Classic Doctor Who: Sensing the Sensorites (Part 1)

Classic Doctor Who (Classic Who episode list here; previous entry here.)

Season 1, Story 7

The Sensorites (Part 1, Episodes 1-3) (Episodes 4-6 are here)


I don’t know anything about this serial except that the Sensorites are related to the Ood. They’re in the same solar system, and they’re species cousins, basically. I love the Ood, so I’m looking forward to seeing their relatives/Classic Who predecessors.


Well, we start off where we left off, in the TARDIS where everyone’s changed clothes. Well, except the Doctor.

Barbara looks particularly elegant, Susan is adorably schoolgirl cute, and Ian is very modern in a mock turtleneck.

Apparently the Aztecs adventure was a little while ago, since Barbara calmly says that she’s gotten over that now. I wonder what they’ve been doing in the meantime? Fanfiction opportunity!

Anyway, the Doctor won’t be satisfied until he figures out what’s up with the weird readings his instruments are getting, and OF COURSE the scanner’s not working.

Ooh, it’s the “spirit of adventure” line!

Also a recap of a pre-Barbara and Ian with Henry VIII! REALLY talk about fanfiction opportunities!

Welp, Barbara was right; they’re inside something. The Doctor is oddly startled about it being a spaceship. Has this not happened to him before? Well, it certainly won’t be the last time.

Unfortunately, the people on this spaceship are dead.

Susan has a bad feeling about this, which naturally gets ignored. Sigh.

Hmm, people in the far future still wear wristwatches with springs. I mean, I wouldn’t expect Apple Watches, but still, shouldn’t they have communicators or something?

The dead people are moving!

The heartbeat sound effect is cool. Apparently the dead people (Maitland and Carol) were actually in suspended animation or something. Seems a little weird to put them in suspended animation in their chairs, slumped over the spaceship controls, but ok.

Anyway, Ian and Barbara are confusing Maitland and Carol with references to Big Ben, and then they start demanding spoilers about the future, which for some reason the Doctor doesn’t shut down. Also, I guarantee England would keep Big Ben around, no matter what kind of renaming happened to London.

But Maitland and Carol tell them to get away because DANGER! Naturally this gets ignored.

HA, the Doctor claiming he doesn’t meddle in others’ affairs isn’t any more convincing now than it will be at any other point in his life. Ian actually bursts out laughing at him, which is really the only reasonable reaction.

Did the Doctor really just say he doesn’t have an ounce of curiosity??? That’s just…ludicrous.

Maitland and Carol are very confused by the Sensorites, who won’t let them leave this area of space, but also won’t kill them and also occasionally feed them. That is a very strange MO, I have to agree.

Presumably this gloved hand reaching for the TARDIS lock belongs to a Sensorite. Interesting weapony thing there. It makes a burning smell…wow, it burned up the TARDIS lock! How can you remove the TARDIS lock?!?

No, of course it’s not made out of silverware. Why would you ask?

Meanwhile, the Doctor’s leaving the trapped crew with some sympathetic pats on the back. Uh, couldn’t they just bring them into the TARDIS with them? I mean, if they could get into the TARDIS, which they can’t anymore.

The Sensorites (presumably) do something wonky to the ship, which shakes everyone around a lot…and now they’re crashing! The Doctor takes over driving, and seems to have a LOT of knowledge of how to work this ship. I love it when One shows his technical knowledge.

Now everyone’s theorizing about how the Sensorites are controlling them, and why they want to. And then there’s the mysterious crewman John, whom nobody will talk about. That’s a really poor strategy.

Especially when Barbara and Susan are about to get trapped with him!

He looks…decidedly groggy.

Susan, you’re just trying to get water; you can’t sit down and start reading someone’s books!

The automatic doors aren’t working anymore, go figure. Also, Maitland is a bit unnecessarily dramatic about handwaving.

Barbara and Susan are excessively terrified by John’s groggily wandering around. I mean, he’s creepy, but he doesn’t have any weapons or anything.

Maitland’s problem seems to be that he’s excessively cautious. Finally Carol and Ian overrule him and manage to communicate about John. Not helpfully, really; all we get is that he might become violent.

Seriously, all John’s really done is stumble around and whimper. Finally Barbara and Susan figure this out.

Maitland and Carol’s method of dealing with John has been to abandon him for months. Not a great strategy, especially considering that his reaction to company is to cry in Barbara’s arms.

