Of all the attempts to watch Doctor Who from the beginning, 67% fail halfway through this story. Can Sue defy the odds? Will she recognise Peter Glaze? And if she does, will she resist the urge to shout “Crackerjack!”?
Strangers in Space
The Sensorites begins with an incongruous scene where our heroes stand around fondly remembering their many adventures together. No one mentions the weird one with the scissors.
However, Sue is plainly annoyed when Barbara waves away her experiences of The Aztecs with nothing more than a vague shrug.
Sue: “I’m over it now?” – that was a bit quick!
Me: Perhaps a significant amount of time has passed between stories?
Sue: Well they can’t have done anything interesting or they would have mentioned it during the “previously on Doctor Who” recap at the beginning.
But never mind that, we’ve moved to an eerie spaceship that is staffed by what appears to be two corpses. The Doctor immediately takes the initiative and looks for an excuse to leave.
Sue: Five minutes ago he was banging on about a “great spirit of adventure” and now he wants to leg it at the first sign of danger! Where is his scientific curiosity?
Sadly, and I do mean sadly, before we can all escape to a nice historical, the ‘corpses’ wake up – “Great diagnosis, Doc!” – and our heroes are waylaid as a mysterious figure cuts the lock out of the TARDIS.
Sue: Hang on a minute, I thought the TARDIS was indestructible. How can you just take its lock out like that? How rubbish is that? What’s even worse is that it all happens when they are all standing two feet away! They can smell the lock burning but no one bothers to glance at the TARDIS. Rubbish!
I try to change the subject.
Me: The Sense Sphere is just over the road from the Ood Sphere. You know, where the Ood come from.
Sue: If you say so.
Sue delights in the fact that poor, mad John looks like Roger Taylor having a bad trip and she’s completely gobsm acked when Hartnell takes control of a space ship.
Sue: The Doctor is actually doing something heroic! He’s saved the day! I can hardly believe it.
And then Sue orders me to pause the episode because the high-pitched whining emanating from the advancing Sensorites is tormenting our pets. Our dog, Buffy, is whimpering and clawing at her ears with her paws as our cats scowl at us before sauntering off to find a quieter room.
Sue: I thought this one was supposed to be rubbish? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, I quite liked that one. It was very noir and grubby.
Me: That’s probably because it hasn’t been vidFIREd yet.
Sue: Did they decide not to vidfire it (she doesn’t get the capitalisation) because the fans don’t rate this story very highly?
Me: Don’t worry, I’m sure they will polish this turd eventually.top
The Unwilling Warriors
Sue: Awwww, bless.
This is Sue’s first reaction to the Sensorites. She believes they look “OK” even if they are wearing romper suits and sport dinner plates for feet.
Sue: When they put that stethoscope to their heads they remind me of those Russell T. Davies monsters with the spaghetti coming out of their mouths.
Me: The Ood, yes, I know, I told you yesterday that they are practically neighbours.
Sue: Did you? That’s interesting. I think they are a pretty good alien for the time. I’m sure this would have frightened the kids in the 1960s. They have a cool name as well.
Me: When I saw images of the Sensorites in books, back when I was a kid, I convinced myself they were the best monsters ever. They looked really eerie and threatening and there’s a Top Trump card from the 1970s where they look amazing. And then I finally got to see the episodes in the mid-90s – I think I made you go to bed first – and they were a crushing disappointment.
Sue: What’s so bad about it? It’s fine so far. What happens that makes it so terrible?
Me: I can’t remember.
Sue: And you call yourself a fan!
Me: I haven’t seen it in years!
Sue: Why not? You are always staying up late to watch this stuff. I can hear the theme tune coming from downstairs when I’m trying to sleep.
Me: Because, even in my darkest hours, I have never found myself in a situation where I’ve ever wanted to watch The Sensorites again.
Sue: I thought you liked everything about Doctor Who?
Me: I don’t like all of it! It’s not possible to like all of it. That would be insane. Anyone who tells you they like all of it is either lying or they are incapable of critical thought.
Sue: But you’ll buy this when it’s released on DVD?
Me: Of course I bloody will. Now hush, we’re missing a really exciting bit in a corridor.top
In an attempt to keep boredom at bay, I suggest that Sue plays a little game with me during this episode…
Me: See that Sensorite over there? Yes, the fat one who hasn’t said anything yet. Well, I will give you a foot massage if you can guess who that is. I’ll even give you a clue. He was a famous entertainer who was best-known for co-hosting a very popular children’s TV show in the 60s and 70s. You’ll want to shout it out when you get it.
Sue: Is it John Craven?
Sue: Is it John Noakes?
Sue: Is it Brian Cant from Play School?
Me: Don’t be silly.
When Sue isn’t dredging her memories for children’s entertainers, she’s seeing odd patterns in the narrative.
Sue: This is a bit like Avatar.
When I finish mopping up the tea I’ve managed to spill all over myself, I pluck up the courage to probe her further.
Me: Avatar!?? AVATAR??!
Sue: Well, it’s not in 3D, obviously, and the aliens aren’t blue -
Me: Their costumes might have been blue, actually.
