on January 3, 2012
This six-part adventure is a great oldie and classic. I first got this one on VHS in the "End of the Universe" collection and I found it quite enjoyable. I'm surprised that it took this long to be released on DVD.
Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first. Episode 3 was kind of boring, but it picks up again in episode 4. There are many stuttered lines in this story. The Sensorites feet look ridiculous. And at one point, you even see a wall in the spaceship start to fall down before it is quickly put back up again. But other than that, this is a great story.
The acting was pretty good - some of it was actually brilliant. The sets look great. The dark spaceship was very spooky as well as the aqueduct on the Sense-Sphere. The Sensorites were very creepy in the first two episodes. Episode 1's cliffhanger was, in my opinion, one of the best in the series. The plot and the story are great. It has a lot of mystery and adventure in it. It has a great surprise ending, and I really enjoyed Susan's character a lot more in this story than in others. Her character should have been like this from the beginning. This is also the very first story that has the Doctor himself taking on the heroic role instead of Ian, and he uses his mind and wits to defeat the enemy instead of brute force. I really enjoyed this one and I'm sure you will as well. Highly recommended!
on February 16, 2012
In The Sensorites, the first Doctor trips over a race of beings who are hypersensitive and they all look alike. Even to each other.
The six chapter serial may seem to drag a bit, but there's enough political intrigue to keep this early adventure watchable.
Barbara is missing for most of the story, but that doesn't matter as the Sensorites are the focus of it.
Misunderstanding leads to fear and treachery and ignorance gets put in its place in this unexpectedly well acted show.
It's not perfect. Early BBC allowed many mistakes and goofs. There's missed cues and at one point late in the story you can see the microphone as if it was meant to be part of the cast of characters.
Those bits aside, William Hartnell is great as ever and Carol Ann Ford is not annoying at all.
There are enough special features, including a documentary about the writer of the episode, Peter R. Newman, to justify the expense.
I'd give it five stars, but the clunky sets are hard to get over.
The writing is fantastic, though.
on January 16, 2013
This is definitely a minority opinion, but I think the first season of Doctor Who was the best. William Hartnell's sinister characterization of the Doctor is very underrated, and he was well-supported by excellent companions - particularly Ian and Barbara, who are the most convincing representations of "normal" people in the show's history. Sure, the Doctor's granddaughter Susan was a criminally under-used character; but here in The Sensorites, she gets to shine a little by defying the Doctor's wishes and using some cool telepathic powers.
I'm also a fan of season one because of the (generally) great scripts. And while The Sensorites is far from the best-written story of the season, I do think that Peter R. Newman's script features some compelling ideas. In defiance of Doctor Who conventions, Newman depicted the Sensorite race as mostly benign and sympathetic creatures (an interesting contrast to the show's usual "evil monster" aliens); indeed, the Sensorites only do "bad things" in this story in order to protect their planet from exploitation by humans who want to strip-mine the place. In a sense, then, this is the sort of left-wing (or at least politically aware) story that didn't become commonplace for Doctor Who until the Pertwee era.
The story's production design, meanwhile, is pretty good (given the era and budget). The Sensorites may look a little fake, but to me they're perfectly respectable aliens by 1960s TV standards; certainly, Doctor Who produced much stupider-looking aliens even in the 1980s (like the Ergon, to name one of many). Also, the set design for the human spaceship is effective, and enhances the tense and claustrophobic atmosphere of the opening episodes. Unfortunately, both the set design and the pace of the story take a bad turn once the action shifts to the Sensorite planet, but the drop in quality is not nearly as bad as some critics suggest.
In short, The Sensorites is an interesting story that lacks energy sometimes; it's not a classic, but it deserves to enjoy a somewhat better reputation. Unfortunately, given the lowly status of this tale in the Doctor Who canon, the BBC didn't put too much effort into giving us a great DVD. The special features, though not bad, are rather thin. The most interesting featurette involves Doctor Who fan Toby Hadoke investigating Peter R. Newman's background; he uncovers a surprising amount about the little-known writer, including some genuinely emotional material. Unfortunately, this feature is undermined slightly by Hadoke's snarky "I'm a self-aware sci-fi geek" persona. Also featured is a short interview with Doctor Who's vision mixer, which is less boring than it sounds.