Maitland’s trying to cut through a door, but uselessly abandons this as soon as it looks like the Sensorites are returning. At least they’re maintaining control of the ship so far. Uh-oh, it’s affecting John. Although, cutely, he says he’ll protect Barbara and Susan.

Maitland insists on no violence unless the Sensorites are violent first; Ian demands to know why. The Doctor gets annoyed at him (Cheston!), and I’m with the Doctor on this one; how would you even commit violence against aliens who control minds from space?

Everyone’s waiting tensely…still waiting…


There’s some…thing…on the wing!

Alien in the window!

Seriously, though, how is it just hanging out in space? Anyway, that’s an awesome cliffhanger.


Next ep: The Unwilling Warriors. I wonder who’s unwilling, the Sensorites or the humans?

Seriously this dude just hanging out outside the window.

Excuse me, it’s cold and I’d like to come back in now pls.

The Doctor and Ian are fine, but Maitland and Carol have gone all catatonic again. Well, the Doctor gets Maitland conscious.

The Sensorites are talking to John telepathically, and he’s NOT happy about it. He’s doing his best to resist.

Finally Ian has the sense to bang on the door. Why didn’t that occur to anyone earlier? Barbara instantly knows it must be Ian, which is a bit of a leap, but cute if you ship them (and WHY WOULDN’T YOU?)

Random Sensorites! Standing around.

Susan’s planning to use telepathy to help John. Ooh, it worked; the Sensorites are collapsing! Oops, so is Susan.

But FINALLY, they get the door open.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Carol are theorizing—oh, NOT meanwhile; we’ve had a time skip. The Doctor’s a little annoyed with Susan for risking herself telepathically, which is a typical worried parent reaction.

“Did you know his hair was almost white?” Maitland demands.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” responds the Doctor, not quite stroking his hair but clearly thinking about it. Ha!

Obviously glorious hair was ALWAYS a thing for the Doctor.

Also, Maitland, you would have known this already if you hadn’t abandoned him for months!

Ah, Ian’s theorizing: Maybe the Sensorites have some kind of valuable minerable! The Doctor suggests trying to talk to the Sensorites; Maitland acts like this is a foreign concept. Wait, had they not tried that yet??

Ooh, the Sensorites have little forehead stethoscopes, kind of like the Ood translator balls!

The Beast and his armies shall…no, no, that’s later.

The Sensorites’ “First Elder” seems mildly interested in observing the new arrivals before deciding whether or not to kill them.

OMG science lesson about a spectrograph. “Well, you see, Susan…” “Yeah, yeah, old news.”

Carol points out that the Doctor and friends are very strange people, which is definitely one of the most accurate observations anyone’s made about them recently.

Everyone’s passing around the spectrograph but not learning much. Oh wait, the Doctor’s found something!

Molybdenum! Of course!

…Haha, just kidding, it took me about 5 minutes of Googling just to figure out how to spell it. Sure, whatever you say, Doctor.

And with that, the Sensorites go after Maitland and Carol’s brains again, so Barbara and Ian go wandering off to find the Sensorites.

Everyone’s really enthusiastic about waving their hands in front of these automatic door sensors.

After lots of creeping, they finally meet the Sensorites! …Who just continue to walk forward silently, while Ian and Barbara back up silently. Has everyone forgotten how to use language? Ian grabs a…wrench? Something large, anyway, that he brandishes threateningly (read: lifts slightly) every time the Sensorites get close. Oddly enough, this works to scare them. Weirdest standoff ever.

The current task is to figure out how to lock the doors.

FINALLY, Barbara figures out that the Sensorites aren’t actually doing anything threatening.

Ah, the Sensorites can use their magic door-lock-melting device. Oh, they’re communicating telepathically with Susan. About time, really.

Ok, FINALLY, the Sensorites and humans are talking. Seriously, this hadn’t occurred to anyone already? Apparently the Sensorites had a bad experience with a previous human visit, and their reaction to this is to never let any other humans leave. That seems a little…effortful.

Ah, they’ve created a reservation for the humans on the planet. The Doctor and company are OPPOSED.

The Doctor demands his TARDIS lock back and promises them he will cause them lots of trouble if they refuse. That’s a pretty good description of the Doctor’s standard MO.

