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.

Extras:

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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