Doctor Who - The Sensorites (1964)
By: J.R. McNamara on August 27, 2013 | Comments
BBC | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 185 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Mervyn Pinfield
Starring: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford
Screenplay: Peter R. Newman
Country: UK
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Doctor Who's longevity comes from the fact that the immortal icon of the show is able to regenerate his appearance and lifespan whenever he wears out a body, which has to be the greatest plot device for the producers of the show as they can change the actor who plays the lead at their leisure! The show started in the sixties, and as of this date there have been 11 TV Doctors with 12 actors playing them, and that isn't counting Peter Cushing's performance in two movie versions and the few understudies who played the Doctor in various pantomimes. The show has survived an 18 month hiatus and 2 cancellations, which in itself is a feat of fandom's support. I have been a great fan of this show for many years, and my affection for horror comes partially from the low budget beasts that the BBC threw my way in every episode.

The Sensorites (featuring the first Doctor, played here by William Hartnell) comes from the very first season of Who, so the acting is somewhat theatrical, the effects are not so special, and the stories are little more than moral dramas with the word 'space' or 'science' thrown in. Interestingly, this is the first tale of Who that definitely takes place in the future, as future Earth history is commented on, and it also takes place immediately after the story arc The Aztecs.

Doctor Who in these days had individual titles, so the The Sensorites is divided into six episodes, titled Strangers in Space, The Unwilling Warriors, Hidden Danger, A Race Against Death, Kidnap and A Desperate Venture. The plot line sees The Doctor (William Hartnell), his grand-daughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and companions Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) travel into the future to find a ship under siege by creatures known as the Sensorites. The Sensorites have three humans in their thrall, but are their intentions attack or self defense? Getting involved in the political shenanigans of the Sensorites political structure is not what our heroes wish for, but they can't avoid it and must reason with these strange aliens to be allowed to leave.

Being a huge Doctor Who fan, it fills me with self hate to say that this story is just not much chop. It's possibly unfair to criticise the effects from a show this old, and that whole dated Edward D Wood Jr 'kitschy cool' look does add a certain charm, but the below average story combined with acting right out of a Westfield Shopping Centre school holiday pantomime makes for a waste of one's viewing time.
The Disc
This Doctor Who tale is presented in its original 4:3 broadcast aspect ratio, and is about as good as a TV show from the sixties is gonna get. This black and white image has its faults, but for the age it is all forgivable. Similarly, the 2.0 mono is satisfactory, and sounds about as dynamic as you could possibly expect from something recorded in the 60s.

Extras are plentiful.

Looking for Peter sees Doctor Who journalist Toby Hadoke search for the writer of The Sensorites, Peter R. Newman, who mysteriously disappeared in the late sixties. Through searches of birth, death and marriages, and interviews with family members, he creates a portrait of the man and his history in film (including a Hammer film) and television. It's quite fun and irreverent with plenty of tips of the hat to Who, though it ends on quite a sad note.

Vision On is an interview with vision mixer Clive Doig, who talks about his experiences working on Who. It is an interesting look at a behind the scenes role of sixties television production with some great examples of goofs.

Secret Voices of the Sense Sphere is an amusing look at a voice over production assistant whose voice appears repeatedly in one of the episodes by accident.

Photo Gallery is a slideshow with a soundtrack… yawn!

This disc also features a commentary hosted by journalist Toby Hadoke, with production designer (and designer of the Daleks!!!) Ray Cusick, actress Carole Ann Ford and actor William Russell and something called info text, which is pop-up facts that appear throughout the show. Together they provide a complete look at the production of Doctor Who in the sixties.
The Verdict
What we have here is a below average Who story with some extras that far outweigh the main feature. Doctor Who fans should buy this, but they will find the commentary, info text and docos more valuable than the tale itself.
Movie Score
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