on 18 November 2013
The Sensorites look great - really very alien indeed - big bald heads and grizzly whiskers and big round feet - proper aliens, and they whisper a lot and they don't like noise.
And the plot is clever - the villains aren't the astronauts or the aliens, but some other astronauts that arrived first and then went mad.
The trouble is, that's really the sum of the story, which keeps going for six episodes, and the other thing we notice about Sensorites is that they are the second most boring species in the universe - the first most being the Vardans.
Even with the lovely descriptions of Gallfrey's 'burnt orange sky', it's still a lot to expect people to sit through.
(the feature that discovers the story of writer Peter R Newman is charming, however)
on 4 January 2012
1964's The Sensorites is a strange story, its certainly one of my favourite stories from the 1960's and now that it is being released on to DVD in a fully remastered state, I could not be happier, 2012 for Doctor Who was looking grimm, series 7 is at this point 8 months away at least and there is no special planned for Easter after all. However, the first bit of good news came on 11th December 2011, when 2 missing episodes were safely returned to the archives after being missing for several decades, then, having my usual Christmas browse on Amazon, I noticed that the DVD line up for 2012 was going to be quite special. The Sensorites is just one of the many DVD's planned to be released in this great year. The story has never been high up in any fans estimations, it not like its a Tomb of the Cybermen or The Tenth Planet, but in my opinion its just below them in quality.
Peter R. Newmans script for The Sensorites is interesting to say the least, its basically 2 stories in one, part 1, 2-3 episodes on the marooned space ship set the story's chilling setting up well and even I was shocked at how chilling they really are, John frightened the hell out of me the first time I watched this and that infamous scene of the Sensorite walking up the outer hull of the craft and peering in through the window was effective to the bone. Then it all changes at the mid point to episode 3, the Doctor, Ian, Susan, Maitland, Carol and John are taken to the Elders on the Planet "Sense-Sphere" and there over the course of the remaining episodes have to deal with mass-murder, political intrique and a bunch of half-crazed earth men living underground for a decade. This serial deals with the problems of race hate and the mistrust of different peoples. To this end the story works rather well and is a good lesson in these issues to teach to the younger 1960's television audience.
Overall, I know its not the most loved 60's serial to fall out the archives but I really have always enjoyed watching it, if I had one critisism it would be that at 6 episodes, its too long, 4 episodes, and this story I'm sure would rocket up in peoples opinion polls.
Its great to finally have The Sensorites on DVD and as always its lovely to see that the stories that created Doctor Who over 48 years ago are being treated with as much respect by the BBC and 2/Entertain as the latest series.
Many thanks for your time.
Like many of the first season episodes of Doctor Who that were never repeated, The Sensorites never developed much of a reputation even among the show’s fans, creeping out on video and later on DVD as one of the last titles after most of the good stuff had been cherry picked. Yet it’s a perfectly decent story even if the production values are a bit shonky in places (the boom mike deserves a credit of its own after making three appearances in one episode while the sound of a PA calling out the shots gets its own featurette on the DVD) and there’s a somewhat unusual delivery from one of the guest cast in the first episode that doesn’t help the rhythm of the show.
Setting the template for many of the later stories, this seventh story in the series sees the Doctor and his companions materialise in a spaceship in trouble – in this case with a comatose or mad crew trapped in orbit outside the Sense-Sphere by the planet’s inhabitants, who fear if they return to Earth their planet will be strip mined of its valuable minerals. The Sensorites aren’t malicious, but the situation is more complicated than it first appears: coming from a world where trust is given rather than earned, their attempt to prevent the humans from returning without physically harming them is psychologically crueller than killing them. Even when the Doctor tries to broker a solution there are complications thanks to political infighting (though viewers of a certain generation might have trouble with the fact that Crackerjack’s Peter Glaze is the villain of the piece). Intriguingly, the story also emphasises the alien nature of the Doctor and his granddaughter, even coming up with a nostalgic description of the nights on their still unnamed planet years before the Time Lord mythology was invented for Patrick Troughton’s last story. While not the best of the early William Hartnell stories, it’s far from negligible.