Sue: Well there you go then! It’s exactly the same story, it just has a different rare mineral. I don’t understand why you’ve been so reluctant to watch this one. It’s not bad at all. You should keep an open mind.
The episode concludes with an attempt on Ian’s life. At first Sue believes that William Russell is choking on his water by accident so it comes as a shock when he eventually keels over. However, given that Ian is clearly Sue’s favourite character, I expected her to show a little more concern. But no.
Sue: I’ve got it! Is it the bloke with the beard from Fingerbobs?top
A Race Against Death
It’s Valentine’s Night and that can mean only one thing. The Sensorites Episode Four.
I would like to digress for a moment to clarify a couple of things. Firstly, Sue is responsible for keeping this experiment on track. Without exception, she’s been the one who has suggested that we watch our daily dose of Doctor Who every day. If it were up to me, we’d still be on Skaro. In short, I’m not forcing her to do anything.
Secondly, I lived in a static caravan for THREE AND-A-HALF YEARS for Sue. I didn’t have a telephone for the first 18 MONTHS and for two long years we had nothing more than a dial-up internet connection. Sky Plus was a pipe dream, our toilet would freeze over in the winter, the rain sounded like someone dropping nails on the roof and I shared this cramped environment with two kittens, a fully grown Labrador and a teenage daughter.
This is payback time.
Sure, Sue built a lovely house, I’ll give you that, and I’m certain that one day I will look back on those years that we spent in the Lyndhurst 2000 with a mixture of pride, humour and nostalgia. A bit like an ex-con reminiscing about doing time in Pentonville.
Trust me, watching The Sensorites episode four will be a walk in the park compared to having to cook in your own living room.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s The Sensorites episode four!
Sue: Is it a young Keith Chegwin?
Sue: Is it one of the Corbetts from Sooty and Sweep?
I decide to put Sue out of her misery.
Me: It’s Peter Glaze.
Sue: Who the hell is Peter Glaze?
Me: Crackerjack! You know, Peter Glaze, the short fat one with the glasses who looked half-insane. Peter Haining pretended to interview him once.
Sue: How the hell was I supposed to know it was Peter ****ing Glaze? I demand a foot massage! Now!
Well, it is Valentine’s Night…
What’s that? We didn’t review The Sensorites episode four, you say?
Oh, get a life.top
If there’s one thing The Sensorites has taught Sue, it’s this: William Hartnell isn’t the only actor who can fluff his lines. In fact, the story has been a showcase for fluffs, stammers and technical errors (from grams not being faded down quick enough to the faint echo of floor manager chatter drifting over the soundtrack). The fact that the guest stars are stumbling over their lines makes Sue appreciate just how good Hartnell can be. And he’s pretty good in this.
Sue: If I had one criticism of this story, it’s this: I can’t keep up with who everyone is. The Sensorites all look the same to me.
Sue: It’s not my fault! I know they are using sashes and collars to differentiate them from one another, but then they keep promoting people. There’s even a subplot about what the Doctor is wearing now! The writer is obsessed with haberdashery.
Sadly, the entire plot revolves around remembering which Sensorite is which, especially when our heroes accidentally suggest that the baddie be promoted. I think this detail may have sailed over Sue’s head.
But one tiny detail does grab her attention.
Sue: Heart! He just said, “My heart”. I thought the Doctor had two hearts?
Me: Yeah, there’s no real way around that. It has been suggested that the Doctor doesn’t get a second heart until he regenerates.
Sue: By that logic he would have 11 hearts by now. His ribcage must be awfully crowded.top
A Desperate Venture
Sue: Susan’s very good in this. She’s written as a real person and not a 12-year-old child.
Sue is impressed when I tell her that Susan’s description of her home world (silver-leafed trees and a burnt orange sky) is referenced by both Paul McGann and David Tennant later on. Our first cat was called Gallifrey and we can both still remember welling up the first time David Tennant mentioned him by name not long after he died. But I digress.
Eventually, Ian and the Doctor stumble upon the real culprits – a bunch of humans who are waging a misguided guerilla war against the Sensorites.
Sue: I don’t believe it! They haven’t got real names either! Everyone is called ‘One’ or ‘Two’, or ‘First this’ and ‘Second that’. Didn’t the writer have a book of baby names he could draw upon? And why are the humans carrying giant pencils?
As the story limps to its rather lame conclusion (“That was a bit of an anti-climax”), we are treated to a marvellous moment where the Doctor and Susan talk about returning to their home planet one day.
Sue: So is that the story arc for the entire series? The Doctor trying to find a way home?
Me: Yeah, in a way I suppose it is.top
The Final Score
Sue: Well, that was OK. I really don’t have a problem with it and if that’s the worst you can throw at me, we’ll be fine.
Me: Well, there is this story called The Web Planet, but don’t worry, that’s weeks away.
Sue gives me a suspicious look and then she awards The Sensorites a very respectable -
Sue: I think the reason I liked it more than you did is because it wasn’t vidfired. I like the fact it looked old and battered; it hid some of its imperfections. Yeah, it was fine.
Wow, not only did we make it through my own personal blind spot, Sue seems to be even more enthused than ever.
Sue: Right, so where are we going next?
The experiment continues…top
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