Hmm, the Doctor’s theorizing about the Sensorites’ physical weaknesses. He thinks it’s darkness, but nobody seems to have noticed that they covered their ears when the Doctor raised his voice a tiny bit.

Oh dear, they’re taking Susan hostage. This will annoy the Doctor. Cliffhanger!


On to the next episode, Hidden Danger. (Crouching Dragon? No, that’s something else.)

Barbara and Ian are rushing to Susan’s rescue. The Sensorites keep insisting they don’t want to harm anyone, and Susan keeps insisting that she MUST go with them.

Uh-oh, the Doctor and Susan are having a power struggle! Hmm, the Doctor wins this one.

The Doctor was right about their problems with darkness, although honestly their reaction was a little extreme. If someone turned the lights off, my reaction would NOT be to randomly drop my only weapon.

The Doctor’s now very grouchy, presumably because he has no idea how to handle adolescent rebellion, and Ian’s thinking about the capabilities of the Sensorites’ mind-reading devices—specifically, reading Barbara’s mind. Unfortunately, Barbara was tuned out a bit, so we sadly missed whatever her brilliant response would have been to THAT.

The Doctor’s at his most annoyingly paternalistic. I’m not sure that tendency ever REALLY goes away.

The Sensorites are now defending Susan against the Doctor. Stop making our friend sad!!

John’s also sad (still), which is making Carol sad. But somehow we now have a plan to cure him, and split up the team. Ian’s right that splitting up always leads to trouble; I’m glad someone’s genre savvy.

Wait, the Sensorites are only telepathic because they have technology for that? I thought they were naturally telepathic, like the Ood. Although maybe they are, because the forehead stethoscopes don’t really explain their ability to affect human minds.

Ah, what the Sensorites REALLY want is for the Doctor to figure out how to cure the plague the previous humans left behind.

So…Barbara and one Sensorite are staying on the ship; everyone else is heading to the planet.

Uh-oh, the Sensorite elders are arguing. The First Elder is philosophizing; he has some good insights, really. “We may look ugly to them.”

The City Administrator is suspiciously unquestioning. Do these people have names? Or just titles?

Uh-oh, the City Administrator does NOT trust the humans and has beamed a “disintegrator” into the room! Disintegrators are never good.

Hmm, the Sensorites have a caste system. Ian doesn’t approve.

John’s flipping out because he senses an evil mind. That can’t be good. At least Susan’s listening to him.

Yikes, the angry Sensorites are planning to aim the disintegrator at the human’s hearts! Don’t do that!

John and Carol are conveniently shuttled offscreen for the duration.

Whew, the Second Elder (I think) stops the disintegrator plot just in time to save the Doctor, Susan, and Ian. He leaves behind some disgruntled city officials. I’m sure this won’t be a problem.

The Doctor and friends are being served food and water, but the First Elder wants them to get the super-special water that the Elders drink. Ian drinks some of the commoners’ water anyway.

The City Administrator is super annoyed about trusting the humans. This other guy promises loyalty, and I think they’re basically planning a coup.

The Doctor’s already figured out that the mysterious disease isn’t affecting the elders. Is nobody noticing that Ian’s getting sick??

That’s a REALLY quick incubation period for that illness.

And a cliffhanger as Ian collapses. Well, that’s a nice change from being put on trial for false charges, I guess.

The good news is that nobody thinks you’re a murderer! Probably.

So I guess the “hidden danger” was the disintegrator? Or maybe the water. Or maybe just the angry City Administrator. Bureaucrats, I tell you what.


Thoughts on this half of the serial:

It’s still very jarring when people refer to the Doctor and Susan as human and nobody corrects them.

Susan is psychic but the Doctor isn’t, which is kind of weird. I guess he works on that ability later.

It’s cool to see the Ood relatives.

It seems like it took a while for the action to get started? I mean, we’re three episodes in, and we JUST NOW got to what appears to be the main storyline. Everything in the first two episodes could probably have been resolved with about 5 minutes of conversation…which it was, actually, when they finally bothered with communication.

Although I’ll say that the creepy first episode was worth it, with the comatose people and the alien outside the window. It’s just the second episode that we could have done without.


Next time, on to A Race Against Death! Ian’s death, I assume. Although I wouldn’t rule out more potential deaths.

Next post (Sensorites Part 2)

2 thoughts on “Classic Doctor Who: Sensing the Sensorites (Part 1)

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