The Sensorites themselves were clearly the inspiration for the Ood in the NuWho seasons, though it’s Russell Tedious Davies who gets the contractual credit for their creation rather than Sensorites writer Peter R. Newman. The latter provides the DVD’s most substantial extra: for long a mystery among Whovians and with Hammer’s bleak antiwar film Yesterday’s Enemy his only other produced script, it manages to fill in the gaps by tracking down his surviving family in a finally rather touching way. There’s not much else in the way of extras – the traditional group audio commentary, an interview with the show’s vision mixer, stills gallery and trivia track – though the episodes themselves have been nicely cleaned up from their previous video release.
Never regarded as one of the strongest stories from Doctor Who's first season, there is still much to appreciate in The Sensorites. Even this early on, the series is happy to confound our expectations. The Sensorites may appear menacing, but the majority are quite benign. However, they have a deep suspicion of human beings , which is not surprising when you consider that the Sensorite's planet - the Sense-Sphere - is rich in minerals and regarded as ripe for plunder.
Never the fastest-paced story in Doctor Who's history, the early episodes on the spaceship do drag a little. But once the time-travellers journey down to the Sense-Sphere things pick up as the Doctor moves into investigative mode. This is a good story for William Hartnell as he gets to work finding a cure for the Sensorites' mysterious disease and also tangles with mysterious (and apparently invisible!) monsters in the aqueduct.
Picture quality is as good as usual, so whether you decide to pick this story up depends on how fond of this period of the show you are. The more casual fan may find other William Hartnell stories more accessible, but The Sensorites is not without a strange charm all of its own.
As has become quite common in recent years, Toby Hadoke moderates the commentary, which sees a number of contributors from both in front and behind of the camera gently prodded to provide stories about their involvement in the serial. Hadoke is as usual excellent in keeping the conversation flowing, no easy task when the story under discussion happened almost half a century ago.
The main bonus feature on the disc is the documentary "Looking For Peter" which discusses the life and career of the writer of The Sensorites, Peter R. Newman. Little was known about him beforehand, save that he died in the mid 1970's. Again, Toby Hadoke is involved and manages to shed some light on this mysterious figure from the earliest days of Doctor Who. This is a very touching documentary, one of the most interesting of the many produced over the years.
An important building block in the formation of the series, The Sensorites might be slow and somewhat naive at times, but it's still very watchable, and well worth adding to your collection.
The seventh story from the very first season of Doctor Who comes to DVD. All six black and white episodes are presented on one disc. With a pretty good picture quality.
The story [referenced once in a Tenth Doctor episode] sees the First Doctor, plus companions Susan, Ian and Barbara, arrive in the middle of a disastrous first contact between humans and aliens. The latter are a race called the Sensorites. The Doctor and friends have to work to bring the two sides together, to get past all their mutual fear and distrust, and to find the secret at the heart of the sense-sphere...
Early Doctor Who did have a mandate to educate as well as entertain. It tried to do the former via the historical stories. And it tries to do the same here with a few moral lessons for younger viewers. Done in a fine and never very heavy handed manner.
These early Doctor Who's also never wanted for ambition, and thus this is a credible attempt to create a very alien world and it's inhabitants. But on the limited budget of early 1960's tv, with a story that had to fit a six episode slot, this does mean it's not the greatest looking one ever. Nor is it very fast paced. It really does try very hard to create a sense of mystery, though, and you have to admire it for that.
The usual demands of these early episodes to give the cast the occasional break means that Barbara is written out in a rather cursory manner for two parts in the middle.
So it's not fast paced exciting action drama, and it's not the most memorable story ever made, but it's an interesting curio. And worth a look.
The DVD has the following language and subtitle options:
It's also English audio captioned.
The usual: Trailer for the next release in this dvd range.
