Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: The Sensorites

The Sensorites is a story with a couple of firsts. It was the first story in Doctor Who's history to clearly state it was set in the future. It was also the first story to have a delay in transmission of an episode due to an extension to Summer Grandstand. Even in the 1960's sports overran the schedules.

Susan, Barbara, Ian and The Doctor discover a ship with a seemingly dead crew. Ian manages to 'resuscitate' them, and they explain to The Doctor and his companions that they were on a exploratory mission, and whilst in the 'Sense-Sphere' orbit were intercepted by the Sensorites who were basically keeping them prisoner on their ship by controlling their minds. They learn that the crew were put into a deep sleep by the Sensorities, but they never did them any harm and made sure they were fed.

The Doctor discovers the lock to the TARDIS has been removed and they are trapped, added to this the ship is suddenly put on a collision course with the Sense-Sphere, which the Doctor manages to avoid.

Susan starts to communicate telepathically with the Sensorites and learns that they are actually frightened of the humans. Susan wants to help them but the Doctor fears for her safety, cue a brilliant performance as Susan tries to retaliate against her Grandfather, coupled with his concern and anger.

The Doctor has a reason to be concerned as the 'Administrator' Sensorite becomes mutinous, seizing an elder's sashes and masquerading as him to gain control in order to kill the humans. Ian ends up poisoned and the team face a race against time to save his life.

The plot of this story works really well. Its an interesting scenario, with human inquisitiveness inevitably causing trouble and endangering lives, which is a running theme throughout the show's history. It also has another strong recurring theme of mutiny and double crossing.

The Doctor shows how much he cares for his companions, and especially Susan. The scene where she tries to defy him and go with the Sensorites to secure their freedom is one particular example; He knows she could be in danger and doesn't want to lose her. Equally Susan shows her respect for her Grandfather by changing her mind and doing what he says. You could argue its a submissive move, but she clearly has respect for him and cares about what he has to say.

One character I particularity like is John. He is multifaceted in personality, and something of a mystery for a vast portion of the story. The fact the other crew members characters are quite bland in comparison, enhances his character further. I also like the way the Sensorites are sensitive to noise and find it hard to see in the light, something simple yet effective. The telepathic element to the Sensorites communication is now a classic Sci-fi ability, and a good way of adding extra twists to the plot.

The William Hartnell 'fluffs' are wonderful. I'm someone who really enjoys the little quirks in older stories where mistakes were kept in because of tight filming schedules and tight budgets. I think they also show The Doctor is capable of making mistakes as well as humans, making him easier to relate to.

The Budget for this story was obviously small, as the costumes for the Sensorites aren't very imaginative, although their faces are somewhat eerie. Some of the sets are also very basic.

I actually like this story, although I feel it could have been condensed into fewer episodes as sometimes the pace of the story is too slow to build up the tension effectively.


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