While I wish I could give this DVD four stars, the presentation is pretty bare-bones and the actual story has a few flaws. So I'll settle for three stars, but it's more like three-and-a-half. If this is arguably the worst story of Who's first season, that's a testament to how strong the era really was.
on April 27, 2015
In 2014, I made a goal for myself...to watch all 50 years of Doctor Who; every available serial, episode, movie, and special...and I gave myself one year to do it. It took eight months, but I eventually achieved my goal, and just in time for the 50th anniversary special. I then decided to buy/own my absolute favorite serials/episodes from each Doctor, and this was one of them.
The First Doctor, his granddaughter, Susan, and her school teachers, Ian and Barbara, materialize on a spaceship orbiting a mysterious planet, where a human crew has become trapped there thanks to some odd, psychic force coming from the planet itself. The planet is the Sense-Sphere, home of the Sensorites, beings of immense intelligence and power. When the Tardis team finds themselves unable to leave as well, the Doctor and his companions must figure out if the Sensorites’ are friendly or hostile. Journeying down to the planet surface, they quickly discover a conspiracy to overthrow the government, as well as find out that the planet denizens are frightened of some unseen, roaring monster in the heart of the planet. Can the Doctor and company figure out just what's going on here? And can both the humans and Sensorites learn to get along and trust each other?
First off, let me just say that I really can't understand why everyone hates on this story so much. Yes, the effects aren't the greatest thing ever, but this show was made back in the 60s on a VERY limited budget. Considering what they had to work with, I think they did a pretty good job. Use a little imagination, people. And in any case, it's the plot and the characters that really make the story shine. Part One ends on a pretty chilling cliffhanger, with one of the Sensorites staring through the window of the spaceship. As for the Sensorites themselves, they're a pretty peaceful race for the most part-leading to a poinant lesson for both parties in not judging a book by its cover. Doctor Who's always been a champion in teaching understanding and tollerance for other races and civilizations, and this story's one of the stronger examples. And Susan, who's typically the damsel in distress, gets some major character development when she starts developing psychic powers. If only they continued this plot point in other episodes....
Considering how old this is, the picture quality is pretty decent, and the disc is jam packed with alot of interesting special features, including a biography on the mysterious writer of this story, and episode commentaries from the surviving actors.
To sum it up, the First Doctor's Tardis team was the only team that I thought really felt like a family unit, with Ian and Barbara as the dad and mom, Susan as the kid, and the Doctor as the grandpa. As time went on, the foursome really came to care for one another, and their family dynamic really starts to shine in this story. This is truly an underrated serial, and needs much more positive attention.
on March 8, 2013
I wanted to take half a star off, but Amazon doesn't allow that. In the end I decided to round up because of my extreme fondness for the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who.
A major benefit to this story is the growth of Susan Foreman. In the previous four stories her character is overly dramatic and incessantly whiny. With no strength of will or character she fit the mold of "damsel in distress" too often for an intergalatic traveler. In this story Carol Anne Ford had been able to play the character Susan should have been from the start. Willing to take risks and unafraid of the unknown. She is not afraid of the Sensorites, attempts to take matters into her own hand, and begins to realize that she has extraordinary telepathic abilities.
(I'm reminded of Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Incredibly whiny, but in the end the character becomes intriguing and wonderful. Like Susan, he too has a strange "otherworldly" gift.)
Another benefit is that it's a good old fashion look into human emotions of fear and trust. It takes philosophical questions about humanity, and attempts to answer them in a sci-fi setting. This is the way Sci-Fi should be.
Jacqueline Hill unfortunately goes on vacation during this serial, so Barbara is not as active. This is forgivable, as it was custom to shoot film this way back then. One of my complaints is the off-scene ending confrontation with the City Administrator. The serial deals with his fear and xenophobia, but does not get to hear an ending speech from him or a suitable confrontation. Another is my complaint with the character Maitland. Dialogue suggests an intriguing relationship triangle with him, Carol, and John ... but this is never touched on again and the subject is never resolved.