Photo gallery of stills from the story and it's production.
Radio times listings for the story as a PDF File.
Production information subtitles.
A commentary from some of the cast and crew.
Plus: Looking for Peter. A twenty minute long feature that goes in search of Peter R. Newman. Who wrote this story. But about whom very little seems to be known. This is quite an interesting and ultimately rather affecting piece, and it might just make you look at the story in a whole new light. It's highly recommended viewing. [And the answer to the question it might make you ask is: yes it is available on dvd. You'll see what I mean...]
There's also two short features, which are part of an interview with veteran bbc employee and producer Clive Doig, in which he explains what a vision mixer does and why strange voices can be heard in the background of one episode. These run for six and two minutes respectively, and thanks to him being a very good interviewee with a clear wealth of experience to draw on, are both very interesting and worth a watch.
on 19 December 2014
I tried hard to like this but despite the interesting characters and possibly an interesting message, one cannot get away from the fact that for most of the story it is undeniably dull. It feels padded to the extreme, and not a lot happens most of the time - maybe there is supposed to be a feeling of dramatic suspense, but if there is then 5 decades of television development has removed its effect from today's viewer.
on 18 December 2013
This William Hartnell adventure is far better than most would have you believe. The regular cast are all good here, especially William Hartnell. Even Jacqueline Hill is good here, despite the fact that she's absent entirely from two episodes. The Sensorites themselves are intriguing, they have individual personalities and they clash with each other. Many of them are benevolent and charming, but there are a few rogues. There was also a pleasing level of detail given about the Sensorites' society.
Some of the criticisms levelled at this story are valid; there are many dialogue fluffs, the fact that the Sensorites only recognise each other by what they wear is a bit daft and it is rather slow at times. But it's mostly very enjoyable and the moral of the story, that you shouldn't judge by appearances, is undeniably strong.
In conclusion, 'The Sensorites' is a quality story, with good performances from the regular cast and a compelling race of aliens.
Extra features include 'Looking for Peter' an interesting feature in which Toby Hadoke investigates the life and career of the elusive 'The Sensorites' writer Peter R Newman and, inevitably, a 'coming soon' trailer.
on 25 April 2012
I think there's enough out there on the plot and character development from The Sensorites if the potential viewer wants to know anything about the story, so I won't go on about. This review centres on the dvd release. In regards to viewing this, I feel like I can give an experienced account of how these early stories on dvd compares to the way I used to view these stories.
We were lucky in Australia to get endless repeats of Pertwee/T. Baker stories, so in some respects, these two Doctors were 'my' Doctors as much as Peter Davison or C. Baker (when I was growing up). The Troughton/Hartnell stories were never repeated (for many reasons, including the fact that so many stories were junked!) and so these two Doctors always seemed like a mystery to me. When I gained some early episodes in the late 80's, they were dubbed on VHS from numerous sources and each time one story was dubbed from one VHS tape to another, the copy would degenerate 'one generation' from the last one. Suffice to say, most of the Hartnell stories I saw were in awful shape - muffled sound, cracks and pops, unstable picture, which in some cases, were unwatchable. Fast forward to BBC VHS releases and the quality was improved. I just thought the old stories were naturally poor back then. This is just what you had to expect from the old stories.
What a surprise then to see these stories come out on dvd in excellent condition. The sound issues from previous releases are completely cleaned up. Vidfire has been used to restore the 'video-look' of the story again, which makes the images flow so much better and with greater clarity. Scratches, image frame locks and jolts are repaired and when seeing the old stories like this, you feel like you're being presented with something totally new...or regenerated! It's a completely different experience to see all the old stories remastered like this and The Sensorites looks particularly excellent in regards to remastering.
