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Doctor Who: The Sensorites

 Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
List Price: CDN$ 30.98
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For a series aimed at children, Doctor Who can take some tantalizingly eerie turns, and The Sensorites is a prime example. The Doctor (the very first Time Lord, William Hartnell) and his companions land inside of a spaceship where the crew, still seated at the controls, are dead--and then suddenly come back to life. An alien being with black eyes, a blank face, and a wispy, silken beard appears in a window that looks out into space. Stumbling around in a dark tunnel, the Doctor is attacked by an unseen roaring monster. This is the substance of childhood nightmares. Furthermore, as the Doctor investigates the planet of the Sensorites and uncovers a conspiracy to overthrow the government, the unveiling of the opposing sides leads to some surprising moral complexity. On the other hand, the pace of this six-episode serial drags at points, narrative logic is a bit hit-or-miss, and the quotient of scientific babble is pretty high ("Where's the power come from?" "Electromagnetics!"). It's best to approach The Sensorites not as a coherent story but as an unsettling dream. William Hartnell launched the Doctor with a grandfatherly air (one of his companions is his granddaughter, Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford), but the Doctor's high-handed intelligence, insatiable curiosity, and stern scruples are already there, as are hints of the capriciousness that would later become a more significant character trait. Extras include audio commentary, some behind-the-scenes stories from a "vision mixer," and an oddly intriguing investigation into the obscure writer of The Sensorites. --Bret Fetzer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ahh memories March 14 2012
Format:DVD|Amazon Verified Purchase
I remember seeing this episode as a kid, now i never did get to see the ending so when this doctor who story came out on d.v.d ---well i just had to get it to see how it ended. Now the early doctor who shows were poor regarding props,script, and costumes even some of the acting was errrr well lets just say baaaaaad. Having said all that this shoud be in your collection, i allways thought william hartnel was the best doctor anyway, by todays standards re special effects etc this will seem poor especially as its in black and white but remember you will have a piece of history since a lot of the early doctor who films was wiped clean so they could be used again. You will laugh at the sensorites costumes allso you will have to make up your mind are they good or are they bad?.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Sensorites... they're near us now!" Jan. 3 2012
By Jero Briggs - Published on Amazon.com
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!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Doctor Meddles Again! Feb. 16 2012
By Claude L. Parish - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underrated story, slightly blah DVD Jan. 16 2013
By Little Roy Blue - Published on Amazon.com
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.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A minor story from Doctor Who's first season, trust me March 10 2012
By buckbooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Amazon Verified Purchase
This long, tedious adventure from the tail end of Doctor Who's first season displays a cast beginning to show signs of fatigue; William Hartnell fluffs his lines so badly that if you turn on the subtitles you'll see it's not your imagination: he really is speaking perfect gibberish. And the mediocre Special Features the BBC includes with this disc do nothing to redeem the package.

The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara land aboard a spaceship orbiting a mysterious planet called the Sense-Sphere. Members of the crew appear dead but are actually being kept in a state of paralysis to prevent them from escaping to Earth with news of their discovery. The Sensorites, a mild-mannered race that communicates telepathically, fear that invaders from Earth will ravage their planet for its mineral resources (an earlier expedition tried to do just that). Meanwhile, the Sensorites are dying of a strange, new illness that strikes Ian, too, after he drinks the planet's water. The Doctor suspects poisoning and promises to find an antidote if the Sensorites will return the lock they've stolen from his TARDIS.

In addition to the interminably boring six-episode script, "The Sensorites" has a lot of production factors working against it. The nearly faceless Sensorites all look and act alike, making it difficult to recognize characters as distinct individuals (the planet's population apparently consists solely of gray-haired old men). Their mouths don't really move when they speak, but if they did you wouldn't see it anyway because their beards grow in all directions, sometimes covering their mouths. The Sensorites are gentle creatures who cower whenever the Doctor (who towers over them by at least three inches) so much as raises his voice. Thus, they never provide the credible shock this story so badly needs. The sets are drab, with wall panels that wobble and sometimes swing open whenever the actors pass through a nearby door.

Little is remembered about the making of "The Sensorites," so the disc doesn't bother to include the customary making-of documentary. Instead, stand-up comedian Toby Hadoke burns 21 minutes of screen time tracing the story's enigmatic script writer, Peter R. Newman. A brief interview with vision mixer Clive Doig offers only momentary glimpses behind the scenes of this ground-breaking series during its inaugural season. Recommended for completists only.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whovian Classic Dec 26 2013
By Matt Magus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Amazon Verified Purchase
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.
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