The TARDIS arrives on board a spaceship in orbit around a planet called the Sense-Sphere. The alien Sensorites have trapped the ship's human crew, Captain Maitland, Carol and John, in a state of semi-permanent paralysis.
When the Doctor investigates, the aliens steal the lock mechanism from the TARDIS, thus trapping him and his companions.
DVD COMMENT No Spoliers ahead
Released on the 23 January 2012, the 1964 CLASSIC SERIES story, DOCTOR WHO – THE SENSORITES can be described no less than a revelation. Unlike a number of fans, I don’t really believe that the ‘dregs’ the series are the only stories left unreleased on BBC DVD. Alongside THE DAEMONS, TERROR OF THE ZYGONS, AMBASSADORS OF DEATH , this William Hartnell story clearly has its merits and with its release it will ensure that its depth and nuances will be better understood and not dismisses out of hand.
Admittedly, The ‘value added material’ (VAM) is brief – though you have to remember that it is six-parter on a single disc format and space is at a premimum – but it is accomplished with a superior documentary, LOOKING FOR PETER.
From the leafy inner London suburbs of Muswell Hill, actor and DOCTOR WHO aficionado, Toby Hadoke extricates himself from his cocooning armchair to the windswept national monument of Alexandra ‘Ally Pally’ Palace (see THE IDIOT’S LANTERN) to start his (surely fruitless) task of uncovering the mystery of who was the story’s writer, Peter R Newman.
Aided by DOCTOR WHO historian, Richard Bignall, our very own Holmes & Watson, embark on a journey to uncover more (well, there is little known about Newman and even that information is contradictory; did he die in 1969 or 1975?) about the series’ most enigmatic of writers. What will the find out? As Hadoke surmises, finding out that his middle name was would be the barest of minimum.
Do they find out his middle name? An autograph or photograph or? What did Newman do before DOCTOR WHO (we know he wrote a script for Hammer Horror films called YESTERDAY’S ENEMY) and after it? Are they any other scripts held in an archive somewhere?
Oh, I wish I could tell you in this review but I am pleased to agree to an embargo suggested by the documentary’s producers (DENE FILMS for 2entertain). In buying THE SENSORITES you will not be disappointed in seeing the WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? style of feature unfold in satisfaction.
Intelligent, linear, thoughtful (yes, you may buy a packet of pocket Kleenex tissues at the same time as the DVD as you could be blubbering by its end), charmingly witty, reverent, and accomplished, LOOKING FOR PETER delivers more than you could possibly imagine as you peel off it cellophane outer-wrapper.
Sadly, VISION ON is all too brief in assessing the work of series’ production team ‘Vision Mixer’, Clive Doig. With fond memories of working on the first two or three series, Doig recalls the process of working in the ‘Gallery’ (the sound-proofed control area where the Director, Producer, Vision Mixer and Production Assistant sat during the filming of a story), adjusting to not only a memory-prone lead actor and martially aggrieved Chumblies.
With an intriguing title of SECRET VOICES OF THE SENSE SPHERE you could be forgiven in thinking that this is a MAKING OF… feature format. However, like SHIPHAM’S SALMON PASTE, it is flimsy filler that sounds (sic) good but is actually unpalatable (in a culinary way). It discusses the “talk back” (from the ‘Gallery’) voice frequently heard in recordings of the CLASSIC SERIES that communicates to cameramen reminding them of which ‘shot’ is next. The voice is clearly (?) female yet the Production Assistant on THE SENSORITES is listed (in BBC BOOKS compendium, DOCTOR WHO – THE TELEVISION COMPANION) as David Conroy. Another mystery for our trusty ‘history-hunters’, Hadoke & Bignall?
For anyone interesting in television drama production or design/art, the PHOTO GALLERY feature is fascinating. Behind-the-scenes glimpses of the story’s production demonstrate that even with the limitation of studio space, cost and technical hardware the DOCTOR WHO production team were collaborative genius.
The COMING SOON trailer is for the third DOCTOR WHO – REVISITATION release, featuring TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN, THE THREE DOCTORS and ROBOTS OF DEATH.