Overall though, the growth and maturity of Susan's character is reason enough to buy this story.
on December 26, 2013
Of the episodes of the First Doctor I've seen, this is my absolute favorite. It is highly unlike most of them in that not only is it not a historical piece, but it also introduces the idea that the Doctor and his granddaughter have limited telepathic abilities. It has a race of highly evolved peaceful people, but even amoung them exist a few xenophobic warmongers. Brilliantly written.
on October 21, 2014
A very underrated story, once you get into the story. I would suggest, with as much as I get in writing, to watch the behind the scenes material, which truly gives us insight into the way this story was written and who was the author and what happened to him.
on September 28, 2012
It was very nice to finally get to see a fresh doctor who story from the old days, one i'd had yet to see before. It was a good story and reminded me why i've been so attracted to doctor who, the show for somany years now...besides i love to catch the old black and white episodes any chance i get anyway...and there where some nice extras along with this too!
on June 4, 2012
The Sensorites commits the biggest sin that any Doctor Who story can commit: it's dull. Stretched out over 6 episodes with very little actually happening, it seems to last forever. However, it's not without a few good points.
In brief, the TARDIS lands on a spaceship where the human crew is kept in a state of suspended animation. The Sensorites, or native population of the planet the ship is orbiting, are keeping the crew in a state of suspended animation so that the humans won't let anyone know about the valuable mineral to be found on the Sense-sphere. The TARDIS crew, sans Barbara, and most of the human spaceship crew are taken down to the Sense-sphere where political intrigue, plotting, racism and misunderstandings flow.
On the positive side: This is a terrific story for the character of Susan. She isn't merely a hysterical teenager, and she seems to have telepathic powers that her grandfather doesn't have. I also thought it was interesting to have a species where individualism is so devalued that the only way they can tell each other apart is from details of their clothing. A couple of the guest actors do a nice job, and there are some nice set designs that unfortunately don't always make it to the screen.
On the bad side: Did I mention that the story is dull? It's too long, but even if it had only been 3 or 4 episodes it probably would have dragged a bit. There's also a lot of holes in the plot: If the Sensorites are so sensitive to darkness, why are they o.k. traveling through space in a bubble? If the Sensorites have the ability to keep the human crew basically comatose, why couldn't they have wiped the human's memories of the rare mineral? Etc., Etc.
For the extras, let's just say that it doesn't speak highly of any of them that my favorite extra was the photo gallery. The commentary featured a large rotating cast that seemed to keep having less and less to do with Doctor Who as the episodes progressed. I recognize that with some of the oldest stories there are fewer people still around, but I think they were scraping the bottom of the barrel by episode 6. I wish they'd let Carole Ann Ford stay for a few more episodes. I thought she had some very interesting things to say about what she thought the direction of the Susan character should have been. William Russell was pleasant with a few interesting memories, as always. I also enjoyed Joe Greig who played a number of the Sensorites, he turned out to be quite a character and he added a number of pithy comments along the way. The info-text was o.k. There was no making of featurette, instead Toby Hadoke went searching for the "elusive" author of the story. It was sort of interesting, but not that special.
Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing an omnibus version of this story. If it had been edited down to a 1 and a half hour movie, the pacing probably would have been better. However, that's not an option.
So, should you buy it? Well, I'd really only recommend it for the completists and the William Hartnell fanatics. It is worth a watch, at least once, to see what might have been with Susan's character...
on February 25, 2012
This is a must have DVD. If you are a true Doctor Who fan and have most of the other releases then you should buy this DVD. I loved the original cast with Ian, Barbara, and Susan. I loved the opening scenes where they walk out of the Tardis and see that they have landed on a ship with what appears to be a dead crew but only to find out that they ship is under the control of the sensorites. As the opening episode goes along we wait in suspense to see what theses creatures will look like and they do a good job keeping you in suspense with a few short scenes showing the creatures hand. Wow, they actually burned the lock off of the Tardis door!! What a show!! You'll have to buy it and see for yourself. Hartnell's doctor is one of the best and the whole feel of the show cannot be duplicated today. This was from a time period where people actually had to act and not rely on special effects. I just hope that one day most of the Hartnell shows can be released on DVD.