What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Sensorites,” (One, 1964)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell); Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill); and Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

Time: The 28th Century

Place: Earth, in the future, and the space surrounding it.


1. “Strangers in Space” (Season One, Episode Thirty-One)
2. “The Unwilling Warriors” (S1, E32)
3. “Hidden Danger” (S1, E33)
4. “A Race Against Death” (S1, E34)
5. “Kidnap” (S1, E35)
6. “A Desperate Venture” (S1, E36)

Today’s Lessons

1. In the first episode of this serial, the Doctor and his companions remark on how they have all changed from “mere curiosities” in a junkyard to friends with a spirit of adventure.  The Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and Ian and Barbara have made themselves a cohesive unit.  Thus, decades of character patterns and relationships are born, where the Doctor and his many faces always travel with companions to share his quests and adventures.

2. The southern half of England, including London, at this time is apparently called “Central City.”

3. The locking mechanism on the TARDIS is what helps to maintain the interior dimensions of the ship…and the Sensorite aliens took it!  When in doubt: do NOT break the lock on the TARDIS door, or the whole ship might melt in on itself.

4. The Doctor tells the Sensorites that he “never threatens,” but he does “keep promises,” and he promises them that he’ll make their life very difficult.  So, in other words, the Doctor knows how to toy with semantics.

5. The Doctor told Ian that he is telepathic, because he sometimes knows what Ian’s thinking, after thanking Ian for his “admiration,” when Ian indicates that he said nothing admiring.  I think the Doctor was joking…more importantly, I think he and Ian play with each much like a cat and ball of string.

6. Susan is able to make contact with the Sensorites telepathically.  The question is: why her? Barbara and Susan somehow figure out, earlier, how to think thoughts at the Sensorites to prevent their mind control from infiltrating their brains, but Barbara apparently loses this ability, while Susan becomes the sole vessel of communication with these strange aliens. Question: Why is this only Susan’s talent?   Further, Susan and the Doctor had their first fight!  Susan (That Girl!) insists on sacrificing herself to the Sensorites’ demands because she can use telepathy.  Was that always a thing?  Could Susan always use telepathy?  I ask again, why can only she use telepathy?  Then, the Doctor notes that the Sensorites caused them to argue when they’ve never argued before.  How is that possible?!  Susan is a teenager, by Earth years anyway, and One is an old, science-bent fuddy-duddy.  And why can’t the Doctor use telepathy?  What is going on?!?

7. The Doctor has become much more forceful in this serial.  He is the leader of the expedition now, and his companions treat him as such.  When he tells them to do as he says, they do it.  For the most part (there is the matter of Susan agreeing to go with the Sensorites to their planet, despite her grandfather’s protests).

8. The Sensorites themselves are smushy-faced aliens who are deathly afraid of the dark (even though they live in space…) and use silver medallions attached to their chests, which they hold up to their foreheads/minds, to speak to the “Sense-Sphere,” which is apparently a central hub of communication for their leaders.  Honestly, the Sensorites remind me of precursors of the Oods, given the Oods’ little white globes that they use to speak to non-Oods.

9. The Doctor, in telling Susan that she was all wrong about her defiance with respect to the Sensorites, mentions that one of the benefits of growing old is to impart wisdom and knowledge to those younger…maybe that’s the Doctor’s idiom in a nutshell.  Question: Exactly how old is he here?  In Time Lord years?  I know he’s portrayed by an old actor, but…

10.The Sensorites tell the Doctor that he must come to their planet because the First Elder senses “great knowledge” in him.  His answer: “I thought so!”

11. A new feature for this serial: super dramatic close ups on the face of the Doctor when he makes some discovery, has some epiphany, or expresses foreboding.  In some ways, this serial is taking on more of the qualities that have become tradition for the show over the decades.

12. When the First Elder supplies the Doctor and Ian with weapons for their journey into the aqueduct to remove the poison affecting the Sensorites’ water supply, the Doctor mentions that he has never liked weapons, “though they are handy little things.”  Question: When does he get his sonic screwdriver?  Not that it’s a weapon…

13.  Susan tells the First Elder that she and her grandfather, the Doctor, are not from Earth but are from a planet “quite like Earth,” except that at night the sky is “burnt orange” and the trees are “silver.”  I don’t remember seeing trees in any representation of Gallifrey…

14. Apparently, Susan is only able to use telepathy while within the Sense-Sphere, because of high frequencies or some such, but the Doctor promises her that they will explore her ability when they return home.  Question: Why is he having such an unfocused time with the TARDIS?  I’m not sure that was ever made clear…

15. “The Sensorites” was a fun serial, in that it combined elements of true science fiction and horror.  It was slow to start, but the greater intrigue came from the Doctor’s explorations and experimentation and from the First Elder’s need to understand the humans/human-like beings in his midst.  The plot of the City Administrator/Second Elder was a bit ham-fisted, but at least his voice of suspicion facilitated the building of trust between the two different peoples.

Next serial: “The Reign of Terror” (Season 1, Episodes 37-42).


One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · January 13, 2014

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