Wednesday, 2 February 2011

7: The Sensorites - Bold But Not Fully Realised...

The first VHS I have watched in the run yet.
Written by: Peter R. Newman.
Companions: The Doctor, Susan, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright.
Monsters/Villains: The Sensorites. Insane Humans.
Brief Synopsis: Telepathic aliens imprison the TARDIS crew and the crew of a twenty-eighth century spaceship.
Rating: 5/10

This is the first VHS I have watched in the run as The Sensorites has not yet been released on DVD. It's odd watching a video these days, it has a real vintage quality to it, like listening to an LP. Old? Yes, but also very stylish. 

The opening of this episode is slightly odd, with the TARDIS crew rehashing all their previous tales thus far. It's also evidently clear that no one has ever taught Hartnell anything about how to use the TARDIS controls, as he dodders around trying to look like he knows what he's doing. However, Hartnell gets a great line which is also a perfect microcosm for the series so far. "It all started out as a mild curiosity in a junkyard and now it's turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure." It truly has, Bill. The Doctor also admits to having once argued with Henry VIII before Ian and Barbara were on the scene. Here's a gap for a new novel or audio play.

It seems odd that Maitland seems unfazed by the TARDIS crew being from another time and their ability to travel in time. This seems to happen fairly often in the early series; characters ignoring aspects of the story where the writer or production team don't want to or can't tread. We also get all this stuff about Susan and the Doctor being Telepaths. It's suggested that many people on their planet have these abilities, and that Susan's aptitude could be perfected if they ever get home. Susan also gives us our first glimpse into what will eventually come to be known as Gallifrey. She says "It's quite like earth. At night the sky is a burnt orange and the leaves on the trees are bright silver." This is how we will see it presented 45 years later, with David Tennant in the The End of Time. Along with her stimulating definition of her home planet, Susan also says "sometimes I feel like I would like to belong somewhere. Not be a wanderer." Three stories later she will stop wandering and settle down on Earth. However even after our first departure from the TARDIS I will continue to 'Wonder' in the fourth dimension.

In one scene the Doctor puts on reading/smart specks, just like Peter Davidson and David Tennant will 17 and 24 years later respectively. We also learn another staple opinion of the Doctor that will go on to describe and define his passive status from now on. "I've never much liked weapons." However in this instance he goes onto say "but they are handy little things." The Doctor has been known to use weapons from time to time, but only when there is no other option.

The Sensorites. Identical? I don't think so...
The, Ood-like Sensorites are interesting. The ideas about their civilisation built on blind trust and equality is a strong story idea. However their design is not so good. The design team boast that each Sensorite mask is individually fashioned making them entirely unique. However, in the story the species refer to themselves as being identical.

The first episode of this story is strong as an oddity and a mystery. Unfortunately it quickly becomes incredibly predictable. Once we arrive at the Sense Sphere it is quickly clear what will happen with the Sensorite illness, poisoned water, and mutiny, with only one unforeseeable turn. When it turns out to be survivors from the exploded human spaceship poisoning the water. The lead Sensorite characters (The First Elder, The City Administrator and his lackey) all really remind me of the ones we will see in The Silurians. The wise leader, the young upstart who wants to take over, and his allies. The story follows a similar structure with the First Elder trying to work with the Doctor to create peace and the City Administrator trying to undermine this by acting against the Doctor.

Stephen Dartnell as John.
The human cast members are decent. Stephen Dartnell who plays John stands out. His confusion in his 'open-mind' condition is played with wonderful naivety and believability and his transformation after being cured is markedly different.  

Silly Musings
1) The Sensorites are delineated by hilarious designations. The First Elder with two sashes. The Second Elder with one. The city administrator with a collar. Scientists with a crest, and warriors with multiple black armbands. Everyone else just looks the same.

Susan with the First Elder.
2) The Doctor gives Ian a rolled up map to use as a weapon. 'Don't worry Doctor I'll hit it with this paper map.'

3) When Ian gets the Sensorite disease he says he has a soar throat and feels giddy. Call a Doctor!

4) The Doctor continuously shouts at the Sensorites, even though he knows it distresses them.

Overall I did enjoy this story, but I feel it is a victim of too many episodes. The story is bold and interesting, but it takes too long for it all to happen. The pressure never builds up enough. The Sensorites are a good creation but aren't really realised here as well as they could have been with fewer stories, and a greater budget.

Join me next time for The Reign of Terror.


Celestial Fundy said...

I really like The Sensorites. Such a gentle story.

Anonymous said...

Me too. It's a bit creaky here and there, but I still really like it. I like your Tea with Morbius Blog. Would you be interested in following me? Maybe we could link to each other on our pages...