Doctor Who: The Sensorites DVD REVIEW

Talking Sense-sphere

Release Date: 23 January 2012
1964 * PG * 149 minutes * £20.42
Distributor: 2Entertain
Directors: Mervyn Pinfield and Frank Cox
Cast: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford

Props to the editing genius behind the trailer for this First Doctor tale: suckered by rapidfire flash-cuts, a 21st century audience could be forgiven for awaiting a tasty psychodrama that moves like billy-o and shreds your nerves like Norman Bates juggling with the steak knives.

The reality is somewhat different. The slowburn pace of studiobound ‘60s TV actually works in episode one’s favour – landing on the show’s first ever starship, the early TARDISnauts discover a 28th century filled with a palpable sense of postwar dread. There’s a gorgeously eerie cliffhanger played in near-silence as a husk-faced Sensorite looms at the window, a space-goblin plucked from the storybooks of future Earth.

Then these whiskery, romper-suited, oversized foetuses are allowed to talk, and their chill-factor is gone. The next five episodes reveal them as bickering petty officials and silent, shadowy strangeness is traded for local council wrangling among the stars. Shame. But it’s a tale with ambition, at least, and another welcome glimpse of primal Who.


The highlight is “Looking For Peter”, an initially whimsical but ultimately rather moving search for the truth behind the life of writer Peter R Newman, an elusive figure. A busy commentary features eight contributors, including two companions and the director. In “Vision On” Clive Doig reminisces about his days as a vision mixer, while “Secret Voices Of The Sense Sphere” discusses a mystery voice in episode six. Info text, a gallery and PDFs (Radio Times cuttings, design drawings) complete the package.

Nick Setchfield

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