Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Although a lot of fans hate The Sensorites, claiming it is a sleep-inducing plodder, I absolutely love it. It is one of those stories that I will defend whatever critics say.
The Sensorites has an element of nostalgia for me. The novelization was among the first Doctor Who books that I read at the age of nine. Like most I read, it was in the beautiful WH Allen hardback edition, borrowed from the local library. What is more I read it during my first holiday in France. I remember sitting outside my parents' caravan in the sunshine of Brittany, reading about the City Administrator's treachery, about Ian getting poisoned and the Doctor being given a stylish black cloak as a reward. It was all very charming stuff and I thoroughly enjoyed it then. Watching the DVD twenty-two years later, I still love this story.
Part of why I like this story is because it is very gentle. The story is about 'alien monsters' but they turn out to be relatively friendly. There is only one onscreen death and the villains are treated with mercy at the end. This contrasts with the morbid sadism of the Hinchliffe era and the pointless violence of the Saward era. The story is also quite radical for its time in that it has humans as the villains.
The most common complaint against The Sensorites is its slow pace. This is a charge that could be levelled against most Hartnell stories. Perhaps this is more noticeable with this serial because of its low level of violence. Another complaint is the round feet of the Sensorites themselves. I don't get this complaint at all; the point of the round feet is that they are not human. I think the Sensorite costumes are very effective.
Being one of the few fans of Susan, I particularly like the way this story, unlike the others of Season 1, makes good use of the character. She is given impressive telepathic powers, reflecting her ethereal alien quality and for once, she gets to stand up to her grandfather. It is sad that other writers could not do more with Susan. Notable also, is Susan's delightful line about her planet having a sky like a burnt orange and silver leaves on the trees. That line was used so hauntingly in the New Series.
The Sensorites should be regarded as one of the most creative and interesting stories of the Hartnell era.