Sensorites helpless and rescuing Susan. The Doctor then asks the Sensorites to return his lock and is invited to go to Sense-Sphere to speak with the leader. Susan, Ian, Carol and John join him while Barbara and Maitland stay behind. John is promised that his condition will be reversed. On their journey to Sense-Sphere, the party learn that the previous visitors from Earth exploited Sense-Sphere for its wealth, then argued. Half of them stole the spacecraft, which exploded on take-off.

The Sensorite Council is divided over the issue of inviting the party to Sense-Sphere: some of the councillors plot to kill them on arrival, but some believe that the humans can help with the disease that is currently killing many Sensorites. Their first plot is foiled by the other Sensorites, but they continue to plot in secret. The humans are not told of the first plot, and John and Carol are cured. In the main conference room, Ian starts coughing violently and collapses. Suffering from the disease that has blighted the Sensorites, he is told that he will soon die.

It turns out that he was actually poisoned by drinking water from the general aqueduct. The Doctor finds the problematic aqueduct and starts work with the Sensorite scientists. The plotting Sensorites capture and then impersonate a Sensorite leader, the Second Elder and steal the new cure, before it is given to Ian, but a new one is made easily and Ian is cured.

Meanwhile, investigating the aqueduct, the Doctor finds strange noises and darkness. He finds and removes deadly nightshade (the cause of the poisoning), but on going back, meets an unseen monster. Susan and Ian find him unconscious with a ripped coat, but otherwise unharmed. On being recovered, he tells of his suspicion that some Sensorites are plotting to kill them. The plotting Sensorites kill the Second Elder and one of them replaces him in his position.

John tells the others that he knows the lead plotter, but he is now too powerful, so the Doctor and Ian go down to the aqueduct to find the poisoners. Their weapons and map were tampered with and are useless.

Elsewhere, a mysterious assailant abducts Carol and forces her to write saying she has left for the ship. Neither Susan, John or Barbara believe this so they go to investigate and find her imprisoned. Susan, John and Barbara overpower the guard and release Carol. On finding out about the tampered tools, they go into the aqueduct to rescue the Doctor and Ian. The leader discovers the plotters a little while later.

Ian and the Doctor discover that the monsters were actually the survivors of the previous Earth mission, and they had been poisoning the Sensorites. Their deranged Commander leads them to the surface, where they are arrested by the Sensorites. The Doctor and his party return to the city, pleading clemency for the poisoners. The leader of the Sensorites agrees and sends them back with Maitland, John and Carol to Earth, for treatment for madness.

Continuity[edit]

In the opening scene of episode 1, the characters relate back the adventures they've had since joining the Doctor. "It all started out as a mild curiosity in a junk yard" and "taken us back to prehistoric times (An Unearthly Child), The Daleks, Marco Polo, Marinus (The Keys of Marinus), and The Aztecs". Susan's description of her home planet as having a burnt orange sky and silver leaved trees in episode 6 is echoed by a similar description of the planet by the Tenth Doctor to Martha Jones in "Gridlock". It also bears similarities to the description given by the Eighth Doctor to Grace in the 1996 telemovie.

The Doctor refers to himself as human in episode 2.[1] One of the creatures in the episode Kidnap attacks the Doctor, and he states later that it attacked him under his heart - suggesting that he has only one heart. The Doctor's having two hearts did not appear in the series until much later (Spearhead from Space).

This episode is known for Susan's use of telepathy. The earlier conception of Susan's character spun her as a less ordinary girl who had unusual abilities, of which Susan's ability in this story may been seen as one of the few remnants. At the end of the story, Susan loses her telepathy because according to the Sensorites, the Sense Sphere "has an extraordinary number of ultra-high frequencies, so I won't be able to go on using thought transference." However, the Doctor says that she has a gift and "when we get home to our own place, I think we should try to perfect it." Later stories and the spin-off media have more explicitly clarified that Time Lords have limited telepathic abilities. Susan's experiences here carry over into the Big Finish Productions audio story Transit of Venus. It takes place directly after this story, despite the fact that the ending of The Sensorites seems to lead directly into The Reign of Terror. However, this inconsistency is explained in the audio play.

In the Doctor Who Confidential episode, You've Got the Look (released to accompany "The Impossible Planet"), Russell T Davies said that he wanted the Ood to resemble the Sensorites, and that he likes to think they come from a planet near the Sense-Sphere. This was later confirmed in the Tenth Doctor episode "Planet of the Ood", in which the Doctor visits the Ood's homeworld (the Ood-Sphere) and mentions that he once visited the Sense-Sphere in the same system.

