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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Sensorites


Starring: William Hartnell
BBC Audio
RRP: £13.99
ISBN: 978 1 4056 7784 4
Available 10 July 2008

The TARDIS lands on a seemingly abandoned spacecraft, orbiting a mysterious planet. When the Doctor and his companions finally locate the crew they are dead - the mystery of what happened lost with them. But when the apparently dead crew revives and a looming alien menace emerges from the shadows the TARDIS crew find themselves trapped, cut off from their time machine and under attack from a race that uses telepathy as a weapon...

Like many early Doctor Who stories, The Sensorites now seems very slow, especially by the recent ‘run and shout’ standard of the new series. However, what this enabled the writers to do was create characters and write dialogue that was more than sound bites. Sadly, unlike the same season’s Dead Planet, which maximised the use of its seven episodes, The Sensorites’s six instalments simply drag. The entirety of the first three episodes could easily have been condensed into a single 25-minute slot without losing a single important plot element.

The story premise, however, is better: a race of peaceful aliens believe they are being attacked by humans protect themselves by imprisoning the crew of a visiting Earth spaceship in an endless waking death - the Sensorites’s pacifist ideals prevent them from taking lethal action. The TARDIS delivers its passengers into the middle of this cycle, leaving the Doctor to untangle the puzzle and free the captives while also proving that Earthmen can be trusted.

Thrown into the mix is the idea that Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, has telepathic abilities - a theme that works well within the story but which was sadly never picked up on again. But despite this giving the narrative an added dimension - Susan can form mental links with her captors - there really is little else to drive along the plot.

In fact, the Sensorites - always intended to be misunderstood rather than malevolent - are just plain pitiable as bad guys. Not only are they scared of the dark, they also haven’t realised that they all look the same; humans can’t tell them apart. Are there no mirrors on the planet Sense-Sphere?

No amount of pacey linking narrative could instil energy into these six episodes and while there are charming moments it’s hard to get excited by a story that is long, slow, often badly acted, and lacking both internal logic and menace.

William Russell does a serviceable job reading the narrative links but there’s really nothing that anyone could have done to breathe life into this yarn. And yet there’s still something about early Doctor Who that manages to redeem even the most leaden clunker and The Sensorites is no different. Despite is legion of weaknesses there’s still a kernel of SF goodness at its heart.

This double CD set isn’t essential; it really isn’t even of much cursory use as the story exists in full on film, but I challenge any fan of the show not to enjoy The Sensorites, if only for a minute.


Anthony Clark

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