One of William Hartnell’s adventures, the seventh in fact, that survived being erased makes its way to DVD. The episode is a bit creaky and perhaps too long for the material, but we can appreciate what works about the show and enjoy the special features.The Doctor (William Hartnell), Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Ian (William Russell), and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) arrive on a spaceship orbiting a planet called the Sense-Sphere. The crew, Captain Maitland (Lorne Cossette) and Carol (Ilona Rodgers), appears dead but revives when the TARDIS crew arrives. In the meantime, the Sensorites, the natives of the planet the ship orbits, have stolen the TARDIS’ lock and stranded the Doctor and company.
The spaceship crew sets about to break the ship’s orbit, but the Sensorites, don’t want that to happen and appears to try and sabotage the ship. Our time travelers meet John (Stephen Dartnell), Carol’s fiancé, whose mind had been broken by the Sensorites who had trouble with a previous human exploration crew.
Now our heroes must discover what is happening on the Sense-Sphere to cause all of the troubles. Especially a plague that is killing Sensorites and now appears to have been caught by Ian.
The Sensorites is sandwiched between two historical adventures, the Aztecs and the Reign of Terror, and veers towards alien science fiction like the Daleks. The Sensorites can’t claim to have haunted the Doctor like those titular monsters, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a few things to interest. Firstly, we have to say that Russell T. Davies must’ve seen the episode or stills since the Ood are clearly similar.
Their planet is even called the Ood-Sphere and is in the same general galaxy as the Sense-Sphere. We also get hints of Susan’s telepathy and the description of her home planet, later to be called Gallifrey. The first episode is actually quite evocative. We start off with the Doctor and company nicely reminiscing about their adventures then go through a creative camera move to get to the control room of the spaceship.
It even ends with the Sensorite eerily floating in space. If episodes 2-6 had fallen victim to the wiper’s attentions then we might hunger for the rest thinking it just as creative. When we do get to the planet we find ourselves involved in further mysteries that might stretch on for too long (but such is always with the longer episodes perhaps). It’s hard to hate the show, it just feels a bit creaky.
The Sensorites is presented in fullscreen. Special features include a commentary with actors William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Joe Grieg, Martyn Huntley, Giles Phibbs, director Frank Cox, designer Raymond Cusick, makeup designer Sonia Markham, and moderated by comedian Toby Hadoke, pop-up trivia notes, the 21 minute “Looking for Peter” where Hadoke goes looking for more info on the episode’s writer, the 7 minute “Vision On” about what a vision mixer is, the 2 minute “Secret Voices of the Sense-Sphere” about some mysterious vocals caught during the show, a photo gallery, and the Radio Times listing and production notes on DVD-ROM.
The Sensorites may not be the best of Hartnell’s era, but it has some things to recommend it. It certainly has a nice supplemental package. In fact, watching it might make you cut the episode some slack.
Visit the DVD database for more information.