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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Sensorites


Author: Nigel Robinson
Read by: William Russell
RRP: £13.25, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4458 9235 1
Available 03 May 2012

The TARDIS materialises on board a dark and silent spaceship. As the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara penetrate the craft’s eerie gloom, they come across what appear to be the bodies of two dead astronauts. However, the astronauts are far from dead. In fact they are living in mortal fear of the Sensorites, a race of telepathic creatures from the planet Sense-Sphere. When the lock of the TARDIS is stolen, the Doctor is forced into an uneasy alliance with the aliens. When he arrives on the Sense-Sphere he discovers that it is not only the humans who have cause to be afraid...

With this release, William Russell performs The Sensorites for the third time. Having starred as companion Ian Chesterton in the original serial back in 1964, and provided the linking narration for its soundtrack release in 2008, he now reads Nigel Robinson’s unabridged novelisation, which was originally published by W H Allen in 1987.

Robinson, writing his first novel, does not make radical alterations to Peter R Newman’s six-part script, though he does add to the story in terms of its atmosphere and characterisation. The opening chapters set aboard Maitland’s spaceship are genuinely unnerving, with the author’s descriptions of the empty corridors, the apparently dead crew, and the fears that pass through the minds of the human characters whenever the Sensorites attack them mentally. These sections are made all the more eerie on audio by Russell’s reading and by Simon Power’s incidental music. Robinson would build upon this psychological technique in his subsequent novelisation of The Edge of Destruction.

He also explains some of the strange references made in the dialogue, and tones down some of the clunkier science fiction. For instance, when Maitland asks what century the TARDIS crew are from, it is made clear that he is not referring to time travel but rather to suspended animation, which is said to have been necessary during the earliest interstellar voyages. The Sensorite engineer no longer utters the dreadful line: “Are the hearts of the human creatures on the right or left side of their bodies, or in the centre as in ours?”

In common with the television version, however, later chapters do drag - something that becomes especially apparent during this unabridged reading, which goes on for nearly six hours - and there is nothing the novelist can do about the bizarre evolutionary quirk that has somehow left the Sensorites with pupils that contract rather than dilate in darkness.

In its favour, let’s not forget that The Sensorites, in all its media versions, introduces us to Doctor Who’s earliest example of a morally complex alien species. The inhabitants of the Sense-Sphere initially appear to be monsters in every sense of the word, but we gradually realise that they are essentially a sympathetic people, who are simply trying to protect their world. Just like human beings, they are not generically good or evil, but are all too susceptible to bigotry, xenophobia and the thirst for power. In many ways, the Sensorites are the precursors of the Silurians of the seventh season, even down to the disagreements that take place within their ruling triumvirate.

So go on, buy this audio book. You know it makes sense all right.


Richard McGinlay

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