Friday, 17 October 2014

031 The Sensorites Episode 1: Strangers in Space

EPISODE: The Sensorites Episode 1: Strangers in Space
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 20 June 1964
WRITER: Peter R. Newman
DIRECTOR: Mervyn Pinfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 7.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Sensorites

"Now, now, now, don't be absurd. There's not an ounce of curiosity in me, my dear boy. Tell me, why are you in danger?"

The Tardis has landed inside a Spaceship: a first for the series. The crew are dead. The Doctor wishes to leave but suddenly one of the bodies moves. He asks the travellers to grab a piece of equipment that will revive them, because they have in a deep sleep. The ship is orbiting the Sense-Sphere, home of the Sensorites, who are controlling their craft and influencing their brains. The ship's crew claim the Sensorites will try and stop the TARDIS crew from leaving - we see a gloved hand reaching for the TARDIS door and as the TARDIS crew smell burning we see the lock being removed. The crew are trapped outside. The ship shakes under the Sensorite control but the Doctor stabilises the ship albeit on a collision course for the Sense Sphere, but saves the ship in the nick of time. The Doctor wonders about the Sensorites behaviour. Only the other member of the crew has met them but he isn't there and they won't say what has happened to him. Barbara & Susan gain access to the rest of the ship seeking water, but another human shuts them out of the control deck. Susan & Barbara are stalked by the human, the missing crewman John, who is in a zombie like state. He collapses before them and tries to talk with them. The Doctor, Ian and the ship crew are trying to cut their way out of the flight deck: they hear a high pitch wine, the Sensorites are near and returning to the ship. The episode ends with a Sensorite looking in through the ship's window.

That didn't work for me. I get the feeling that there's something decent trying to get out but what comes over on the screen doesn't quite work. It starts off really well: we get a quick summary of the Tardis crew's adventures so far together with a bit of name dropping from The Doctor who claims Henry VIII threw him in The Tower! When the Tardis crew are exploring the ship, there's a decent atmosphere to it. But the Doctor can't tell the difference between a deep sleep and dead? Oh dear.


And it's downhill from there once the crew wake up. Any atmosphere goes out the window, apart from the brief appearance of the Sensorite hands and Susan & Barbara hiding from the unhinged John.

The bridge crew, Maitland & Carol, are played by Lorne Cossette and Ilona Rodgers respectively. Ilona Rodgers was interviewed for Toby Hadoke's Who's Round #42, while Lorne Cossette is possibly the only Doctor Who actor to have worked on the toy interactive TV show Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future! I wanted that spaceship..... John is played by returning actor Stephen Dartnell who was previously Yartek, evil leader of the alien Vrood in Keys of Marinus episode 6.

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There is a notable first in this episode: It's Doctor Who's first space ship! There's some decent design work from Raymond Cusick here, reusing a lot of the circular patterns from the Tardis design.

The right at the end of the episode we briefly get our first glimpse of a Sensorite, peaking in through a window. I'll let you judge if it works as an episode ending. Here's a Clue: it doesn't and where's his spacesuit?

The Sensorite is played by Anthony Rogers who'll return as other Sensorites, or possibly the same one, in later episodes of the story!

When I watched this story for the first run of the Blog in 2010 this episode marked a notable landmark:

Ladies and gentlemen, a big applause for the first appearance of Phil's Video Recorder in our journey. As yet not all existing Doctor Who stories are available on DVD but this is the first time I've need to dig out the VCR. We're actually watching the next THREE stories on video, the only time this will happen, but we'll break to CD half way through because two episodes in the middle of the next story are missing making that our first partially complete story. So for the next Nine episodes it's video. This will be one of the longer runs of consecutive days with the video. At the moment there's two Ten episodes stretches still on DVD (Terror of the Autons & Mind of Evil and Invasion of the Dinosaurs & Death to the Daleks) but that's beaten by a FIFTEEN episode run from Colony in Space through the Daemons and into Day of the Daleks. Note how these are all Pertwee episodes and two of them involve Season Eight! However by the time we get there - we hit Terror of the Autons on August 28th 2011! - it's possible that both Terror and Day of the Daleks will be out on DVD.
Three and a bit years later this story is available on DVD as are all but one of the existing episodes of the show. (Underwater Menace 2)

Also at the time of the original Blog the BBC had made the Sensorites available on YouTube but it's not there any more :-( Some may consider this a lucky escape.

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