The Sensorites

Doctor WhoIn the distant future, the TARDIS lands aboard a human spacecraft whose crew claims that they are under siege by creatures called the Sensorites, who can influence their thoughts. Captain Maitland warns the Doctor and his friends to leave immediately and assures the time travelers that they can do nothing for the ship’s crew, but by the time they return to the TARDIS, it’s too late – the lock has been removed and the doors cannot be opened. The Doctor resolves to help the human crew fight the influence of the Sensorites. The ship is boarded by spacewalking Sensorites, who are able to exert mental control over Maitland and his crew, though the Doctor and his companions are able to fight off that control, and they begin to show the humans how to do the same. But the Sensorites quickly detect that someone aboard has powerful telepathic abilities of their own, and they use that mind-link to open peaceful negotiations – through Susan. The Doctor and his friends, and the ship’s human crew, are invited to visit the Sensorites’ home planet, Sense-Sphere, where the Sensorites reveal their fear of humanity visiting their world to exploit it for the molybdenum on its surface. Worse yet, a previous human expedition to Sense-Sphere has come and gone, but many of its crew died after leaving the planet. When Ian falls ill, the Doctor discovers that the water is poisoned – and Ian is only the latest victim. But are the Sensorites – who claim that they are peaceful – behind the plot? Time is running out for the Doctor to find out.

written by Peter R. Newman
directed by Mervyn Pinfield (episodes 1-4) & Frank Cox (episodes 5-6)
music by Norman Kay

Guest Cast: Stephen Dartnell (John), Ilona Rogers (Carol), Lorne Cossette (Captain Maitland), Ken Tyllson, Joe Grieg, Peter Glaze, Arthur Newell (Sensorites), Eric Francise, Bartlett Mullins (Elders), John Bailey (Commander), Martyn Huntley, Giles Phibbs (Survivors)

Notes: Again due to actress Jacqueline Hill being on vacation, the character of Barbara is absent for much of The Sensorites. This episode leaves no doubt that the Doctor and Susan are from a world other than Earth; her description of orange skies and trees full of silver leaves was taken on board in numerous later novels, and was finally depicted – briefly – in the 2007 episode The Last Of The Time Lords. (Previous episodes that visited Gallifrey – which wasn’t named until 1974 – usually didn’t adhere to that description, likely for budgetary reasons.)

Broadcast from June 20 through August 1, 1964

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: One of the earliest iterations of the classic Doctor Who story in which the creatures who appear to be the most alien and terrifying are not the true monsters, The Sensorites is another ’60s story that flags under the sheer number of episodes it takes to tell the story. It’s a clever enough story, but even the first Doctor’s era would do a better job of the “don’t tell a book by its cover” storyline with Galaxy Four, to say nothing of the number of times later eras of the show would make a plot point of judging by appearances.

That being said, the Sensorites – for their not-so-threatening appearance – are a truly alien race, well-presented, though they’ve often been left on the scrapheap of Who history because they weren’t actually “monsters”. In keeping with the show’s preoccupation with its monsters, few other alien creatures would be presented so sympathetically during William Hartnell’s tenure, and indeed for the remainder of the ’60s. In this respect, ’60s Doctor Who is much like its American contemporary, The Outer Limits, whose producers were under constant pressure from network executives to make sure each episode had a “bear” to threaten the protagonists and draw the audience in. The Sensorites is a welcome – and early- exception to the rule that anything that looked Not Human was a threat.