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Doctor Who Original Series 07 - The Sensorites

1.31 The Sensorites Pt. 1 - Strangers in Space Written by Peter R. Newman, Directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The TARDIS lands on a ship where the crew appear dead.

The first episode is amazingly good. The mystery and the creepiness of the Sensorites pervades the episode - everyone plays it straight, are obviously scared - and it seems the aliens can do whatever they wish to the ship and it's crew. The cliffhanger, while simple, is wonderfully strange and eerie. Probably the only real problem for me is that I found the acting of Lorne Cossette, who plays Maitland, to be a bit weak.


"Now now now, don't be absurd. There's not an ounce of curiousity in me, my dear boy. Tell me, why are you in danger?" - William Hartnell (Doctor Who)

1.32 The Sensorites Pt. 2 - The Unwilling Warriors Written by Peter R. Newman, Directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The Sensorites make their presence known.

The air of menace is still there, but lessened somewhat now that we actually get a good look at the Sensorites, who seem fairly slow moving and harmless. But we now gain more understanding as to the reasons for their actions. The other thing that removes some of their menace is the Doctor's own confidence - he's absolutely certain he can beat them, as are Ian and Barbara - which means the audience have no doubts either.

There is some nice humour in this episode, coming from the Doctor's belief in his own abilities. He's quite wonderfully smug.


"I don't make threats, but I do keep promises. And I promise you, I shall cause you more trouble than you bargained for, if you don't return my property!" - William Hartnell (Doctor Who)

1.33 The Sensorites Pt. 3 - Hidden Danger Written by Peter R. Newman, Directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The Doctor, Susan, Ian, and two of the spaceship crew go down to the sensesphere.

The Sensorites suffer in this episode. When the 'bad guys' are afraid of the dark, it really does remove their oomph. And once we reach the planet, the political macinations of the City Administrator are pretty ordinary. Of note is Susan, trying to stretch herself and make her own decisions, even if it brings her into conflict with her grandfather.


"I'm not a child anymore grandfather, I'm not." - Carole Ann Ford (Susan)

1.34 The Sensorites Pt. 4 - A Race Against Death Written by Peter R. Newman, Directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The Doctor tries to find a cure for Ian and the Sensorites.

Most of this episode is about the search for a cure and the xenophobic City Administrator's plans, and as such feels rather slow.


"They say, without the antidote, the yound man will die. I say he will live because he is pretending. This will prove it, one way or the other." - Peter Glaze (City Administrator)

1.35 The Sensorites Pt. 5 - Kidnap Written by Peter R. Newman, Directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The plotting of the City Administrator continues, and he is made Second Elder.

While a few important things happen this episode, John being cured, the Administrator's promotion, and the kidnap of the title, it's still more of a filler episode before the finale.


"Now, not only will they go down into the aqeduct with useless armaments, but they will be hopelessly lost as well." - Peter Glaze (City Administrator)

1.36 The Sensorites Pt. 6 - A Desperate Venture Written by Peter R. Newman, Directed by Mervyn Pinfield

The Doctor and Ian discover the cause of the Sensorites illness.

A strong finish for a story that meandered along at times rather slowly. For the day, the bad guys were an interesting twist on the norm.


"It's ages since we've seen our planet. It's quite like Earth, but at night the sky is a burnt orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver." - Carole Ann Ford (Susan)

The Sensorites 6.3

Sensorites has trouble carrying its story for six episodes. At times it doesn't so much run on the spot as dawdle and twiddle its thumbs, and this hurts what is otherwise a rather good idea. The opening couple of episodes build a palpable menace that, once we realise just how timid the Sensorites are, guts the drama from the rest of the story. It's fine for the Sensorites to be timid and gentle, and even for them to be scared of loud noise and the dark, but then when you try to have an evil one, it's kind of hard to take seriously.

I suppose that's the other problem. The scheming City Administrator just doesn't match what we've seen. Certainly the leader of their society hasn't ever had reason not to trust another Sensorite before, further making this plotline feel added in.

One point, a lot of folks knock the idea of tricking other Sensorites by wearing the sash of another. The Sensorites who are fooled by the 'old sash trick' are ones who are lower down the pecking order. They would not have met the first or second elders in person, and so can only go by what they see - the sash of office. It's actually no different to someone coming up to you in a police uniform - you don't recognise them, only the uniform, and take it on faith that they are who they say they are. That said, this aspect of the story is not immediately clear, so it's easy to think that the Sensorites are actually quite thick and not at all able to tell one-another apart.

Despite the plodding and inconsistancies, the story ends strongly. The idea on TV that the bad guys would not be the aliens was reasonably groundbreaking for the day. Sensorites is like that, a lot of good ideas in a story that only occasionally uses them well. But when it gets them right, does a great job.
Tags: doctor who story reviews

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