And so, regardless of whether you're a fan of the old stories, or you're a teenager, who loves the new series and has started to collect the 'Classic' show out of curiosity, sit back and relax. Watch maybe 2 episodes at a time and remember that these episodes are nearly 50 years old! Rest assured that you're watching these episodes in the best condition ever. One quirky thing to note is that this story really suffers from (or is it quaint?!) from actors fluffing/stumbling over their lines, probably the worst of any guest cast/Hartnell story I've seen. Then again, when seen in context, this show was filmed like a live stage show and it doesn't detract from the story too much. The extras are a little thin, but the segment on "Looking for Peter" (the writer of the story) was entertainingly presented. It felt like one of those pieces you see on a Lifestyle Channel program! You'll see what I mean. The pace of the story was a little slow and there are better Hartnell stories out there, but this story fits into that unique first season, with the first crew and therefore is great classic Hartnell. I'm keenly looking forward to the 2012 Reign of Terror release, which I'm sure will have the same love and care used as with this story! I give this 4/5 stars, mainly due to the lack of Special Features we've come to expect from these releases. Besides this quibble, this is great stuff.
on 5 February 2012
Easily one of Doctor Who's most neglected stories, due to being one of the last VHS releases and very late in the DVD schedule too. These two factors combined with much of fandom heading straight for a colour story, means that a viewing of The Sensorites should come as something of a surprise.
What Peter R Newman has written and the majority of the actors execute is intelligent science fiction. Added to which we have Hartnell in top form and very strong performances from Susan and Barbara. Ian always gives strong performances. The humans on the spaceship are good also, particularly John, whose delivery of lines are exceptional.
The majority of The Sensorites is excellent dialogue, concepts and ideas, and performances from the cast. The costumes are rather good yet amazingly simple.
Two main criticisms would be that, by today's standards it is a little slow and that the episode 6 ending is ironically too rushed and some details of the conclusion which should be seen are not. Hartnell fluffs his lines once, but then so do two other actors; they did not have the luxury then of retakes. The fact that the pace is perhaps too slow for some audiences is hardly a fault of The Sensorites but the era it is from, as is to a large extent the fluffing of lines; it still happens today, but they can simply do retakes ad-infinitum until everyone gets it right. The fact that some points are a little too laboured is again because it is 1964, but it is unfortunate that the story's conclusion happened a little earlier to allow all events satisfactorily concluded.
The first 45 minutes at least are worthy of 5 stars for dramatic quality. The rest is four stars and to be fair to newer stories that are perhaps easier to watch for modern audiences, I will give this release four stars overall. It is always great when more Doctor Who episodes are found. But when you only watch a story line this every ten years or so, it feels like a discovery in itself to see it again.
The extras are interesting if a little drawn out. The Peter R Newman feature is likely to stir up different reactions as it is very long for the amount of information it reveals. Some might prefer a less-fashionable but more concise bog standard instant-facts documentary. Dragging it out to twenty minutes not only helps to labour the point that there are some people we know nothing about, but ironically gives some insight into the documentary makers themselves. Another small featurette shows us the unenviable difficulties a vision mixer has.
Having loved most of 2011's new Doctor Who, and been recently watching Lost, The Sopranos and Heroes, I have, if anything, an even greater appreciation now for early Doctor Who and have thoroughly enjoyed watching The Sensorites. I hope now that it gets a positive "reconsideration" now by fandom.
on 30 March 2013
The TARDIS lands in the far future inside a spaceship orbiting the planet Sense-Sphere.
Strangers in Space:The TARDIS lands inside a spaceship orbiting the planet Sense-Sphere.
The Unwilling Warriors:The Doctor and his companions are on board an Earth ship trapped with the Sensorites.
Hidden Danger:The Sensorites take the Doctor and members of the spaceship crew down to their planet.
A Race Against Death:On the Sense-Sphere, Ian has succumbed to the deadly illness that is spreading everywhere.
Kidnap:As Ian's condition worsens, the Doctor is still searching fruitlessly for a cure.
A Desperate Venture: The Doctor sees the poisoning was caused by deadly nightshade and finds a cure.
20 June - 1 Aug 1964