The DVD Commentary highlights:
The DVD Commentary draws together an eclectic pick-and-mix of cast and crew, and, bearing in mind that THE SENSORITES was aired nearly 48 years ago, their ability for recall – under the capable and affable encouragement of Toby Hadoke – is quite frankly remarkable.
For this commentary the lead actors, William Russell (Ian Chesteron) and Carole Ann Ford (Susan) are joined by Joe Greig (2 nd Sensorite), Martin Huntley (1 st Human) and Gyles Phibbs (2 nd Human), whilst the crew is represented ably Raymond Cusick (Designer), Frank Cox (Director episode five and six) and Sonia Markham (Make-up).
On the story and plotline, William Russell: I thought it was very good. Very atmospheric. Mysterious.
Carole Ann Ford: I’d completely forgotten it. Very surprised how good it was. I remember a bit of telepathy thing with the Sensorites. Spooky.
On the Sensorite’s ‘lock attraction device’ prop, Raymond Cusick: I still have that at home.
On the set design, Raymond Cusick: The sets were quite colourful…on a measly budget.
On the Mervyn Pinfield (Director), William Russell: He wasn’t much of a director from the actor’s point of view. He was interested in the technical side of television. We had a sense of freedom.
Raymond Cusick: Very technically minded.
And on receiving ‘notes’ from the Director, William Russell: None at all.
On seeing the Sensorite ‘space vehicle’, Carole Ann Ford: Like peanuts.
Toby Hadoke: The Sensorite’s Space Peanuts.
On the Sensorites costumes, Carole Ann Ford: The ‘babygrows’ [i.e. all in one outfits for infants] could have gone, and one of them was unzipped at the back!
On William Hartnell, William Russell: …took it very seriously. He didn’t fool around with the Doctor. He could be dangerous; very effective.
On using DOCTOR WHO storytelling to change history, William Russell: One bar we couldn’t climb over.
FACT: Anthony Coburn original idea doe Susan was to re-name her as Suzanne and to have her being a Princess from the Doctor’s home world.
On Verity Lambert (Series Producer), Carole Ann Ford: A very strong lady. I was in awe of her. Wonderful person. Certainly had her finger on the pulse and wouldn’t stand fools at all. Quite formidably in some ways.
LOOK OUT FOR: In episode three, over the shoulder of the Doctor as he hugs Susan you could see a familiar ‘crack’ on a read-out screen. Spooky.
On her costume, Carole Ann Ford: My mum made that blouse I was wearing.
On reports of ‘wobbly sets’, Raymond Cusick: Cheap journalism.
On her responsible, Sonic Markham: That wig [worn by William Hartnell] was the bane of our life. Bill Hartnell’s wig was my responsibility.
LOOK OUT FOR: William Russell commends Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor.
On the set lighting, Sonia Markham: This is practicably Orson Welles stuff. Great lighting.
On THE SENSORITES, Frank Cox (director episode five and six): A cracking story.
On adding dialogue on a scene from episode one, Frank Cox: “Get off my feet, you fool”.
On his affectionate close-up of actress, Ilona Rodgers, Frank Cox: I’m quietly watching.
On comparing the CLASSIC SERIES and the NEW SERIES, Gyles Phibbs: So much more intellectually subtle than DOCTOR WHO theses days.
FACT: This story features the first ever model shot filmed for the series. It is of the Earth-bound space ship.
With just two years before all the 'available' CLASSIC SERIES DVDs will be released, you may think that DOCTOR WHO - THE SENSORITES is not worthy for such dedication and attanetion by 2entertain. Period. At all. However, you'd be mistaken.
With a newly restored print (and, yes, the quality exceeds all expectations), the story (a two Act six-parter, in effect) is far more agreeable than the previous VHS release. No longer does it feel slow and predictable. It is sharp, spooky (as Carole Ann Ford says), intriguing; very Manchurian Candidate.
And, finally, the release wafts way a fog that had settled over the story's writer. Peter R Newman has been found, researched and he can now take his rightful place in DOCTOR WHO history, and without whom Russell T Davies would not be recieving a Royalty Payment everytime that a Sensorite-inspired Ood appears on screen.