Production[edit]

Jacqueline Hill does not appear in episodes 4 and 5, though she was still credited on-screen.

Designer Raymond Cusick avoided the use of straight lines and right angles in his sets for the Sense Sphere, in a deliberate contrast to the "alien" buildings of other stories.[2]

Peter R Newman based the story on time he spent in a Japanese POW Camp in World War II.[citation needed]

Cast notes[edit]

Stephen Dartnell appears as John. He had previously appeared as Yartek in The Keys of Marinus. John Bailey, who plays the Commander, returned to the series to play Edward Waterfield in The Evil of the Daleks and Sezom in The Horns of Nimon.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Strangers in Space" 20 June 1964 (1964-06-20) 24:46 7.9 16mm t/r
"The Unwilling Warriors" 27 June 1964 (1964-06-27) 24:44 6.9 16mm t/r
"Hidden Danger" 11 July 1964 (1964-07-11) 24:53 7.4 16mm t/r
"A Race Against Death" 18 July 1964 (1964-07-18) 24:49 5.5 16mm t/r
"Kidnap" 25 July 1964 (1964-07-25) 25:47 6.9 16mm t/r
"A Desperate Venture" 1 August 1964 (1964-08-01) 24:29 6.9 16mm t/r
[3][4][5]

The third episode was postponed by one week following the overrun of sports programme Grandstand due to extended coverage of the Wimbledon tennis championships and the third Ashes Test match on 4 July 1964.[6][7]

In 2008, Radio Times reviewer Mark Braxton wrote that the Sensorites were "a triumph of realisation, in their appearance ... and in their hierarchy, culture and customs" but felt they were developed to the detriment of the humans, despite Stephan Dartnell's "upsettingly good as the psychologically damaged John". Despite this, he noted that it was a good story for the Doctor and Susan.[8] IGN's Arnold T. Blumburg gave the serial a score of 7 out of 10, writing that "the story builds some nice suspense in the first two episodes and features some great set design and lighting, as well as a willingness to fall almost entirely silent and let the slow burn roll" and that later on, the Sensorites were "rather appropriately portrayed in shades of gray" instead of black and white monsters like the Daleks.[9] Nick Setchfield of SFX gave The Sensorites three out of five stars, feeling that the story was "ambitious" and the slow pace "actually works in episode one's favour", though the Sensorites' "chill-factor" was gone after the first episode.[10] DVD Talk's John Sinnott also gave the serial a score of three out of five stars, writing that the story structure was "well constructed" with impressive set design and an expanded role for Susan. However, he felt that the story was not remembered that fondly because there was "nothing special about the aliens or the situation".[11]

Commercial Releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
The Sensorites
Series Target novelisations
Release number 118
Writer Nigel Robinson
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Nick Spender
ISBN 0-491-03455-5
Release date

February 1987 (Hardback)

16 July 1987 (Paperback)

The serial was novelised for Target Books by Nigel Robinson in February 1987 as Doctor Who: The Sensorites. In May 2012 the novel was released as an unabridged audiobook, read by William Russell.[12]

Home media[edit]

A restored and VidFIREd version of this story was released on VHS in November 2002. In July 2008, the original soundtrack was released on CD in the UK, with linking narration provided by William Russell.[13] The Sensorites was released on DVD in the UK on 23 January 2012.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "It's a fallacy, of course, that cats can see in the dark. They can't, but they can see better than we humans." Ep. 2, "The Unwilling Warriors", at 22:02.
  2. ^ Howe, Stammers & Walker 1994, p. 76
  3. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Sensorites". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ "The Sensorites". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2008-06-23). "The Sensorites". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1994). Doctor Who The Handbook - The First Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 75. ISBN 0-426-20430-1. 
  7. ^ Frindall, Bill (1995). The Wisden Book of Test Cricket, volume I: 1877-1977. London: Headline. p. 565. ISBN 0-7472-1117-5. 
  8. ^ Braxton, Mark (7 October 2008). "Doctor Who: The Sensorites". Radio Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Blumburg, Arnold T (6 March 2012). "Doctor Who: The Sensorites DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Setchfield, Nick (20 January 2012). "Doctor Who: The Sensorites DVD Review". SFX. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Sinnott, John (20 February 2012). "Doctor Who: The Sensorites". Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  12. ^ "Doctor Who: The Sensorites (Classic Novel)". AudioGo. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Doctor Who: The Sensorites". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  14. ^ "DVD Schedule Update". Doctor Who News. 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]